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Les théoriciens de l’art

Directed by Carole Talon-Hugon

Art today includes a very wide range, from a fresco by Michelangelo to a urinal by Duchamp, from a Greek marble statue to a sprayed urban graffiti. It was not always so and one could easily forget that a work of art is not an abstract, absolute evidence that imposes itself on us. It is the product of social standards, of mental constructions of each period. Impressionism for example, which today is universally acknowledged, had a hard time making a name for itself. Naïf art or academic art, African statuary all had changing statuses. This thin paged book is the result of a team’s work that summarises the contributions to this subject by over two hundred theorists over the centuries, with an extensive bibliography for each. Many are true authorities such as Vasari, Winckelmann, Burckhardt, Goethe, Elie Faure, or Ernst Gombrich. Others are less expected, such as Seneca or Gramsci. Others long forgotten are updated such as this bishop from Orléans of the late 8th century, Théodulfe, to whom the Carolini books are attributed. In full swing of the iconoclast quarrel, they confirm the validity of religious imagery, but deny it any sacred aspect, contributing a rich freedom through such secularisation.

Les théoriciens de l’art, directed by Carole Talon-Hugon, PUF, 2017, 776 p., €35.

Review published in the newsletter #470 - from 27 April 2017 to 3 May 2017

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