Art History

Does Art History play a huge role in the creative work you do, or are you naturally creative?
Aug 3, 13 9:48 am
boy in a well

im magically delicious.

and naturally creative.

and know lots of art and architecture history.

Aug 3, 13 4:10 pm

I don't know art history.  Took an intro to art class in HS.  We had to be able to regurgitate names of paintings and artists, so I got an A.  I remember we looked at artists like Jackson Pollock and Andy Warhol, among others.  Some kids said "Well, if all you have to do is stand around and throw paint on a canvas, then I can do that."  The teacher found that reductionist and got mad.  Since I've retained what I learned in architectural history, and enjoyed it, that would make me more cultured than the average person, who knows neither art nor architectural history.

Aug 3, 13 6:25 pm

No, history doesn't work as source of creativity for anyone I know.

I'm curious why you ask?  Do you wish it did?

Aug 3, 13 8:48 pm

It sure takes discussion up another notch and helps you understand "content" and "criticality" of your work better, if any, while putting it together and locating it (I am treating art and architectural history in the same vein here.)

But it is also misused like this by a frustrated professor, "you need to know history in order to design."  

Aug 4, 13 3:56 am

I was the top student in my art history class, I loved it. Think of it as Cultural Literacy.

Aug 4, 13 8:57 am

But it is also misused like this by a frustrated professor, "you need to know history in order to design."

Funny, because that's what my first term architectural history professor said - 'you need the vocabulary in order to design.'

Aug 4, 13 11:11 am
25 characters in length

Marcel Duchamp has agreed to direct The Lucky Bums, a theatrical reenactment of Ford Madox Ford's The Good Soldier, starring Grace Princess of Monaco as Leonora Ashburnham, Rainier III Prince of Monaco as Edward Ashburnham, Flavia Maria Augusta as Florence Dowell, and Otto I King of Bavaria as John Dowell. The performance is scheduled for 4 August 2005 as part of Leaving Obscurity Behind, the 2005 Horace Trumbauer Architecture Fan Club Convention.

"It was exactly as if I had come out of a museum into a riotous fancy-dress ball."

[three sentences later...]
"I had, in fact, forgotten that there was such a thing as gossip that mattered. In that particular, Philadelphia was the most amazing place I have ever been in my life."

[76 pages before that...]
"The death of Mrs. Maidan occurred on the 4th of August 1904. And then nothing happened until the 4th of August 1913."

"To begin with, she was born on the 4th of August. Then on that date, in the year 1899, she set out with her uncle for the tour round the world in company with a young man called Jimmy."

"Then, on the 4th of August 1900, she yielded to an action that certainly coloured her whole life--as well as mine."

"On the 4th of August 1901, she married me, and set sail for Europe in a great gale of wind--the gale that affected her heart."

[and 62 pages before that...]
"Florence's aunts used to say that I must be the laziest man in Philadelphia."

...dense theatrics
theatrics times two...

Although most of the current discussion at architecthetics deals more or less with theorizing of how 'style' (might) come to be, generally how things/styles emerge, I nonetheless offer the following as an example of how (a) style ends, in this particular case the Baroque style.

The following is a passage I first read over 23 years ago. It comes from Timothy K. Kitao, Circle and Oval in the Square of St. Peter's: Bernini's Art of Planning (New York: New York University Press, 1974), pp.22-23.

"In the well know production of the Due Teatri, first given in 1637, Bernini developed a simulated amphitheater of a very elaborate kind. This is, of course, the best known of Bernini's theatrical works, but a recapitulation is in order.

According to Massimiliano Montecuculi, who witnessed the performance, the stage was prepared with "a flock of people partly real and partly feigned" so arranged that, when the curtain had fallen for the opening of the play, the audience saw on the stage another large audience who had come to see the comedy. Two braggarts, played by Bernini himself and his brother Luigi, then appeared on the stage, one facing the real audience and the other the fictitious; and recognizing each other in no time, they went on to claim, each in turn, that what the other saw as real was actually illusory, each firmly convinced that there was no more than one theater with its audience in that half he was facing. The confusions of realities in mirror image thus heightened, the two firmly decided "that they would pull the curtain across the scene and arrange a performance each for his own audience alone." Then the play was performed to the real audience, that is, the main act to which that preceded was only a pleasant prelude. But through the play another performance was supposed to be taking place simultaneously on the second stage introduced by Luigi; the play was, in fact, interrupted at times by the laughter from those on the other side, as if something very pleasant had been seen or heard.

At the end of the play, the two braggarts reappeared on the stage together to reaffirm the "reality" of the illusion. Having asked each other how they fared, the impresario of the fictitious performance answered nonchalantly that he had not really shown anything but the audience getting up to leave "with their carriages and horses accompanied by a great number of lights and torches." Then, drawing the curtain, he displayed the scene he had just said he had shown to his audience, thus rendering complete the incredible reversal of reality and illusion to the confused amazement of the real spectators, who were now finding themselves ready to leave and caught in the enchanting act of feigning the feigned spectators."

Here's my analysis:
Of course, the Baroque style continued beyond Bernini--I believe even the double porticos of St. Peter's Square were done after the above performance. All the same, Bernini's theatrical performance manifests the Baroque's consummate ending. Within his double theater Bernini capsulized the beginning of Western culture's new bifurcation of the real and the illusory, introduced mirroring as a henceforth dominant Baroque (stylistic) theme, and, at base (or should I say at the ultimate end), inverted reality into a reenactment of its own illusory mirror (--is this perhaps also the genesis of historiography?).

Essentially, beyond the Baroque (and still often in our own modern times) architecture at its best is very sophisticated theater, keeping in mind that theater is one of the earliest forms of (man made) reenactment.

Anonymous Saint in Bikini While Jesus is Walking on Water

from Hey Art Picasso How's Your Brother Dick?

Spears of Pergamon

from The Final Dick Manifesto

from End of Plot

No Doubt The Artist Suffered As Well


Aug 4, 13 1:06 pm
25 characters in length

Readymade in Japan with Laser Print on Transparancy


Aug 4, 13 2:50 pm

Does art history play a huge role in the creative work you do, or are you naturally creative?

Interesting phrasing.  It's one or the other?  Both can't operate together?

Aug 4, 13 3:14 pm

But it is also misused like this by a frustrated professor, "you need to know history in order to design."

Anyone can design, but having precedents is hugely important.

my take on art, design, and anything else (and its the same in engineering and science) is that its all built off of what other people have figured out and explored.  the current generation's foundations are the last generations pinnacle.  time periods are much more important than names.  art describes an entire period of humanity, and is really all that will be left once we're 100 years gone.  art is not about the individual, but the world around him.

lets be honest:  someone 200 years from now is going to look at a picture of your work and say "ah, that building looks like it was designed in the 2010's-- you can tell by the way the blah blah blah"

Aug 4, 13 3:18 pm

Anyone can design, but having precedents is hugely important.

I agree.  I even agreed with the professor.  I think the worry is that a person may embrace literal translations of classicism or copy Renaissance works.  However, even modernism has its own vocabulary, though the lexicon is shorter.  Heck, one could design a building that is steeped in modernism and, if it is very linear and has a circulation spine loaded at its side, could employ an "enfilade" as was done in the main part of the chateau at Versailles.  It just won't have the decorative aspects of that point in time.  I learned that term and then went over there years later to celebrate passing the ARE, so I figured that sort of linear, side-loaded procession between its grand salons was the "enfilade."

Aug 4, 13 3:37 pm
Isn't the question about creativity ?

Knowing history is cool but creativity comes from within not without. Maybe it makes us better architects, but looking to the past for creative ability is a non sequitur somehow.
Aug 5, 13 7:30 am
boy in a well

actually, the question is kinda farkocktah.

Aug 5, 13 9:11 am

Yet when looking through the website, all the projects are derivative of (rather obvious choices from) recent architectural history. Alas the website itself learns from .

When dealing with history, creativity often involves (or even starts with) making the non-obvious choices.



Aug 5, 13 9:23 am

Most kids who go off to a-school are generally more creative than other kids, like to draw, get turned on by buildings and floor plans, and seem to have more of an interest in some kind of cultural venue - be it anthropology, history, languages, et. al.

Most likely, they go in there planning on drawing what is currently being built and fawned over.  So, from the get go, they are modernists.

However, both indoctrination in theory and history are necessary to know the roots and the vocabulary of the whole bowl of wax.  I think it's great to have the segments of architecture presented to you - the old shit in Greece and Italy, the Ren/Bar period, and everything past the Industrial Revolution.  From the old shit, you learn about town planning techniques, the agora as a focal point, and the creation of nodes.  From the new shit, you can decide just how stripped down,geometric and/or volumetric you want your building to be, since modern history courses tended to view buildings are broader expressions more than as a kit of parts. 

Whether it's non-sequitur or not, can anyone honestly look back at their education and say they didn't want to have a course in theory and about 3 courses in history under their belt?  If anything, you can walk around wherever you live and label the components of whatever significant building you are looking at.

Aug 5, 13 11:16 am
chatter of clouds

The more you know, the more you...and then less you...etc

Aug 5, 13 11:36 am
History is totally ignored here in Japan. It drives me nuts when talking witg students but then I see fujimotos work and I think it might be a reasonable trade off if the person is creative. Not so good for anyone who has been taught to suppress their creative side though.

In the sense described in above comments history is seen as a substitute for creativity? It seems to be the implication.

young architects are crazy terrified of going past the limits of what they know. History prolly makes it worse cuz then they know more and end up thinking nothing is new, like quondam. Nihilism is not generally the most fertile of creative soils.

I absolutely agree with the point that its hard to be creative when you don't know who you are copying.

Still doesn't mean creativity comes from a book. If it did, Leon Krier would rule the world.
Aug 5, 13 6:33 pm

The more you know, the more you...and then less you...etc

I think that the more you know, the more you realize how much you don't know and have a better grasp of those parameters.

On the other hand, the most insufferable people are those who are both uneducated and stupid (separate issues, but can appear together, as in comorbid), are overly assertive in dispensing religious, political, and even medical advice, and "don't know how much they don't know."

Most famous architects trained like everyone else, had mentors, but somehow broke the mold.  Some of these architects did it while historical revivals in architecture were in vogue.  It's really more about that rare person than it is about how much or how little architectural history they learned.  And if they weren't rare, they wouldn't be famous.  Or, in some cases, they just weren't "discovered."

Aug 5, 13 6:44 pm

galloway, don't label me with your presumptous platitudes. I find your "creativity comes from within not without" hypocritical as the work of your office is clearly derivative.

I like art history because I like learning new things. If anything, art history is an ongoing lesson in exactly creativity, a way to sharpen the cutting edge, even.

The notion that learning history causes one to think nothing is new is one one of the stupidest things I've ever heard.

Aug 5, 13 9:12 pm
I make all my money now off art history. But I don't know a damn thing about it.

No lie.
Aug 5, 13 10:31 pm

quondam I don't think you fit so neatly into anything like a label.  Wouldn't dream of painting you with anything like a single brush, but isn't your biggest meme the one about everything being a re-enactment, ho-hum ?

Anyway, i've said much more stupid things than that!

Still, and really, with all respect, when it come to sources of creativity in architecture, history is the frame not the picture.  The picture has to come from somewhere else. I don't see how that can be anything but from the leaps taken inside the architects head (or heads more likely).

precedent is very cool.  un-precedented is even cooler.  in that regard history is a great critical tool, i agree with you completely.  but it isn't where creativity resides.

Aug 6, 13 3:15 am
chatter of clouds

"precedent is very cool.  un-precedented is even cooler."

a sincere question: if you lack the knowledge (of history):  how would you know that what you are doing is not relying on - subliminally- a precedent that does exist and that has infiltrated you with its influences (for instance by way of a number of echoing designs), bypassing your critical intelligence and rendering your creativity subservient to stunted critical faculties (not because you don't have these faculties but because they don't have enough -and maybe the correct- material to work upon)?

i think the issue here is not about not knowing as much as it is about not caring to know fully/properly/ imaginatively/ livingfully what you semi-know, almost-know, mostly-don't know and don't know. its a question of whether you have curiosity and the care to know or you are happy to be knowing only what you know.

personally, i feel very ignorant but i cannot embrace that happily, if you know what i mean. I cannot give you such a simple happy go lucky answer. i think - whether i am personally ignorant or lazy- the answer should be that knowledge (art, music, technical...) not only boosts (lemme use an americanism) your creativity, but also that it makes your life richer. you will have nice things to ponder over alone and with people and on paper.a cup of coffee would be useless -gone to waste- without some sort of imaginative digression.

Aug 6, 13 9:16 am

My biggest meme is not "everything is a reenactment." I've been doing a lot of research/analysis regarding reenactment within architectural design over the last 16 years, and I like calling out a reenactment when I see one, but I've never espoused the notion that everything (now) is a reenactment. You can see pretty much all of my research/analysis (so far) here: 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56.



Aug 6, 13 9:43 am

Art has always been my fascination. I started noticing various artists and their art works. Each work gave me some moral lessons. As time went, i got more and more interested in the field of art. I studied more about various arts. Now I am an artist.

Oct 17, 13 6:53 am

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