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Absolute Artist

The Historiography of a Concept

Catherine M. Soussloff

Publication Year: 1997

The myth of the artist-genius has long had a unique hold on the imagination of Western culture. Iconoclastic, temperamental, and free from the constraints of society, these towering figures have been treated as fixed icons regardless of historical context or individual situation. In The Absolute Artist, Catherine M. Soussloff challenges this view in an engaging consideration of the social construction of the artist from the fifteenth century to the present.

Traditional art history has held that the concept of the artist-genius arose in the Enlightenment. Soussloff disputes this, arguing that earlier writings—artists’ biographies written as long ago as the early fifteenth century-determined and continue to determine our understanding of the myth of the artist. Moving chronologically, Soussloff shifts from fifteenth-century Florence to nineteenth-century Germany, the birthplace of the discipline of art history in its academic form, and considers the cultural historiography of Aby Warburg and Jacob Burckhardt. She discusses intellectual life in early-twentieth-century Vienna, demonstrating the rich cross-fertilization that occurred between art history and psychoanalysis, and scrutinizes the historical situation of Jewish art historians and psychoanalysts in Vienna in the 1930s, considering the impact of exile and an assimilationist ethic on the discourse of art history.

Soussloff concludes with a groundbreaking analysis of one of the earliest and most persistent elements of biography, the “artist anecdote,” demonstrating that it is essential in the construction of the figure of the artist. Singular in its breadth and ambition, The Absolute Artist is the first book to analyze the artist’s biography as a rhetorical form and literary genre rather than as an unassailable source of fact and knowledge.

Published by: University of Minnesota Press

Cover

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Title Page, Copyright

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pp. i-v

Contents

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p. vii

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-xi

I have been thinking about the material and the topics covered in this book for ten years. At the beginning of this project I had the opportunity to publish several articles that led me to the conceptualization of this book. I want to acknowledge the people and the institutions who...

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Introduction

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pp. 3-18

This book locates the artist in the discourse of history. By doing so, it seeks a richer and more nuanced understanding of the artist, a cultural figure whose significance cannot be disputed, but whose meaning has rarely been examined or questioned. Paul Bové takes discourse analysis...

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1 / On the Threshold of Historiography: Biography, Artists, Genre

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pp. 19-42

Like all history writing, this book mediates between individuals who existed in historical reality and texts that represent those individuals and that reality. This book insists more than most books concerned with history writing on the interplay between those individuals—their...

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2 / The Artist in Nature: Renaissance Biography

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pp. 43-72

In this chapter the consideration of certain topics found in the biographical tradition results in interpretations about the artist, particular works of art, and texts that intersect with others already generated by an object-oriented art history. The argument proceeds from the position...

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3 / The Artist in Culture: Kulturwissenschaft from Burckhardt to Warburg

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pp. 73-93

When the complexities involved in the construction of the image of the artist in Western culture from the Early Modern period (ca. 1350) to the present are viewed historiographically, their interpretation requires at the outset two kinds of investigations. First, the determinants...

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4 / The Artist in History: The Viennese School of Art History

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pp. 94-111

The short book Legend, Myth, and Magic in the Image of the Artist: A Historical Experiment, written jointly by Ernst Kris (1900-57) and Otto Kurz (1908-75) and published in 1934 in Vienna, provides the first and only theory of the figure of the artist in culture.1 Kris and...

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5 / The Artist in Myth: Early Psychoanalysis and Art History

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pp. 112-137

In Legend, Myth, and Magic in the Image of the Artist by Ernst Kris and Otto Kurz, the idea of the artist in culture is located in the genre of the biography of the artist. Found there, the artist appears prima facie as a hero, particularly beginning in the Renaissance period. Kris...

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6 / The Artist in the Text: Rhetorics in the Myth of the Artist

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pp. 138-158

The biography of the artist, I argue, has been the dominant cultural, and, therefore, art historical source for the construction of the image of the artist since the beginning of the Early Modern period. I proposed that the biography of the artist constitutes a genre in which...

Notes

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pp. 159-193

Index

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pp. 195-204


E-ISBN-13: 9781452934945
E-ISBN-10: 1452934940
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816628971

Page Count: 224
Publication Year: 1997

Edition: First edition

OCLC Number: 859390767
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