matters of taste and waste

Artistic dependency on money? Art as a cash crop, growing money and not the fertility of artistic endeavor. The effects of urban , cosmopolitan culture on the arts probably stretched back to the Renaissance, but it may have been Watteau who first captured the glimpses of bourgeois values and emerging consumerism from the merchant classes that gave rise to what could be called a “market” , out of the French Salon and onto street level.Baudelaire had also studied this urban phenomenon, the jostling for territory, the artist “as prostitute” , a new creature among an urban setting crawling with other species of this natural/artificial habitat such as the ragpicker, hooker and flaneur….

Willian Powell Frith, a leading Academician of his day, painted his Private View of the Royal Academy, 1881 on the subject of its Summer Exhibition of that year and the celebrities who attended it. In his autobiography he said his intention was to satirize “aesthetic” fashions in dress and to comment on “the folly of listening to self elected critics in matters of taste.” By now the satire has evaporated,and what is left is not only an illustration of the Victorian taste, for densely populated canvases and meticulously rendered details, but a useful social document. Frith includes the portraits of such prominent tastemakers  as Anthony Trollope- far left with top hat and grey beard- Gladstone, – nearer left, bareheaded and clean shaven- Browning, – graybearded and bald-headed- ,T.H. Huxley – center, brown sideburns and brown suit-, and young Oscar Wilde- right center, top hat and lily boutonniere.

Read More: ---That ‘apostle of the beautiful,’ seen in the foreground at centre right, is of course Oscar Wilde, who in 1881 was a new neighbour to James McNeill Whistler & Dante Gabriel Rossetti in Chelsea. By the time the painting was displayed, however, Wilde had already conducted his lecture tour of America in service of Gilbert & Sullivan’s satirical operetta Patience, which famously lampooned Aestheticism (which was unfamiliar to Americans, thus Wilde was sent to ‘educate’ them, ostensibly so they understood the farce). Frith surrounds Wilde, who is still in his bachelor days, with adoring ladies who seem to hang on his every word. The gathering would have no doubt caused Wilde’s more sceptical critics to chuckle when it was displayed in 1883.---

( see link at end )…Herkomer’s poster and the accompanying article exemplified the belief that the streets should be treated as art galleries, and raised questions concerning the relationship between art and pictorial advertising. These same questions were raised once again in 1889, when the soap manufacturer William Hesketh Lever used William Powell Frith’s painting The New Frock as the basis for an advertisement by transforming it into a reproducible image and adding the caption “So Clean,” much to Frith’s displeasure. The discussions that each of these advertisements generated demonstrate the different expectations for art and for advertising, and show that the discomfort with advertising was not simply due to its large size or its garish color, but the mode of viewing it promoted. While we conventionally think of Aesthetic paintings, created “for art’s sake” alone, as the artistic outgrowth of this concern with viewing habits, I will show that this concern was widespread and affected a range of cultural production—including commercial products such as advertisements. Read More:

Read More: Watteau. Gersaint.--By 1719 Watteau was suffering from tuberculosis. That year he traveled to London to see a noted physician, Richard Mead, for whom he painted The Italian Comedians. In 1720 he returned to Paris and stayed with his friend E.F. Gersaint, an art dealer. For him he did Enseigne de Gersaint, a painting of the interior of Gersaint's shop intended for use as a signboard. Watteau's health continued to fail, and he moved to Nogent-sur-Marne just east of Paris, where he died on July 18, 1721. The paintings of Watteau and his fellow rococo painters Francois Boucher and Jean-Honore Fragonard fell from favor in the late 1700s. His work was not fully appreciated again until the mid-1800s.---

…Conversely, 19th-century art critics worried that the commercial interests that were infiltrating the fine arts would adulterate the work of art and ultimately damage the aesthetic taste and morality of viewers. A critic’s most scathing remarks often included a comparison between the artist’s work and a commercial product. For example, in 1872, one critic complained that the Academy exhibition “looks like a bazaar or shop for the sale of ‘popular’ pictures.” Three years later, John Ruskin compared the Royal Academy exhibition to the mass-produced illustrations of London’s popular journals, suggesting that “Academy work is now nothing more, virtually, than cheap coloured woodcut.” Read More: …

---Johann Zoffany, La tribune des offices, (1772-78) The Royal Collection---Read More:

So, Art’s willingness, by greed and necessity to be absorbed by money, the aesthetization of cash as Frith implied, means art is a business like any other, an extension of the entertainment business,  just another avenue to rake in revenue, all in all affirming market capitalism through the commodity of culture. Is there still spirituality in art? or has the energy moved elsewhere , since art and publicity seem so intertwined. The Andy Warhol business model.

Related Posts

This entry was posted in Art History/Antiquity/Anthropology, Feature Article, Ideas/Opinion, Modern Arts/Craft and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>