I’ve been itching to write but it has taken time to do the research to back the hypothesis or thoughts about various items regarding academization and how an art work actually works. Not that I had any doubts about my thoughts but it led to a very good jag of good reads and some not so good but worth it nonetheless.
First I must recommend the following books-
Clement Greenberg- Between the Lines by Thierry de Duve published 2010
Realism by Linda Nochlin published 1971
What led to this was a series of conversations about art practice and imagery with a group of artist friends.
It is my opinion, that we are in a severe period of academization within the commercial art world. Not that this is news, this is a cyclic occurrence and it is a result of post modernism, post-modernism though as an actual historical condition rather than a conceptual conceit although the end result is that we are belabored with far too many works that are based on the conceptual conceit or more succinctly thinking within the box. That boxed thinking art is or was based on rather grotesque misreadings of Baudrillard and Lyotard and only ended up showing the strong hand of the Modernist Master Narrative.
I am talking specifically of Western culture, there are many examples of alternative narratives in Eastern cultures.
I take as my personal starting point the end of the master narrative as posited by Lyotard. I think that it is the human condition to create narratives, it is built into our DNA as it were to try and construct meaning and this construction of meaning is an outgrowth of language.
For centuries of human existence the master narrative was mediated by religion until the Reformation. The Reformation questioned the hegemony of the Catholic Church and sets the seeds for the Age of Enlightenment. No longer is the Pope the infallible voice of God but man can have a direct experience of the Christian God unmediated by the Priest, the Pope and the Church. This “idea” is a powerful one and that along with the fortunate invention of the printing press allows the dissemination of ideas and theological questioning on a social scale heretofore unheard of. The Reformation also is the first questioning of religious imageries purpose and function with many Catholic Churches stripped of their paintings and sculptures, as images of God or Christ are considered sacrilegious. In the Dutch Republic the first signs of what Arts role and purpose is witnessed with the development of landscape, still life, genre and portraiture motifs along with the first marketing of art along with the attendant poor starving artists as there no longer exists the stable patronage of the Church or Royalty. (see late Hals, Rembrandt, Vermeer)
Comes the Age of Enlightenment and within this period there was a desire to contain ideas and posit them within the Protestant religious views of the time. The universe in Newton’s time was seen as God’s creation and through understanding the mechanics of the universe we would become closer to fulfilling God’s master plan, God as the watchmaker. This Enlightenment thinking led to the concepts of freedom, democracy and reason hence the final questioning of God’s existence and if God doesn’t exist then the divine right of Kings also falls to the wayside. Up until the time of Louis XVI artists such as David painted images of the King or Classical Themes that justified and reinforced the political and social situation at hand.
The French Revolution marks the end of the Classical Enlightenment Period and the beginning of class struggle as we know it, this historical moment and the ones that followed set the stage for what we now call Modernism. The revolution and the seizure of Catholic properties along with the Terror doesn’t last long before the other Royal Houses in Europe feeling the Imperial necessity to stop this social experiment lest it get out of hand, attempt an intervention to reinstate the monarch, King Louis. With the Declaration of Pillnitz, the following War of the First Coalition, the Battle of Valmy, the execution of Louis and the following military campaigns which lasted for ten years one man rises to power, Napoleon. When Napoleon takes control by a coup d`état in 1799 and formally becomes Emperor in 1804 art practice once again comes back to the aggrandizement of the new king. The Restoration of the House of Bourbon after the Hundred Days and final defeat at Waterloo of Napoleon leads to the striking of the French Tricolor and the arts now change once again.
This is the beginning of salon era as we know it and the establishment of the academy.