Arts

About as eminent an academic philosopher as they come these days, Robert B. Pippin made his reputation with a sequence of brilliant studies rehabilitating the great names of German Idealism – Immanuel Kant, G.W.F. Hegel – for a (mainly) baby boomer American audience. In the wake of the path-breaking interventions of Wilfrid Sellars and Richard Rorty, Pippin, alongside such colleagues as Terry Pinkard, Robert Brandom, and John McDowell, has argued for a version of the essentially dialogic nature of all philosophy, which seeks to bring together metalogical ratiocinations and nitty-gritty semantic theories with reflections on the diversity of social interactions.

... (read more)

Max Dupain, one of Australia’s most accomplished photographers, was filled with self-doubt. He told us so – repeatedly – in public commentary, especially during the 1980s, in the last years of his life. It is striking how candid he was, how personal, verging on the confessional, and how little attention we paid to what he said, either during his lifetime or since (he died in 1992, aged eighty-one).

... (read more)

Constantin Brâncuşi famously said that making a work of art is not in itself a difficult thing: the hard part is putting oneself in the necessary state of mind. Eleanor Clayton’s new biography of English sculptor Barbara Hepworth is in its own way a celebration of just how devoted Hepworth was to maintaining that elusive state of mind to which Brâncuşi referred. Unlike Sally Festing’s Hepworth biography, A Life of Forms (1995), Clayton eschews any attempt to narrate or analyse Hepworth’s private feelings or emotional make-up. Instead she narrows her focus most austerely to the practice of the working sculptor, her aesthetic philosophies, and the compelling yet subtle variations of her output.

... (read more)

Pride of Place describes in detail a selection of the outstanding collection of Australian books, paintings, photographs, and prints that Russell and Mabel Grimwade donated to the University of Melbourne. The main focus is on Russell, but they were clearly a team with shared interests in Australian native trees and plants and the European history of Australia.

... (read more)

With his founding of the Bauhaus in 1919, the German architect Walter Gropius proposed a radical reimagining of the arts and crafts. His manifesto outlined the principles for an institution that would unify architecture, art, and design, creating ‘a new guild of craftsmen, free of the divisive class pretensions that endeavoured to raise a prideful barrier between craftsmen and artists!’ At the heart of this stirring vision was a world in which creativity was directed to practical ends, where function was a fundamental element of creative endeavour. Gropius’s call was both inspiring and timely, and it found ready devotees. In a continent savaged by four years of war, there was urgent need for a new way. Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky, and Oskar Schlemmer were a few of the many who made their way to the German city of Weimar to work with Gropius and to help realise his vision.

... (read more)

Cy Twombly: Making past present edited by Christine Kondoleon with Kate Nesin

by
April 2021, no. 430

If you were fortunate enough to take Franz Philipp’s course in Medieval and Renaissance Art at the University of Melbourne in the 1960s – the old Fine Arts B – you would have quickly encountered Erwin Panofsky’s masterpiece, Renaissance and Renascences in Western Art (1960). It set forth authoritatively the argument that from the Carolingian revival in the eighth century through the Ottonian and Romanesque survivals, culminating in the Italian Renaissance of the quattrocento and cinquecento, Western art was haunted by the spectre of antiquity. Admiration for its mighty surviving works throughout western Europe turned steadily towards emulating them.

... (read more)

The history of art history in the West over the past five hundred years is rich and complex and yet rests on clear historiographical foundations, themselves grounded in inescapable historical realities. Authors and artists in the Renaissance looked back to the civilisation of Greco-Roman antiquity, all but lost in the catastrophe of the fall of the Roman Empire and succeeded by centuries of dramatic cultural regression. They sought to regain the greatness of antiquity, and the bolder even hoped to surpass it.

... (read more)

Although most of the ten million annual visitors to the Louvre think of it as an art museum and former royal palace, for much of its history it has performed other functions. The Louvre has also played a defining role in many events in French history. Its raison d’être in the Middle Ages was as a fortification in the then most westerly part of Paris. Transformed into a royal palace during the sixteenth century, it has undergone more than twenty different extensions and renovations under successive rulers and administrations, emerging as the behemoth we know today. Surprisingly for a building that so much embodies Paris and feels so permanent, much of the Louvre was created during the third quarter of the nineteenth century under Napoleon III, when it was almost doubled in size and given its external ‘dizzying opulence’, as James Gardner describes it in this new book.

... (read more)

To start with the broadest of generalisations, artists’ biographies can be divided into three types: those that concentrate on the work; those that take the life as their focus; and the ‘life and times’ volumes that attempt to place the artist in her social and political context.

... (read more)

Single-name status is granted to very few. In Australian art, ‘Daniel’ has always been Daniel Thomas: curator, museum director, walking memory, standard-setter (and inveterate corrector of errors), passionate lover of art, friend of Australian artists. His life’s work has been establishing the understanding of Australian art in our art museums, and his influence is incalculable. The late Andrew Sayers rightly described Thomas as ‘the single most influential curator in creating a shape for the history of Australian art’, but as editors Hannah Fink and Steven Miller observe, ‘Daniel is everywhere and nowhere: the greatest authority, hiding in the detail of someone’s else’s footnote, and in the judgements that have made the canon of Australian art.’

... (read more)