Week of 2/26/07
Discussion Questions (Jason) In the chapter we read for this week, Sarah Burns discusses L. Frank Baum’s The Art of Decorating Dry Goods Windows and Interiors (1900) at length. As I am sure many of you know, Baum is also the author of The Wizard of Oz, which was also published in 1900. In fact, some elements of The Wizard of Oz are derived from his window displays – the Tin Man, for example, is based on a hardware window display of different kinds of metal items, including tools, funnels, nuts and bolts. What, if any, are other relationships between Baum’s involvement in commodity display/marketing and the narrative of The Wizard of Oz? Is Dorothy’s dream travel analogous to the American turn-of-the-century experience of commodity spectacle and gluttonous (visual or literal) consumption of goods? Or is her dream the opposite of materialistic/worldly spectacle and consumption? Is her dreamscape a painting by Harnett or a painting by Whistler?
In the book version of the story, with the revelation that the Wizard is merely a man hiding behind a curtain where he has been producing an impressive, deceitful phantasmagoria of a powerful (and “real”) presence, the Wizard terms himself “a humbug.” This is the same period term that was used for deceptions like trompe l’oeil paintings and P.T. Barnum’s deceptive public displays. How is the Wizard of Oz like a trompe l’oeil painting or one of Barnum’s displays? (Note: we’ll discuss P.T. Barnum together with the work of Marcel Duchamp when we read another piece by Michael Leja during Week 8)
Discussion Topics (Marisa)
1) Navigating surface/depth in painting
2) Portraiture in the Gilded Age
3) Realist/spiritual art in relation to consumer culture
Triumph of Religion, 1890-1925 – a mural cycle in the Boston Public Library (recently restored)
4) Artistic houses; being a series of interior views of a number of the most beautiful and celebrated homes in the United States, with a description of the art treasures contained therein, New York, Printed for the subscribers by D. Appleton, 1883-1884.
Two additional collections critical for the study of Aestheticism, Tonalism, the Arts and Crafts Movement, Orientalism, and/or Japonisme in the area:
1) The Ipswich Historical Society & Museums, Ipswich, Massachusetts, which has personal archives for and the largest collection of artworks by (town native) Arthur Wesley Dow (1857-1922), the figure largely responsible for bringing the study of Japanese art to bear on the production and construction of American modernism. http://www.ipswichmuseum.org/
2) The Cornish Art Colony, Cornish, New Hampshire, which operated ca. 1885-1917.
Relevant Additional Reading (not required!) Japonisme:
Dow, Arthur Wesley. Composition: A Series of Exercises in Art Structure for the Use of Students
and Teachers. 9th ed. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, Page & Company, 1914. [First published Boston: J.M. Bowles, 1899]
Century America. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1996.
Said, Edward W., Orientalism, 1978 (a flawed but crucial work on French Orientalism).
Geometries and formal echoes: Look for an emphasis or deemphasis on basic geometrical units like circles, triangles, cones, squares, etc. Look for patterns: repeating shapes, nesting shapes, symmetrical arrangements, etc. Identify relationships of scale and number among similar forms.
Light: Where is the lightest light? The darkest dark? For representations: where is the implied light source, and how can you tell? Talk about range, contrast, sharpness or diffuseness.