Problems in Art of the 19th Century: Materiality and the Nineteenth-Century Visual Imaginary
A key characteristic of art and visual culture in the nineteenth century is the focus on documents, facts, and the material properties of things - a kind of visual positivism, as it were. This combined with a new cult of the imagination, and in the work of some artists and writers painstaking descriptions of objects oscillated with the symbolic and narrative associations they called up. Fantasies about history and the classical world mingled with an attention to the urban environment and the proliferating commodities of the industrial revolution. We shall be exploring the interplay between the factual and the imaginary, and between description and narration, as manifested in the fine arts as well as in visual culture more generally, included printed imagery, fashion, and the decorative arts. We shall consider the combination of novelty and repetition that characterized artistic processes during the period in relation to modes of manufacture and marketing, as well as the more general preoccupation with material objects and media. Among the artists being considered are Ingres, Géricault, Courbet, Menzel, Millais, Burne-Jones, and Atget. Theoretical texts include Michel Foucault, The Order of Things; Karl Marx, Capital; and Naomi Schor, Reading in Detail, as well as some more recent interventions in the field.
Estimated cost of materials: $100 or more, but less than $150.