Saturday, May 13, 2017

Purpose of Art

Jakob Alt (Germany)
View toward Dornbach
from the artist's studio in Alservorstadt

Albertina, Vienna

Johann Christoph Erhard (Germany)
Painter Johann Adam Klein at the easel
in his studio in the Palais Chotek in Vienna

Kupferstichkabinett, Berlin

"What does the designation "natural-scientific worldview" mean?  That things in nature are entities that neither move freely and completely at will (thus, in essence, deities) nor are moved solely by the whims of a higher god; rather, they are bound together in specific ways and relate to each other as cause and effect.  One can therefore say that, according to the natural-scientific worldview, the harmonic world order that people now desire resides in the law of causality.  Natural things no longer besiege people blindly, nor are they steered about by quasi-human divinities; rather, things behave in obedience to an eternally fixed and immutable law. The law is inexorable (we must die) but not intentionally malevolent; once one understands this law, one can adapt oneself to it. This is the purpose of the natural sciences."

"How does all this pertain to artistic production?  Improvement of nature: our senses deceive us by showing individuals; there are no individuals.  Three-dimensionality must therefore by merely illusory: natural-scientific art must be anti-sculptural.  It communicates the will of things most faithfully with optical vision: hence the predominance of painting (which does not isolate objects but rather shows them within their surroundings; not isolated phenomena in nature, but extracts from nature). What differentiates such art from nature?  The relations among objects come more clearly to view in the image than in nature; herein lies the improvement.  To create harmony, the painter portrays the impact of naturalistic causal interactions on the objects in his picture.  The causal relationship is the purpose of art."

 from Historical Grammar of the Visual Arts, a course of lectures delivered by Aloïs Riegl in 1899 at the University of Vienna, translated by Jaqueline E. Jung and published in English by Zone Books in 2004

Frédéric Bazille (France)
Studio of Frédéric Bazille
oil on canvas
Museé d'Orsay, Paris

Constantin Hansen (Denmark)
Group of Danish artists in Rome
oil on canvas
Statens Museum for Kunst, Copenhagen

Joseph Eugène Lacroix
Studio in the Villa Medici, Rome
Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum

Knut Baade
Scene from the Academy in Copenhagen
oil on canvas
National Gallery of Norway, Oslo

Léon-Mathieu Cochereau (France)
Studio of Jacques-Louis David
oil on canvas
Los Angeles County Museum of Art

Jeanna Bauck (Sweden)
Danish artist Bertha Wegmann painting a portrait
ca. 1875-80
oil on canvas
Nationalmuseum, Stockholm

Hilda Fearon (England)
Studio interior
oil on canvas
Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide

Henri Fantin-Latour (France)
Manet in his studio
oil on canvas
Phillips Collection, Washington DC

Honoré Daumier (France)
Painter at his easel
ca. 1870
oil on panel
Phillips Collection, Washington DC

Jean-Baptiste Siméon Chardin (France)
Young student drawing
oil on panel
Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas

Giovanni Angelo Canini (Rome)
Art students drawing from posed model
ca. 1633-66
British Museum

John Singer Sargent
An artist in his studio
oil on canvas
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston