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 this text, Catherine M. Soussloff challenges this view in a consideration of the social construction of the artist from the 15th 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 - artist biographies written as long ago as the early 15th century - determined and continue to determine the structure and terrain of the myth of the artist. Moving chronologically through historical writing about the artist, Soussloff shifts from 15th-century Florence to 19th-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 art history and psychoanalysis in early 20th-century Vienna, demonstrating the rich cross-fertilization between these two fields in exploring the concept of the artist. In addition, Soussloff scrutinizes the historical situation of Jewish art historians and psychoanalysts in Vienna in the 1930s, considering the impact of Jewish identity on the discourse of art history. The book concludes with a discussion of the "artist anecdote", found in all versions of the artist biography genre. It analyzes the artist's biography as a rhetorical form and literary genre rather than as an unassailable source of fact and knowledge. The book is intended for students and researchers in art history and literature.
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(234mm x 156mm x 13mm)
University of Minnesota Press
Publisher: University of Minnesota Press
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