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The Absolute Artist: The Historiography of a Concept

Catherine M. Soussloff
Copyright Date: 1997
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    The Absolute Artist
    Book Description:

    Iconoclastic, temperamental, and free from the constraints of society, the towering figures of the artist-genius have been treated as fixed icons regardless of historical context or individual situation. Challenging this view, Catherine M. Soussloff considers the social construction of the artist from the fifteenth century to the present. “A learned and insightful inquiry into a central founding myth of the discipline of art history.” --Michael Ann Holly, University of Rochester

    eISBN: 978-1-4529-3494-5
    Subjects: Art & Art History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-18)

    This book locates the artist in the discourse of history. By doing so, it seeks a richer and more nuanced understanding of the artist, a cultural figure whose significance cannot be disputed, but whose meaning has rarely been examined or questioned. Paul Bové takes discourse analysis to be “a privileged entry into the poststructuralist mode of analysis precisely because it is the organized and regulated, as well as the regulating and constituting, functions of language that it studies: its aim is to describe the surface linkages between power, knowledge, institutions, intellectuals, the control of populations, and the modern state as...

  5. 1 On the Threshold of Historiography: Biography, Artists, Genre
    (pp. 19-42)

    Like all history writing, this book mediates between individuals who existed in historical reality and texts that represent those individuals and that reality. This book insists more than most books concerned with history writing on the interplay between those individuals—their lives and ideas—and the texts that represent them for two reasons. First, this book specifies a certain subcategory of “genius” as its subject of investigation, the artist. Second, it foregrounds a certain kind or genre of text in which the emphasis is on the individual artist: the biography. In historical discourse the genre of the biography of the...

  6. 2 The Artist in Nature: Renaissance Biography
    (pp. 43-72)

    In this chapter the consideration of certain topics found in the biographical tradition results in interpretations about the artist, particular works of art, and texts that intersect with others already generated by an object-oriented art history. The argument proceeds from the position that the structure of the texts and the use made by history writers of the earliest biographies of artists are intertwined. I take Antonio Manetti’sLifeof Filippo Brunelleschi to be the first text in the genre of the biography of the artist because it can be characterized by models, topics, tropes, and structure that pertain uniquely to...

  7. 3 The Artist in Culture: Kulturwissenschaft from Burckhardt to Warburg
    (pp. 73-93)

    When the complexities involved in the construction of the image of the artist in Western culture from the Early Modern period (ca. 1350) to the present are viewed historiographically, their interpretation requires at the outset two kinds of investigations. First, the determinants for our present image of the artist that are found in texts from this early period require identification and contextualization. Second, the traces and usage made of these structures and their contents in the later writing on the Renaissance period by historians and early art historians call for historicization on the discursive and disciplinary levels. Such a genealogy...

  8. 4 The Artist in History: The Viennese School of Art History
    (pp. 94-111)

    The short bookLegend, Myth, and Magic in the Image of the Artist: A Historical Experiment, written jointly by Ernst Kris (1900–57) and Otto Kurz (1908–75) and published in 1934 in Vienna, provides the first and only theory of the figure of the artist in culture.¹ Kris and Kurz base their understanding of the artist on the textual representation of the artist found in biography. They use two forms of analysis to understand this textual representation of the artist: literary and psychoanalytical.

    In their literary approach, the texts of the past, especially biography, do not serve only or...

  9. 5 The Artist in Myth: Early Psychoanalysis and Art History
    (pp. 112-137)

    InLegend, Myth, and Magic in the Image of the Artistby Ernst Kris and Otto Kurz, the idea of the artist in culture is located in the genre of the biography of the artist. Found there, the artist appears prima facie as a hero, particularly beginning in the Renaissance period. Kris and Kurz wrote:

    It is true that this myth did not evolve into a set form of its own under the probing glare of modern Western culture, but it is woven into the fabric of biography. The heroization of the artist has become the aim of his biographers....

  10. 6 The Artist in the Text: Rhetorics in the Myth of the Artist
    (pp. 138-158)

    The biography of the artist, I argue, has been the dominant cultural, and, therefore, art historical source for the construction of the image of the artist since the beginning of the Early Modern period. I proposed that the biography of the artist constitutes a genre in which certain features pertaining to the artist alone prevail and are consistently repeated. These are evident in the biographies of artists from the time of the invention of the genre in fifteenth-century Florence to the present. Regarding the nature of genre in its Italian context, Rosalie Colie has argued convincingly that all literary invention...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 159-194)
  12. Index
    (pp. 195-204)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 205-205)