"Graceful in the Extreme": A Neoclassical Drawing by John Flaxman One of the most important practitioners of Neoclassicism, John Flaxman identified himself first and foremost as a sculptor, and yet his greatest fame and most lasting influence rest with his drawings. While many of his drawings were preliminary studies for sculpture, decorative arts, or illustrations to Classical texts, some cannot be linked to other projects and are finished, independent works of art. This article discusses a drawing made in Rome in 1791 whose singularity purity, elegance of line, delicacy of washes, and degree of detail encapsulate Flaxman's artistic philosophy and style. The drawing's iconography and early provenance also are addressed.
Art for the Public: William Henry Vanderbilt's Cultural Legacy Although William Henry Vanderbilt's art collection, his cultural legacy, played a pivotal role in the history of art collecting in the United States, scholars have underestimated its significance. A fresh examination of the Vanderbilt collection reveals that his gallery, catalogs, and altruistic intentions set him apart from others and inspired later collectors, such as Henry Clay Frick, who once housed his burgeoning collection of old master paintings in Vanderbilt's splendid art gallery.
Louis-Ernest Barrias and Modern Allegories of Technology While traditional allegories, long used as devices in art to make abstract ideas tangible, fell out of favor in the late nineteenth century, new allegorical forms, for innovative technologies and newly-harnessed powers, such as electricity, light, and sound, began to be created by contemporary artists of the era. Louis Ernest Barrias (1841–1905) was at the forefront of this development at the fin-de-siècle, and his sculptures, Electricity (1889) and Nature Unveiling Herself before Science (1899), bring together the traditional allegorical system with a new interest in glorifying modern technologies. In this article, modern allegories of the fin-de-siècle are linked to the emphasis on technology and the machine seen in later Art Deco sculpture.
"Stone, the Most Perfect of Surfaces": Bolton Brown in the Sierra and Woodstock Painter and printmaker Bolton Coit Brown, one of the founders of the Woodstock Art Colony, was among the boldest climbers in the history of nineteenth-century American mountaineering. Brown's ground-breaking ascents of some of the Sierra Nevada's most difficult peaks were, later in life, matched by his technical innovations in lithography, a medium whose reliance on stone and physical exertion nurtured his nostalgia for mountaineering. This article explores the intersection of Brown's mountain climbing, his art, and his expansive writings, a tripartite creative project merging physical, visual, and literary expression.
The Image of Mary of the Miraculous Medal: A Valiant Woman In June 1830, only days before the rioting that led to the collapse of the reign of Charles X, a sequence of Mariophanic events set in motion what would become a new iconographic symbol for the figure of the Virgin Mary, marking a feminine personification of spiritual agency new in Catholic art. Political, social, and ecclesial circumstances converged to stimulate a contemporary design for the figure of the Virgin Mary of the Miraculous Medal while new lithographic technologies insured its propagation.
Visiting Delaroche and Diaz with L’Illustration Two articles from a long-running series on visits to the artist's studio published in L'Illustration in the 1850s are examined against the background of the journal's political and artistic ideology and the art world of the Second Empire. The artists Diaz and Delaroche are shown to stand for two different conceptions of the artist and art making and differing attitudes towards the commercialization and spectacularization of the Salon in this crucial period.
Spinner or Saint?: Context and Meaning in Gauguin's First Fresco Paul Gauguin's first fresco, now known as Breton Girl Spinning (1889, Van Gogh Museum), was painted on the wall of a small auberge where Gauguin stayed for one year. The title and meaning of Gauguin's fresco have been the subject of scholarly debate since the inn's wall paintings were rediscovered in the 20th century. This article argues for an interpretation of the mural's protagonist as a polysemous symbol of suffering inspired by the persecution and martrydom, rather than the triumphant patriotism, of a provincial girl who challenged authority, changed history, and was condemned to death for her efforts.
Disharmony and Discontent: Reviving the American Art-Union and the Market for United States Art in the Gilded Age In the 1880s many US artists, who had enjoyed a rich patronage in the past, were distressed that so many wealthy collectors were choosing to purchase the work of European artists, so they revived the old American Art-Union. Rarely discussed in the scholarly literature, the organization and its failure help to illuminate the cultural politics of the rapidly growing art scene during the Gilded Age, specifically the divisiveness among the various artist groups and the contentious relationships between artists and dealers. The brevity of the AAU's existence raises significant questions about who should manage which aspects of the visual arts, and to what degree national pride should play a role in the production and patronage of US art.
“Une exposition (in)complète”: Courbet in Vienna, 1873 During the 1873 World Exposition in Vienna, a group of paintings by Gustave Courbet (1819–1877) was displayed at the Österreichischer Kunstverein. This article examines the personal, political, and institutional circumstances of this private exhibition outside of the official World Exposition site in the Prater.
Jean-Baptiste Regnault’s Three Graces and the Winckelmannian Female Nude The final decades of the eighteenth century are associated in art-historical scholarship with the flourishing of representations of the ephebic male nude and this article complements such studies by elucidating theories and paintings of the female form. Particular focus is given to Jean-Baptiste Regnault’s Three Graces of 1793–94 as an embodiment of contemporaneous theoretical issues regarding the idealized female nude, grace, and the Graces found in Johann Joachim Winckelmann’s writings as well as a variety of French treatises. |