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Om måleriet i den klassicistiska konstteorin: Praktikens teoretiska position under 1700-talets andra hälft
Stockholm University.
1999 (Swedish)Doctoral thesis, monograph (Other academic)Alternative title
On painting in classicist art theory : theoretical attitudes to practice in the second half of the eighteenth century (English)
Abstract [en]

The character of the manual execution and material form of the art object were ascribed little value in the classicist theory of art. The practical act of painting was associated with handicraft and routine. The thrust of the theory was towards the literary and the philosophical and great value was ascribed to the artists' mental creativity and the treatment of the subject. It is my aim in this dissertation to investigate the separation between the manual/material and the mental/creative aspects in the art of painting and to clarify the role of practice within this theoretical tradition during the second half of the eighteenth century. The texts studied are written by leading art theorists: Reynolds, Mengs, Watelet, Levesque, Sulzer, von Hagedorn, Cochin and de Piles.

One of the most important findings of the study is that the mental and the material were regarded not only as essentially different in kind, but that the relation between them also was of central importance. The picture was regarded as a combination of two effective parts: a carefully formed idea was realized, or produced, through the mediation of a material structure.

Practice was thus seen as a tool of thought, and as such could be ascribed a complementary value. Consequently it was also possible, without contravening the established ranking of the mental and the material, to value and appreciate the material aspect for the important function it fulfilled in the production of the work as a whole.

The practical and material aspect of painting should restrain the expressive powers of the brushwork and the handling of colours and subordinate itself to the mental creativity and the intellectual content. But it was recognized that paintings that did not live up to the highest aims was not for that reason necessarily "poor". In their categorizations of styles, genres, national schools of painting and individual artists' works it is possible to see that the theorists did allow more lowly and less highly valued kinds of paintings to be considered and appreciated, without risking any challenge to the established ranking order.

The study shows that such deviations from the classical rules need not be regarded as temporary suspensions of the classical norm, rather, they represent a flexibility permitted within frames that remain intact. Some theorists exploited this freedom and took special interest in the manual and material components. Their texts demonstrate that it was possible to work upon the boundaries between the mental and material aspects.

My study also suggests that, during the period studied, the idea of the art of painting as pictorial construction appear to be in question. Too much "artistry" in the technique and staging of the subject is said to obstruct the beholder's perception of the message that the picture has to convey. The distrust in the medium is indicated by these calls for an art both less theatrical and less concerned with its material make-up.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Stockholms universitet , 1999. , 185 p.
Keyword [en]
Classicist art theory, eighteenth century, painting, practice and manual execution vs. mental creativity, material form and intellectual content of the art object, the hierarchy of genres, national schools of painting.
National Category
Art History
Research subject
History Of Art
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-63359ISBN: 91-7153-868-2OAI: diva2:448432
Public defence
1999-02-05, 10:00
Available from: 2011-10-17 Created: 2011-10-17Bibliographically approved

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