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Title:Johnathan Richardson's art theory: The canon of history painting and its preeminent realization in Raphael's cartoons
Author(s):Mora, Stephanie
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Manthorne, Katherine
Department / Program:Art History
Discipline:Art History
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Art History
Abstract:In 1715, when Richardson published An Essay on The Theory of Painting, he established English leadership in the writing of theoretical treatises on art. Prior to this time, no Englishman had produced a distinctive and comprehensive explanation of art theory or an essay that was of equal stature to those long produced on the continent, particularly in Italy and France, during the previous three centuries. With the publication of his succeeding essays, The Art of Criticism and The Science of a Connoisseur, which were published in one volume as The Two Discourses, 1719, and in An Account of Some of the Statues, Bas Reliefs, Drawings and Pictures in Italy, 1722, Richardson's prominence in the field was fixed.
The first chapter identifies the historic conditions, concerning the state of art in England, that prompted Richardson to write and caused him to believe that the fine arts were in desperate need of a spokesman. In the second chapter, a historical overview is continued. Early English writings on art, prior to Richardson, are reviewed and analyzed. The third chapter turns directly to a review and analysis of Richardson's four essays and includes a summary of the tradition which formed the basis of Richardson's schooling, shaped his thinking and inspired his love of art. The fourth chapter focuses on Richardson's interpretation of Raphael as the exemplary artist and specifically on the application of Richardson's theory to Raphael's Cartoons. The ongoing relevance and usefulness of traditional art theory, as expressed by Richardson, and the tendency toward its neglect in twentieth century scholarship, are the topics of the fifth and final chapter.
Throughout, it will be apparent that Richardson's importance is not as a major innovator of ideas. Rather, his authority is derived from the manner in which he restated principles of art that had been in circulation for centuries. Richardson's accomplishment is found in his ability to communicate, to a general audience, the rational basis of often-repeated precepts of art theory, to systematically demonstrate how abstract precepts operate in actual works of art, to provide a logical argument for the justification of history painting as a liberal art and to identify specific processes of criticism and analysis. Richardson was the representative of a long-standing tradition to which he made unique contributions by formulating a methodology that established a clear, comprehensive and rational explanation of history painting and the body of concepts that gave rise to this particular genre of art.
Issue Date:1996
Rights Information:Copyright 1996 Mora, Stephanie
Date Available in IDEALS:2011-05-07
Identifier in Online Catalog:AAI9702614
OCLC Identifier:(UMI)AAI9702614

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