Siegel’s Material Inspirations, (PDF) is a study of the complex relationship between matter and ideas that molded the nineteenth-century culture of art, and that in turn concluded the course of still-current accounts of art’s nature and value. Basic questions about the impacts of material conditions on the creation and reception of art arose as early as the nineteenth century and put significant pressure on later eras. The place of class distinctions in the making and reception of art, the association between copy and original, the impacts of display on art appreciation, even the role of pleasure itself: this ebook treats these and related issues as productive conceptual challenges with an unsettled relationship to the matter at their center.
Drawing on the latest scholarship on the history of art and its institutions, Material Inspirations: The Interests of the Art Object in the Nineteenth Century and After places cultural developments like the emergence of new sites for exhibition and the astonishing proliferation of printed reproductions together with a wide range of texts including novels, poems, compendia of antiquities, travel guidebooks, and especially the great line of critical writing that appeared in the period. The study vivifies a lively era, which is still too frequently seen as static and unchanging, by stressing the transformations taking place during the period in precisely those areas that have appeared to promise little more than repetition or continuity: collection, exhibition, and reproduction. The ebook culminates with the two great reviewers of the period, John Ruskin and Walter Pater, but it also includes close analysis of other prose writers, along with poets and novelists ranging from George Eliot to Henry James, William Blake to Robert Browning. Important developments addressed include the vogue for the representation of Old Masters in the first half of the century, constant innovations in the creation and diffusion of reproductions, and the appearance of the field of art history itself. At the core of each of these, the ebook identifies a material pressure shaping texts, concepts, and works of art.
“an often insightful and fascinating tour … [Siegel’s] more recent excavations have exposed much that is new and fascinating … it also offers rich rewards” — Elizabeth Helsinger, Review 19
“Material Inspirations is an admirable, learned study, and a major achievement in evaluating the force and scope of nineteenth-century art history.” — Francis O’Gorman, Review of English Studies
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