Poignant. Heart tugging. Hard to imagine that an immensely talented artist like Edward Landseer, a technical gymnast and stuntman could waste time plumbing the depths of anecdotal gimmick. A weird tryst between feeding increasingly affluent purchasers with the most tacky and mediocre taste to skilled representatives of sentimental moralizing, flattery, phony moral probity all passed of as cultural elevation. Children and animals were among the among the most popular category of fair game.
Unlike the nude, it was easier to find things for them to do. Colleagues of Landseer produced in its simpering, mincing representations of kids, the most offensively coy images of children in the history of art, unleashed by the Dickens and Victorian cult of the child and the Romantic poet’s fatuation with youth.
Landseer’s specialty was animals; appealing to the unreasonable fascination with the public for a nostalgic, sentimental recollection of a more tranquil, slower, pastoral age. A familiar phenomenon was the dog or horse or cow in the living room; bovine anatomy being commented on as seriously as the political state of affairs. Landseer could give any animal the pompous air of royalty and landed nobility. Its easy to see where all the cat and animal memes derive from. Landseer’s canines were remarked upon not for their variations on pathetic fallacy but for their himan qualities: tender, sensitive smarts and sublime emotional responses to the crises of life. It was trite, obvious and unltimately vulgar, but it sold like gangbusters and any look at dog food advertising reveals they all studied Landseer and incarnate their dogs with the jolly peasants, noble peasants, pert or melancholy old ladies and fashionable portraits that were the staples of the sentimental age of painting. A triumph of kitsch and the skill of artificial posturing.
Ultimately, art markets can be considered as beachhead of capitalism; what the market will bear, and Landseer was a triumph of mercantilism and the overreaching power of money over art. The supremacy of money to art. Like Gilbert and Georges pictures of human feces and dallying with maggots by Hirst, Landseer also illustrates the chasm between life and art.
Could it be that Warhol, Schnabel and Beuys are the Bonheur, Meissonier and Landseer of our day?” What Marshall Berman wrote about the Russian revolution seems equally true of the avant-garde revolution: “A century later, we can see how the business of promoting revolution is open to the same abuses and temptations, manipulative frauds and wishful self-deceptions, as any other promotional line.” Read More:http://www.artnet.com/magazine/features/kuspit/kuspit9-15-99.asp