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« Free Reads -- Academic Art | Main | Altman -- Great Zen Baloney »

August 22, 2002

Academic Art Redux

Michael

An interesting rant. While over the top (I simply cannot get as excited about Bougereau and Gerome as he does, except for some of their landscape painting, which is actually pretty good), he does get at how difficult it is to really look at 19th century Academic art with an unprejuidiced eye, and how deeply the period is still propagandized against in art history texts.


Academic "Springtime"

It almost makes me think that the social/economic/sexual/religious tensions of the 19th century were so extreme that art manufactured at the time raises such unpleasant feelings that it must be sent off to sit in the corner.

I can still remember one of the first books I read about art history, "Impressionism," in which the author begins the book with a critique of the "official" art of the 1870's.


Nonacademic Renoir

He considered it to be deeply hypocritical, respectable on the surface but prurient underneath, with exhibit A being all those "pinup" Salon nudes, carefully dressed up with mythological trappings. (He also slammed it for using a "smooth" painting technique -- which must be bad because decades later it was appropriated by advertisers of consumer products.)

Of course, this author wouldn't dare utilize such language against Titian's, Corregio's or Ruben's "pinup" nudes, or even Corot's, Delacroix's or Courbet's nudes. And I suppose the openly pornographic style of Indian sculpture (which I really dig) is beyond criticism because it is the work of oppressed people.


Indian Religioeroticism

This all raises the question of whether Impressionism is considered "good" by 20th century art historians because it was relatively unerotic during an era when the dominant style of eroticism makes us feel threatened (i.e., "icky."). In other words, is Victorian eroticism--based on rules designed to navigate Victorian sexual tensions--so disturbing to us that art constructed in accordance to its schemas must continue to be stomped on by writers 120 years later? This may be an interesting example of the "liberated" sexual mores of today's cultural elite being not nearly as tolerant as we like to imagine them.

It makes me think the cultural elite are a group of very sophisticated people who don't want to know anything about their parent's sex lives.

Cheers,

Friedrich

posted by Michael at August 22, 2002




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