Thursday, May 11, 2017

Horizontal, with an Excursus against Influence

Giovanni Antonio Fasolo
Angels in flight
before 1572
drawing
Teylers Museum, Haarlem

Hendrik Goltzius after Polidoro da Caravaggio
Frieze of putti attending an altar
1590-91
drawing
Teylers Museum, Haarlem

'Influence' is a curse of art criticism primarily because of its wrong-headed grammatical prejudice about who is the agent and who the patient: it seems to reverse the active/passive relation which the historical actor experiences and the inferential beholder will wish to take into account.  If one says that X influenced Y it does seem that one is saying that X did something to Y rather than that Y did something to X.  But in the consideration of good pictures and painters the second is always the more lively reality.  It is very strange that a term with such an incongruous astral background has come to play such a role, because it is right against the real energy of the lexicon.  If we think of Y rather than X as the agent, the vocabulary is much richer and more attractively diversified: draw on, resort to, avail oneself of, appropriate from, have recourse to, adapt, misunderstand, refer to, pick up, take on, engage with, react to, quote, differentiate oneself from, assimilate oneself to, assimilate, align oneself with, copy, address, paraphrase, absorb, make a variation on, revive, continue, remodel, ape, emulate, travesty, parody, extract from, distort, attend to, resist, simplify, reconstitute, elaborate on, develop, face up to, master, subvert, perpetuate, reduce, promote, respond to, transform, tackle  . . .    everyone will be able to think of others.  Most of these relations just cannot be stated the other way round  in terms of X acting on Y rather than Y acting on X.  To think in terms of influence blunts thought by impoverishing the means of differentiation.

 Michael Baxandall, from Patterns of Intention: on the historical explanation of pictures (Yale University Press, 1985)

Anonymous artist working in Rome
Death of Clytemnestra
ca. 1525-75
drawing
Teylers Museum, Haarlem

Annibale Carracci
Landscape
ca. 1590-1600
drawing
Teylers Museum, Haarlem

Federico Zuccaro
Moses striking the rock
before 1609
drawing
Teylers Museum, Haarlem

Hercules Seghers
Still-life with books
ca. 1615-30
etching
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Nicolas Poussin
Triumph of Bacchus and Ariadne
ca. 1627
drawing (after relief sculpture)
Royal Collection, Windsor

Salvator Rosa
Heads of soldiers with helmets
ca. 1645-50
drawing
Teylers Museum, Haarlem

Giacinto Gimignani
Four seated women in classical dress
before 1680
drawing
British Museum

follower of Johann Paul Schor
Design for console table
ca. 1660-90
drawing
Royal Collection, Windsor

attributed to Alessandro Allori
Study of crawling male nude
ca. 1552
drawing
Royal Collection, Windsor

Andrea Camessei
God the Father with Heavenly Host
1642
engraving
British Museum

Alessandro Tiar‌ini
God the Father
before 1668
drawing
Prado, Madrid

Claes-Jansz. Visscher
Design for Title-page
ca. 1641
drawing
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam