Absolute Artist. The Historiography of a Concept by Catherine M. Soussloff

By Catherine M. Soussloff

This is often the 1st booklet to investigate the artist's biography as a rhetorical shape and literary style instead of as an unassailable resource of truth and information.

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One of the distinctive characteristics of the genre from Antonio Manetti's Life of Brunelleschi (ca. 1575-82) to Vasari's Lives to the seventeenth-century biographies by Bellori, Filippo Baldinucci, and others is the emphasis on the rivalry and competition between artists that often took the form of acrimonious and less than exemplary behavior on their part. Yet, these behaviors are conventional, even in the most exemplary of artists. We can therefore assume that embodied within the heroic artist are aspects of an unconventional heroism.

2 In the more recent past, since the formation of the discipline of art history in the nineteenth century, autobiographical writings by artists have been used by the interpreters to discuss or discern intention as it appears to be evidenced in the work. They have used the autobiography and the interview, along with other "documents," to discern meaning in the work of art. Michael Baxandall's book Patterns of Intention has revealed how problematic this practice can be. 3 1 would like to stress that this is particularly so when such motivations remain implicit in the interpretation or criticism, or when they are unexpressed by the interpreter.

18 His book lacks an extensive investigation of this important genre. 19 Von Schlosser was the teacher of Ernst Kris and Otto Kurz, whose work I have acknowledged as fundamental for my study here. I will be exploring von Schlosser's significance in greater detail later in this book. Here, I want to concentrate on von Schlosser's view of the generic adumbration of the literature on art from the Renaissance to the eighteenth century, the subject of his study. The classical tradition in which he had been trained as an art historian together with the Germanic tradition of philology, which he used to analyze these texts, allowed von Schlosser to present a taxonomy of the literature on art of the Early Modern period.

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