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The role of context in artistic historiography
Historical and social events contribute in one way or another to the work of the artists, since they do not live, or live, or live in an encapsulated world away from others, the expression "work of artists" is alreadyindicative of this. Therefore, we must be aware of the historical context in which the production of the work is encompassed, and its subsequent reception, to know and value a work of art with some meaning.
During the second half of the twentieth century, various studies would be carried out by analyzing the characteristics presented by a style, whose purpose was to point out the relationship between society and the stylistic features present in the predominant art of the period. These studies lead to the theory that conceives the artistic environment as a form of expression of the thoughts and desires of a society. The works of art are a compendium of hypothesis that express the aspects of an era, society or social group, not only to the idea of the artist. Therefore, other contexts are condemned with the artist’s own personal context when creating the artistic object.
Multitude of external agents to the artist indoctrinate his work. Orders, the customer’s own taste, works by other artists, make up the factors that produce the creation of a new work, which develop according to one’s personal experience and education. The work of art is projected as an object of consumption for a specific commission, leaving the influence of these consumers on the artist. In general, in the history of art the great artistic works are subject to a previous specific commission, which through personal requests showed these demands. Religious power, monarchy and nobility become the prevailing social class being the great patrons and art clients, having on numerous occasions, such a decisive role in the work as that of the artists themselves.
Even so and taking into account all these restrictions, art would respond to collective demands, even if they were submitted by various social classes. For example, during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the rise of the bourgeoisie would transform its value, disrupting the value of art. The work of art is proposed as an object of investment, social prestige and with a decorative essence function. Therefore, we can affirm that the artist performs an analysis of the various issues raised by the society in which he lives. Immersed in this context and what happens, creates an art that transmits events, makes certain aspects of society visible or denounces, or it was simply based on a mere representation.
The historiographers of art, and therefore the historiography itself, are usually classified according to their positioning in relation to two majority orientations when it comes to understanding the "context" in a work. On the one hand, we find those studies that interpret it under substantially cultural premises;or those who raise the context under a definition that responds to various social, political and economic factors. Although there are medium or/and eclectic positions between the two
Many are the studies that have been carried out in that sense with the noble purpose of understanding in the best possible way the work of art, of all perhaps those who name and define below are those that can find a large number of followers inThe historiography of art.
On the one hand, the social history of art is inclined towards the idea of unleashing of concepts as rooted in the historiography of art as the idea of artistic genius or the idea of creating art by art, which eliminated any glimpsed socioeconomic aspect ofits creator and the work. This trend would see its culmination after World War II, although the most prominent representatives flourish in the sixties and eighties of the twentieth century. [Marías. F, 1996, pp. 117-125]
The social history of art is a discipline that emphasizes economic and social issues and as these have been able to evolve and motivate artistic production. Therefore, we can affirm that the social history of art deepens about the influence of society in art. In contrast to the iconological method of Erwin Panofsky, which would be made largely because of the influences he received from the historian Aby Warburg, the relationship that keeps the sociology of art history is presented as a discipline not so delimited with the previous one;since it is a compendium of different interests and issues, attending to a large extent, to the various societies that the world has possessed or possesses. The criticisms that this type of methodology can do is based on the consideration (in most occasions) of the work of art as a simple proof of an era, removing prominence of implications and the work itself. We must understand art as part of society itself, an element that has the ability to modify it not as a mere testimony.
Other historians related to Marxist or critical ideals of this can understand art as a consequence of production relations;where art attends to a form of work, resulting in the premise that artistic activity as an element of the economic and ideological structure of society. Perhaps, the historian who best collects this idea is Michael Baxandall (1933-28). Although his scientific interests made him cover themselves in the study of other methodologies, he collects the idea of a social historian giving the work the definition of “deposit of a social relationship”, which he would collect in his book “Painting and experience of the fifteenth century”. The first section of the study is dedicated to commerce, the monetary value of the works, different types of artists contracts, etc. and the appreciation of the same artistic objects in the Italian society of the fifteenth century, where according to their studies, the monetary value is lost and the artist’s ingenuity and inventiveness is more cared for. Baxandall will understand artistic creation as the result of a socioeconomic framework, crossing out the works of art of "fossils of economic life";For their part, artists work under a yoke of religious and political pacts that are influenced in a mutual way. [Baxandall. M, 1978, pp.45-137]
Another study methodology is based on the anthropological approach presented by artistic works. The field of anthropology and historiography of art would be related in the idea of the image as a cultural process. The greatest distinction lies in the perception of the work, then, an art historian understands as an artistic object, while the anthropologist calls him cultural artifact. Under this analysis we must consider that, many objects that today form the collections of museums at first were not produced for this purpose. The museum institution contributes to granting them a new meaning, obtaining differences between art and anthropology that in its origin did not keep such distinctions. The object generates interest to the art historian, when he plays a role in the development of a cultural process that is introduced into the traditional cut of art history. The anthropologist on the other hand studies how an object can determine a social relationship and form the same.
Visual anthropology collects the links that human beings have with the images, and, as through these you can define the acts of a society based on the role that these images play. There are many issues that unite anthropology and art history;They have managed to establish very useful frames when enriching the vision of one discipline with the other. The methodological approach between art and anthropology history made it possible for studies to determine a context and establish a framework for the development of a work to move towards the material components that it presents. Matérica considerations were, rather than the aesthetic or iconographic value, for much more essential societies. This change also meant a strong contrast to the visual emphasis that in recent years was dominating the matter. The history of academic art, the traditional, seemed more involved in designing a conceptual process than in what is properly studying: the component of the works. Analysis about an artistic work tends to concentrate their entire study on the final result of the creative process. But it is vitally important to know the origin of the materials, their conditioning when making a certain technique, in addition to the symbolic power that can generate a certain material they become necessary;leading to an interest in raw material and technical processes to understand and assimilate the object of art well.
As previously cited the approach of anthropology and art history makes the material in common interest in the practice of life, bringing with them a great interest in the traditional, that is, for the decorative techniques of the arts;that suppose the manifestations of the so -called decorative arts.
The Vienna School in the 19th century would develop what we know today as the theory of "pure visibility". Konrad Fiedler (1841-1895) would formulate the theory of pure visibility (Reine Sichbarkeit), based on two hypotheses of Kantian philosophy, the first one that refers us to the idea of "a priori" forms for knowledge and distinction betweenan objective and a subjective perception;would define art as the development of objective perception having as knowledge its aprioristic forms in vision. For Fiedler, art implies another form of knowledge, the representation of images corresponds to a certain way of seeing the world. In his book "Writings about art" (1896) describes a critical method that lies in the merely analytical-descriptive, rejecting any sentimental or historical value, that is, it exclusively emphasizes the formal value that a work of art presents.
The theoretical maximum of the formalistic method will be Heinrich Wölfflin. This renounces the artist as a historical factor formulating a doctrine in art history without names. The psychological construction of the artist, as well as the conditions in which his work is developed are not part of this current;Wölfflin defends the idea of which he tells us that the relationship between the history of art and culture is thirty denying, therefore, the connection of the work of art with the historical process. Starting from the idea that the styles are irreversible proposes a "logical" order establishing five fundamental categories: from the linear to the pictorial, from the surface to the depth, in the closed to the open form, from the multiplicity to the unit and, finally, from absolute clarity to relative. [Marías. F, 1996, pp.76-80]
Another formalist that can be highlighted is Alïs Riegl that proposes a history of art defined as universal history. Its principle is based on the "artistic want or will of art" (Kunstwollen) or the "spirit of a people" (Volksgeist), that is, in the sufficiency of an artist or an artistic period has to show ideas through languageartistic. Riegl would also point out the idea that it is impossible for us.
In conclusion, we can affirm that currently conceiving a work of art and relating to the social, cultural, economic, political environment … and with certain artistic facts it seems the most natural;This idea was not a straight line, but over time it has become a undulation where concepts such as the idea of genius or the creation of art by art make us not respond in a truthful way to that issue. Isolate the author and his work of the contexts that surround her and in which it means is not correct. Every artist grows, is educated and nourished in a certain socio -political framework, giving its production a certain ideology, a cultural or economic value that must be understood as a social code. At present, the historiography of art must attend to the context, since this defines the main issues that a work of art can present when admiring or studying it. An object that may seem normal for today. Historiography must therefore account for the ties that communicate the work and its contexts, because, this symbiosis gives us indications of a certain movement that the canonical ideas of art have described, but not in their entirety, because, there are not fewworks (p. eg. Italian Renaissance) that contemporaries in time, do not share the same contexts, nor have the same entity or prominence those that are even paradigmatic in their conception
Therefore, the study of "context" in historiography and in the history of art itself is of vital importance. Today, contemplating a work of art without attending to its context and analyzing it from the contemporary point of view is a serious mistake. Many are the works that, today do not attract our attention but that at the time meant a revolution by modifying the established canons. We must be aware of the multiple factors and facts that, in the past they were accepted and is currently not fully accepted. The contribution of the social context implies a better analysis and understanding within the artistic object, therefore, studying the context implies the appreciation and fully understanding of the work collecting all its details and, therefore, its greatest enjoyment.
- Baxandall, m., 1978. Painting and daily life in the Renaissance: art and experience in the quattrocento.
- Carlos Varona, M.C.of, 2018. “Fundamental concepts of the Modern Age”, Autonomous University of Madrid, Madrid, Spain.
- Edwards, s., 1999. Art and ITS Histories: A Reader, New Haven: Yale University Press In Association with the Open University.
- Gutiérrez Pastor, I.;2019. “Artistic genres and society in the Modern Age”, Autonomous University of Madrid, Madrid, Spain.
- Marías, f., nineteen ninety six. Art Theory II, 1st. ed., Madrid: History 16
- Pächt, or. & Corti, F., 1986. History of Art and Methodology, Madrid: Editorial Alliance.
- Panofsky, e., Lafuente Ferrari, and. & Fernández, B., 2010. Studies on iconology 1st ed., 17th REIMP., Madrid: Editorial Alliance.
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- Schweppenhäuser, Hermann, 2015. Art as social memory and unconscious historiography. On the iconology of the Warburg circle and the culture theory of the Frankfurt School. Constellations: Critical Theory Magazine, 7, pp.3–19.
- Villa Ardura, R. of the, 2019. “History of art theories”, Autonomous University of Madrid, Madrid, Spain.
- Wölfflin, h.., 1997. Fundamental concepts of art history, Madrid: Espasa-Calpe.