h1

The Founding Of The Louvre Museum And How The Napoleonic Wars Affected Its Collections

June 23, 2009

by Bruno Zabaglio

In France during the sixteenth and seventeenth century, like in most of the Western world, royalties, aristocrats, and wealthy individuals collected and accumulated treasures and works of art in order to impress foreign and local visitors with their wealth, their social and political status, and their artistic and intellectual education.  On this account, art historian Carol Duncan, in her essay titled “From the Princely Gallery to the Public Art Museum: The Louvre Museum and the National Gallery, London”, states that: ‘Typically, princely galleries functioned as reception rooms, providing sumptuous settings for official ceremonies and framing of the prince’.  She also adds that by the end of the seventeenth century these types of art collections were widespread throughout Europe.

The Storming of The Bastille

The Storming of The Bastille

July 14, 1789, the starting of the French Revolution, would be a turning point, not just in French social-political history, but also in the way museums were going to be established and perceived in the future by most of the European nations.
The opening of the Louvre in August 1793 as a public museum was not just the product of the fall of the monarchy in France; it was also an instrument necessary to support the development of the state authority and national identity, and therefore for the survival of the new government.  According to Eilean Hooper-Greenhill, author of “Museums And The Shaping Of Knowledge”, the French Revolution was a significant event because it brought to an end a society built on a hierarchic system and on the disparity in social and economic standings, and because it ended the old way of envisioning the world as a set of classification determined by religious and political reasoning.  The new society, which originally was supposed to be ruled by the people, ended up under the political control of the bourgeoisie and it introduced a set of new laws based on a democratic way of life.  The museum would become a political instrument for the new Republic, as well as a reminder of the oppression and decadence of the past regime.  Ms. Hooper-Greenhill states that the Louvre became one of the symbols of this new way of life.
Carol Duncan, who describes the Louvre as ‘the prototypical public art museum’, concurs with Hooper-Greenhill’s opinions on the social and political correlation in the creation of the French museum.  In her essay, she examines the history of the Louvre and the National Museum in London, and describes their influence on modern museums.  Ms. Duncan believes that even though the French museum was not the first one to use a royal art collection for a public art museum, it represents the most politically important and socially significant conversion of a princely collection into a civic one.  She describes the creation of the museum as ‘an opportunity to dramatize the creation of the new Republic state, nationalize the king’s art collection and declare the Louvre a public institution’.
Duncan asserts that the transformation of a royal palace into a public space and the display of royal possessions as public property denoted the new government’s commitment to the basic principles of egalitarianism.  At the opening of the Louvre, to emphasize these social-political changes, a commemorative plaque was installed above the entrance to the Galerie D’Apollon with the dates of the founding (September 16, 1792) and of the official opening of the museum (August 10, 1793), and a footnote that underlined and connected its creation to a decree approved by the L’Assemblée Législative (Legislative Committee).

The Entrance to The Apollo Gallery

The Entrance to The Apollo Gallery

Another politically advantageous decision made by the new government was that the admission to the museum was free and that the entrance was allowed to everyone, not matter their social status or educational level; this was a move that gave people the perception that in the museum, and therefore in France, every person was equal, at least in principal.   According to the writer, the decision, beside achieving positive results on the social level by providing something for everybody (educational goods for the cultured portion of population and a sense of marvel and reverence for the uneducated), it also created a popular venue beneficial in the reshaping of the political relationship between ‘the individual as citizen and the state as benefactor’.
On the same subject, Eilean Hooper-Greenhill says that the museum became one of the political tools of the state because it could ‘….direct the population into activities which would, without people being aware of it, transform the population into a useful resource for the state’. The correlation between the ruling government and the art world, which has its roots from the Egyptian times all the way to end of the Eighteenth Century, was used mostly to maintain social discipline, serving as a reminder that the ruling party was rightfully in power because of its social superiority.  Dr. Nick Prior in the book  “Museums & Modernity”, writing on the subject of Revolutionary Culture: Rituals of Ceremony and State Art Museums, says that the state-art world relationship is directly connected to ‘the preservation of social order and to the consecration of a national culture’.  Dr. Prior points out that the liberal governments in Europe only started to be involved as supporters of the arts in the early nineteenth century because by sponsoring art related projects they came across as a benevolent guardian and a protector of the arts.  Carol Duncan believes that public projects such as museums help make a state ‘look good: progressive, concerned about the spiritual life of its citizens, a preserver of past achievements and a provider for the common good’.
Dr. Prior writes that the Louvre opened as a ‘Monument Dedicated to the Love and Study of the Arts’ with a collection totaling to 537 paintings and 184 objects displayed on tables.  In order to complete the symbolic message, the new museum had to adopt a new way of displaying its collection.  Duncan explains that the museum’s directors organized the collections into art-historical schools and exhibited them in a way that enhanced the progress and achievements of each school and its most prominent artists.  Contrary to the old gentlemanly culture in which the artists and the work would have to be identified by the cultured guest, each and every art object, because it was educationally addressed to ‘the people’, was properly identified and labeled.  This new system of art displaying has been considered by many museum history scholars as a more developed and logical thinking.

Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon Bonaparte

After Napoleon Bonaparte came to power, from around 1799 to 1815, the museum collections increased due to the looting from countries that he invaded and conquered.  Famous valuable paintings and sculptures were taken from Italy, Egypt, Greece, Belgium, and the Netherlands and taken back to France.  According to Dr. Prior, with the justification of cultural security and a special requisition committee led by artist and archeologist Vivant Denon, Napoleon appropriated famous art works such as the Laocoon, the Apollo Belvedere, Raphael’s Transfiguration, Correggio’s St. Jerome, and many others. The precious cargos were safely transported back to Paris and brought to the Louvre with organized festive processions where supposedly the artworks would find their ‘natural’ place at the source of ‘liberty, creativity, and genius’.

Due to the sizeable contribution of artworks to the collections of the Louvre by Napoleon’s war acquisitions, in 1803 the museum was renamed the “Musée Napoléon”, and in 1810 it reopened under the management of Vivant Denon.   Both Carol Duncan and Nick Prior state that by this time the display of the paintings was systematically arranged by schools, such as the Italian, French, Dutch, and Flemish.  Ms Duncan adds that a new meaning was acquired by the iconographic possessions of the past, such as the trophies, the treasures, and the valuable works of art.  What once symbolized material wealth, power, and social status, now was being transformed by the power of the new museum into ‘spiritual treasures’: spiritual and cultural treasures gained and protected by the state for its citizens.
Dr. Nick Prior points out that by 1803, in the Musée Napoléon, the layout of the artworks was more in line with rules dictated in the Enlightenment.  The paintings were still exhibited by schools and also had related explanatory texts.  Furthermore, an official museum catalogue was introduced which was available and prepared for the common citizen.  She states that by then France seemed to have developed a museum that emerged as entirely secular, public and national, as ‘a monument to democracy, civilization and international cultural domination’.
In conclusion, Duncan observes that the museum of Louvre became the model for most of the new public museums founded later in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in many European cities and even in the United States, in cities such as New York, Boston, Chicago, and Cleveland.

Advertisements
h1

Salvador Dali is Surrealism

February 2, 2009
Andre Breton

Andre Breton

by Bruno Zabaglio

Surrealism is an artistic and literary movement officially born in France in 1924 with the publication of the ‘Manifeste Surrealiste’ by Andre’ Breton, who was a poet and a critic and a strong supporter of Freud’s study of dreams and the unconscious. In the manifesto the writer declares Surrealism as a movement of psychic automatism in its pure state and under the influence of thoughts freed by reason and both aesthetic and moral principles. The new movement was a derivative of Dadaism and was influenced by the ‘Pittura Metafisica’ of the Italian painter Giorgio De Chirico. Following the theories of interpretation of dreams and the unconscious, many artists enrolled in this new method of artistic creation. The concept of automatic writing was an important one in the development of the surreal because it involved the complete detachment from reality.
Surrealism attracted many artists, such as Man Ray, Meret Oppenheim, Hans Bellmer, Max Ernst, Alberto Giacometti, Rene’ Magritte, but without any doubt the most recognized name connected with the movement is Salvador Dali. Anyone unfamiliar with art history and Surrealism would never recognize many of those names except for one: Salvador Dali’.

Salvador Dali

Salvador Dali

Dali was born at Figueras, in Catalogna (Spain), in 1904. He stated that the most traumatic event in his life happened the 11th of May, 1904 at 8:45, on the morning when he was born. Since his early years Dali’ showed signs of unconventional behavior; in fact as a child he used to wear a king’s outfit, and basically became the supreme ruler of the house. When he was a little older the artist set up a studio in an old laundry room that contained a large cement basin which he would fill with water and take long soaking baths in order to let his imagination work.
In 1921 Dali entered the School of Fine Arts in Madrid. During the years between 1921 and 1923 he was influenced by Cubism, Futurism and Purism, and it was also during this period that he became familiar with Freud’s book ‘The Interpretation of Dreams’. While in Madrid, Dali met Garcia Lorca and Luis Bu_uel, who were both part of an avant-garde student group, and it was with Bu_uel that he made the famous movie Un chien Andalou in 1928 (a milestone in surrealistic movie-making). The same year he met Joan Miro’ and Andre’ Breton and in 1929 he joined the Surrealist movement in Paris. During the years of involvement with the movement, Dali created many works that galvanized the Surrealist ideas, such as The First Day of Spring (1929), The Great Masturbator (1929), and the famous The Persistence of Memory (1931).
An important factor in Dali’s life was his encounter with the psychoanalyst Jacque Lucan, because it helped the artist in the development of his public and private individuality. With the development of his paranoiac critical method, the artist was able to use his obsessions as a base for his creations, such as the many references to the painting Angeluos by Millet, which he incorporated in many of his own works, including The Architectonic Angelus of Millet (1933), Meditation on the Harp (1932-34), Archeological Reminiscence of Millett’s Angelus (1933-35), and Perpignan Railway Station (1965).
In one of his most famous surrealistic paintings, The Persistence of Memory (1931), Dali depicts a vast and deserted beach with a rocky cliff in the background and a body of water that seems to fuse with the blue serene sky. In the foreground there are four elongated, soft looking watches that symbolize the irrationality of time. It seems that the concept of time in this composition is related to the notion that the expansion and contraction of time is relative to the singularity of each individual. The watch drooping across the fetus-like-shaped figure refers perhaps to the pre-birth traumatic memories of the artist.

The Persistence of Memory (1931)

The Persistence of Memory (1931)

By 1934 Dali’s notoriety was increasingly rising and so was his eccentricity, which started to derail him from the guidelines of Surrealism. By that time Andre Breton was becoming unhappy with Dali’s fascination with Hitler. So were the rest of the surrealist artists because of Dali’s egotistical declaration that he made at his arrival in New York: “I AM Surrealism”. In 1941 in the catalogue of his show in New York, Salvador Dali declared himself officially finished with Surrealism and announced that he was to become classic.
Salvador Dali lived a long, eccentric, and successful life. Anywhere he went he was recognized (his famous upward twisted moustache became a symbol for Dali himself). He met the most famous and connected people from everywhere in the world. Salvador Dali is one of my favorite artists not only because of his unusual public and private comportment (I am a fan of out-of-the-box thinkers), but also because I find his works, especially the ones focused on the nuclear mysticism and the Christian faith, fascinating and incredibly capturing. Dali’s approach to traditional religious subjects, in paintings such as Christ of St. John of the Cross (1951), Corpus Hypercubicus (1954), and The Last Supper (1955),

The Last Supper (1955)

The Last Supper (1955)

show his artistic genius, talent and foresight in his choice of compositional structure, meticulous and precise renditions of figures and landscapes, and overall visionary aspect in the scene.
Unfortunately his artistic talent was at times obscured by his flamboyant personality, and his name was primarily connected with the extravagances of his personal and public life, secondly with his artistic accomplishments. His long-life companion and muse-like influence behind many of his paintings, Gala Eluard, died in 1982. Seven years later, on January 23rd 1989, Salvador Dali died.

h1

The Role of Photography in Society

December 30, 2008

By Bruno Zabaglio


the-disembarkation-at-marseilles-by-peter-paul-rubens-1622-16253

"The Disembarkation at Marseilles" by Peter Paul Rubens, 1622-1625

Before the invention of photography, circa 1840, the production of visual imagery was the monopoly of few individuals who possessed the ability to reproduce (by hand) pictures; those people were known as artists.  With the invention of a mechanical instrument capable to reproduce reality not once, but many times over, a new era was born for the role of images in society.

Besides being a tool for recording personal moments in someone’s life, photography has become an extraordinary tool for advertising, news reporting, science, politics, and many form of entertainment. Photography has also entered the field of fine art.
Photographs influence what we buy and where we buy it, let us experience visually events near our homes as well on the other side of the world and outside this world, help scientists discover new theories, politicians gain our support, and are the visual base for personal and social economic communication.

Kate Moss in a Gucci ad

Kate Moss in a Gucci ad

The world of advertising bombards us with pictures of beautiful and sensual people pretending to use a specific brand of shampoo or underwear or soft drink with the hope that we the consumers, consciously or unconsciously, will buy it.  Photographs have become the middle man between manufacturers and consumers.

trangbang1

Huynh Cong (Nick) Ut, Vietnam Napalm, Trang Bang (1972)

In the news business photo reporting has been a powerful tool for the mass population to feel the impact of events far away such as the atrocities of war, destruction from natural disasters, and, as on September 11th, 2001, terrorist attacks.  Photographs of dreadful events have changed history.  As an example a famous photograph taken by Huynh Cong Ut in 1972, picturing children running down a road after their village was attacked during the Vietnam War, became a symbol for the international movement against the war.  Pictures of the planes hitting the Twin Towers and the picture of the people throwing themselves off the top of the towers hoping to survive were shown all over the globe and will always bring back the memories of how stunned we all were when it occurred.

World Trade Center, New York, Sept. 11, 2001 (NBC News)

World Trade Center, New York, Sept. 11, 2001

Those kinds of photographs aren’t just a visual recording of an event; they become the event in our memories.
In politics photographs usually become a way to emphasize how honest and trustworthy a particular candidate is (smiling and next to his or her nice looking family) and how dishonest and uncaring the opponent is (usually portrayed with a smirk on their face and nowhere near any family members).  The photographs have generally taken the place of the old-fashioned door to door encounter and hand shaking.
In art, because photography has a definite relationship with painting, there was at the beginning a shifting around of many painters becoming photographers or starting to utilize photography as a tool in their painting process.  By the start of the nineteen century the new media had gained a place in the field of visual arts.  Professional photographers, besides shooting a portrait or a wedding, many times capture images that convey more than an event.  Their photographs capture and communicate an emotion to the viewer.

h1

On The Nature Of Art

December 22, 2008

By James Bailey.

“A book must be an axe for the frozen sea inside of us” – Franz Kafka

Franz Kafka

Franz Kafka

What distinguishes art from common place objects is its profound ability to inspire a wide variety of deep emotional responses and intellectual stimulation unique to each viewer or participant. I believe, as Kafka points out for us, that art should be a tool for personal growth through stimulation and confrontation for both creator and participant alike. Art can move us in ways everyday life cannot; art can force us to ponder questions we never knew we should be asking.

The pursuit of the artist is one of seemingly contradictory goals: to explore ideas or emotions deeply personal and specific for the purpose of personal growth through either discovery, acceptance or catharsis; while at the same time, making the result of that search widely available and, to varying degrees, open to interpretation by the outside world. In sharing works of art the author is not just revealing the result of his study but also inviting the audience to participate in their own quest, to explore the same mystery and corroborate their results with the artist’s work. A finished work of art should never be an ending but a new beginning; participants should walk away from art with more questions than answers, and perhaps a new understanding or perspective.

“All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree. All these aspirations are directed toward ennobling man’s life, lifting it from the sphere of mere physical existence and leading the individual towards freedom” – Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein

Buddhists believe that ultimate freedom is nirvana, a state of being in which the self ceases to exist and truth is felt and experienced, the truth that all is one, all is the same; this truth is felt but not known, experienced but not thought. Some Buddhists would tell you that art is distraction from suffering, that art is false experience, but I believe art, in both creation and experience, is equal to meditation, a tool to achieve a state of mindfulness and the path to nirvana.

To experience the disconnect between mind and body while experiencing art, detaching even sometimes from one’s self to let the art wash over and consume your being. To lose yourself in creating your own artwork, reaching that moment when instinct and intuition takes over and active thought no longer plays a role in the process of creation, to the point that time ceases to be experienced and you look up surprised that the past few minutes you’ve been working have been hours. Art is a separate realm of experience. Art is another dimension. Art is a collective transcendental collaboration bound not to form or space or time.

Art is evolution.

h1

Definition Of “is”

December 19, 2008

By Scott Denney

alleyPainting is. Photography is. Music is too. But then again, one could conclude that talking is and cooking is. Hell, even mixing the perfect martini is when you really think about it. I’m talking of course, about the definition of “what art is”. Everyone has an opinion. Here’s mine.

In college, I had a professor who firmly believed that filmmaking was not an art, but rather a craft. He felt that the required technical knowledge involved in filmmaking far exceeded the value of the attempt to be an artist. To him, if you didn’t understand the craft, you didn’t have a shot at creating anything approaching art in film, thus craft was king. Fair enough, but I’ve seen more than my share of technically perfect films that should never have been made. Craft alone cannot bolster a weak script, bad dialogue or pedestrian acting skills. There are so many bad films out there, that it makes me wonder if making bad films could be an art in and of itself!

On the flip side, I can’t argue that filmmaking is purely an art form either. The internet is full of great ideas that are poorly executed. As the accessibility to the tools of filmmaking and distribution become more readily available to the masses, the amount of material created grows exponentially, while the percentage of quality content dwindles. Thousands of ideas are out there. Great ideas with poor lighting, bad audio, ill-conceived shot angles and no attempt at color correction. They flood our eyes daily. There are millions of would-be artists with the inspiration to express an idea, yet with absolutely no knowledge of how to use the tools beyond powering up the camcorder. Worse yet, they have no inclination to learn the craft so that they might improve their results.

So is my definition of “what art is” purely limited to equal parts of art and craft? Not necessarily. I do not genuflect at the altar of either dogma. To me, art is actually the successful execution of intention. Its the core ingredient in anything that can legitimately be viewed as art. Anyone can slap paint on a canvas (check out your local kindergarten class), take a photograph, play an instrument and yes, even mix a martini. The difference is that most people don’t have an intention beyond (respectively) delighting their parents, capturing material for their Facebook page, looking cool or getting their friends drunk.

For someone to create art, they must be inspired by and focused on communicating their intention through their creation. To be sure, varying parts of artistry and craft will be involved, but the artist overcomes their deficiencies, in either area, in order to realize the intention of his or her message. That is what makes the artist an artist. That is what enables the artist to create what unquestionably is art.

h1

Art Is In The Eye Of Beholder

December 17, 2008

Different Similarities

“Art Is The Eye Of The Beholder”

By Bruno Zabaglio

Let’s figure out why, at age 59, I have decide to enroll into a two years   program that will eventually award me, at age 61, a Curatorial Certificate.

Expressions such as: “It’s never too late”, or “You should do what you feel is right”, and “You must follow your dreams” come to mind.  Well, these are common expressions that could apply to anyone and any situation. The words that I feel drive me are the ones of my uncle Rino told me, in a summer evening about forty years ago: “Bruno, don’t you ever give up art.  You got something”. Are those words enough for me to embark on this new venture?  I don’t think so.  There is another reason why I believe I should: Intentional Motivation.  Robert F. Bornstein, Joseph M. Masling talk about Intentional Motivation in their book “Scoring the Rorschach” and claim that “For motivation to be scored as intentional, the action must be directed toward some future moment and subjects must be seen as, in some sense, choosing their action rather than having to react.” But before describing my motivation point I feel it’s important to tell you a little about myself.

My love affair with art began when I was a young man.  Off and on in my adult life I picked up my brushes and created some artworks that received mixed reactions from family and friends. Every time negativity or indifference bruised my artistic ego, the words of my uncle came back and boosted my confidence.  Once my children got older I felt the need to get a formal training.  My college experience at the University of Cincinnati, DAAP College, didn’t just enhance my knowledge, my creativity, and technique. Through interactions with fellow students and faculty members, my passion for all forms of art grew.  I came to appreciate the old masterpieces more deeply.  And I also became knowledgeable about the art and artists of today and began to feel a sense of excitement as a participant.

The main reason why I want to be part of the Curatorial Program is because I believe that contemporary art can be as beautiful as the one created by the old masters.  The famous expression: “Beauty is the eye of the beholder” can also refer to art.  “Art is the eye of the beholder”.  Contemporary Art sometimes gets a bad wrap because the mass population is not exposed enough to it or is correctly educated about it.  I don’t blame anyone. The uneducated viewers try their best to understand the thematic and conceptuality of modern works.  Galleries and museums make an effort to highlight contemporary artists, but they are handicapped by financial and social restrictions.

My short-term goal is to learn more how the curatorial world, how it works, and how can I contribute to the expansion of the appreciation for the fine art and artists of today as well as the old ones.

My long-term objective and wish is that one day the adjective “Starving” will not precede the noun “Artist” as in the common expression: “Starving Artist”.   I look forward to a time in the future when everyone in the artist profession will attain a renewed social status.  Artists deserve more appreciation for their creativity and contribution to society regardless how famous they are or how much we personally like their artworks.  I believe we must enhance not just their financial support but also their social recognition because, although “Art is the eye of the beholder”, is always art.