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The programme begins with the impact of the Salon and its effect on the nature of artistic production.
Metadata describing this Open University audio programme
Module code and title: A204, The Enlightenment
Item code: A204; 30
Recording date: 1979-12-13
First transmission date: 16-09-1980
Published: 1980
Rights Statement: Rights owned or controlled by The Open University
Restrictions on use: This material can be used in accordance with The Open University conditions of use. A link to the conditions can be found at the bottom of all OUDA web pages.
Duration: 00:17:51
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Producer: Helen Rapp
Contributors: Tom Crowe; Garard Green
Publisher: BBC Open University
Keyword(s): Academy; Carmontelle; Chardin; Diderot; La Font de St. Yenne
Footage description: The programme begins with the impact of the Salon and its effect on the nature of artistic production. Regularly held and open to all visitors the Salon marked a decisive shift from an artist's connection with the known desires of a patron, (king, archbishop or wealthy nobleman), to the demands of an anonymous and uncertain marketplace. Previously 'history painting', the highest of the genres, articulated the confident self regard of wealthy and powerful patrons. When exhibited in the Salon such works were aimed at a social elite. The First Painter to the King, Charles Antoine Coypel, regarded members of this elite as the true public of the Snlon whereas the thronging crowds of mixed classes and of mixed tastes were an undiscerning mob. Yet this new public was thirsty for guidance, commentary and inside information. They found all this in unofficial critiques of exhibited works, illegally sold as pamphlets at the doors of the Salon. Two of their authors, and the first art critics in the modern sense of the term, were La Font de St. Yenne and Louis de Carmontelle who saw his audience as 'that natural judge of the fine arts' producing 'a collective judgement which is unbiased and free'. The significant debate was that between the supporters, with their pre-modern notion of the public function of art where culture is shaped and imposed from above to 'awe' the popular audience, and the non-buying largely middle class Salon audience who demanded a share in artistic culture. Critics voiced their demand in the language of political antagonism. The Academy was in trouble, for the prestige and quality of history pointing was suffering from the popularity of small scale works demanded by the lucrative private market. The decorative and playfully erotic Rococo painting so loved by the royal court (hitherto the principal patron of history painting) were more financially rewarding for artists; the Academy unable to compete failed to channel artists along the lines of the old hierarchy. Critics exploited this gap between ideology and performance. Using the language of contemporary political dissent, they attacked the Rococo as the art of a decadent aristocracy and championed a revitalized 'history painting' to be full of classical heroism and virtue: an art of patriotic nationalism. However the critics had problems for there was no suitable painting at hand and their public were more taken with Chardin and Vernet. However, Diderot showed the value of Chardin for what he could teach history painters who had ignored the natural and true in favour of an artificial and arbitrary idiom. By giving form to public indifference to history painting within the very terms of their commitment to it, critics advocated an anti academicism; a truly public art would have to cone from outside public institutions and, therefore from what we see as the modern image of the artist, the rebel, or outsider. Public and critic together created a programrne, a set of criteria that could lead to a new kind of artistic practice more relevant to the aspirations of the new public. David's painting are seen to possess qualities which challenge the existing artistic hierarchy and unavoidable articulate social and political challenges which were part of the French Revolution.
Master spool number: TLN50950H945
Production number: TLN50950H945
Available to public: no