Salon painting.And children. Sympathy for the poor things with an equally normal but less open response to their charms. Unlike Salon painting of women who were usually lashed to a stake, tortured or languishing in prisons condemned to sleeping on heaps of straw and suffering indifferent brutes,children seemed to fare better.Salon painting was after all, based on a precise imitation of nature, in spite of all the schmaltz ladled on, the prettying up and contrived posturings.
When children were painted directly, sympathetically, and without all the pre-conceived arrangements that turned them into little brats and whining manipulators, they could be attractive subjects for this kind of salon painting that was expert, specialized in the presentation of externals. Although it retains its mawkish and maudlin nature, remember that the style of salon painting, think Rockwell, still appeals to a large section of the public for exactly the same reasons it appealed a hundred and fifty years ago when it was fresh off the easel.
Children were a two-sided subject. They were innocent of history, extolled profound sentimentality and were somehow attributed to an act of purification. However, a persistent specter that the poverty of the Victorian era provided to those of comfortable status- much like in the Depression- was that of small children, gaunt, unsmiling and unresponsive, looking at food through restaurant or grocery windows. This was a flashpoint that the patrons of art were not willing to see. They wanted to remain immune to acts of revolt and wanted to remain indifferent to those willing to tough out the rough times if their children’s basic needs for food and clothing were provided for.
In art then, abstract aesthetic values were beyond the buying public. The picture should tell a story, and in the English tradition, “to put a good face on trade” . This human interest slopped over worst in pictures of children being cute or in popular storybook characters in moments of pathos. Art appealing to the vanity of the purchaser assuring them of their cultivation and depth of understanding. Their culture and values.
The splitting up of art into opposing realist and abstract camps was already 60 years old when Kandinsky got around to recognizing it. Baudelaire acknowledged the split by way of his distinction, in The Salon of 1846, between poetic and mathematical criticism. This led him, in The Salon of 1859, to distinguish between two kinds of modern artist, the positivist and imaginative or realist and romantic; both sets of terms are his. He preferred poetic criticism to mathematical criticism, just as he later preferred imaginative to positivist art. Mathematical criticism was “cold,” for it “voluntarily strips itself of every shred of temperament” — “has neither love nor hate” — “on the pretext of explaining everything.” Thus his famous assertion that “to justify its existence, criticism should be partial, passionate and political, that is to say, written from an exclusive point of view, but a point of view that opens up the widest horizons.” There is no attempt to explain everything in a particular art, but rather to justify its existence from a certain point of view, which locates it in a meaningful horizon without exhausting its meaning. Read More:http://www.artnet.com/magazineus/features/kuspit/critical-consciousness-of-the-arts-3-29-11.asp