The Status and Social Climate of Ancient Artists

Sculptors Carving a Colossal Royal Statue, from the Tomb of Rekhmire, ca. 1504-1425 BCE

Nina de Garis Davies, 20th century facsimile drawing of “Sculptors at Work,” from the Tomb of Rekhmire, original of ca. 1479-1425 BCE

Right now I am teaching a course that explores what is means to be an artist, in terms of how society defines artists, the societal status of artists, and how artists define themselves. The scope of the class focuses on Renaissance art up until World War Two, but the theme of this class has also made me personally think lately about ancient artists. I thought I would jot down a smattering of things that interest me about the role and societal situation for artists in ancient times. I realize that this post isn’t a comprehensive discussion by any means, and I would love to know other thoughts on this topic in the comments.

Egypt

The word “artist” and its connotations today didn’t exist in ancient times. Instead, in ancient countries like Egypt, artists were thought of more as artisans or craftsman. However, such artisans and craftsmen were still given some status and recognition at times. In the New Kingdom, artisans who decorated and carved the royal tombs were given the designation “servant in the Place of Truth.”

I personally like how there are a lot of artisans that are highlighted in tomb carvings throughout ancient Egyptian history. Some of my favorites include images from the Tomb of Rekhmire, in which sculptors who are working to carve royal statues (see detail at the top of this post) as well as a sphinx (see a full image HERE). Another favorite image is a relief depicting two sculptors working on a statue, from the mastaba of Kaemrehu, Saqqara (see below). In some cases, these images of artisans are included to explain the role of the tomb owner. For example, Rekhmire was a governor whose duties included overseeing the efforts of various craftsmen.

Relief depicting two sculptors carving a statue, from the mastaba of Kaemrehu, Saqqara, Old Kingdom, c.2325 BC. Painted limestone.

Relief depicting two sculptors carving a statue, from the a, Old Kingdom, c.2325 BC. Painted limestone.

Ancient Near Eastern Art

I recently learned that there were special words in the ancient Near East to designate someone who was skilled in crafts. The Sumerians used the word ummia (meaning “specialist”), and soon after the Akkadians adopted a similar word for craft workers, specialists and artisans: ummanu.1 Similar to the later craft traditions in the medieval and Renaissance eras, ancient near Eastern craftsmen were trained as apprentices. In time, these apprentices could reach the status of a journeyman or a master.2

Interestingly, there were instances in the ancient Near East in which artists were expected to deny that they had any part in the creation of the work. In 1st-millenium texts from Nineveh and Babylon, it is recorded that in the “Washing of the Mouth” ceremony, which endowed certain works of divinely-inspired images with a salmu (a personhood), artists undertook a ritual to swear “their lack of participation in the image’s creation and attributing it instead to the gods.”3

Ancient Greece

Foundry Painter, "A Bronze Foundry," 490-480 BCE. Red-figure decoration on a kylix from Vulci, Italy.

Foundry Painter, “A Bronze Foundry,” 490-480 BCE. Red-figure decoration on a kylix from Vulci, Italy.

For the most part, Greek artists were not held in extremely high regard, which led the Roman philosopher Seneca to write, “One venerates the divine images, one may pray and sacrifice to them, yet one despises the sculptors who made them.”

However, there were a few artists who were able to establish somewhat of a reputation and achieve renown (I’m particularly thinking of Phidias and Praxiteles). One way that Greek artists vied for status amongst each other was through competitions (such as the competition to create an Amazon warrior for the temple of Artemis).

Ancient Rome

Although Romans loved to copy ancient Greek art, they held somewhat of a similar attitude toward artists as their Greek counterparts. In fact, Roman writers commented that even great Greek sculptors like Phidias could not escape their disdain.5

In the latter part of the Roman Republic, we know that artists banded together to form collegia, which are associations that are similar to the guild system that existed in the Middle Ages and Renaissance. Just like this later guild system both helped and hindered the status of medieval and Renaissance artists, collegia also experienced government sanction and restriction.6

Conclusion

I thought I’d share two of my favorite paintings that are dedicated to ancient artists, although they were created in the 19th century by Lawrence Alma Tadema. I think that these paintings are a little bit more indicative of 19th century taste (particularly in the painting of Phidias, who shows off his Parthenon frieze to his friends as if they are at the opening reception of a gallery), but I still think they are fun.

Lawrence Alma Tadema, Phidias Showing the Frieze of the Parthenon to his Friends, 1868. Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Lawrence Alma Tadema, Phidias Showing the Frieze of the Parthenon to his Friends, 1868. Image courtesy of Wikipedia

Lawrence Alma-Tadema, "Sculptors in Ancient Rome," 1877. Private collection, image courtesy of WikiArt

Lawrence Alma-Tadema, “Sculptors in Ancient Rome,” 1877. Private collection, image courtesy of WikiArt

Do you know of other depictions of ancient artists, either from ancient or modern times?

1 Don Nardo, Arts and Literature in Ancient Mesopotamia, (Farmington Hills, MI: Lucent Books, 2009), 12.

2 Ibid., 14.

3 Marian Feldman, “The Lives of Mesopotamian Monuments: Knowledge as Cultural BIography,” in Dialogues in Art History, From Mesopotamian to Modern by Elizabeth Cropper, ed., (New Haven: Yale University Press), 48.

4 Emma Barker, Nick Webb, and Kim Woods, The Changing Status of the Artist (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999), 12.

5 Ibid.

6 Britannica Encyclopedia, “Guild.” Available online: http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/248614/guild. Accessed January 11, 2015.

 

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Alphonse Mucha’s Winter and Christmas Images

Alphonse Mucha, "Winter" from "The Four Seasons," 1900

Alphonse Mucha, “Winter” from “The Four Seasons,” 1900

Lately I’ve been on an Alphonse Mucha kick, largely because I seem to be spotting books and calendars on Mucha wherever I look. It’s been fun for me to peruse through these items, because I love the flowy, gauzy female figures that appear in his posters and prints. I thought it would be fun to highlight some Mucha images that are appropriate for this holiday, wintery season. I’m especially drawn to his depiction of Winter (shown above) from his 1900 series of The Four Seasons. (Although this image of the series does not seem completely true to Mucha’s original colors, I still like rich tones quite a bit.) Mucha also did other series of The Four Seasons in 1896 and in 1897.

These days, given my recent fascination with Mucha, I’m beginning to familiarize myself with more of his other works of art, as well as his biography. Alphonse Mucha was born in Moravia, an area in Central Europe which was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and later Czechoslovakia during Mucha’s lifetime. As an adult, Mucha lived several places in Europe, including Paris. One holiday image that Mucha created while living in Paris is his Noél cover for L’Illustration at the end if 1896 (shown below). In this scene, Mucha depicted two female figures which represent the old year dying and the rise of the new year.

Mucha, "Noel" cover for "L'Illustration," 1896

Alphonse Mucha, “Noel” cover for “L’Illustration,” 1896

Despite spending most of his life in Europe, one of the things I learned this week about Mucha is that he visited America multiple times between 1904 and 1921; he even lived in America for a few years during that time span.1 Collectively, Mucha spent about ten years of his life in America. In fact, some of the earliest paintings to comprise Mucha’s Slav Epic first debuted in America, in an exhibition in Chicago from June to November of 1920.2

Alphonse Mucha, "Christmas in America," 1919

Alphonse Mucha, “Christmas in America,” 1919. Approx. 32″ x 30″ (81.2 cm x 76.8 cm). Private Collection.

One of the paintings that Mucha seems to have made at the start of his seventh (and final) visit to America is Christmas in America (1919, shown above).3 In this painting, a female figure, who is wearing a wreath of evergreen branches, looks out at the viewer. She holds a candle and fruit in her hand, as well as what appear to be either nuts or bells. It has been suggested that this image might be a commentary on the Czech traditions in America. This suggestion makes some sense to me, particularly because the floral patterns on the figure’s sleeves remind me a bit of those found on traditional Czech dresses.

I love Christmas in America because the composition and colors are very calm, straightforward, gentle, and simple. To me, this woman personifies the goodness and peace that embodies the holiday spirit. May your holiday and new year be filled with such goodness, dear reader!

1 For a detailed discussion of Mucha’s time in America, see Anna Daley, “Alphonse Mucha in Gilded Age America, 1904-1921,” Master’s thesis, Smithsonian Institute and Parsons the New School for Design, 2007. Available online: http://www.readbag.com/si-pddr-si-jspui-bitstream-10088-8790-6-annadaleyalphonsemucha

2 Daley, p. 72.

3 Mucha is thought to have arrived in New York in late 1919 or early 1920. I think this painting is a good indication that Mucha had already arrived in America, given the title. See Daley, p. 72.

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Frank Capra, Gauguin, and Diagonal Lines

Lately, in coordination with my volunteer responsibilities at a local art museum, I have been reading What Are You Looking At? The Surprising, Shocking, and Sometimes Strange Story of 150 Years of Modern Art by Will Gompertz. Although a good portion of the things in this book are a review for me, I still am learning several new things, which is fun. I also appreciate Gompertz’s humorous and approachable writing style.

This book isn’t without a few minor flaws, however. I am only about a third of the way into the book, but so far I have noticed a few assertions which seem historically unfounded, as well as a quote about Cézanne which was interpreted slightly out of context. But even these slight errors are providing a diversion for me, since they are making me curious in wanting to know more.

One such diversion for me revolved around Gompertz’s assertion that a scene from Frank Capra’s movie It’s a Wonderful Life was influenced by Gauguin’s painting Vision After the Sermon (Jacob Wrestling the Angel). Gompertz points out that the tree in Gauguin’s painting is used to as a compositional device: the tree is set at a diagonal to divide the earthly realm in the lower left portion of the canvas from the heavenly vision in the upper right (shown below).

Gauguin, "The Vision After the Sermon (Jacob Wrestling the Angel)," 1888. Image courtesy WikiArt

Paul Gauguin, “The Vision After the Sermon (Jacob Wrestling the Angel),” 1888. Image courtesy WikiArt

Gompertz then explains that there is a similarity with this composition and a scene from It’s a Wonderful Life in which George Bailey, who has just attempted suicide by jumping off a bridge into a river, is resting and drying off in a wooden shack with his rescuer, the angel Clarence. Due to the perspective of the camera, some shots of this scene are divided by the diagonal of a clothesline; this line separates the heavenly angel Clarence from the burdened, careworn mortal George Bailey (see below).

Film still from Frank Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life” (1946)

I agree with Gompertz that there are compositional and symbolic parallels between Capra’s film and the Gauguin painting. And I appreciate that Gompertz brought this to my attention, especially since It’s a Wonderful Life is one of my favorite movies. My issue, however, is that Gompertz asserts a direct, one-to-one historical relationship between the painting and film. He explicitly states that Capra “referenced this painting” by Gauguin.1 I cannot find any source by Frank Capra or anyone else associated with It’s a Wonderful Life to verify that Capra had Gauguin’s painting in mind when he created his classic film.

Interestingly, though, my research did lead me to find that Capra was interested in Gauguin and his art. Capra’s autobiography, The Name Above the Title (1972), discusses Gauguin at one point. In this section, Capra addresses what some critics could perceive as the “gee whiz!” factor in his films – that is, characters in the films walk around wide eyed, perceiving things as larger than life. Capra defends this “gee whiz” factor by explaining that to some people, “all that meets the eye is larger than life, including life itself.”2 Capra then explains, “Gauguin was a gee whizzer. He painted the South Seas not as he found them, but as he wanted to find them. He created his own South Seas.”3

There is no doubt, then, that Capra thought highly of Gauguin, and it seems like he also liked Gauguin’s paintings, by extension. However, I’m still waiting to find a direct historical connection between It’s a Wonderful Life and Vision After the Sermon, even if a visual connection can be made. If I was writing Gompertz’s book, I would have wanted to point out this visual similarity, but also mention that Capra may have been influenced – either directly or indirectly – by other artistic factors when he considered the set up for this scene with George Bailey and Clarence. I’m particularly reminded of Japanese paintings which use diagonal lines to divide different spaces, such as the division between private and public spheres in a scene from the Tale of Genji (see below).

Kano Ryusetsu Hidenobu, scene from "Tale of Genji," late 17th century - early 18th century

Kano Ryusetsu Hidenobu, scene from “Tale of Genji,” late 17th century – early 18th century

Gauguin’s Vision After the Sermon was definitely influenced by the Japanese aesthetic, but Gauguin wasn’t the only 19th century artist who was interested in diagonal lines (or even trees-as-diagonal-lines, for that matter – see Van Gogh’s Flowering Plum Tree, which is a copy of a Hiroshige print). So, my guess is that several factors are contributing to Frank Capra’s scene. Does anyone have other thoughts or know more about Capra’s artistic influences as a director?

Also, do you know of other places in which diagonal lines are used to create a strong symbolic distinction between two types of spaces (such as earthly and unearthly, or public and private)? This compositional device is intriguing to me.

1 Will Gompertz, What Are You Looking At? The Surprising, Shocking, and Sometimes Strange Story of 150 Years of Modern Art (New York: Plume, 2012), 66. Source available online as a Google Book: http://books.google.com/books?id=gBXxKol-XVYC&lpg=PT56&ots=fD3Hou_k0j&dq=frank%20capra%20george%20bailey%20gauguin&pg=PT56#v=onepage&q&f=false

2 Frank Capra, The Name Above the Title: An Autobiography (London: W. H. Allen, 1972), 138. Source available online as a Google Book: http://books.google.com/books?id=x_E09IWRomMC&lpg=PA138&ots=31sjkINX8o&dq=%22the%20name%20above%20the%20title%22%20gauguin&pg=PA138#v=onepage&q&f=false

3 Ibid.

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“Almost Repellant” Monsters

Odilon Redon, Smiling Spider, 1887, Courtesy British Museum

Odilon Redon, Smiling Spider, 1887, Courtesy British Museum

Happy Halloween! Tonight I’ve been perusing through an interactive website hosted by the MoMA about the artist Odilon Redon. Given this Halloween season, I’ve particularly enjoyed looking at the “Monsters” section. These lithographs are based off of the  charcoal drawings that Redon called his “noirs” (“black things”). Redon made lots of these charcoal drawings. In fact, he worked almost exclusively in black and white until he was about fifty years old! (You can read more about Redon’s “noirs” HERE.)

One of the publications that is highlighted in the MoMA interactive site is Marina van Zuylen’s chapter “The Secret of Monsters” (read online HERE) in Beyond the Visible: The Art of Odilon Redon. I really like that van Zuylen writes, “Redon’s genius is to make his figures almost repellant. He rescues them from radical ugliness by endowing each of them with traits that produces empathy.”1

I think this is such a great point, because Redon makes his monsters slightly relatable or understandable in terms of human emotion, as is the case with his lithograph Smiling Spider (1887, see above; also see another printed version from 1891). Another example would be The Crying Spider (1881, see below). This example seems especially poignant to me in terms of evoking empathy, since the spider stares directly at the viewer with large, round eyes. For me, it is these types of empathy-evoking features which make these drawings and other similar ones by Redon simultaneously compelling and disconcerting.

Odilon Redon, The Crying Spider, 1881.

Odilon Redon, The Crying Spider, 1881.

As I’ve been looking at Redon’s drawings tonight, I’ve thought about another work of art that is both compelling and disconcerting. In this instance, though, the “monsters” are the countless skeletons that appear in Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s The Triumph of Death (c. 1562, click on hyperlink to see high-resolution details). This painting is dominated by an army of skeletons who wreak all sorts of havoc across a barren landscape. Peasants and rulers alike are downtrodden, captured, or killed by these skeletons, thereby emphasizing the transience of life and inevitability of death to all mortals.

Despite the unsettling subject matter, this painting contains an overwhelming amount of fine detail, which is very compelling and captivating from a visual standpoint. Additionally, Bruegel includes a lot of small, humorous details which make these skeletons seem especially disconcerting, because they evoke an element of empathy or relatability that resonates with the viewer. Many of the activities are recognizable and suggest human emotion: one skeleton sits with his skull leaning into his hand, as if resting or thinking. Another skeleton nearby plays the hurdy-gurdy (see detail below).

Pieter Bruegel the Elder, "The Triumph of Death," c. 1562. Oil on panel, 117 cm × 162 cm (46 in × 63.8 in). Museo del Prado, Madrid. Image courtesy Wikipedia.

Pieter Bruegel the Elder, detail from “The Triumph of Death,” c. 1562. Oil on panel, 117 cm × 162 cm (46 in × 63.8 in). Museo del Prado, Madrid. Image courtesy Wikipedia.

Additionally, other skeletons are chasing women or donning pieces of contemporary 16th century clothing, both of which suggest an element of relatability in terms of human desire and culture. Another detail shows a skeleton who assumes the same slumped body position as the mortal whom he is killing or accosting, suggesting to me a reminder that these skeletons were once living mortals themselves.

Pieter Bruegel the Elder

Pieter Bruegel the Elder, detail from “The Triumph of Death,” c. 1562. Oil on panel, 117 cm × 162 cm (46 in × 63.8 in). Museo del Prado, Madrid. Image courtesy Wikipedia.

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Pieter Bruegel the Elder, detail from “The Triumph of Death,” c. 1562. Oil on panel, 117 cm × 162 cm (46 in × 63.8 in). Museo del Prado, Madrid. Image courtesy Wikipedia.

Although Redon and Bruegel are very different in their aesthetics, I think that they both are attempting to depict something that is “almost repellant,” in terms of appearance and/or concept. But there is something that is relatable and can resonate with the viewer in both of these instances, which is perhaps why these paintings have been labeled as “disturbing” and creepy.

Can you think of any other disturbing works of art that are “almost repellant” because they evoke empathy or are relatable to you?

1 Marina van Zuylen, “The Secret Life of Monsters,” in Beyond the Visible: The Art of Odilon Redon by Jodi Hauptman, ed. (New York: The Museum of Modern Art: 2005), 60. Also available online: http://books.google.com/books?id=4DYjsCbZNJsC&lpg=PT31&ots=auheV2K2A9&dq=redon%20smiling%20spider%201887&pg=PT31#v=onepage&q&f=false

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“Why Art History?” Then and Now

Almost two years ago, my friend Hasan from Three Pipe Problem asked me if I could contribute a post to his blog, as part of a series titled “Why Art History?” Hasan was interested in collecting the stories that led people to art and art history, as well as art history blogging. He encouraged contributors to write about their personal experiences with works of art, and how people initially became encouraged to “find out more” about artistic objects through research. I would like to repost below what I originally contributed to Hasan’s site in February 2013. This repost is in honor of Hasan and the enthusiasm he had for art history, since died last year on October 28th. I’ve also included an addendum at the very end of the post, which are some thoughts that have been accumulating in my mind over the past year, since Hasan’s passing.

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As I sit and think about the question of “Why art history?” for myself, I’ve realized that there are two different paths that encouraged me to “find out more” about the works of art which appealed to me. I first was drawn to the intellectual aspects of art, particularly Northern Renaissance art, while only later finding myself drawn to actual aesthetics and the experiential nature of viewing art.

Jan Van Eyck, "The Arnolfini Portrait," 1434

Jan Van Eyck, “The Arnolfini Portrait,” 1434

When I first began to study art history as a teenager in high school, I was immediately drawn to the cerebral aspects of art. I relished the concept of “disguised symbolism” in Northern Renaissance painting, especially found in Jan van Eyck’s The Arnolfini Portrait (1434, shown above) and the Mérode Altarpiece (c. 1427-32) by the workshop of Robert Campin. With what precision answers could be produced about the symbolism of these everyday objects! Lilies symbolize purity! A dog means fidelity! Pieces of fruit mean fecundity! I devoured the succinct answers that were provided in my heavy survey textbooks. I considered these answers to be universal truths, not realizing at the time that Panofsky was the iconographic chef de partie who systematically shuttled out answers for me to consume.

Perhaps, since I was a somewhat naïve and inexperienced teenager, the precision and readiness for such answers appealed to my limited knowledge of the world. I felt like everything had an answer in art history, just like I assumed that life would also produce answers with precision and exactitude. It was not until a few years later, as I began to realize the complexities of life as a young adult, that I realized how iconographic meanings could be very complex and difficult.

My cerebral interest in art continued for several years after high school. I started college as a music major and took a few art history classes on the side. Even though I found works of art to be beautiful, I think that the aesthetics of art were always ancillary to my interest in facts and information. I primarily sought knowledge back then, instead of experience. If I looked for beautiful and attractive things, I probably didn’t look much farther than the apartments of boys that were located near my college apartment.

Gianlorenzo Bernini, David, 1623-24. Marble, Galleria Borghese, Rome

Gianlorenzo Bernini, David, 1623-24. Marble, Galleria Borghese, Rome

However, my opinion about art changed a year or two after I switched my major to art history. The most definitive moment, when I began to truly realize the aesthetic and experiential power of art, happened when I was a junior in college. I traveled to Europe on a study abroad that was designed for art history majors. It was on this study abroad, specifically when I visited the Borghese Gallery in Rome with a few friends, that I realized how viewing art could be an emotional experience. There, when viewing Bernini’s David (1623-24, shown above) I was brought almost to the point of tears. I recorded this note in my course journal afterward:

May 10, 2003

Bernini’s “David”: WOW. I’m speechless. The direct, concentrated stare is very poignant and dramatic. His body is twisted up and tense. It is so realistic. I can’t believe it is marble. It’s absolutely beautiful. I thought I was going to cry at first and then I was filled with a lot of joy and passion…almost to the point of being giddy. It was definitely an odd sensation to experience so many emotions at the same time.

Although I deeply loved Baroque art before this point, I think that this experience in the Borghese Gallery really changed the way that I approached and understood art. I wanted to learn more about Baroque art, but learn more about it from the aspect of the viewer’s experience. How do Baroque works of art interact with their audience? How can three-dimensional sculpture interact with the viewer in ways that aren’t possible for two-dimensional paintings? These questions began to germinate over the next several years; they eventually led me to travel to Brazil in 2007 to analyze the element of viewer participation and experience in Aleijadinho’s sculptural composition of Old Testament prophets (c. 1800-1805, shown below) at the church Bom Jesus dos Matozinhos. I twisted and turned around the paths and staircase that lead up to this church several times, similar to how I revolved around the twisted body of the David a few years before.

Antônio Francisco Lisboa ("O Aleijadinho"), "Prophets," 1800-1805. Bom Jesus dos Matozinhos, Congonhas do Campo, Brazil

Antônio Francisco Lisboa (“O Aleijadinho”), “Prophets,” c. 1800-1805. Bom Jesus dos Matozinhos, Congonhas do Campo, Brazil

My experience at the Borghese Gallery also encouraged me to learn more about ways to describe the different emotions I felt while looking at the David. I wanted to compare my experience with the words written by others, which led me to read books like James Elkins’ book Pictures and Tears: A History of People Who Have Cried in Front of Paintings. Although I have armed myself with great adjectives and flowery phrases over the years, I still don’t feel like I have mastered the skill of translating emotions into words. Perhaps it is a fruitless endeavor to try and give words to seemingly ineffable emotions, but I like to try. If there is one reason why I like to write about art history, it is because I’m compelled to practice and find better ways to communicate such emotions with only words.

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ADDENDUM: “Why Art History Blogging?”

Since Hasan’s passing, I have had more opportunities to think about art history and why I am compelled to have an art history blog. I started this blog when I was in graduate school, simply to help keep track of some of the ideas I was learning and exploring at the time. I didn’t tell anyone about my blog for several weeks – perhaps months – back then. I felt like my blog was something personal to share, and I didn’t feel like my ideas were developed enough to show to others.

I graduated about the same time that the economy crashed, which left me without a job for over a year. During this time, my art history blog became a way for me to stay connected with art historians and current art historical ideas. I felt like my blog kept my mind sharp. It was during this period that Hasan reached out to me, and we began communicating via email and sharing ideas through our blog posts and comments. Although Hasan and I rarely discussed our personal lives with each other, his friendship meant a lot to me during this dark period of my life which was extremely difficult on many levels. I came to value the friendships associated with blogging as much as the act of blogging itself.

Once I found a job and began to teach, I began to use my blog as a way to save and share educational resources that I wanted to implement in my physical and virtual classroom discussions. At present, I think that this is probably the main way that I use blogging now. Although I do like to write posts to share some recent insights or ideas, more often than not I have my current or future students in mind when I write a post. I still value the friendships that I have within the online art history blogging community too, but I have to admit that this aspect of blogging is also hard for me: I still feel a sense of loss since Hasan has passed away. Over this past year, I have written about half the amount of posts that I wrote in the year leading up to Hasan’s sudden death. (Granted, this past year also has been uniquely busy for me, but that’s beside the point.) I think that somehow knowing that Hasan was out there to read and enthusiastically comment on my posts – even if the posts contained things meant for my students – gave me an impetus to write more frequently back then.

Ben, Frank, Sedef and I met in New York during CAA conference of February 2013. We took this photo for Hasan, since he couldn't join us.

Ben, Frank, Sedef and I met in New York during CAA conference of February 2013. We took this photo for Hasan, since he couldn’t join us.

While I’ve always enjoyed blogging about art history, I have come to treasure the personal interactions that I have made with people across the globe. Even since Hasan’s passing, I have been able to connect and re-connect with various art historians and history bloggers. It is partially because of these interactions that my art history blog has assumed an additional function and purpose this past year: this is a virtual space where I can honor my late friend and celebrate the art history community which he helped to foster. So, similar to how my emotional interaction with Bernini’s David in 2003 helped to inform and influence the way I think about art, I can say that my personal interactions with Hasan and the impact of his death help to inform and influence the way I approach art history blogging today. In some ways, thanks to Hasan, art history blogging has a new emotional weight and purpose for me.

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About

This blog focuses on making Western art history accessible and interesting to all types of audiences: art historians, students, and anyone else who is curious about art. Alberti’s Window is maintained by Monica Bowen, an art historian and professor.