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August 17, 2008

Less-Forgotten Painters

Donald Pittenger writes:

Dear Blowhards --

Regular readers know that from time to time I write postings about painters who can be unknown to people who took Modernist-centered art history classes in college (myself especially included).

My impression is that many of these neglected painters are beginning to be pinged by cultural gatekeeper sonar. Impressions are one thing and numbers are another, usually better, means of trend-tracking. And I have some numbers. Not great numbers, but better than nothing.

What I did was grab a couple of "art and artists" "dictionaries" (I'm cribbing from two nearly identical titles) and compared the artists they covered with those I wrote about.

The first book is the Penguin Dictionary of Art and Artists, 7th Edition. It was first published in 1959 and the 7th Edition came out in England in 1997. Only Giovanni Boldini and Jules Bastien-Le Page have their own entries.

The other book is the Oxford Concise Dictionary of Art & Artists, 3rd Edition. The first edition appeared in 1990 and the latest in 2003. Artists I wrote about that were mentioned are Cecilia Beaux, Boldini, Albert Edelfelt, Axel Gallèn, Philip de Laszlo, Helene Schjerfbeck, Valentin Serov, Joaquin Sorolla and Mikhail Vrubel.

The Oxford book has about 650 pages and the Penguin only 580, but that difference is too small to account for the disparity in citations. The Penguin edition is only six years older than the Oxford one, but the first editions are separated by 31 years, which might (or might not) be a factor with greater impact than the tastes of the compilers.

A better test would be to compare various editions of the books to see how many of my "peripheral" artists were added over time. Unfortunately, I don't have earlier editions handy.



posted by Donald at August 17, 2008


you know the famous story about the survey taken at the end of 19th century? Some newspaper asked french citizens who which aritst would be remembered in 100 years..they said Bougerou, Gerome and some other chap whose name I have forgotten... point is it wasn't Dega, Renoir, Monet or some variation thereof....

Even 'greats' like Rapheal wax and wane - he was far more popular in the 19th than the 20th century...

I heard TOm Wolfe speak at the Deirrere Guarde II 'festival' a year ago, he held on to his prediction that picasso will be all but forgotten in 20 years...God I hope so! and bring on the Sorolla revival which I think will be stimulated by the fact his murals from the Hispanic Society in NY are now touring spain.

Posted by: malcolm on August 18, 2008 11:48 AM

Yes, the museum/university/art media censorship of true beauty is quite real. At the Art Institute in Chicago, they relegate the great 19th century/early 20th century realists like Sargent, Homer, Sorolla, Beaux, etc. to the basement area, where its interspersed with decorative furniture and silverware! There's also some great work that managed to cling to the walls in the member library. How they overlooked that to censor and denigrate this era is beyond me, but I'm grateful for the oversight.

Also, the AI is completing a new $250 million expansion to house...drumroll please!...Modernist Junk! Luckily, they are selling off some great realist paintings that they have in their collection (but never show) in order to do this. Maybe now these works will see the light of day somewhere else.

Posted by: BTM on August 18, 2008 7:58 PM

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