Academic Session 17: Loughborough 2017
43rd Annual Conference & Art Book Fair
6th to 8th April 2017
Modern Lives – Modern Legends: Artist anecdotes since the 18th century
Hans Christian Hones, The Warburg Institute (Bilderfahrzeuge Project), email@example.com
Anna Frasca-Rath, University of Vienna, firstname.lastname@example.org
In John Nichols’ Biographical Anecdotes of William Hogarth (1785), one reads of how the painter died in the arms of his servant, his demise the result of overindulging in beefsteak. Seventy years later, a biography of John Flaxman tells of how the artist, in his childhood, showed his drawings to a famous painter – who asked if they were meant to represent flounders.
These are just two examples for a little-known tendency in the artistic literature of the 18th and 19th century: the re-adaptation of traditional anecdotes which had been repeated countless times since the trecento. Nichols’ story clearly refers ironically to Vasari’s description of Leonardo’s death in the arms of the French King, and Flaxman’s ‘flounders’ are an equally ironic take on the legend of Giotto’s discovery by Cimabue. Far from simply providing entertainment, they were also an opportunity for succinct commentary on the respective artist’s work – the ‘Englishness’ of Hogarth and the ‘flatness’ of Flaxman.
This panel explores these revisions and re-adaptations of traditional artist anecdotes and their function in the art theoretical debates of their time. What was the purpose of such re-writings? How does this flood of new anecdotes relate and react to the rise of ‘scholarly’ biographical writing? Which art-theoretical subtexts were carried in these ironic deflections from tradition? And how do they intersect with the equally prominent rise of depictions of anecdotal scenes from artists’ lives – Giotto painting sheep being just the most prominent example?
Papers examine these and other questions in a broad geographical context between the 18th and 20th century.
Click here to download a .pdf of this session's paper abstracts
Lois Oliver (University of Notre Dame (USA) in London) Visitors in the Artist’s Studio: 19th-century variations on a theme
Christine Hübner (Göttingen University) ‘Creations of the professor’s fertile mind’ – August Hagen and the novelisation of artist’s lives
Penny Wickson (Independent Scholar) ‘Caricaturisti e Caricaturati al Caffè Michelangelo’ – Telemaco Signorini and the anecdotal history of the Italian Macchiaioli
Benjamin Harvey (Mississippi State University) Refusing to play Vasari: Roger Fry’s Cézannian Anecdotes
Stefan Albl (Bibliotheca Hertziana Rome) Literary Tropes in Josef Engelhart’s Autobiography (1943)
Linda Goddard (University of St Andrews) Reading the Life-Writings of Women Artists