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Contemporary Art in the Light of History

Contemporary Art in the Light of History

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Contemporary Art in the Light of History

Longueur:
134 pages
1 heure
Éditeur:
Sortie:
Aug 1, 2013
ISBN:
9781611459425
Format:
Livre

Description

Erwin Rosenthal’s Contemporary Art in the Light of History, originally published in 1971, is a small masterpiece of writing on the art of the twentieth century. A scholar of medieval art by training and a prominent antiquarian bookseller, Rosenthal, who died in l981, was equally entranced by modern art, particularly abstraction. His three linked essays in this book—“Contemporary Art in the Light of History,” “Art and Technology,” and “Art Theories and Manifestos, Old and New”—set out a path to understanding modern art through its affinities with the art of the past.

Rosenthal engages with some of the enduring aesthetic questions: How do new forms and new artistic vocabularies respond to the deepest human needs and impulses? What is the relationship between artistic theory and artistic expression? Nicolas Poussin’s mythological landscapes, Paul Klee’s graphic abstractions, Bridget Riley’s op-art compositions—these and many other examples from centuries of painting, sculpture, poetry, and music take us, in these pages, on a fascinating cultural journey with a sophisticated and lucid guide. Rosenthal’s explorations of the theory and practice of twentieth-century artists bring us directly into the minds and studios of modern artists. What is more, like his previous The Changing Concept of Reality in Art, already republished by Arcade, this book invites us into a great intimacy with the origins of art.
Éditeur:
Sortie:
Aug 1, 2013
ISBN:
9781611459425
Format:
Livre

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Contemporary Art in the Light of History - Erwin Rosenthal

CONTEMPORARY

ART

IN THE

LIGHT OF HISTORY

by

ERWIN ROSENTHAL

Introduction by Lance Esplund

A Biographical Note by Julia Rosenthal

Copyright © 1971 by Erwin Rosenthal, Lugano, Switzerland;

copyright © 2013 by Estate of Erwin Rosenthal

Introduction © 2013 by Lance Esplund

Biographical note copyright © 2012 by Julia Rosenthal

Originally published in 1971 by Lund Humphries in London and George

Wittenborn in New York.

The publisher gratefully acknowledges the permission granted to reproduce copyrighted material in this book. Every effort has been made to trace copyright holders and to obtain their permission for the use of copyright materials. The publisher apologizes for any errors or omissions and would be grateful if notified of any corrections that should be incorporated in future reprints or editions of this book. Indications of where artworks reside refer to who owned them in 1971. Artists’ rights are indicated alongside of the art reproduced.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any manner without the express written consent of the publisher, except in the case of brief excerpts in critical reviews or articles. All inquiries should be addressed to Arcade Publishing, 307 West 36th Street, 11th Floor, New York, NY 10018.

Arcade Publishing books may be purchased in bulk at special discounts for sales promotion, corporate gifts, fund-raising, or educational purposes. Special editions can also be created to specifications. For details, contact the Special Sales Department, Arcade Publishing, 307 West 36th Street, 11th Floor, New York, NY 10018 or arcade@skyhorsepublishing. com.

Arcade Publishing® and Artists & Art™ are registered trademarks of Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.®, a Delaware corporation.

Visit our website at www.arcadepub.com.

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data is available on file.

ISBN: 978-1-61145-755-1

Printed in China

Contents

FOREWORD

INTRODUCTION BY LANCE ESPLUND

I

CONTEMPORARY ART IN THE LIGHT OF HISTORY

II

ART AND TECHNOLOGY

III

ART THEORIES AND MANIFESTOS, OLD AND NEW

NOTES

A BIOGRAPHICAL NOTE BY JULIA ROSENTHAL

Plates I—XXV follow page 100.

Foreword

This collection of three essays is aimed at throwing some light upon the controversial field of modern art.

The first essay attempts to provide an element of historical perspective, which gives the necessary detachment and objectivity, and helps avoid a great many pernicious misconceptions about modern art. In the mid sixties, abstract art reached a definite stage in its development, and 1964 could be called the year of crisis. The following study is to be understood from this viewpoint.

The second chapter approaches the subject somewhat more directly by exploring the relationship between art and technology. The importance of optical and kinetic elements for contemporary art could not be clearly determined around the mid century. Only in 1966/67 was it possible fully to appreciate their significance; therefore this study is to be seen from the perspective of those years.

The third study, Art Theories and Manifestos, gives a broad survey of the history of aesthetics from antiquity to the middle of the twentieth century. It endeavours to leave the reader with a theoretical framework by tracing the development of aesthetic and critical theories which led to contemporary trends in art.

These studies do not try to set up axiomatic historical rules; rather they attempt to envisage the history of art in terms of perpetual principles. As a sort of modest guide this small book, stressing the same creative impulses for ancient as well as contemporary art, may help to overcome the widespread bewilderment about modern art. The mystery of the growth and change of styles is deeply embedded in the history and mind of man. All the different and even contradictory expressions and achievements in the figurative arts are but reflections of the eternal problem of transferring aesthetic sensibilities into images, forms, colours, or pure symbols. Thus these reflections could be understood as studies in continuity.

E. R.

Introduction

Erwin Rosenthal’s book Contemporary Art in the Light of History is as relevant and important today as it was when it was first published more than forty years ago. One might ask how Rosenthal’s text—written before the advent of the Internet and social media; before the Culture Wars and the persecution of the Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei; before the fall of the Berlin Wall and the attacks of 9/11—could have any real bearing on art in our contemporary world. The answer is that Rosenthal, who is as engaged here with what artists make as he is with artists’ motivations, has anticipated not our historical milestones and technological advances but, rather, our ongoing desire to understand what drives artists individually and our culture collectively.

As in Arnold Hauser’s large multivolume The Social History of Art, Rosenthal’s compact text considers art in relation to other fields—literature, science, technology, music, philosophy, psychology, politics, and spirituality. He takes into account the importance of intellect and emotion; Romantic and Classical tendencies; mimesis and fantasia; insanity, reason, rebellion, shock, and the grotesque; the dual poles of representation and abstraction; and the metaphysical origins of art.

Rosenthal sees art not as progressing but, rather, as always relevant, no matter when or where it was made. In the Foreword to Contemporary Art in the Light of History, he writes that his studies attempt to envisage the history of art in terms of perpetual principles. As a sort of modest guide this small book, stressing the same creative impulses for ancient as well as contemporary art, may help to overcome the widespread bewilderment about modern art.

To that end, Rosenthal is concerned with putting contemporary art in the context of the art of the past. Writing in clear, limber prose, he makes leaps through history and across disciplines. His great range is underscored by the simplicity of his language and the matter-of-factness of his conclusions. To read this book is to participate with the author as he wrestles with challenging ideas, paradoxes, and matters of spirit. When Rosenthal, discussing the necessary tension between Apollonian and Dionysian tendencies, writes that the interaction of theory and free inspiration is one of the ultimate secrets of the artist, we are brought closer to art through the acceptance of its mystery.

Interested not in influence but in analogy, which Rosenthal refers to as related psychological climates, the author lays out art-historical links in a chain. He draws connections and parallels among artists’ attitudes and styles in ancient Egypt, antiquity, the Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, and Modern eras. All the different and even contradictory expressions and achievements in the figurative arts, Rosenthal writes, are but reflections of the eternal problem of transferring aesthetic sensibilities into images, forms, colours, or pure symbols.

Rosenthal begins with the art of his present. He recognizes that Mannerism, Romanticism, Surrealism, and Abstract Expressionism—still somewhat dominant in 1971—all have their roots in the anti-classical tradition of antiquity, in the oriental occultists and mystics—in whose work Orphic dogma, Hebrew philosophy, and the rites and cults of Ancient Egypt lingered on. Rosenthal connects the objectivity, purity and depersonalization—the Cartesian spirit—of Fra Angelico to analogous aspects in Piero della Francesca, Raphael, Poussin, Cézanne, Mondrian, and the Op Art movement. Paying close attention, for example, to the Op Artist Bridget Riley, he aligns her and other contemporary artists’ work with the perceptually based

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