FAH245H1 Lecture Notes - History Painting, Ottawa West, Court Painter

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Published on 14 Oct 2011
School
University of Victoria
Department
Art
Course
FAH245H1
Professor
Modernism - October 12, 2011
Painting History, Past and Present
- papers will be returned one week from today
- most prestigious and prized (more than landscape) “History painting” (implies
hierarchy)
- one of the very few ways to gain recognition especially in countries with strong catholic
churches.
- Rubens, Arrival of Marie de’ Medici at Marseilles, 1622-5
- spells out important features of history paintings
- specific moment of a nobel feature
- surrounded with allegorical nymphs and a figure of bearded allegorical figures
- typical of paintings that would have been encouraged
- directly below history painting in the hierarchy would be portraiture, then animal
paintings, then landscape, then still life. General ranking
- Benjamin West, Death of General Wolfe (1771) - Now at the National Gallery of
Canada, Ottawa
- West is unusual , he was a royal painter, by birth an american, abandons his
work in the US to go to London, UK
- Demise of James Wolfe, mortally wounded by French army now what is outside
of Quebec
- Not a story from the bible, not ancient history, not from literature either - this is
different from most historical paintings. Wearing contemporary clothes
(appropriate for 1771) Actions that are taking place are not allegorical, but they
are triggered by an event.
- recognizable figures, portraits
- not an allegory of heroism, or of civic responsibility,
- so radical that the king (benjamin was court painter). He refused to pay for the
painting. It was declared to be a total failure.
- ben west says “the same truth that guides the pen of the historian should
govern the pencil of the artist.” - retorting that his objective is to translate the
events that he has seen in a realistic manner.
- the position of the body of general wolfe is a recycled motif from religious
iconography - much like the lamentation.
- more interesting/radical is - he ignores the academy’s advice, ignores his
patron, in doing this he is creating a new function of history painting. rep of
important contemporary events, in their own pictorial terms.
- used the final painting as the base for a series of mass produced engravings -
20 to 30 thousand were made.
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West, Death of Nelson (1806)
- portrays contemporary death in battle of Nelson.
- a lot of compositional similarities, as the previous
John Singleton Copley, Death of the Earl of Chatham (1781)
- goes beyond the opportunities that are offered
- from Boston moved to London
- William Pitt collapses when he is making a speech in the house of lords.
- suffers a stroke
- Copley captures the dynamism that comes with the surprising event
- two figures who are standing almost climbing the walls to see what is going on
- figures attending the earl of chatham who looks very confused
- he doesn’t have a patron in advance
- doesn’t show it at the academy
- he rents a space and hangs/shows the painting for a profit
- history painting is now in the realm of consumable products
- it’s said that in the first month 20 thousand visitors went to see it
Copley, Death of Major Peirson (1784)
- peirson is shot after they won the battle, he was shot in back of head by french
- a warrior starts firing back to avenge the death of his leader
- the actions are great
- his death takes place and the battle continues,
Jacques-Louis David, Oath of the Horatii (1774)
-
Copley, Watson and the Shark (1778)
- surprisingly displayed in the Academy
- commissioned by a patron in london that displays a private even
- swimming in Cuba, swimming and shark bites of his right leg and foot
- boat comes over to try to save him, just at this time the shark comes back for a
second round
- so many endings! will the spear kill the shark? will the shark eat the man? will
the boat fall over?
- not a moment of great importance for a nation, an unfortunate event from the
past of an individual
- encourages you to get close to take in all of the detail
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Document Summary

Papers will be returned one week from today. Most prestigious and prized (more than landscape) history painting (implies hierarchy) One of the very few ways to gain recognition especially in countries with strong catholic churches. Rubens, arrival of marie de" medici at marseilles, 1622-5. Spells out important features of history paintings. Surrounded with allegorical nymphs and a gure of bearded allegorical gures. Typical of paintings that would have been encouraged. Directly below history painting in the hierarchy would be portraiture, then animal paintings, then landscape, then still life. Benjamin west, death of general wolfe (1771) - now at the national gallery of. West is unusual , he was a royal painter, by birth an american, abandons his work in the us to go to london, uk. Demise of james wolfe, mortally wounded by french army now what is outside of quebec.