Re: realistic art

Mon, 31 Jul 1995 21:15:25 EST

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On Mon, 31 Jul 1995 17:02:18 -0800 you said:
>Maureen - thanks very much for your explanation of artistic realism.
>My interest is less on how successfully an artist has achieved a
>realistic presentation than what the choice of subject was. If a

Re choice of subject: A good question. What has survived since
the Upper Paleolithic shows the subject range to be human figures,
male and female and human figures in the process of trans-
formation to animal (or v.v.), plus some line drawings that sure
look like portraits to me. I've never run across images of children
from that far back. Add to that animals of every sort including fish
and birds. There are also heaps of glyphs (some scholars think
these could be tools, animal drives, maps, calendars). That's from
the Paleolithic, and that is only what has been found to date.

>neoevolutionary sequence of cultural development can be described
>that moves from band to tribe etc., etc., and a schema that places

There are plenty of people on this list more able than I to take
up the matter of "cultural development" a la band to tribe, so
I leave that to others. (C'mon gang,it's been a while since that
topic has been batted about here!)

>ideology in the superstructure of that culture is true, then the art,
>as part of that ideological superstructure, should reflect the
>underlying technological and social arrangements extant at any given
>stage. it seems that artistic representations should reflect these

But as for art in the service of ideology...? Oh dear. Yes, 'tis
true. This happens, time and again in the history of any culture's
art, but it's not exactly a continuum. You are suggesting that
art is illustration or illustrative of some text. In my research
and teaching on the matter of the crossover between art and religion
I argue the opposite. The artist's vision often creates the need for
explanatory ideology. Key to my argument is this: most cultures
do not have separate words for art and religion, nor do they view
them as separate enterprises. We do, but we only separated art out
from religion during the Renaissance in part because art became
another means of transferring money around during the Italian
Renaissance, and that is a function it has retained to this day.
>You have pointed out a significant experimental problem in
>interpretation of the art. There's also a problem in interpreting the
>stages. Have you any references to the Alexandrian period and the
>transition to depiction of individuated faces in Greece?
For the Alexandrian period (aka Hellenistic period) in Western art,
see any of the standard introductory art history texts--eg, Gardner,
Janson, Honour and Fleming, Hartt. The best one volume study I know
of on Greek sculpture is Rhys Carpenter. Greek Sculpture (1960).
University of Chicago Press. Just finish skimming the last chapter
"The Intrusion of Plastic Form" before posting this (and thank you
for reason to look at a beloved text once again). That should do
the trick. She considers the influence of coins, face masks, etc.
on the very late development of portraiture in Greece. The
influence is generally ascribed to the east. The Romans, who really
had a gift for portraiture, were influenced more by the Egyptians
in this. You have to keep in mind, too, that artists travel
everywhere. It's hard to keep them down on the farm and even
harder(if they are true visionaries) to keep them servicing anyone
else's ideology but their own.

best wishes,
Maureen Korp, PhD
University of Ottawa