Art History and Its Institutions: Foundations of a Discipline

By Elizabeth Mansfield | Go to book overview

16

INSTITUTING GENIUS

The formation of biographical art history in France

Greg M. Thomas


INTRODUCTION: BIOGRAPHICAL ART HISTORY

In The Art of Art History Donald Preziosi interprets the discipline of art history as a system for establishing relationships among art objects from around the world and between art objects and historical actions or intentions. 1 He further sees this Western art historical project as a way of creating and legitimizing some of the ideological apparatus of the modern nation state. Yet in delineating the major intellectual trends of early art history - aesthetics, formalism, national history, iconography - he brushes over one of the most fundamental methodologies of the art historical system: biographical history. The biographical paradigm, I believe, is not widely recognized as such for two reasons: it is so ingrained in the process of relating art objects to history that it hardly seems like a methodology at all; and since Vasari, no outstanding individuals have emerged (ironically enough) to theorize it - no Wölfflin or Panofsky to serve as a modern progenitor.

As art history developed in Europe and the United States, however, the author function, to put it in Foucault's terms, remained pivotal in the linking of art objects to ideological intention and national identity. 2 Individual artists - their lives and experiences - continued to act as the interface between the physical sensations of paint and the intentional ideas they supposedly evoke, between unique material objects and unified national cultures. I will argue, furthermore, that in France biography was really the primary art historical methodology in the nineteenth century, one supported by early art historical institutions as it established key components of modern art history. Although French scholars were caught up in the same nation-building trends as in Germany, England, and the United States, the forging of a national character and a national school tended in France to be based on establishing a pantheon of individual geniuses rather than delineating national styles or iconographies.

The effect of what I would call the biographical discourse has extended far beyond the now antiquated texts of nineteenth-century French art history. As shown below, France began producing memoirs of recently deceased artists from the 1840s on, making biography the established vehicle for ordering and

-260-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this book

This book has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this book

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
Art History and Its Institutions: Foundations of a Discipline
Table of contents

Table of contents

Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
/ 329

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.