Art, Performance, and Aesthetics Timeline
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First published 09:00 GMT 11th March 2011; this version [2.0 - rebuild after file corruption] 09:00 BST 8th July 2018. [BUT UNDER CONSTANT EXTENSION AND CORRECTION, SO CHECK AGAIN SOON]
Towards a Cognitive Science of Aesthetics
This timeline weaves together a number of empirical research traditions and then uses the resulting interdisciplinary narrative to reflect critically upon the often loosely grounded tenets of aesthetic philosophy. Its aim is to identify the most "scientific" theory of beauty, a theory which explains in depth how the emotionally tinged phenomenal experience engendered by artwork or performance emerges from simple nervous activity. The traditions contributing to this narrative, and their relevance to aesthetic theory, are shown in the following table .....
Nature of the Data
Justification for Inclusion
Palaeontology of Art and Adornment
Physical artefacts from the palaeontological record after ca. 40,000BP, subjected to disciplined hypothesis testing.
Cave art is the earliest form of empirical data on the artistic abilities and preferences of prehistoric people, and potentially marks the birth of the "performative exchange".
Archaeology of Art, Architecture, and Adornment
Physical artefacts from the archaeological record after ca. 10,000BP, subjected to disciplined hypothesis testing.
Decoration of the built environment is the next earliest form of empirical data on the artistic abilities and preferences of prehistoric people.
Archaeology of Writing and Number Systems
Physical artefacts from the archaeological record after ca. 10,000BP, subjected to disciplined hypothesis testing.
Everyday symbolic communication presumably shares some cognitive resources with performative communication.
History of Religion
Physical artefacts from the archaeological record after ca. 10,000BP, subjected to disciplined hypothesis testing; surviving narrative.
(1) Ritual creates affective experience. (2) Affective experience inspires performative exchange.
Medicine and Toxicology [dates uncertain]
Physical artefacts from the archaeological record after ca. 10,000BP, subjected to disciplined hypothesis testing; surviving narrative.
Clear kill-or-cure cause and effect. Includes substances given as part of ritual, and therefore relevant to the "altered states of consciousness" aspects of aesthetics.
Single-case neurological examination, supplemented in the last 20 years by functional brain scanning.
This type of data has been the main source of insight into the functional architecture of the brain for at least 3000 years.
Physical artefacts and the illustrations thereon, surviving narrative.
Explores the techniques of live drama as a performative exchange.
Mechanical Engineering [from 250BCE]
Physical artefacts and/or illustrations, surviving instructional and celebratory text.
The construction of automata for public entertainment dates from this period and has a clear run forward to modern robotic art.
The Constituent Threads
To assist keyword-based item-hopping each timeline item is tagged with the thread(s) to which it is most directly relevant. The following threads will commonly be seen .....
HISTORY OF AESTHETICS
THE PERFORMATIVE EXCHANGE
AVANT-GARDE AND EXPERIMENTAL ART
THE UNCONSCIOUS IN ART
ARCHETYPES IN ART (VARIOUS)
DISTURBING ART and EROTIC ART
SPEECH ACT THEORY
DECODING COMPLEX NARRATIVE
ART, WARFARE, AND PROPAGANDA
ART, RITUAL, AND BELIEF
ART AS SOCIAL PROTEST
THEORY OF MIND, IMAGINARY FRIENDS, and ANIMISM
AUTONOMOUS ROBOTICS and ANIMATED MECHANISM
ANIMATION, FROZEN MOTION, and THE UNCANNY
ASSESSING COGNITIVE FUNCTION (VARIOUS)
THE NATURE OF REALITY
**************** UPPER PALAEOLITHIC PERIOD ***************
** (ALL DATES APPROXIMATE; BP = BEFORE PRESENT) **
** (DATES MAY OVERLAP) **
AURIGNACIAN: The Aurignacian culture dates between 40000BP and 26000BP. Although it gets its name from Aurignac in France, it existed across Southern Europe as far as the Ukraine. The oldest known example of figurative art, the Venus of Hohle Fels [more on which below], dates from early in this period.
40000BP Bednarik (1984) suggests that "parietal finger lines" - fingertip tracings in clay or mud - are the oldest surviving art tradition. He uses the word "psychogram" to describe any form of marking which has an expressive intent, even if only unconsciously and even if only to the creator personally. Yet there was probably no depiction of external shape, merely "subjective images in his own visual cortex" (p28).
35000BP An unknown Cro-Magnon carves what is now known as the Venus of Hohle Fels, a six centimetre tall ivory artefact in the form of a naked woman [image]. In the very first paper to be published in the journal Art History, Collins and Onians (1978) explain that the appearance of "representational images" in the archaeological record may be viewed as having taken place surprisingly late, given the far longer history of hominid tool creation and use. Tools require "the habit of imitative shaping" (p1), a set of cognitive skills which must therefore be as old as tools themselves, and that is over a million years old. They review findings from the main Aurignacian sites and identify three categories of artwork, namely vulvas, female figures, and animals. These three are "the recurrent features of the earliest art" (p11), and "there is no later culture, with one or two very isolated exceptions, which accords such prominence to the vulva [nor] the entire female body in all its full and naked roundness" (p11). The central unknown, however, is as follows .....
"Our problem is why did some individuals in the years before 30,000 b.c. [= before confirmed] start to engrave lines which go beyond the making of patterns, into the imitation of the form of the female genitals and the silhouettes of animals, and why soon afterwards did they start to shape stones not just into tools but into the likeness of female figures. [.....I]t is natural to begin our search for an explanation by concentrating on the main factor which links them. This is the desire - or should we say hunger - which will ensure that the male in a hunting community will have two main centres of attention, women and game animals. [.....] In other words if Aurignacian man ever day-dreamed, it is surely the sight of a nice edible reindeer or the touching of a nice rounded pair of buttocks which must have passed through his mind" (Collins and Onians, 1978, p15).
RESEARCH ISSUE: The assumption that these carved artworks were valued for their ability to stimulate those who beheld them is alluring but difficult to prove scientifically.
Anati (1981) reminds us that what he terms "artistic creativity" may occur in a wide variety of contexts, namely in special places, on special occasions, on social encounters (including marriages, funerals, comings of age, etc.), and at "moments of ecstasy" (p201). For him the central issue is as follows .....
"There are at least two stages to be clarified: the first is the transition from the state of awareness of the meaning of a sign, a footprint or the evidence of some action in the past, to the conscious act of making a sign in order to pass on a message. The second stage is the development from making signs whose shapes are imposed by nature to making man-made signs, whether these be imitations of nature or inventions. Understanding the progress through these stages and the motives behind them would perhaps open up the way to an understanding of the origins of art. We should then realise how arbitrary the distinction is that is often drawn between representational and abstract art. Probably the abstract did not exist for prehistoric man. On the other hand, graphic and figurative art is always an abstraction, even at its most naturalistic, because it is the representation and hence the transformation of reality through the selection of a part, namely what is visible, symbolic, or conceptual. [.....] Art is, by definition, the message that one individual conveys to others" (p209). This fundamental function is not necessarily conscious. But art that does not communicate is not art" (pp205/9; emphasis added).
GRAVETTIAN: The Gravettian culture dates between 28000BP and 22000BP, and is named after the class-defining archaeological site at La Gravette, on the Dordogne. It contributes many more Venuses to the archaeological record [example].
SOLUTREAN: The Solutrean culture dates between 22000BP and 17000BP, and is named after the class-defining archaeological site at Solutré in France [more on this].
MAGDALENIAN: The Magdalenian culture dates between 17000BP and 9000BP, making it the final culture of the Old Stone Age. It is named after the class-defining site at La Madeleine, on the Vezere. It is characterised by numerous examples of "mobile art" - figurines and engraved artefacts - as well as by the world-famous "parietal art" sites at Lascaux [detail] and Altamira [detail].
15000BP Cave art practice and techniques are by now fully established (and survive until the present day in certain aboriginal populations). The signs used may be classified as either figurative, where there is a direct representation of (usually) an animal or (less frequently) a human, or non-figurative, where the markings are more abstract and make no clear reference. Among the most commonly seen figurative signs are bison, horses, deer, and reindeer, and among the most commonly seen non-figurative signs are roughly collarbone-shaped claviforms, roughly oblong quadrilaterals, and roughly house-shaped tectiforms. There are also triangles, ovals, circles, crosses, points. Where a number of signs are used together they may - like the words in a sentence - be delivering a more complex message. Leroi-Gourhan (1968) suggests the term "mythogram" to describe the sort of complex scenes found in cave art. These are conventionally believed to have had some sort of mystic or ritual value to their perpetrators, just as the dove still symbolises the Holy Spirit in Christian iconography. Lawson (1991) explains that much cave art is located deep underground and would therefore have been both difficult and dangerous to get at. "It was obviously not done purely for amusement", he says (p57).
RESEARCH ISSUE: The assumption that mythograms were part of emotionally loaded ritual of some sort is alluring but difficult to prove scientifically. The same goes for any production of ritual experience to order, perhaps by some combination of non-verbal vocalisation (moaning or chanting) with some repetitive hypnotic action (bead telling, stamping).
KEY CONCEPT - SHAMANS AND SHAMANISM: Modern scientific interest in humankind's belief systems may conveniently be dated to an 1866 publication by Edward Tyler entitled "The Religion of Savages" (subsequently enlarged as Tyler, 1871). In the years which follow, three further works deserve particular mention. The first is Sir James Frazer's "The Golden Bough" [see 1890], which argues for a common progression from magic and primitive superstition to religious belief, and then from religious belief to scientific thought. The other classics are Lucien Levy-Bruhl's "How Natives Think" [see 1910] and Emile Durkheim's "Les Formes Élémentaires de la vie Religieuse" [see 1912], both of which emphasise the role played by the social system in producing a set of beliefs characteristic of that social system. The matter is also presented as a matter for psychological analysis in William James' "The Varieties of Religious Experience" [see 1902]. These books highlight the role of the tribal "medicine man" as archetypal priest-healer - a role now known generically as the "Shaman", after the Marie Czaplicka's monograph "Aboriginal Siberia" [see 1914]. Note also how the Christian ritual of baptism helps allay the emotional trauma of a monstrous birth [see 1018 (Thietmar) and onward links].
******************** NEOLITHIC PERIOD **********************
** (ALL DATES APPROXIMATE; [B]CE - [BEFORE] CHRISTIAN ERA **
10000BCE The Old Stone Age is conventionally regarded as having ended around 12,000 years ago in a short transitional period known as the Middle Stone (mesolithic) Age, when more and more of our ancestors gave up their hunter-gatherer existence in favour of building permanent shelters, raising crops, and domesticating cattle. Inventions such as the sledge, the canoe, and rope have been dated to this period, and many of the culinary processes we nowadays hold dear - such as the ability to convert grain into bread - may safely be located earlier or later in the Neolithic period, and arose presumably by trial and error. Such chancidental incidents can easily lead to the conversion of milk into butter or cheese, mud into bricks, grapes into wine, ground seeds into gruel, and so on.
ASIDE - CREATIVE PROBLEM SOLVING: The trial-and-error discoveries which brought pottery, bread, and wine to the Neolithic were not Humankind's first technological breakthroughs. Stone tools, for example, predate not just pottery but H. sapiens itself, the principles of knapping having been discovered by a precursor hominid, H. habilis, around two million years ago [more on this]. The Palaeolithic also saw the emergence of such artefacts as the knife, the hafted axe, pelts, the thrusting and throwing versions of the spear, ligature, the drill, the needle, and eventually the bow and arrow and the portable shelter. It is even possible to hazard a guess at what went through the minds of the original inventors because those minds were perhaps not so different to our own. Creative problem solving has been quite extensively studied by cognitive scientists, both in animals and humans. The classic animal studies were by the Gestalt School's Wolfgang Köhler at the Prussian Anthopological Research Station on Tenerife [see 1917], and gave rise to the "Insight or Trial-and-Error Debate", a debate which remains not totally resolved to the present day. The classic human studies were by John Stuart Mill [see 1832], Sir Francis Galton [see 1869], Graham Wallas [see 1926], and Max Wertheimer [see 1945]. A typical act of insightful invention involves a sustained confrontation with the problem needing to be solved, during which time various pieces of the final jigsaw are accumulated, followed by a final act of mental re-ordering in which certain critical elements are brought together in a new and successful way.
Creative problem solving also presumably underlie the discovery of herbal remedies such as willow (aspirin) and mosses (natural penicillin), as well as of psychoactive agents such as alcohol (decaying fruit), mescalin (from the peyote cactus), opium (poppy), marihuana (hemp), ayahuasca (vines), and the various forms of "magic" mushrooms. The consumption of Mescalin, for example, has recently been archaeologically dated to ca. 3700BCE.
RESEARCH ISSUE - BELIEF, RITUAL, AND ENTHEOGENS: It will eventually be recognised [see, for example, 1957 (Sargant), 1961 (Laski), and 1966 (Ludwig)] that the transliminal experiences which can be brought about by participation in ritual or by the ingestion of psychogenic substances, either alone or (usually more effectively) in combination, might causally interact with our belief system. We believe a,b,c because we feel x,y,z, and a,b,c help explain those feelings. The Mind can bring about both positive or negative Brain and Body states, which can in turn feed back to Mind. Moreover the process can begin at any point. A thought can trigger a chemical change just as easily as a hallucinogenic drug can conjure up a thought out of nowhere. Following the model provided by such terms as "hallucinogen", "pathogen", "mutagen", etc., substances whose psychological effects include a spiritual element are nowadays known as "entheogens" [see, for example, 1988 (Ruck et al)].
6500BCE The pace of change then accelerated again around 8,500 years ago with the New Stone (neolithic) Age. This was the period of the “neolithic revolution”, when homestead life became village life, and thence civilisation itself. Inventions such as bricks and mortar, pottery, weaving, and the bow and arrow all date from this period, and there is visible tribute to the sophistication of neolithic organizations in the archaeological sites at Uruk in modern Iraq, Catal Hüyük in modern Turkey, and Jericho in modern Israel. Organizations such as councils of elders probably date from the beginning of this period, and the first recognizable factory would have been set up towards the end of it - say around 6,000 years ago - as the technology for smelting bronze started to be developed. The defining characteristic of the Neolithic period in human history is the increasing reliance upon fixed places of abode, with concentrations of urbanised population supported logistically by outlying static agriculture. During the Neolithic temporary settlements grow into villages, villages into towns, and towns into cities. In turn this leads to a "division of labour" within society as different people (individuals, families, clans) specialise in different sets of skills.
PRESUMPTIONS - PHARMACOLOGY, TOXICOLOGY, AND POWER: For our present purposes we are going to presume that by the mid-Neolithic - say 8,000 years BP - (a) inventions no longer surprised people, (b) everyday processes were deliberately varied in the hope of doing things more effectively, and (c) the potential utility of chance events was not long in the noting. We are also going to presume that one of the areas where chance events would have been most difficult to overlook was where they included some clear curative or toxic effect, as with the trial-and-error discovery of healing herbs and balms or the accidental ingestion of poisons. We are also going to presume - with Gibson (1999) [see 2000BCE] - that the power to kill or cure was rapidly incorporated into shamanistic practice, where it reinforced the more ancient traditions of ritual. We are also going to presume that as villages grew into towns and towns into cities, so too did shamanism evolve into churchified religion and the shamans themselves into a priesthood such as we would still recognise. We are also going to presume that this new priestly caste kept their secrets very close to their chests, sometimes acting as priest-kings in their own interest, and sometimes as priest-lieutenants in the interests of a king or emperor.
The Neolithic proves to be a major turning point in social, economic, and political history because the growth in settlement size leads automatically to a growth in the size of the unit of administration, exploitation, and control. Instead of tribal councils administering a few hundred nomadic tribesman we end up with static empires of one or more major cities. The "Fertile Crescent" and Nile Valley are two of the areas of easily irrigated fertile land where human civilisation first developed [other foci existed along the Danube and in the Far East]. We also start to see wars of conquest rather than of ethnic necessity. The Fertile Crescent is the arc of land saddling the northern half of the Syrian Desert, and the Nile Valley forms the eastern border of the Sahara Desert [see map]. The western part of the crescent comprises the Levant [modern Lebanon], whilst the northern and eastern parts follow the lands between the rivers Tigris and Euphrates (the famed "Rivers of Babylon"), between which lies the area known as Mesopotamia. The area was originally populated by a nomadic culture known as the Kebarans, but was then settled perhaps 11,500 years ago by an essentially static culture known as the Natufians. The essence of this dramatic change of lifestyle was that the Natufians preferred to cultivate their own crops rather than go foraging for what grew naturally. The individual civilisations have come and gone, of course, and the "juiciest" bits of territory have since changed hands many times. These civilisations emerged in the fourth millenium BCE, flourished in the third, and then exhausted each other squabbling in the second and the first, until Alexander the Great and the Romans brought a whole new dimension to the game of conqueror. And in the middle of all the military comings and goings, smaller tribal peoples such as the Canaanites, the Israelites, and the Philistines managed to maintain a somewhat fragile and repeatedly disrupted presence.
**** THE DYNASTIC KINGDOMS (ALL DATES APPROXIMATE) ****
3300BCE The Sumerians establish a civilisation in the Tigris-Euphrates basin, south of modern Baghdad. They are an ancient non-Semitic people ["a people of unknown descent" (Coulmas, 1989:72)], and in what Lecours (1995:219) describes as "the Sumerian invention" they develop the world's first writing system, a 1200-sign pictographic system possibly deriving from the use of trading tokens in commerce. It will develop, in turn, into the cuneiform system around 3000BCE.
3100BCE The Pharaonic civilisation arises in the Nile valley. It will survive relatively unchallenged until the first millenium BC when it will fall under a succession of foreign rulers, including the Assyrians, the Persians, the Macedonians, and the Romans. It is famous for developing the world's second important writing system, the hieroglyphic system. The civilisation itself peaked under the pharaoh Amenhotep III (r. 1382-1344BCE).
ASIDE - THE HIEROGLYPHIC SYSTEM: Hieroglyphics: (Greek hieros = "sacred" + glyphos = "sculptured".) This is the earliest and longest lasting of the writing systems used in Ancient Egypt, and consists of a basic consonantal phonetic alphabet, supplemented firstly by a syllabary, and secondly by a rich variety of logograms, determinatives, and ideograms [see examples]. The system appeared around 3100BCE and lasted with natural evolution but no fundamental change until around the fall of the Roman Empire three and a half thousand years later. During this time it gave rise to two other forms of Egyptian - hieratic and demotic - and also heavily influenced the development of systems such as Proto-Canaanite in surrounding lands. The system fell out of use as Greek and Latin flourished and then remained undeciphered until its principles were rediscovered in the nineteenth century. Ideograms are "silent signs" attached to a word's phonetic root, and acting as an incorporated pictogram to convey a general idea. They are presumably a considerable aid to those having to remember what a given word meant. Thus, in Egyptian hieroglyphics "the hawk symbolises  everything which happens quickly, because this creature is just about the fastest of winged animals and the idea is transferred through the appropriate metaphor to all swift things" (Diodurus Siculus, 1st Century BC; cited in Andrews, 1981:7). Another way to extend one's vocabulary without extending one's basic alphabet is to use a "rebus", a way of making one thing "stand for" another. It uses pictures of things "to indicate certain other entirely different things not easily susceptible of pictorial representation, the names of which chanced to have a similar sound " (Gardiner, 1957:7; italics original). An earlier example was the Egyptian King Narmer, who drew his name as a nar (a type of fish) over a mer (a chisel).
ASIDE - EGYPTIAN WORSHIP: The Egyptians seem to have been polytheistic, that is to say, they worshipped many gods, each with its own sphere of influence. These included .....
Thoth [sometimes Djehuti], the ibis-headed God, a poly-functional deity associated with intelligence, language, writing, and magic. Thoth is worth noting because one of the hieroglyphic inscriptions uses the term "Thoth the great, the great, the great". Given that the Greek equivalent for Thoth is Hermes and the Greek word for "thrice great" is trismegistos, many believe that the name Hermes Trismegistos refers to an abstract being rather than one (or more) actual beings.
Neit(h), a goddess of war, hunting, and weaving with temples at Esna and Sais. [Writing around 370BCE, Plato's Timaeus passes on the rumour that the Temple of Neith at Sais had a secret repository of spells, etc., going back 9000 years!]
Sekhmet, a lion-faced goddess-protector. Also the bringer-or-curer of disease, and hence the emblem of physicians and surgeons. [The priests in the temples of the goddess Sekhmet may have been the first to use biological warfare, there being some suspicion that they smeared valuable statues with anthrax spores to visit a nasty death on anyone daring to steal them!]
3000BCE The cuneiform writing system matures in Sumeria. It is a wedge-shaped script written by pressing the tip of a stylus into clay tablets. It will flourish for some two millennia and then fell suddenly from use after the fall of Assyria (being replaced initially by Phoenician-Aramaic and then by Greek).
2500BCE The Akkadians, a Semitic people, expand their influence in the Tigris-Euphrates basin, north of modern Baghdad. In what Lecours (1995:221) describes as "the Akkadian implement" the Akkadians add a partial syllabary to Sumerian cuneiform to make a more powerful version of this system of their own. They do this using cuneiform-phoneme and phoneme-cuneiform "convertors", thus creating a written language which had a small stock of phonograms. The principal benefit of this device, of course, is that "one who speaks Akkadian and has learned the new code can now read and write words which one does not understand" (Lecours, 1995:222). The Akkadian empire peaked around 1850BCE, after which it is best treated as part of the Babylonian empire. The writing system eventually evolved into Proto-Canaanite.
ASIDE: The term "Babylonian" is a group name for the lesser empires of the Akkadians, Chaldeans, and Sumerians, and, sometimes, the Assyrians, that is to say, any Mesopotamian empire which took Babylon (50 miles south of modern Baghdad) as its common capital city. The Babylonians were therefore an early "United Kingdom", in which the partners, though originally racially distinct enemies, found marginally greater value in cooperation. The empire developed during the third millenium BCE under such emperors as the Akkadian, Sargon I, flourished in the early second millenium BCE under such as Hammurabi, went through a period of Assyrian dominance between 1200BCE and 612BCE, peaked again under Nebuchadnezzar II (r. 605-565BCE), and finally fell to Alexander the Great in 330BCE to become a province of the Macedonian Empire.
2000BCE The Babylonians begin to worship Gula, Goddess of Healing. The Chicago archaeologist McGuire Gibson interprets the physical record as indicating two kinds of medical practise in Mesopotamia, namely "a herbal healer, the asu, who diagnosed illness, concocted remedies, instructed the patient on how to use them, and sometimes predicted the outcome. This person did not include ritual in his practice. The ashipu, in contrast, was a form of magician or exorcist, whose role was to drive demons out of sick people. He did perform of rituals and sometimes also used herbs" (Gibson, 1999, online).
1900BCE The Cretans [a.k.a. Minoans] establish a writing system influenced by Egyptian hieroglyphics. It will evolved by around 1500BCE into the still undeciphered Linear A script, and will die away around 1100BCE as the Cretan civilisation becomes overshadowed by the Mycenean from the north and Phoenician from the east.
1800BCE An unknown team prepares a hieroglyphic medical corpus, the surviving portions of which - known as the Kahun Gynaecological Papyrus - record 34 particular diagnoses and treatments.
1550BCE An unknown team prepares a hieroglyphic medical corpus, the surviving portions of which - known as the Ebers Papyrus - present a fair summary of Egyptian medical knowledge as it then stood.
1100BCE Reputedly named after Ashur, grandson of Noah, the Assyrians start to expand the Assyrian Empire under such emperors as Tilgat-Pileser (r. 1116-1090BCE). The peak of their influence will come with the reign of Sennacherib (r. 714-681BCE), and will die away with the fall of Ninevah to the Medes in 612BCE. Assyria was the principal Babylonian power during this period. The spoken language was Aramaic, which had its own Phoenician-derived writing system, but the much older cuneiform was also retained. The 30,000 clay tablets discovered in the ruins of Ashurbanipal's (r. 668-626BCE) library at Ninevah are an untapped archaeological resource of the first importance.
900BCE The Etruscans flourish in Pre-Roman Italy. They use a writing system developed out of Mycenean and Phoenician, which will evolve in turn into Latin by 550BCE. It is also believed to have influenced the runic alphabet adopted by the Germanic peoples of northern Europe.
1055BCE The Babylonian physician Esagil-kin-Apli becomes court physician to King Adad and sets out his knowledge in his "Diagnostic Handbook".
********* CLASSICAL PERIOD (ALL DATES APPROXIMATE) ********
850BCE The Greek poet Homer (or a composite of unknowns now treated by that name) compiles "The Iliad" (the story of the Trojan War), and "The Odyssey" (the story of Odysseus's long and eventful journey home after the war was over). These two works tell us much about what the Ancient Greeks knew, thought, and valued, as well as how they fought, how their society and economy was structured, and how they built and used ships and other technology. As such they are a priceless side-commentary upon the more concrete evidence provided by physical archaeology. On the use of drugs and poisons, for example, we have .....
"He then bade
Paeeon heal him, whereon Paeeon spread pain-killing
herbs upon his wound and cured him ....." (Iliad, Book V).
"He was then coming from Ephyra, where he had been to beg poison for his arrows from Ilus, son of Mermerus " (Odyssey, Book I, §259).
"Then Jove's daughter Helen bethought her of another matter. She drugged the wine with an herb that banishes all care, sorrow, and ill humour. Whoever drinks wine thus drugged cannot shed a single tear all the rest of the day, not even though his father and mother both of them drop down dead, or he sees a brother or a son hewn in pieces before his very eyes. This drug, of such sovereign power and virtue, had been given to Helen by Polydamna wife of Thon, a woman of Egypt, where there grow all sorts of herbs, some good to put into the mixing-bowl and others poisonous. Moreover, every one in the whole country is a skilled physician, for they are of the race of Paeeon" (Odyssey, Book IV, §200). [Read (1936, reprinted in Linden, 2003) even notes that the word "alchemy" might derive from the Arabic word for the land of Egypt, namely "Khem".]
Mental philosophers are also fond of Homeric works because the very words used are themselves indicators of how the Greeks thought about the universe and their place within it. This vocabulary is centred around the use of the word psuche to refer to the individual soul or self-defining spirit, and phronesis to indicate the understanding [more on these terms].
BARDISM IN EUROPEAN CLAN SOCIETY: In many of the tribes mentioned there was an ancient bardic tradition. Each royal household retained a resident minstrel, whose job it was to sing the praises of the king and his knights. The songs were typically of epic length and had to be rote memorised, for which reason only a few have survived. The lives and works of the following bards represent highpoints of the craft .....
· The fictional bard Phemius in Homer's Odyssey
· Taliesin [see 1275, Book of Taliesin, below]
· unknown [see 1350?, White Book of Rhydderch, below]
· unknown [see 1382?, Red Book of Hergest, below]
Bardic references will start to re-emerge in the 18th century following the popular success of James Macpherson's "Ossian" [see 1765 below].
700BCE The poet Hesiod produces "Theogony", one of the most cited versions of the Olympean myths. In it he explains who the gods were, where they came from, and how they were related. Everything, it turns out, is ultimately down to Zeus, for it is he who first turned Chaos into Gaia [Earth] and Eros [Love], and it is he who sired those early patrons of the arts, the Nine Muses .....
KEY CONCEPT - THE NINE MUSES: No account of aesthetics can be complete without mentioning "the Muses" - the nonuplet daughters of Zeus by the goddess Mnemosyne, each one of whom holds gifts of talent in a particular branch of the performing arts to bestow upon the deserving. To the extent that any artist performs, therefore, so has s/he been blessed by one or more of the daughters of Zeus.
One particular phrase from Hesiod will go on to earn him eternal credit, so neatly does it encapsulate the problem of artistic intent. The phrase is this .....
"They, the Muses, once taught Hesiod beautiful song, while he was shepherding his flocks on holy Mount Helicon; these goddesses of Olympus, daughters of aegis-bearing Zeus, first of all spoke this word to me: 'Oh, you shepherds of the fields, base and lowly things, little more than bellies, we know how to tell many falsehoods that seem like truths but we also know, when we so desire, how to utter the absolute truth'."
KEY CONCEPT - ARTISTIC TRUTH: By separating "the absolute truth" in the abstract from the words [or, for that matter, the images, posings, posturings, facial expressions, or whatever] used to convey that truth, the Muses offer an instant mechanism by which the superficial can deceive, whereupon it can never again be totally trusted.
ASIDE - HOW TO RECOGNISE CLASSICAL ALLUSION IN ARTWORK: Over the millennia the Homeric/Hesiodic corpus will prove a major source of inspiration to artists and writers. Classical allusion will typically be by personal or place name, as in James Joyce's "Ulysses", Gleyre's "Odysseus and Nausicaa", Hayer's "Odysseus Overcome", etc., etc., etc.
650BCE One or more unknown poets produce the 33 "Homeric Hymns". These each praise a different Homeric god or goddess, including Apollo, Asclepius, Dionysus, and Hephaestus. Those to Apollo praise his skills both with the bow and the lyre.
ASIDE: The role of sound in attributing mind to external object is borne out by the frequency with which musical instruments such as the lyre are involved in the ancient myths. The Greeks believed that the Lyre was invented by Hermes. This was plucked like a harp, but it also proved susceptible to the physical laws of sympathetic resonance whenever another instrument was played nearby. When that happened, it could sound itself, and in the case of the barbiton, or bass lyre, the resulting murmurings are reputed to have had a distinctly human sound to them. This may or may not account for the fact that lyres occur many times in the Greek myths, and are one of the symbols of Apollo, the god of prophecy. They also used an "Aeolian harp", a wind-blown stringed instrument, with or without a resonance box, which relied on the physics of viscous fluid flow past tensioned wires (the same principle which makes telegraph wires hum when the breeze gets stiff enough). It was given its name because, in the absence of a human musician, the god of winds, Aeolus, was judged the most likely culprit.
One of the Homeric Hymns celebrates a myth believed to go back to around 1450BCE, that of the goddess Demeter. It tells of her quest to Eleusis in search of her daughter Persephone [full legend]. In Demeter's honour the Eleusinian locals dedicated a temple-sanctuary to her, complete with temple attendants and a complex mind-expanding ritual known as "the Eleusinian mysteries". A possible role for hallucinogenic agents in these rituals will eventually be noted by R. Gordon Wasson [see 1978]. The classical theme will get this myth into many later paintings, not least Dante Rossetti's "Persephone" (1874) [image]. The Homeric Hymns also tell the story of Apollo's trip to the place now known as Delphi to build "a glorious temple to be an oracle for men", thus .....
"Apollo spoke through his oracle. The sibyl or priestess of the oracle at Delphi was known as the Pythia; she had to be an older woman of blameless life chosen from among the peasants of the area. She sat on a tripod seat over an opening in the earth. When Apollo slew Python, its body fell into this fissure, according to legend, and fumes arose from its decomposing body. Intoxicated by the vapours, the sibyl would fall into a trance, allowing Apollo to possess her spirit. In this state she [.....] 'raved' - probably a form of ecstatic speech - and her ravings were 'translated' by the priests of the temple" (Wikipedia).
The Homeric works also nicely introduce the topic of automata. The key figure here is Hephaestus, the "blacksmith-god", who at various points is reported as having created female automata, a mechanical owl named Bubo, mobile tripods, and a high-accessibility chariot-wheelchair to compensate for his lameness. [THREAD = AUTONOMOUS ROBOTICS] Hephaestus, the lame blacksmith, turns out to be the only physically imperfect Greek God, and his lack of speed and ability meant that he was unable - in Apollodurus' telling of the tale - to force himself with any efficiency upon the goddess Athena. As a result his semen only fell to the ground, where it fertilised the earth-child Erichthonius [sometimes, or by conflation, Erechtheus]. The child, however, was a monstrous birth, and so Athena secreted it in a casket and gave same into the safe keeping of the daughters of Cecrops, king of Athens, with strict instructions not to open it. This legend will eventually be committed to canvas by Jasper van der Laanen [see 1620?].
625BCE The poet Arion begins to use the "dithyramb", an exuberant hymn-dance in praise of Dionysus, God of Fertility.
580BCE Thales of Miletus, one of the "Seven Sages" of Ancient Greece, is one of the first in human history to seek logical explanations of natural phenomena rather than resort to supernatural and mythical explanations.
580BCE Cleisthenes develops the "tragic chorus" dramatic device in which the central action (freeform and non-versified) is interleaved with verses sung or spoken by a small group of sideplayers. This device allows playwrights to guide their audiences' interpretation of their pieces by emphasising, criticising, and otherwise reflecting upon the central action.
560BCE Anaximander of Miletus takes up Thales' search for logical explanations for natural phenomena by applying geometry to the movements of the stars and planets.
550BCE The poet Ibycus mentions a certain Orpheus, but little detail remains of his work. Later authors complete the account of Orpheus, the master of the lyre and musical lyricism, an important one of Jason's Argonauts, and the attributive author of the "Orphic Poems". These latter contain a number of beliefs about the soul, the afterlife, and the underworld.
540BCE The scholar Alcmeon of Croton, student of Pythagoras, uses anatomical dissection to collect data for a number of medical treatises. He is particularly insightful in what he has to say about the layout and operating principles of the cognitive system and deserves to be identified, we submit, as the father of cognitive science. Here is a brief modern assessment of his position .....
"[Alcmaeon] was the first to recognise the brain as the seat of understanding and to distinguish understanding from perception. Alcmaeon thought that the sensory organs were connected to the brain by channels (poroi) and may have discovered the poroi connecting the eyes to the brain (i.e., the optic nerve) by excising the eyeball of an animal [.....] He was the first to develop an argument for the immortality of the soul [..... and] discussed a wide range of topics in physiology including sleep, death, and the development of the embryo" (Huffman, 2008 online, e1).
KEY CONCEPT - PERCEPTUAL STAGES (1): Alcmaeon's poroi clearly imply a separation in space between the external sensory apparatus and a brain waiting to deal with the information passed to it. Henceforth cognitive science can safely regard sensation as an early stage of perception. Of course the Ancients did not use the term "information processing stages", nor do they seem to have discussed how long each subprocess took to carry out its part of the task, but they were moving in the right direction. [This inset topic continues after 1662, Descartes on Neurotransmission.]
534BCE Regular "Dionysia" - festivals to honour Dionysus, the God of Fertility - begin to be held at Athens. A tragedy by the Greek dramatist Thespis wins that season's Dionysia contest and thereby gives the word "thespian" to the English language.
530BCE The Greek philosopher-mathematician Pythagoras of Samos [Wikipedia biography], and a coterie of co-workers, start to accumulate earlier Babylonian and Egyptian knowledge in mathematics, astronomy, and chemistry, but keep most of their findings for private consumption. Our immediate interest with Pythagoras is with the story of the hammers and the anvil .....
PREPARATION - THE DIATONIC SCALE: The story we are about to relate requires some familiarity with the standard piano keyboard, and how it can be used to create both good harmonies and bad. This in turn requires familiarity with the notion of the "frequency" of a sound wave. Click here for a beginner's guide to frequency, and then click here for a virtual piano keyboard, and carefully and thoughtfully carry out the following one finger exercises .....
(1) Practice playing the basic "scale of C" by clicking all the white keys C through C1, inclusive. Because you have to press eight keys, the gap between C and C1 is called an "octave". Now strike C and C1 - the octave "chord" - in quick succession, noting how it sounds somehow "sweet". Compare with C and C#1, which sounds discordant. [If you select Chord Mode/Play Chord then you can hear the two notes played simultaneously.]
(2) Play all the white keys C through G, inclusive. Because you have to press five keys, the gap between C and G is called a "fifth". Now strike C and G - the fifth "chord" - in quick succession, noting how it sounds somehow "sweet". Compare with C and G#, which sounds discordant.
(3) Play all the white keys C through F, inclusive. Because you have to press four keys, the gap between C and F is called a "fourth". Now strike C and F - the fourth "chord" - in quick succession, noting how it sounds somehow "sweet". Compare with C and F#, which sounds discordant.
CLASSIC TALE - PYTHAGORAS AT THE FORGE: As later encyclopaedists tell the story, Pythagoras was one day passing a blacksmith at work in his forge and noted that certain of the blacksmith's hammers sounded more pleasing when struck on the anvil in near synchrony than others. He asked the blacksmith to strike his hammers - five of them, of different weights - again in various combinations, carefully noting the "sweet" pairs and the discordant. And as this process of structured observation proceeded so one of Nature's deepest secrets suddenly revealed itself, for the weights of the sweet combinations of hammers had a clear mathematical pattern to them. For example, a pair of hammers where one was twice the weight of the other would strike a full octave apart, and ring sweetly. Similarly, a pair of hammers where one was half as heavy again as the other would sweetly strike a fifth, and a pair in the ratio 4:3 would sweetly strike a fourth.
CAUTION: Superficially the story of Pythagoras and the blacksmith seems to be a triumph of the sort of disciplined enquiry which makes for good science. Unfortunately the physical evidence has been mis-stated because hammers do not - it seems - resound quite so conveniently [see Lloyd (1970) for the details]. The validity of the conclusions, however, has been confirmed by later work on stringed or tube-based musical instruments.
By exposing the role of simple mathematical ratios in making for harmonious sounds, Pythagoras left the way open for a similar analysis to be applied with success to architecture, sculpture, and pictorial art. [See next 465BCE (Phidias)]
500BCE The philosopher Parmenides of Elea collates "On Nature", a philosophy-in-poem of which only fragments have survived. His fundamental point seems to be that because the appearances of things can be deceptive the only way to acquire true knowledge is to use reflective reasoning. He is therefore credited with founding the philosophical perspective known as "Rationalism", the view that the first task of philosophy is to understand the mind's ability to reason. This problem will go on to inspire philosophers all the way from Plato through to Kant's (1781/7) "Critique of Pure Reason".
500BCE The playwright Pratinas of Phlius popularises the "Satyr Play", a drama form which deliberately lightened one of the more serious myths with music, dance, and jocularity [whence the modern words "satire" and "satirical"].
495BCE According to Pliny the Elder [see 79CE], a Roman Consul named Appius Claudius popularises the painting of commemorative portraits on shields (Book 35, §13).
470BCE? According to later reports the Greek painter Agatharchus of Samos [Wikipedia biography] uses a form of perspective rarely seen in pottery or mosaic to create effective stage scenery.
465BCE Greek theatres introduce the skene, a scenery backdrop behind which performers can move into position without being seen.
465BCE The Greek sculptor Phidias [Wikipedia biography] oversees much of the figural decoration of the Parthenon in Athens, in which task he is believed to have consciously applied Pythagorean ratios [see 530BCE]. Phidias is shown at work in Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema's painting "Phidias" (1868) [image]. [THREAD = THE NATURE OF BEAUTY]
450BCE The Greek philosopher Zeno of Elea, a student on Parmenides, popularises the paradox as a vehicle for stimulating philosophical analysis. None of Zeno's writings survive in primary form, the major source being Plato's Parmenides dialogue and Aristotle's "Physics" [see below]. By demonstrating that ostensibly straightforward theoretical propositions can sometimes lead to impossible situations, and therefore be rejected, Zeno helped popularise the approach to theoretical evaluation now known as reductio ad absurdam.
450BCE The Greek lyric poet Pindaros [Wikipedia biography] flourishes. In our present context, we note only his Seventh Olympian Ode for its matter-of-fact passing mention of the Greek penchant for animated figures. Here are the lines in question .....
"The animated figures stand,
Adorning every public street,
And seem to breathe in stone,
or move their marble feet."
[THREAD = ANIMATED MECHANISM and AUTONOMOUS ROBOTICS]
450BCE The Greek philosopher Anaxagoras coins the word nous to refer to knowledge and the ability to use it effectively during reasoning [more on this term].
450BCE The Greek philosopher Empedocles of Agrigentum proposes the reincarnation of souls and publishes "On Nature" of which only fragments survive in the Strasbourg Papyrus. A later reconstruction of his work is given in Diogenes Laertius in 230AD. He proposed four basic elements - fire, air, earth, and water - which can be mixed in various proportions to give various substances. The elements are permanent, but their present form is subject to decay. Empedocles also proposes a theory of visual perception in which particles of light emerge from the eye to touch other particles given out by external objects. However, given that we see only part of any object, it remains for past experience and current thought to provide a fully meaningful current understanding.
440BCE The Greek historian Herodotus visits Egypt to observe the use of medicines there.
KEY VOCABULARY: Graf (1995) notes a number of words touching on the relationship between magic, myth, and religion. The most obvious is magos, a word of Persian origin signifying "priest or religious specialist" (p30), thus .....
"Herodotus is the first to speak about the magoi, as a tribe or secret society [.....] whose members perform the royal sacrifices and the funeral rites and who practise divination and the interpretation of dreams. A generation later, Xenophon calls them 'technicians in matters divine'. [.....] To an Ionian of the late 6th century BCE, a magos was not so much a wizard as a ritual specialist at the margins of society, with wide-ranging functions, ridiculed by some, secretly dreaded by many others" (pp30-31).
Other texts and contexts use the terms mantis [= "seer"], agurtēs [= "craftily begging priest"], and goēs, "a complicated figure combining ecstasy and ritual lament, healing rites and divination" (p32). Another source, Ciraolo (1995), tells us about the character in Greek life known as the paredros - literally a person who sits near at hand and waits to attend upon. In public life little more than a subordinate or assistant, in magic the paredroi were represented as having supernatural powers, and appeared only when called by a magician who knew their name. They were often the daemones [= spirits] of dead people.
435BCE The Greek philosopher Leucippus establishes a school at Abdera and working closely with one of his students, Democritus of Thrace, begins work on "The Great World System" and "On the Mind" [neither of which have survived other than by second-hand report]. The Abderan school are rightly famous nowadays for their clear derivation and statement of the "Atomic Theory" of Matter. Democritus also recorded the basic chemistry of silver, gold, mercury, copper, tin, and lead, although Pliny, assessing the situation some 500 years later, would criticise him for overplaying "the sweets of magic" aspect of the resulting body of knowledge (Linden, 2003, p88).
431BCE The Greek playwright Euripedes stages "Medea", the story of Jason's unfaithfulness to his wife Medea. It includes two poisonings.
430BCE The Greek painter Zeuxis of Heraclea [Wikipedia biography] reputedly draws on the beauties of five separate models to put together a portrait of Helen [of Troy?], no single one of them having all the necessary qualities. According to Pliny the Elder [see 79CE], Zeuxis often gave his works away as gifts, "saying that it was impossible for them to be sold at any price adequate to their value" (Book 35, §62).
492BCE The dramatist Phrynichus stages a play entitled "The Fall of Miletus" to lament the loss of the town of that name to the Persians. So successful is this drama at releasing pent-up emotions that it reduces the audience to tears, for which offence they levied a thousand drachma fine on the author.
430BCE The Greek soldier-academic Socrates [Wikipedia] - of whom surprisingly little is directly known, and much of what others tell you about him is confused and contradictory - conducts a career as a loyal but not uncritical Athenian until, in his 71st year, he is hauled into court on contrived charges and sentenced to death. His life is recorded in many of Plato's dialogues [see below] and will resurface in many later artworks, for example Jacques-Louis David's "Death of Socrates" (1787) [image].
430BCE The Sophist School philosopher Hippias of Elis [Wikipedia] develops a reputation for high-sounding but ultimately shallow oratory, and will be taken to task for this weakness by Plato [see 390BCE (Hippias Major)].
429BCE The playwright Sophocles stages "Oedipus the King", in which Oedipus inadvertently marries his own mother and fathers two further children - his "sister-daughters" - with her. This is the work which the psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud famously drew on to illustrate his theory of infantile sexuality [see 1910].
420BCE According to Pliny the Elder [see 79CE], Polygnotus of Thasos is the first to represent women "in transparent draperies". He also "contributed many improvements to the art of painting, as he introduced showing the mouth wide open and displaying the teeth and giving expression to the countenance in place of the primitive rigidity" (Book 35, §58).
416BCE The Athenian tragedian Agathon [Wikipedia biography] is praised for his first production. He will go on to experiment with how best to improve the chorus format in drama [more on this], and his eventual reputation will earn him a posthumous role in Plato's Symposium [see 380BCE].
415BCE The Athenian politician Alcibiades [Wikipedia biography] earns a reputation for Macchiavellian intrigue during the Peloponnesian Wars. As an associate of Socrates, events from Alcibiades' life are recorded in later artworks, for example Jean-Baptiste Regnault's "Socrates Dragging Alcibiades from the Embrace of Sensual Pleasure" (1785) [image].
410BCE The Greek physician Hippocrates of Kos, together with colleagues and students, prepare a comprehensive set of resources setting out not just the medical knowledge of that time but also the proper role of the physician.
408BCE According to Pliny the Elder [see 79CE], the Greek artist Apollodorus of Athens [Wikipedia biography] "was the first to give realistic presentation of objects, and the first to confer glory as of right upon the paintbrush" (Book 35, §60). Amongst the reasons for his success is his pioneering use of shading [Greek = skiagraphia; Italian = chiaroscura] to improve the depiction of volume and depth.
**************** SOCRATIC PHILOSOPHY ***************
402BCE As subsequently narrated by Plato, Socrates [and this may or may not have been a real person] is forced to take Hemlock - the "State poison".
400BCE According to Pliny the Elder [see 79CE], Timanthes displays "a very high degree of genius", not least in the depiction of human emotion. He also "is the only artist in whose works more is always implied than is depicted" (Book 35, §74).
390BCE Plato publishes "Ion", a short dialogue between Socrates [see 430BCE] and the rhapsode Ion as to the purpose of professional bards and the popular poetry they purvey.
390BCE Plato publishes "Hippias Major", a dialogue between Socrates [see 430BCE] and Hippias [see 430BCE] on how best to define beauty. They discuss the quality of kalon [= goodness in the abstract, fineness, nobleness], noting that it is no good merely knowing that a particular beautiful girl is beautiful, because the real problem is to explain in detail wherein her beauty lies. He points out that a wooden spoon is no less beautiful than a golden spoon if both are only ever used for humble stirring. He then examines four possibly decisive qualities, as follows: (1) appropriacy, (2) usefulness, (3) favourability, and (4) the ability "to make us feel joy". In the end, however, there are problems with all the definitions. [THREAD = HISTORY OF AESTHETICS]
KEY CONCEPT - BEAUTY AS IDEAL: So the problem, in short, is that if beauty is imitated by reality and reality is imitated by art, then the sort of mimesis seen in painting is not really worthy of discussion because the process of copying a truth inevitably falls short of the original. The usual Greek approach to beauty is to treat it as an ideal towards which mortals can only ever struggle with various degrees of success. Here is how Adajian (2007 online) puts it .....
"Artworks are ontologically dependent on, and inferior to, ordinary physical objects, which in turn are ontologically dependent on, and inferior to, what is most real, the non-physical forms. Grasped perceptually, artworks present only an appearance of an appearance of what is really real" (e3).
380BCE Plato founds the Athenian "Academy" and over the ensuing years produces "The Republic" and other dialogues in which he sets out the class-defining Socratic analysis. Plato also provides one of the most enduring metaphors for memory, namely that of the wax impression. To form a memory, Plato argues, is to allow an experience - otherwise a mere fleeting thing - to leave a permanent mark upon the mind, just as a solid object can be pressed into warm wax (an explanatory proposition which survives to this day in the concept of "neural plasticity"). Also valuable is Plato's "aviary metaphor" of memory. This model equates the mind to a birdcage, and ideas to the birds within it, and is here presented as one of the scripted philosophical dialogues for which the Greeks are so famous; Socrates is here addressing one of his straight men, Theaetetus .....
"SOCRATES: Well, a little while ago we were trying to set up in the soul some kind of waxen block. Now this time let us make in every man's soul a kind of aviary of all kinds of birds; some in flocks separate from the others, some in small groups, and others flying about singly here and there among all the rest. [.....] Then we must say that when we are children this receptacle is empty; and by the birds we must understand pieces of knowledge. When anyone acquires a piece of knowledge and shuts it up in this pen, we say that he has been taught or has discovered the matter of which this knowledge is; and this is what it is to know. [.....] And we call it 'teaching' when a man imparts them to others, and 'learning' when he gets them imparted to him; and when he 'has' them through possessing them in this aviary of ours, we call that 'knowing'" (Plato, Theaetetus; Levett translation, pp107-108) [see more on memory theory].
380BCE Plato publishes "Symposium", a dialogue between Socrates [see 430BCE], Phaedrus, Agathon, Alcibiades, and others. The dialogue is primarily concerned with love, but touches tangentially also on beauty, treating it as an inner truth about the object in question rather than simply an aspect of its outward presentation.
380BCE Plato publishes "The Republic", the longest and best known Socratic dialogue of all. Our present interest in this work extends only to the "Allegory of the Cave", because this sets out Plato's problems explaining visual perception, and has since been accepted as the standard illustration of the ease with which an imperfect view of reality can be taken as reality itself. Here, from the Jowett translation, is how the allegory is presented. Firstly the scene is set .....
"SOCRATES: [Imagine] human beings living in an underground den, which has a mouth open towards the light. [Here] they have been from their childhood, and have their legs and necks chained so that they cannot move, and can only see before them. [.....] Above and behind them a fire is blazing at a distance, and between the fire and the prisoners there is a raised way; and you will see, if you look, a low wall built along the way, like the screen which marionette players have in front of them, over which they show the puppets. [..... And do you see] men passing along the wall carrying all sorts of vessels, and statues, and figures of animals made of wood and stone and various materials, which appear over the wall? [..... The prisoners, of course, ] see only their own shadows, or the shadows of one another [.....]. And of the objects which are being carried in like manner they would only see the shadows [and] if they were able to converse with one another, would they not suppose that they were naming what was actually before them? [.....] To them, I said, the truth would be literally nothing but the shadows of the images" (Book VII, §514).
Plato then explores what would happen were the nature of the deception to be eventually revealed .....
"And now look again, and see what will naturally follow if the prisoners are released and disabused of their error. At first, when any of them is liberated [.....] he will be unable to see the realities of which in his former state he had seen the shadows. [.....] And you may further imagine that his instructor is pointing to the objects as they pass and requiring him to name them. Will he not be perplexed? Will he not fancy that the shadows which he formerly saw are truer than the objects which are now shown to him" (Book VII, §515).
KEY CONCEPT - PLATONIC "FORM": The point of the Allegory of the Cave is, of course, that the fire, the cave, and the shadows are all generic; that we all live in a cave of sorts, cursed by a visual system which delivers us only shadows of sorts. The true wisdom - those "primary realities" which are actually casting the shadows - is not (as Socrates puts it somewhat later) the same as that which passes for wisdom. Plato was the first heavy user of the word ειδος [pronounced "eye-doss"] and its variations in a philosophical sense, using it (or its plural ειδε) to represent "any of those primary realities which have come to be known as the Forms" (Novak, 2004, p2). Plato saw forms as idealized external entities, and things as the less-than-ideal instantiations thereof which are actually out there on a given occasion to be perceived. The ειδε are thus objects of perception, as well as specific inputs to the first sub-stage of that process, namely transduction [see 1662 (VISUAL SYSTEM)]; they are "the pure essence" of things (Husserl, 1913/1931, p50). [To study the structures and processes of visual perception rebrowse this document using FIND set to "= VISUAL SYSTEM".]
370BCE?? The Greek painter Parrhasius of Ephesus practises his art in Athens, and, it is said, is not averse to torturing the occasional slave in order to obtain accurate expressions of pain with which to work. According to Pliny the Elder [see 79CE], Parrhasius "was the first to give proportions to painting and the first to give vivacity to the expression of the countenance, elegance of the hair, and beauty of the mouth. [.....Also] the drawing of outlines. This in painting is the high-water mark of refinement; to paint bulk and the surface within the outlines, though no doubt a great achievement, is one in which many have won distinction, but to give the contour of the figures, and make a satisfactory boundary where the painting within finishes, is rarely attained in successful artistry" (Book 35, §67). He also holds the more dubious historical honour of having "painted some smaller pictures of an immodest nature, taking his recreation in this sort of wanton amusement" (Book 35, §72). [See next 370BCE ( Xenophon)]
370BCE?? The Greek soldier-historian Xenophon of Athens publishes "Memorabilia", a series of Socratic dialogues. One of these pits Socrates against the painter Parrhasius [see above] in a discussion of what is involved in painting the emotions. Parrhasius begins by doubting that a mood, for example, could be depicted "when it possesses neither linear proportion nor colour", but is soon convinced that various visible cues - what we would today describe as "body language - can say a lot about what is going on in the subject's mind. Socrates also challenges the sculptor Cleiton to explain how he gives "the magic touch of life" to his creations: "It is, is it not, by faithfully copying the various muscular contractions of the body in obedience to the play of gesture and poise, the wrinklings of the flesh and the sprawl of limbs, the tensions and the relaxations, that you succeed in making your statues like real beings?" Cleiton confirms that this is so, leading Socrates to conclude that sculptors of the ideal form cannot ignore the "workings and energies also of the soul".
370BCE Plato's "Phaedrus" [full text online] presents a dialogue between the characters Socrates and Phaedrus on the general topic of love versus judgement. Plato presents this as a conflict between two major elements of the soul, one "beautiful and good" [the "purely Platonic" of everyday modern English], and the other more unconditionally self-serving. Famously he uses the Charioteer Metaphor to make this distinction [see details]. There is no sustained discussion of visual aesthetics, but a lot of what is said about good versus bad oratory is indirectly relevant, for example, that it should be intellectually shameful to produce less than the best you are capable of.
360BCE Plato publishes "The Sophist", a dialogue between Socrates [see 430BCE], Theaetetus, and a visitor from Elea, on the topic of ontological form, and on the usefulness of the logical processes of division and negation in developing ontological taxonomies. [THREAD = THE NATURE OF REALITY]
360BCE Plato's "Timaeus" [full text online] presents a dialogue between the characters Socrates and Timaeus on the general topic of the origin, nature, and purpose of the Universe. For our present purposes we are concerned with what Plato has to say about the "mortal elements" [in modern parlance, the "functional modules" of cognition] available to the "immortal principle" which is the human soul. Here is one of his several attempts to summarise the relationship .....
"[God] made the divine with his own hands, but he ordered his own children to make the generation of mortals. They took over from him an immortal principle of soul, and, imitating him, encased it in a mortal physical globe, with the body as a whole for vehicle. And they built onto it another mortal part, containing terrible and necessary feelings: pleasure, the chief incitement to wrong, pain, which frightens us from good, [etc.]. To this mixture they added irrational sensation and desire which shrinks from nothing, and so gave the mortal element its indispensable equipment" (Plato, Timaeus, §69; Lee translation, p95).
KEY CONCEPT - THE STRUCTURE OF THE SOUL: Plato's notion of a "tripartite" soul with three fundamental facets - reason and knowledge, desire-aversion, and willed self-assertiveness - is troubled by the observation that it can act much of the time as a coherent whole (Ostenfeld, 1982). Following a sustained analysis of Plato's writings, Ostenfeld (1982) resolves this apparent contradiction this way: "While the soul per se seems unitary it is tripartite while in a human body" (p214). Plato's scheme of things was updated by Sir William Hamilton in the nineteenth century as "Hamilton's Triad", a three-headed taxonomy of the "primary classes" of mental phenomena as follows: "Let the mental phenomena, therefore, be distributed under the three heads of phenomena of cognition, or the faculties of knowledge; phenomena of feeling, or the capacities of pleasure and pain; and phenomena of desiring or willing, or the powers of conation" (Sir William Hamilton, p.p. Mansell and Veitch, 1865, p189; emphasis added). The second heading, feeling, is nowadays better known as affect. Hamilton went on to argue, however, that the three primary classes were then all subordinate to "one universal phenomenon - the phenomenon of consciousness" (ibid.).
350BCE Plato's most famous student, Aristotle, establishes the Associationist tradition by pointing out not only that memory was based on the "incidental association" of one idea with another ("De Memoria et Reminiscentia", Paragraph 450.22; Sorabji translation, p49), but also that it had been motivated into these particular associations by the "contiguity" - that is to say, closeness together in time or space - of the elements to be associated. Aristotle even argued that the resulting network of memories needed to be navigated - a term we shall be examining in detail in Section X. "It is possible," he observed, "to move to more than one point from the same starting point" (Ibid., 452.24, p56), and your overall skill at doing this depends on how effectively you use the available connections and avoid getting distracted along the way. Both these traditions live on in modern network models of long-term memory [see more on these]. Aristotle's main work on mental philosophy is De Anima, from which the following theoretical glimpses are taken .....
"Now the soul comprises cognition, perception, and belief-states. It also comprises appetite, wishing, and the desire-states in general" (De Anima, Book 1, Chapter 5; Aristotle, 1986, p152).
"But, if it does have parts, what then can it be that holds it together at any time? It will certainly not be the body at least. For the contrary is more widely accepted, that the soul holds the body together. If then there is some other thing that unifies the soul, then this will be that which in the strictest sense is soul. We will then have to ask in turn of this thing whether it is single or has many parts. And if it is single, why not just make the soul single in the first place? But if it has parts, the argument will pose the question what it is that holds this together and, surely, we will have an infinite regress" (De Anima, Book 1, Chapter 5; Aristotle, 1986, p153; italics original).
"It is quite clear then that the soul is not separable from the body, or that some parts of it are not, if it is its nature to have parts [.....] But it remains unclear whether the soul is the actuality of a body in this way or rather is as the sailor of a boat" (De Anima, p158).
"That part of the soul then that is called intellect (by which I mean that whereby the soul thinks and supposes) is before it thinks in actuality none of the things that exist [..... and] whereas the sense faculty is embodied, the intellect is separate" (De Anima, Book 3, Chapter 4; Aristotle, 1986, p 202).
350BCE? Aristotle's "Poetics" is the earliest surviving "textbook" of literary and dramatic style. While it does not have a lot to say directly about visual aesthetics, the following selections raise interesting questions and open later discussions. The most readily accessible translation is that by S.H. Butcher [full text online], from which the following snippets have been taken .....
"Since the objects of imitation are men in action, and these men must be either of a higher or a lower type [.....], it follows that we must represent men either as better than in real life, or as worse, or as they are. It is the same in painting ....." (e2). "Good portrait painters [.....], while reproducing the distinctive form of the original, make a likeness which is true to life and yet more beautiful" (e12).
"Reversal of the Situation is a change by which the action veers round to its opposite [..... as when] in the Oedipus the messenger comes to cheer Oedipus and free him from his alarms about his mother, but by revealing who he is he produces the opposite effect. [.....] Recognition, as the name indicates, is a change from ignorance to knowledge [.....] The best form of Recognition is coincident with a Reversal of the Situation [.....] Two parts, then, of the Plot - Reversal of the Situation and Recognition - turn upon surprises" (e8-9).
Insofar as disturbing art is concerned, what Aristotle has to say about tragedy is also tangentially relevant, thus .....
"Tragedy, then, is an imitation of an action that is serious, complete, and of a certain magnitude; in language embellished with each kind of artistic ornament, the several kinds being found in separate parts of the play; in the form of action, not of narrative; through pity and fear effecting the proper purgation of these emotions. [..... However,] the tragedies of most of our poets fail in the rendering of character [.....] It is the same in painting [where] Polygnotus delineates character well [but] the style of Zeuxis is devoid of ethical quality" (e4-5). [THREADS = DISTURBING ART and AKTIONISMUS]
350BCE Aristotle now publishes "Peri Hermeneias" [= "On Interpretation"][full text online], in which he sets down his understanding of what we nowadays refer to as propositional thought, and of the role played therein by the sentential grammar by which it is expressed. This is the source work for the modern academic discipline known as "hermeneutics" [see 1960 (Gadamer)], and the question as to whether there is a limit to what can be achieved in this way lies at the root of the Entscheidungsproblem as discussed by Turing (1936 [q.v.]).
343BCE Aristotle becomes tutor to Alexander, the son of Philip II of Macedonia. In 336BCE, Alexander inherits his father's throne and sets about expanding Greek influence.
340BCE? The Greek painter Apelles of Kos [Wikipedia biography] is appointed court painter to King Philip II of Macedonia. Of his works none have survived; of his style we are told he attached great store to precision of outline. According to Pliny the Elder [see 79CE], Apelles "singly contributed almost more to painting than all the other artists put together, also publishing volumes containing the principles of painting" (Book 35, §79).
************* IMPERIAL GREECE AND ROME *************
331BCE Alexander the Great visits the Oracle of Amon at Siwa where (it may reasonably be assumed) he pays generously to be reassured how great a king he is going to be.
330BCE According to Pliny the Elder [see 79CE], Aristides of Thebes is "the first of all painters who depicted the mind and expressed the feelings of a human being, what the Greeks term ethe, and also the emotions" (Book 35, §98).
300BCE The painter-philosopher Pyrrho develops the doctrine of "Skepticism", the central tenet of which - following Parmenides - is the belief that our cognitions are rarely to be trusted. As a result all things which depend even indirectly upon our cognitions are also rarely to be trusted. This includes, of course, knowledge and scientific certainty. In due course this issue will inspire Hume's philosophy.
300BCE The "Cult of Asclepius" becomes popular as a combination temple-cum-medical centre. A typical visit to an Asclepieion consisted of a little devout worship of Asclepius, the Greek God of Healing and Medicine, the giving of gifts to the attendant priest-physicians, rest and ritual purification, and whatever herbals and potions were in fashion at the time.
300BCE The Alexandrian Greek mathematician Euclid [Wikipedia biography] publishes "Elements", the standard textbook of geometry for the ensuing two thousand years. This work includes an explicit definition of the golden ratio in a straight line, as follows .....
"A straight line is said to have been cut in extreme and mean ratio when, as the whole line is to the greater segment, so is the greater segment to the lesser." [THREAD = THE NATURE OF BEAUTY]
290BCE Probably late in his reign, Egypt's King Ptolemy I establishes the Great Library at Alexandria, as a repository for all human knowledge at the time, and a research base from which to find out more.
270BCE The physicians Erasistratus and Herophilus found a School of Anatomy at Alexandria, and propose that a "nervous spirit" of some sort carries information to and from the brain in sensory and motor nerves provided for that purpose [compare Descartes (1662) and Bell (1811) on this].
255BCE Apollonius of Rhodes compiles "Argonautica", the story of Jason, the Argo, the Argonauts, and the Golden Fleece.
250BCE Perhaps working at the Great Library, the Alexandrian inventor Ctesibius develops a range of pneumatic, hydraulic, and mechanical "automata" [see dedicated subfile].
200BCE The Egyptian alchemist Bolos of Mendes compiles a corpus of chemical and metallurgical recipes.
125BCE An unknown Greek engineer builds a clockwork device nowadays identified as "the oldest known complex scientific calculator". The remains of the mechanism will be recovered in 1900 from a shipwreck off the island of Antikythera, and will be subject to detailed scientific analysis and interpretation [full story and images] in the late 20th century. [THREAD = THE HISTORY OF COMPUTING]
50BCE The Greek historian Diodorus Siculus publishes "Historical Library", an encyclopaedia of current knowledge.
50BCE The Roman poet Lucretius publishes "On the Nature of Things" in which he collates and expands upon the earlier Greek Atomic Theory of Matter, setting these into didactic verse.
35BCE The Roman architect and military engineer Vitruvius [Wikipedia biography] rounds off a career under the eagle by publishing "On Architecture", a ten-book treatise on civil engineering. The work includes the statement that one of the three qualities of a successful building is that it should be beautiful. [THREAD = THE NATURE OF BEAUTY]
20BCE [date and author still debated] An obscure Greek scholar now conventionally referred to as Longinus [Wikipedia biography] collates "Peri Hypsous" [= "On the Sublime"], a critical analysis of the most important classical writings in a search for the secrets of their success. The manuscript will come back to light in the mid-16th century and modern interest in the work will begin with translations by H.L. Havell in 1890 (as used below) [full text online], William Rhys Roberts in 1899 [buy], and Russell in 1964 [buy]. Longinus identifies five "principal sources [...] from which almost all sublimity is derived", namely (1) "grandeur of thought", (2) "a vigorous and spirited treatment of the passions", (3) "a certain artifice in the employment of figures", (4) "dignified expression", and (5) "majesty and elevation of structure" (§VIII.1). Longinus' analysis is historically significant because it is the starting point for all subsequent discussion of aesthetics [see next 1735, Baumgarten]. [THREAD = AESTHETIC THEORY]
8 CE The Roman poet Ovid publishes "Metamorphoses", a collection of 15 folios retelling many of the older Greek myths for the Imperial Roman audience. The transformations in question are generally from states of awkwardness and ignorance to states of enlightenment and wisdom, and take place under the influence of the power of love and strong counsel. In Book 10 [full text online] he includes the tale of the Cypriot sculptor Pygmalion, who famously falls so much in love with a female statue he has created that the goddess Venus turns it into a living her for him [see 1786 (Regnault)]. [THREAD = ARTIFICIAL LIFE]
9CE The legion-trained German tribal leader Irmin [Latin = Arminius; Modern = Hermann] leads a revolt against Rome's territorial ambitions north of the Rhine and is rewarded with a crushing victory in the Battle of the Teutoberg Forest [fuller story]. This victory will not be forgotten when, in the 19th century, the German nationalists seek to be remind their fellows of their former glories [see 1808, die Hermannschlacht, and 1812, Old Heroes' Graves].
14CE Caesar Augustus dies, rumoured poisoned by his wife Livia to advance her son Tiberius to the imperial throne.
30CE An obscure Hebrew poet now known as John the Baptist develops a populist ministry based upon the message that God would soon punish the Herodian puppet government in Roman Judea, and supported by the physical ritual of river baptism. His outspoken political stance soon gets him beheaded, but not before he had baptised Jesus of Nazareth [hence the alternative epithet "John the Forerunner"]. John's main relic, of course, is his head [claimed by Rome, Amiens, Antioch, Damascus, and Munich]. Istanbul has fragments of bone in the Topkapi Museum, and his right hand - the one he baptised Jesus with - is claimed by the Serbian Orthodox Monastery at Cetinje in Montenegro.
33CE Christ is crucified and those who follow him go underground in order to avoid persecution. Christ's memory is kept alive by a number of small sects in Judea, Egypt [the Copts], Syria, Asia Minor, and - increasingly - beyond. The Apostles do their best to coordinate the new church, such as it is. Unfortunately, different branches of the church rely on different historical personages and support their beliefs with different textual corpora some of which evolve into the modern Bible. Among the stories told is that of Longinus [see 586] and Joseph of Arimathea, the rich Judean [tin trader??] who is allowed by Pontius Pilate to take Christ's body from the cross and immure it in its burial cave. It is he who provides the wrappings later identified as the Turin Shroud and the Sudarium. Relics from Christ's birth and early childhood include .....
The Holy Gifts (the famous Nativity gifts of the Magi) [St. Paul's Monastery, Mount Athos, Greece), the Holy Swaddling (the infant wrappings) [Dubrovnik Cathedral], the Holy Foreskins [several].
Relics from the Last Supper .....
The Holy Grail [a.k.a. The Holy Chalice] [many claimants and an awful lot of mythology] and the Judas Cup (the drinking vessels used by Christ and Judas at the Last Supper), the Holy Knife (cutlery at same) [Venice].
Relics from the betrayal and the trial include .....
The pieces of silver; The Holy Stairs
Relics from the crucifixion and resurrection include .....
The Crown of Thorns [many], the Veil of Veronica (as used to wipe the sweat from Jesus' brow) [several], the Holy Sponge, the Holy Tunic (that which the Roman soldiers cast lots for) [fragments in Trier and Argenteuil], the Holy Blood [Bruges], the Holy Nails [many], and even the Holy Cross itself [fragments in Roma], the Holy Lance [a.k.a. The Spear of Destiny] (the spear used by the Centurion Longinus), the Turin Shroud [image] and the Sudarium (as used to wrap Jesus' dead body) [Turin/Oviedo respectively].
40CE The Greek physician Pedanius Dioscorides publishes "Materia Medica", the backbone of pharmacological knowledge for the next 1500 years. It collates information on some 600 herbal sources.
42CE The Apostle St Mark founds a Christian School in Alexandria, whose reputation will help the Egyptian Christian Coptic Church develop over the ensuing centuries [see next 325AD]. The Coptic script, Greek with seven additional characters derived from hieroglyphics (Gardiner, 1957) remains to this day the ritual language of the Orthodox Coptic Church. Many early sources assert that the Apostle Simon Peter, so-called because Jesus had described him as "the rock" upon whom his church would be built, becomes leader of the new church. The Apostle James went to Spain ca. 40CE, where he received a vision of the Virgin Mary. He was executed when he returned to Judaea four years later. His remains were then somehow returned to Spain and buried in Santiago [Sant Iago = Saint James], from where he later became the rallying spirit amongst the Christian Spaniards in their fight against the Moors. The Apostle Thomas is believed to have preached initially at Edessa, Syria, and then along the Malabar Coast of India, where he founded churches in Kerala, Mylapore, and Goa. This ministry is documented in the Acts of Judas Thomas, an important apocryphal resource. Further background comes from the Infancy Gospel of Thomas, another apocryphal resource. The travels and teachings of the Apostle Paul are well documented in the Bible. He may also have particularly influenced Valentinus, and, through him, the development of Gnosticism. The Apostle Matthias [Judas' replacement on the team] seems to have preached around (and been martyred in) Colchis, in modern Georgia [different sources give wildly different accounts and may conflate different persons]. Matthias' remains are claimed by St. Matthias Abbey, Trier, having been brought to safety there by St. Helena [see 326 below].
50CE? The historically obscure Simon Magus [= "Simon the Sorcerer"] is reported in the Acts of the Apostles as trying to buy influence in the early church, and is duly cautioned against. Later (but apocryphal) sources place Simon as a native of Gitta in Samaria, and chronicle his use of magic and intrigue in promoting the Simonian sect. He is then reported as having transferred to Rome where his magic seems to have greatly impressed the residents there.
50CE Hero of Alexandria extends and republishes Ctesibius' work on automata, adding steam-powered turbines and primitive pre-programming of response.
50CE? Led possibly by the Apostles Paul and Luke, the early leaders of the slowly expanding Christian church convene the Apostolic Council of Jerusalem to debate how best to reconcile their beliefs with those of their native Judaism. Were they Christian Jews, for example, or no longer Jews at all? And were non-Jewish converts to Christianity therefore subject to the rules of Judaism, not least the requirement for male circumcision? The resulting Apostolic Decree imposed a watered down version of the Mosaic Law, and left circumcision as a decision of the individual concerned.
54CE Claudius Caesar dies, rumoured poisoned by his wife Agrippina to advance her son Nero to the imperial throne.
64CE A great fire destroys large areas of Rome. The Emperor Nero coordinates the rebuild, and takes advantage of a prime piece of the freed-up real estate to begin work on a new palace complex, the Domus Aurea. It is richly decorated with gold leaf, marble, and ivory, and sumptuously decorated with complex colourful mosaics and frescoes. These latter were completed at no little speed by a team of artisans led by Famulus, and including "a grave and serious personage" named Amulius, "a painter in the florid style" (Pliny, Natural History). However the project was so costly that as soon as Nero died everybody tut-tutted at the waste of state resources. The moveable riches were soon removed, and the site was built over by the more politically acceptable Trajan Baths and Flavian Amphitheatre. The ruins would remain forgotten until the late 15th century when a passer-by fell through into one of the covered voids, whereupon interesting things start to happen .....
77CE The Roman encyclopaedist Pliny the Elder [Wikipedia biography] publishes "Natural History", the Wikipedia of its age. In it he collates information on agriculture, botany, zoology, etc., and lists some 7000 known poisons. Our present interest in this work is restricted to the practical chemistry contained in Book 33, because this includes the development of pigments, Book 34 on the art of statuary, and the biographies of artists contained in Book 35. The following extracts will give a flavour of what was common knowledge in first century Rome. Firstly on birth defects and deformities .....
"Persons are also born of both sexes combined - what we call Hermaphrodites, formally called androgyni and considered as portents, but now as entertainments. Pompey the Great among the decorations of his theatre placed images of celebrated marvels [like this]; among them we read of [.....] Alcippe who gave birth to an elephant. [.....] Claudius Caesar writes that a hippocentaur was born in Thessaly and died the same day; and in his reign we actually saw one that was brought here for him from Egypt preserved in honey" (Book 7, §3.34). [See next 600? (Isidore of Seville)] [THREAD = THE UNCANNY]
Then on the derivation of painters' pigments .....
"In gold and silver mines also are formed the pigments yellow ochre and blue. [..... The darkest] they use for the shadows of a painting, price two sesterces a pound, while that called clear ochre [.....] they use for painting different kinds of light. [.....] The custom of using yellow ochre for painting was first introduced by Polygnotus and Micon [.....] From blue is made the substance called blue wash, which is produced by washing and grinding it" (Book 33, §159-162).
Then on the history of statues .....
"The first portrait statues officially erected at Athens were those of the tyrannicides Harmodius and Aristogeiton [in 510BCE]. The practice of erecting statues from a most civilised sense of rivalry was afterwards taken up by the whole of the world, and the custom proceeded to arise of having statues adorning the public places of all municipal towns ....." (Book 34, §17).
And then on the history of two-dimensional art .....
"The question as to the origin of the art of painting is uncertain [.....] The Egyptians declare that it was invented among themselves six thousand years ago before it passed over into Greece - which is clearly an idle assertion. As to the Greeks, some of them say it was discovered at Sicyon, others in Corinth, but all agree that it began by tracing an outline around a man's shadow [.....] Line drawing was invented by the Egyptian Philocles or by the Corinthian Cleanthes [.....] Ecphantus of Corinth is said to have been the first to daub these drawings with a pigment made of powdered earthenware" (Book 35, §15-16). "Eventually art differentiated itself, and discovered light and shade, contrast of colours heightened their effect reciprocally. Then came the final adjunct of shine, quite a different thing from light. [.....] Some colours are sombre and some brilliant, the difference being due to the nature of the substances or to their mixture. The brilliant colours, which the patron supplies at his own expense to the painter, are cinnabar, Armenium, dragon's blood, gold-solder, indigo, bright purple; the rest are sombre" (Book 35, §30).
He also notes the power of the shrewd art dealer to inflate prices artificially, thus .....
"Protogenes was held in low esteem by his fellow-countrymen, as is usual with home products, and, when Apelles asked him what price he set on some works he had finished, he had mentioned some small sum, but Apelles made him an offer of fifty talents for them, and spread it about that he was buying them with the intention of selling them as works of his own. This device aroused the people of Rhodes to appreciate the artist, and Apelles only parted with the pictures to them at an enhanced price" (Book 35, §88).
125? Possibly a disciple of Simon Magus, the preacher Basilides of Alexandria founds the Basilidian Gnostic School, a blend of Paganism, Platonism, and "orthodox" Christianity [insofar as any of its beliefs are then orthodox], supported by a corpus of writings now mostly lost. Basilidean Gnosticism had particular views on such theological issues as creation, the soul, faith, sin, hell, baptism, etc. The school seems also to have encouraged the carrying of stone charms engraved with the word "ABRAXAS", presumably for good luck or protection, and in all likelihood the root of the modern word "abracadabra".
153? Inspired perhaps by secret wisdoms derived from the Apostle Paul, the Egyptian cleric Valentinus turns from the Roman version of Christianity to a home-grown and seriously non-traditional variant now known as Valentinian Gnosticism. Based in Cyprus towards the end of his life, Valentinus may have been the author of the Gospel of Truth discovered in the Nag Hammadi Library in Egypt in 1945.
170 The Roman physician Galen publishes a body of writings on medicine and how to practise it. The surviving writings - "The Galenic Corpus" - runs to some three million words and would remain a primary source of learning for more than a thousand years.
200 The Mandaean Gnostic School starts to gain a following in areas of modern Iraq and Iran. Led by the Persian cleric Prophet Mani the Manichaeian Gnostic School starts to compete with the Mandaean School.
200? Both Hippolytus and Tertullian list Joseph of Arimathea as a disciple who reached Britain. [THREAD = POPULAR MYTH]
203? Based initially at the Christian School at Alexandria, the comparative theologian Origen starts to compile a large body of annotated translations of religious sources, many fragments of which either survive or are comprehensively cited by later authors. Many of Origen's teachings, however, would be declared heretical in the sixth century.
230 An obscure biographer now known as Diogenes Laertius publishes "Lives and Opinions of Eminent Philosophers". This, by surviving when the primary works did not, is one of today's main sources of information about them.
300? Eusebius confirms Tertullian's reports of Christian enclaves in Britain.
300? According to fragmentary later reports, the Egyptian alchemist Agathodaimon discovers how to synthesise his "fiery poison", now believed to be arsenic trioxide. Symptoms of arsenic trioxide poisoning include vomiting, cramps, and bloody diarrhoea.
313 The Emperors Constantine and Licinius [of the Western and Eastern divisions of the Roman Empire, respectively] sign the Edict of Milan, bringing state persecution of Christians to an end.
325 The Council of Nicaea is convened by Constantine the Great to create a definitive version of Christianity, its core beliefs, and - more importantly - its role alongside politicians and the military in maintaining the Roman Empire. Out of the 1800 or so bishops scattered around the empire, 300 or so attended. Constantine himself opened the proceedings. One of the most important votes [in which only two delegates demurred] was that Bishop Arius of Alexandria was wrong to argue that Jesus was only figuratively the "Son of God", a position known as the "Arian Heresy" or "Arianism". The approved truth - namely that God and Christ "are of the same substance and are co-eternal" - is henceforth known as the "Nicene Creed".
326 Helena Augusta, possibly a daughter of the British King Coel Hen, but definitely wife of the Roman Emperor Constantius and mother of Constantine the Great sets off on a mission to the Holy Land to bring back as many Christian relics as can be found. For this she was elevated to the sainthood as Saint Helena, patron saint of new discoveries. Amongst the relics successfully recovered were "The True Cross", several "Holy Nails", "The Holy Tunic", the remains of the Apostle Matthias, and lesser artefacts. Many later artworks celebrate these discoveries [e.g., 1745 below].
330 The Egyptian alchemist-mystic Zosimos of Panopolis prepares a number of treatises on alchemy for closed circulation. Each is typically a work partly of science and partly of religious mysticism and imagery. We may presume that the chemistry was from more ancient sources, and we know that later works drew on them in their turn.
336 Bishop Arius [see 325 above] conveniently dies from sudden bloody diarrhoea [see 300 above]. [THREAD = CHURCH HISTORY]
350 Hilary of Poitiers outlines the distribution of the early church.
357 Basil of Cappadocia [nowadays better known as St. Basil] visits Egypt and promotes the Eastern Orthodox Church.
360 The Greek physician Oribasius publishes "The Collections", a collation of earlier medical writings. This, too, by surviving when the primary works did not, is one of today's main sources of information about them.
381 Pope Timothy I convenes the Council of Constantinople to address a range of issues not covered by the Nicaean Creed.
400? Jerome visits Egypt. Conscious of the problems of diversity of texts, Jerome compiles and translates into Latin the set of sources which provides the basis of the modern Bible.
410 Alaric the Visigoth loots "Solomon's Treasure" from Rome to Carcassone.
431 Council of Ephesus.
451 Council of Chalcedon.
476 Final collapse of the Western Roman Empire. The burden of safeguarding the accumulated Babylonian, Egyptian, Greek, and Roman knowledge is now taken over by successive Arabian dynasties, with centres of influence moving between Baghdad, Istanbul, Damascus, Cairo, and Alexandria. The Eastern Roman Empire continues to administer Eastern Europe and the Christian Near East from Constantinople.
580?? The Welsh bard Taliesin [external biography] practises his craft in the courts of the Welsh princes during their struggles against the Saxon invaders. He is believed by some to have been the bard to King Arthur, although the estimated dates do not support this possibility. [See next 1275 (Book of Taliesin)]
************** DARK AGES to RENAISSANCE **************
600? Taking the Egyptian system as model, Benedict [later St. Benedict] founds the Benedictine Monastic Order.
600? It being the task of the Celtic court bards to witness and render as poetry the heroic deeds of their tribal kings, the Romano-British bard Aneirin accompanies the army of the Wotadini - the tribe in question - on a fateful mission against the invading Saxons at a place called Cattraeth, from which he is one of the very few to survive. He fulfils his role in the epic eulogy "Y Gododdin" [= "the Wotadini"]. The tragedy will be repeated, mutatis mutandis, by the 38th (Welsh) Division at Mametz Wood on the Somme in July 1916 [story], the bard on this occasion being the artist-poet David Jones [see 1916].
600? The Spanish cleric [later beatified] Isidore of Seville [Wikipedia biography] publishes his "Etymologiae" [= "Of all Knowledge"], an encyclopedia of all the things then known to scholars. As with Pliny [see 77CE] before him, this work includes a section on monsters. [See next 1018 (Thietmar)] [THREAD = THE UNCANNY]
680? Khalid of Damascus [Khalid ibn Yazid] compiles "The Secrets of Alchemy", an introduction to the main areas of knowledge. One of the basic propositions is as follows .....
"Beginning now to speak of the Great Work, which they call Alchymie, I shall open the matter without concealing ought, or keeping back any thing, save that which is not fit to be declared: We say then, that the great work contains four Operations, viz. to Dissolve, to Congeal, to make White, and to make Red" (in Linden, 2003, p73).
725? Stephanos of Alexandria publishes "The Great and Sacred Art of the Making of Gold".
760 The Arabian hakeem [= wise man in many sciences] Jabir ibn Hayyan ["Jabir" or "Geber"] becomes court physician to the Abbasid caliphate and accumulates some 3000 technical treatises - "the Jabirian Corpus" - on the full range of sciences [Kraus (1935) suggests that as with many ancient writings several separate persons may be conflated into one in Geber's case]. These writings assemble the surviving ancient knowledge and keep it safely until the Christian world starts to see its value in the 10th century [see, for example, Gerbert d'Aurillac, 967]. Central themes within the volumes on alchemy are the transmutation of metals and "the Takwin", the artificial creation of life. It is popularly believed that the modern word "gibberish" was coined by non-chemists to express their confusion at the technical terms used by chemists. For a quick introduction to the legends concerning oracular statues and automata, see Lagrandeur (1999).
847 After 30 years rising through the ranks of the priesthood, during which time he had written copious scholarly histories, Rabanus Maurus becomes Archbishop of Mainz, publishes "Life of Mary Magdalene".
880 The French Benedictine monk Hucbald of St. Amand publishes "Musica".
TECHNICAL ASIDE - THE ORGANISTRUM: "The word organistrum is derived from organum and instrumentum; the former term was applied to the primitive harmonies, consisting of octaves accompanied by fourths or fifths, first practised by Hucbald" (Wikipedia). An "organistrum" is a stringed instrument, at first sight much like a modern cello, but with only three strings. Unlike the cello, however, it is droned using a wheel coated with rosined leather mounted beneath the strings, rather than bowed or plucked from above. Later versions will become better known by the name "hurdy-gurdy". Because it relies on continuous action of the underlying wheel the organistrum can easily be mechanised using any of the methods by now common in mills or automata. Moreover, the overlying sequence of string fingering can also be pre-programmed, using cam-following techniques similar to those already commonplace by the time of Hero of Alexandria [see 50AD].
967 The young French monk Gerbert d'Aurillac takes time off in Spain to study Arabic science. His reputation soon gets him appointed tutor to the son of Emperor Otto I in Rome. [See next 991]
991 By now a career cleric and amateur scientist, and having produced a number of works on mathematics, astronomy, etc, in order to bring the Christian world up to speed in such subjects, Gerbert [see 967] is made Archbishop of Reims. During his residency there he has constructed a hydraulically powered cathedral organ. He is also rumoured to have constructed a brazen head which would answer his questions "yes" or "no". [See next 999]
999 Aided by his mastery of the hermetic arts, perhaps used as showmanship, perhaps for intrigue [his enemies referred to him as a sorcerer in league with the devil], Gerbert [see 991] is elected Pope Sylvester II.
1018 [See firstly 600? (Isidore)] The German cleric Thietmar of Merseburg [Wikipedia biography] leaves behind him when he dies the "Chronicon" [= chronicle], a memoir of his times. This work includes a description of a monstrous birth, half human half goose, which although living only four days managed to curse the district with "a great pestilence". [See next 1520 (Luther)] [THREAD = THE UNCANNY]
ASIDE - MONSTERS AND BAPTISM: Two of the main TOPIC THREADS within this resource are THE UNCANNY and DISTURBING ART. In the specific technical debate with which we are concerned, the Uncanny is the feeling which pervades us when we are confronted with something whose status as fully human is not quite certain. This debate begins with the exchange between Ernst Jentsch [see 1906] and Sigmund Freud [see 1919], but the general topic has been in the public consciousness since works such as Ernst Hoffmann's "The Sandman"[see 1816] and Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" [see 1818] challenged us to recognise the monster within ourselves. Such stories raise many questions, but we need firstly to recognise that vertebrate nervous systems - our own included - are constantly on the look out for possible predators; they have subsystems dedicated to what the military call "IFF" [= Identification, Friend or Foe], and these subsystems are constantly asking survival-sensitive questions such as "What is that thing there, and what do I need to do about it?" It is not surprising, therefore, that this is also the question of the hour whenever the miracle of birth goes awry in some way and delivers a birth defect. Specifically, the parents need to know whether they are faced with a baby or a demon, and in Mediaeval times this decision was made for them by their priest, thus .....
"The officiating priest was enjoined to examine the monster to ascertain that its principal part, namely the head and chest, had a human configuration. If they did, the infant was baptised, but if the head was that of an animal and the limbs those of a human, the creature was baptised sub conditione si es homo ego te baptizo" (Savona-Ventura, 1995, p25). [See next 1520 (CHANGELINGS AND KILLCROPS)]
1025 The Persian hakeem Abu Ali Sina ["Avicenna"] publishes the first of several hundred treatises on medicine, philosophy, and other sciences. These works include "The Book of Healing" and "The Canon of Medicine", a blend of the early Hippocratic and Galenic corpora which will remain in university use for a further 500 years.
???? William of Malmesbury asserts that Apostle Philip sent a party of 12 to Britain, including Joseph of Arimathea and Mary Magdalene, and that they founded Glastonbury Abbey.
1118 Alfonso I frees Saragossa from the Moors and establishes the capital of Aragon there. His son Alfonso II will merge Aragon with Catalonia and Roussillon to create a single kingdom astride the Pyrenees.
1135 The French sculptor Gislebertus [Wikipedia biography] completes "The Last Judgement" [image in bio], a dramatic relief in the West Tympanum of Autun Cathedral. The work will eventually be named by Sullivan (2001) as one of the first to associate deformity with damnation. [Compare 1500 (Bosch)]
1137 The abbot of Saint-Denis [now in the Parisian suburb of that name], Abbot Suger, begins to extend his abbey complex. The work incorporates three recent architectural innovations, namely the pointed arch, the ribbed vault, and the flying buttress. These improvements are finished in 1144 and are so visually striking that they become the model for abbeys and cathedrals throughout France, soon replacing the older stuctures at Chartres, Reims, Notre Dame de Paris, etc., etc. The style is eventually dubbed "Gothic" by Giorgio Vasari in the 1530s, because it was essentially non-Romanesque and therefore less than perfect [Sir Christopher Wren would say much the same when designing the columns and dome of the new St Paul's Cathedral, London in the late 1600s].
1143 The doctrine of "Catharism" starts to emerge around Cologne. This Christian sect involves a body of beliefs seriously at odds with those of the Church of Rome, and perhaps deriving from earlier Eastern European Gnostic sects. They see themselves as Katharoi [Greek = "pure ones" (cf. "catharsis")], but because other centres of Catharism soon grow up around Albi in South West France the name "Albigensian" is also common. Their disagreements with Catholicism are fundamental. They reject church sacraments such as the eucharist, baptism, confession, and the cross, and their heresy will shortly be murderously suppressed [see 1198 below].
1144 Robert of Chester translates "The Book of the Composition of Alchemy" from the Arabic.
1190? Drawing in part from older Welsh sources, the poet Chrétien de Troyes publishes "Perceval, the Story of the Grail", one of the half-dozen or so subthreads of what are known today as the Arthurian legends.
1198 One of Pope Innocent III's objectives when he succeeded to the Papacy in 1198 was to stamp out the long-running Albigensian Heresy [see 1143]. When peaceful appeals were rejected force was resorted to instead in the form of the "Albigensian Crusade". Following massacre after massacre at cities like Bézieres, Carcassone, Termés, and Lavaur, the remaining Cathars were driven back to the mountain top fortress of Montsegur, which itself fell in March 1244. Thereafter the scattered and disorganised remnants of Catharism were systematically hunted down by the Inquisition, the last being executed in 1321. This ruthless repression has been described as "the first genocide of modern history" (Jones, 2006, viii). It is a matter of conjecture what treasures the Cathars had at Montsegur, what might have been rescued before the fortress's capture, and their whereabouts now.
ASIDE: What happened at Montsegur is no dry and dusty scholarly debate. Drawing on persistent rumours over the centuries, Rahn's (1933) "Crusade Against the Grail" asserts in the strongest terms that the Holy Grail was amongst the Cathar treasures, and that it was secreted away.
1206 The Arabian engineer Al-Jaziri produces a textbook of "Ingenious Mechanical Devices", including (and thereby helping to preserve) the earlier works of Ctesibius and Hero of Alexandria.
1220 Robert Grosseteste, Bishop of Lincoln and amateur scientist, begins to publish a number of tracts on astronomy, mathematics, and the like. He is also typical of a movement within Northern Europe to use the classical and Arabian works on alchemy to acquire practical scientific knowledge for the commercial, political and other benefits it might bring.
1225? Wolfram von Eschenbeck updates Chrétien de Troyes' "Perceval" as "Parzival", turning it from a straightforward Arthurian legend into "a lightly allegorised" fictification of the Montsegur story [see above], set now in a mountain fortress named Montsalvat. [See next 1882 below.]
1228 The British monk-historian Roger of Wendover publishes "Flores Historiarum", a collation of myths and legends. One of the best known of these is the story of "The Wandering Jew", a certain Cartaphilus [in later works the name Asahuerus is more commonly seen], allegedly cursed by Christ to wander the world until Judgement Day in return for some unsympathetic heckling from the sidelines during Christ's final struggle up to Calvary. The character appears under a number of names in literature during the ensuing centuries [see next 1796 below].
1230 Rabbi Simon of Narbonne takes issue with a separatist Judaic sect known as Kabbalah, whose complex cosmology seems to have survived underground at least from the time of Christ, and probably significantly earlier [see next 1278 below].
1248 Albertus Magnus, the German Dominican Archbishop of Cologne, publishes "Libellus de Alchimia", in which he details how metals, including gold, "arise". His work includes the following general advice .....
"The first precept is that the worker in this art must be silent and secretive and reveal his secret to no one, knowing full well that if many know, the secret in no way will be kept, and that when it is divulged, it will be repeated with error. Thus it will be lost, and the work will remain imperfect" (in Linden, 2003, p103).
1256 The British classics scholar Roger Bacon is accepted as a Franciscan friar at Paris and there becomes acquainted with Cardinal Foulques. When Foulques is elected Pope Clement IV in 1265 Bacon is asked to examine how the teachings of the Ancients might best be incorporated into Christian doctrine. He suggested that Aristotle's mental philosophy was not that far removed from the teachings of the Catholic Church on the immortal soul.
1265? The writings of the bard Aneirin [see 600?] are compiled into the "Book of Aneirin".
1275 The writings of the bard Taliesin [see 580] are compiled into the "Book of Taliesin" [full text online, courtesy of the National Library of Wales].
1278 Moses de Leon publishes "Zohar", asserting it to be the work of the 2nd century rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, who had himself merely committed older oral tradition to writing. The work will not be accepted by orthodox Judaism, but is the inspiration for subsequent Kabbalists.
1300? By specifying reproducible practical procedures, the "Sum of Perfection" (attrib. Geber) made alchemy a science rather than magic and mysticism.
1350? Rhydderch ab Ieuan Llwyd organises the compilation of a corpus of Welsh legends (including the Mabinogion) and religious texts into what becomes known as the "White Book of Rhydderch".
1382? A team of scribes led by Hywel Fychan compiles a corpus of Welsh legends (including the Mabinogion) and folklore (including the Myddfai herbal remedies) into what becomes known as the "Red Book of Hergest".
1466 The Florentine painter Verrocchio takes on 14-year-old Leonardo da Vinci [Wikipedia biography] as his apprentice. Part of the young man's training is to assist his master with his "Baptism of Christ" (1475) [image], reportedly executing one of the angels. [See next 1482]
1482 [See firstly 1466] Leonardo da Vinci becomes artist to the court of the Dukes of Milan, where over the ensuring two decades he undertakes diverse projects including the paintings "Virgin of the Rocks" (1486) [image] and "The Last Supper" (1498) [image]. He also sketches "The Knight", a mechanical man (1495). This is one of many sketches discovered in the Madrid Manuscripts in 1965 (now referred to as the "Book of Mechanics"). For details of this prototypical robot, see Rosheim (2006) [buy]. [See next 1507] [THREAD = AUTONOMOUS ROBOTICS]
1495 Around this time a passer-by discovers the buried corridors and salons of Nero's Domus Aurea [see 64CE above]. The frescoes are still in excellent condition and so "tours of the grotto" are soon a popular Roman pastime.
1500 Working to a commission by Engelbrecht II of Nassau, the Dutch painter Hieronymous Bosch [Wikipedia biography] completes the oil-on-wood tryptych "The Garden of Earthly Delights" [image and analysis], one of the most instantly recognisable works of art ever painted. The three panels, from left to right, show the Garden of Eden, the sinful, sexualised, world at large, and Hell. The scenes of Hell are those of apocalyptic destruction and fully deserved retribution, presided over by the "Prince of Hell" himself. Such "hellscapes will remain popular in the hands of Peter Breugel [see 1562].
1502 The Italian Renaissance painter Raffaelo Sanzio [henceforth "Raphael"] pays a visit to the newly discovered Domus Aurea [his autographed initials, together with those of Michelangelo and many others, are still visible]. He is so impressed with the brightly coloured curlicued style that he adopts it in his own work. The style is soon named "grottesche" [Anglicised as "grotesque"] in allusion to the grotto in which it had been preserved.
RESEARCH ISSUE: The visual scanning of complex scenes can take many seconds as each individual element is serially brought into focal attention, identified, conceptually assessed, and considered alongside what has already been found out. The end result is what Kant called a "manifold" perception, an understanding of what elements are out there and what each is up to. Perception, in other words, addresses the world's everyday dramas, and therefore involves just about every cognitive and affective subfunction in the mental repertoire. Scanning is greatly assisted by the Gestalt Laws of Perceptual Organisation [see 1923, Wertheimer and 1954, Arnheim] and can nowadays be studied using gaze scanning systems [see typical provider]. Indeed using this latter technology two simultaneous but complementary systems have recently been identified [see 2009, Locher et al]. The present author's Konrad cognitive simulation software [more on this] provides a detailed working model of both the scanning process and the dramatic analysis which guides it.
1503 The Flemish painter Jan Gossaert [a.k.a. Mabuse] [Wikipedia biography] becomes a member of the Painters' Guild in Antwerp, and enters on a period of renown and royal patronage. Gossaert will be the subject of a 2011 exhibition at London's National Gallery [see publicity].
1507 [See firstly 1482] After four years working on it, Leonardo da Vinci completes his famous "Mona Lisa" [image], a source of scholarly debate ever since, and widely regarded as "the most famous painting in history". Our present interest in the work is that it will be used by Sigmund Freud to test the hypothesis that beneath the surface it has a lot to tell us about Leonardo's unconscious sexual hang-ups [See 1910 (Freud)]
1508 The Italian sculptor-painter Michelangelo [Wikipedia biography] begins work on the ceiling of the Vatican's Sistine Chapel. It will take four years to complete. [See next 1513]
1508 Raphael begins a 12-year practice executing frescos for the Vatican, and making extensive use of the grottesche style.
ASIDE - HOW TO RECOGNISE "GROTESQUES" IN ART: "In art, grotesques are ornamental arrangements of arabesques with interlaced garlands and small and fantastic human and animal figures, usually set out in a symmetrical pattern around some form of architectural framework" (Wikipedia). Because some of the decorative figures were demons, imps, and chimerae, the word soon acquired the everyday connotation of bizarre and disturbing. Consider .....
"In fiction, characters are usually considered grotesque if they induce both empathy and disgust (a character who inspires disgust alone is simply a villain or a monster). [.....] Victor Hugo's Hunchback of Notre Dame is one of the most celebrated grotesques in literature. Dr. Frankenstein's monster [likewise], as well as the Phantom of the Opera and the Beast in Beauty and the Beast" (Wikipedia).
1509 The German cleric Johann Faust obtains a degree in divinity at Heidelberg University. Little else is known about this man, but he is one of several Fausts considered over the years as having been the model for the Faust, the archetypal seller of his soul to the Devil. [See next 1587]
1509 [See firstly 530BCE (Pythagoras)] The Italian mathematician-friar Luca Pacioli [Wikipedia biography] publishes "De Divina Proportione" [in English as "On the Divine Proportion"], in which he discusses the Golden Ratio in some detail and shows how to apply it to the human face and body as well as to buildings. [See next 1835 (Ohm)] [THREAD = THE NATURE OF BEAUTY]
1513 [See firstly 1508] Michelangelo moves from Rome to Florence to carry out a succession of contracts for the Medicis in San Lorenzo Cathedral. He develops a reputation for meticulous planning and attention to detail.
ASIDE: After Raphael's death in 1520 a group of Italian painters including Giorgio Vasari began to produce work in "la bella maniera" - the beautiful manner. This meant emulating Raphael in his systematic production of well-executed tributes to earlier exemplars and Michelangelo's creative "agonising" for perfection. In 1842 Burckhardt popularised the term "Manierismus" [= "Mannerism"] to describe this style, but because it required supreme craftsmanship many saw it as soulless. It was eventually reacted against by the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in 1848 [q.v.], whose criticism, in essence, was that Raphael was too good by half: Ruskin, for example, complains that after Raphael "execution was looked for rather than thought, and beauty rather than veracity".
ASIDE - HOW TO RECOGNISE MANNERIST ARTWORKS: (1) They date to the period between High Renaissance and Baroque style. (2) There is an artificiality to the composition (hence they are frequently contrasted with "Naturalism"). (3) The human form is often elongated. (4) The works are perhaps conceited and technically overblown. (5) The subject(s) rarely display emotion, merely their superficial beauty.
1513 The German painter Albrecht Dürer completes "Knight, Death, and the Devil" [image] in the Gothic style then prevailing in architecture and architectural adornment.
ASIDE - HOW TO RECOGNISE GOTHIC ARTWORKS: (1) Many overlaid figures, arranged upwards in order of relevance to the story. (2) Use of stock templates from artwork to artwork for complex figures like horses.
1520 [See firstly 1018 (Thietmar)] The driving force behind the Protestant Reformation, the German cleric Martin Luther [Wikipedia biography] records in his journal as follows [from Ashliman (2005 online)] .....
"Eight years ago at Dessau I, Dr. Martin Luther, saw and touched a changeling. It was twelve years old, and from its eyes and the fact that it had all of its senses, one could have thought that it was a real child. [.....] It ate, shit, and pissed, and whenever someone touched it, it cried. When bad things happened in the house, it laughed and was happy, but when things went well, it cried. It had these two virtues. I said to the Princes of Anhalt: 'If I were the prince or the ruler here, I would throw this child into the water - into the Molda that flows by Dessau. I would dare commit homicidium on him!' But the Elector of Saxony, who was with me at Dessau, and the Princes of Anhalt did not want to follow my advice. Therefore I said: 'Then you should have all Christians repeat the Lord's Prayer in church that God may exorcise the devil.' They did this daily at Dessau, and the changeling child died in the following year. Such a changeling child is only a piece of flesh, a massa carnis, because it has no soul."
"Changelings and killcrops are laid in the place of legitimate children by Satan in order to plague mankind. He often pulls certain girls into the water, impregnates them, and keeps them with him until they deliver their children; afterward he places these children in cradles, taking the legitimate children away. But such changelings, it is said, do not live more than eighteen or nineteen years."
[.....] It happens often that babies are exchanged during their first six weeks, and that devils lay themselves in their place, making themselves detestable by shitting, eating, and crying more than any ten other children. The parents get no rest from such filthy beasts. The mothers are sucked dry and are no longer able to nurse. However, changeling children should be baptised, because they cannot always be recognised as such during their first year." [See next 1573 (Paré)] [THREAD = THE UNCANNY]
KEY CONCEPT - CHANGELINGS AND KILLCROPS: The Changeling legends outlined above provide a convenient example of how a religious belief system and popular folklore can co-evolve when they both have to deal with matters of high emotion such as birth defects. [To study this issue in isolation, rebrowse the document using FIND set to "= THE UNCANNY".]
1532 The Italian poet Ludovico Ariosto [Wikipedia biography] publishes "Orlando Furioso", a collection of chivalric tales, including that of the Knight Roger freeing the damsel Angelica from a fearsome dragon. In his search for inspirational themes, this tale will eventually be taken to canvas at the beginning of the Romantic Period by Ingres [see 1819].
1545 Commissioned by Duke Cosimo de Medici, the Italian sculptor Francesco Ubertini paints a grotesque for the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence. It includes many small animals and plants woven into the filigree.
1545 The first meeting takes place of the Council of Trento, marking the beginning of an 18-year period of soul-searching within the Roman Catholic church, on the defensive in the face of the rise of Protestantism in Northern Europe. One of the outcomes is a carefully considered lightening of artistic, architectural, and musical style designed to appeal more to the masses. Because some Mannerist [see 1513] perfection was thereby sacrificed, the new movement became known as "Baroque" [= "in imperfect pearl"]. Baroque musicians include Bach, Handel, and Vivaldi, and Baroque artists include Rubens, Caravaggio, and Rembrandt.
1562 The Dutch artist Peter Bruegel [Wikipedia biography] continues in the "hellwork" tradition of Hieronymous Bosch [see 1500] with his "The Triumph of Death" [image], complete with armies of skeletons and wagon loads of skulls.
1570 The Italian carnival impresario Andrea Calmo creates a carnival character called Il Magnifico, later to evolve into Pantaleone in Commedia dell'arte productions.
1573 [See firstly 1540 (Luther)] The French physician Ambroise Paré [Wikipedia biography] publishes "Des Monstres et Prodigues" [buy], a treatise on birth defects. Amongst the possible causes thereof he identified the wrath of God, the quality and quantity of the semen involved, and the work of demons and witches. [See next 1580 (Montaigne)] [THREAD = THE UNCANNY]
1580 [See firstly 1573 (Paré)] The French writer Michel Eyquem de Montaigne [Wikipedia biography] publishes "Essays" [buy], a collection of insights into the ways and ways of thinking of sixteenth century France. Essay #2.30 is entitled "Of a Monstrous Child" and includes the following .....
"I saw two days since a child [.....] carried about with intent to get some money with the sight of him, by reason of his strangenesse. [.....] Under his paps [= nipples] he was fastned and joyned to another childe, but had no head, and who had the conduit of his back stopped; the rest whole [etc., etc.]" (p362). [See next 1616 (Liceti)] [THREAD = THE UNCANNY]
ASIDE: Bates (2000) identifies 21 Elizabethan ballads touching upon birth defects in the period 1552 to 1584, the analysis of which suggests as follows .....
"One notable difference from accounts of birth defects originating from mainland Europe is that in the English ballad literature they are never attributed to the actions of evil spirits or to the results of bestiality, theories that were espoused in Europe by even the most scholarly of authors up to the seventeenth century. In post-Reformation England, the idea of birth defects as a punishment for personal sin was substituted [..... and some ballads] attributed deformities to a child's illegitimacy and interpreted birth defects as an indirect punishment for those with weak morals" (p203).
1587 An unnamed author has published "The Story of Dr. Johann Faust", possibly a deliberate allusion to the German alchemist of the same name. This work spawns a number of rewrites between 1593 and 1725. The last of these linking works happens to be read by the young Goethe, who models his masterpiece "Faust" upon it.
1589 The English playwright Robert Greene stages "The Honourable History of Friar Bacon and Friar Bungay".
1600 The Holy Roman Emperor Rudolf II [Wikipedia biography] creates a Wunderkammer [= "wonder room"], a private Natural History Museum, an Art Gallery, and a Chamber of Horrors, all rolled into one. This Wunderkammer arouses so much interest that rival collections spring up across Europe in palaces and stately homes. Collections soon include such things as stuffed alligators, corals, shells, crystals, and preserved anatomical specimens (or their images).
1604 Working from previous works in German, and perhaps further inspired by the work in Britain of the alchemist John Dee, the playwright Christopher Marlowe produces "The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus".
***** THE AGE OF (NORTHERN EUROPEAN) REASON *****
1605 The Elizabethan politician-courtier-philosopher Sir Francis Bacon produces "The Advancement of Learning", in which he challenged the classical approach to the advancement of knowledge on the grounds that it relied too much on talk and too little on systematised observation and the critical avoidance of fallacy.
1609 The British playwright Ben Jonson [Wikipedia biography] performs the comedy "Epicoene", the tale of a young man "suppos'd the silent woman". The plot involves an elaborate scheme to ensure a just inheritance [full details]. Epicoene - the young man - plays a young bride until "her" secret is eventually revealed. Epicoene speaks so little in the opening scenes that her silence requires other characters to be constantly remarking on her, assessing her behaviours, and generally "interpreting that silence" (Skantze, 2003). [THREAD = FROZEN MOTION]
1616 [See firstly 1580 (Montaigne)] The Italian physician Fortunio Liceti [Wikipedia biography] publishes "De Monstruorum", the first properly scientific treatise on birth defects. [THREADS = THE UNCANNY and SCIENTIFIC METHOD]
1617 The Italian painter Giovanni Francesco Barbieri [informally, Il Guercino] paints "Susanna and the Elders" [image] and begins a period of fame producing works with a biblical theme. One exception is the sketch "Monster Animal and Peasant" (ca. 1640) which depicts a fabulous creature, part chicken, part human foot [check it out]. [THREAD = THE UNCANNY]
1620 Sir Francis Bacon's subsequent "Novum Organum" [buy] shows how inductive reasoning can be the basis for scientific method. He laments four classes of common fallacy, which he calls "idols of the human mind" (1620/1901, p16). The first class of fallacy - "idols of the tribe" - includes our species' tendency to interpret things from its own perspective; the second class of fallacy - "idols of the den" - includes each individual's tendency to interpret things from his/her own experience and understanding; the third class of fallacy - "idols of the market" - includes misunderstandings in broad debate arising from "a bad and unappropriate formation of words" (p21); the fourth class of fallacy - "idols of the theatre" - includes dogmatism resulting from following particular philosophical schools.
1620? [See firstly 650BCE (Erichthoneus)] The painter Jasper van der Laanen exhibits "The Daughters of Cecrops Free Erechtheos" [image], depicting the myth of the monstrously deformed son of Hephaestus and the earth-goddess Gaia. [See next 1812 (Grimm)] [THREAD = THE UNCANNY]
1630 The French painter Claude Lorraine [Wikipedia biography] exhibits "Landscape with Merchants", at the beginning of a 30-year productive period. His work will later puzzle the art critic Roger Fry [see 1904], who found no shortage of technical faults in Lorraine's work, but an undiminished beauty nonetheless. Fry's personal conclusion was that Lorraine contrived to concentrate "all the far-reaching resources" at his disposal onto one point "so that a single and apparently effortless expression rejoices the aesthetic imagination at the moment when it is most expectant and exacting" (Fry 1907/1920, p156). His work, by lacking "any ostentation of cleverness", attains "the beauty of a whole" (ibid.).
1633 Worried about punitive sanctions from the Vatican, the French soldier-scholar Rene Descartes shelves four years' work on the manuscript of "Treatise on Man", arguably the first coherent monograph on neuropsychology. It would not finally become available until 1662, , in Latin, 12 years after his death.
1637 Rene Descartes' next work, "Discourse on the Method" [buy], derives his famous "I think therefore I am".
1642 The 19-year-old French mathematician Blaise Pascal developed a mechanical calculator consisting of a set of geared counter wheels with a "tens carry" system. A number was inserted by rotating the appropriate "column" wheel (units, tens, hundreds, etc.) with a stylus, and then added to by onward rotation by cognate column from right to left.
1649 Rene Descartes [see 1633] now publishes "Passions of the Soul" [buy], the last of his works to be published in his lifetime. In it he famously identifies the pineal gland as the central point of interaction between body and soul.
1651 The British philosopher Thomas Hobbes [Wikipedia biography] opens his "Leviathan" with the blatant assertion that the human mind is in essence just a material mechanism.
1659 The Irish scholar-alchemist Robert Boyle uses a vacuum chamber constructed by Robert Hooke to apply Francis Bacon's method of science to investigations of the physical properties of air. These culminate in the formulation of Boyle's Law. [THREAD = SCIENTIFIC METHOD]
1661 Robert Boyle publishes "The Sceptical Chymist", an attempt to rewrite the rather primitive beliefs of the alchemists in the light of results of practical experimentation, and thereby to determine the irreducible elements and the rules of their combination. [THREAD = SCIENTIFIC METHOD]
1662 Rene Descartes' "Treatise on Man" [buy] is finally published, posthumously, and in Latin in order to restrict the availability of the ideas it contained to the population at large. The neuropsychology it contains is basically mechanistic, but with a dualistic soul resident in amongst all the mechanisms.
KEY CONCEPT - PERCEPTUAL STAGES (2): [Continued from 540BCE (Alcmaeon)] Descartes' nascent neuropsychology follows the tradition established more than two millennia previously by Alcmaeon of Croton [see 540BCE], namely that sensory information is conducted into the brain along poroi provided for that purpose. Descartes now completed the cognitive cycle by explicitly allowing for the brain to generate the necessary muscle output instructions in response. He did not use the term "neurotransmission", but the sense of movement comes out clearly in the following extract. [This inset topic continues after 1668, Donders.]
"Now in the same measure that spirits enter the cavities of the brain they also leave them and enter the pores or conduits in its substance, and from these conduits they proceed to the nerves. And depending on their entering [.....] some nerves rather than others, they are able to change the shapes of the muscles into which these nerves are inserted ....." (p21).
The extract continues by clearly equating the muscle activation process to the workings of hydraulic automata .....
"Similarly you may have observed in the grottoes and fountains in the gardens of our kings that the force that makes the water leap from its source is able of itself to move divers machines ....." (p21).
Descartes' analysis of visual scanning is also refreshingly modern, thus .....
"..... It comes about also that the soul will only be able to see very clearly a single point on the object at a time, namely that on which all the parts of the eye are trained at that time, other points appearing as much more confused as they are further from that one. [.....] But the muscles [reference to Figure] turning the eye very quickly in every direction serve to remedy this defect: because in no time at all they can apply the eye successively to all points of the object and thus permit the soul to see all points distinctly one after the other" (p58).
1663 The Royal Society of London for the Improvement of Natural Knowledge receives its Charter of Incorporation from King Charles II. Among its founder members are Boyle, Willis, and Wren.
1666 The Dutch artist Willem van de Velde [the Elder] [Wikipedia biography], official fleet artist to Admiral De Ruyter, sketches the naval engagements with the Royal Navy in June and July. [ART, WARFARE, AND PROPAGANDA]
1664-1672 The physician Thomas Willis publishes a number of treatises on brain anatomy in which he makes breakthrough discoveries relating to cerebral blood flow and the layout of the cranial nerves.
1684 The German philosopher Gottfried Leibniz [Wikipedia biography] publishes an essay entitled "Meditations on Knowledge, Truth, and Ideas" in which he offers a useful two-by-two dimensionalisation of knowledge according (a) to its clarity and (b) to its adequacy, thus [using the Wiener edition] .....
"Knowledge is either obscure or clear; clear ideas again are either indistinct or distinct; distinct ideas are either adequate or inadequate, symbolic or intuitive; perfect knowledge, finally, is that which is both adequate and intuitive. An idea is obscure when it does not suffice for the recognition of things after they have been experienced. [.....] Knowledge is clear when it is sufficient to enable me to recognise the things represented [..... but] it is indistinct as soon as I am not able to enumerate separately the characteristics required to distinguish the thing from others" (pp283-284).
Leibniz's proposed structure is relevant to aesthetic theory because .....
"In similar fashion, we often observe that painters and other artists judge quite correctly what is good or defective in works of art, but are frequently not able to account for their judgement ....." (p284).
Leibniz's system will be much discussed over the years which follow. [See now 1719 (Wolff)] [THREAD = HISTORY OF AESTHETICS]
1690 John Locke's "On the Human Understanding" takes a class-defining British Empiricist position on the nature-nurture debate, and a strongly Associationist position on the structure of biological memory. Locke makes his position clear in what we nowadays refer to as "the Molyneux Question". Here is the background to the Question .....
"..... To which purpose I shall here insert a problem of that very ingenious and studious promoter of real knowledge, the learned and worthy Mr. Molyneux, which he has pleased to send me in a letter some months since: and it is this: 'Suppose a man born blind, and now adult, and taught by his touch to distinguish between a cube and a sphere of the same metal, and nighly of the same bigness, so as to tell, when he felt one and the other, which is the cube, which the sphere" (Locke, 1690, Book II, IX.8).
Here is the Question itself .....
"Suppose then the cube and sphere placed on a table, and the blind man to be made to see; query, whether by his sight, before he touched them, he could now distinguish and tell which is the globe, which the cube?'" (Ibid.)
Here is Molyneux's own suggested answer .....
"To which the acute and judicious proposer answers: 'Not. For though he has obtained the experience of how a globe, how a cube, affects his touch; yet he has not yet attained the experience that what affects his touch so or so must affect his sight so or so; or that a protuberant angle in the cube, that pressed his hand unequally, shall appear to his eye as it does in the cube.'" (Ibid).
And here is Locke's .....
"I agree with this thinking gentleman, whom I am proud to call my friend, in his answer to this his problem; and am of opinion that the blind man, at first sight, would not be able with certainty to say which was the globe, which the cube, whilst he only saw them; though he could unerringly name them by his touch ....." (Ibid.).
In agreeing that the newly sighted blind man would not be immediately capable of visual perception, Locke was arguing that this ability needs to be learned empirically - that is to say from one's experience of the world. No prior experience, no perception; as simple as that. Humans are born with effectively an empty mind and their experiences gradually develop it and fill it up. Locke called this empty mind upon which experience "writes" a tabula rasa (Latin = "blank slate"), and this type of explanation subsequently became known as empiricism. [THREAD = THE VISUAL SYSTEM (THE MOLYNEUX QUESTION)]
1693 [THREAD = THEORY OF AESTHETICS] The British dramatist John Dennis [Wikipedia biography] publishes "Miscellanies", an account of a Grand Tour through the Alps in which the harsh grandeur - the sheer sublimity - of natural phenomena was as striking as its beauty.
1697 Having enjoyed a presence in the city since the beginning of the century, Paris's Italian Theatre is banished to the provinces by Louis XIV for the "impudence" of its latest offering. [See next 1716 (Riccoboni)]
1703 The French painter Claude Gillot [Wikipedia biography] apprentices Jean-Antoine Watteau [Wikipedia biography] to his workshop and imbues him with a love of Italian theatre [see 1697] and its iconography. Watteau also gets the opportunity to study Marie de Medici's Rubens collection at Paris's Luxembourg Palace before crystalising a light Baroque - soon to be known as "Rococo" - style of his own. Amongst his early works are "The Island of Cythera" (1709) [image]. [See next 1712]
1709 [THREAD = THEORY OF AESTHETICS] The British philosopher Anthony Ashley Cooper [Stanford University biography], Third Earl of Shaftesbury, publishes "The Moralists", an account of his travels in the Alps in which the natural world's ability to inspire awe made sublimity "a quality of a grander and higher importance than beauty" (Wikipedia). In 1711 he will incorporate this material into a larger work entitled "Characteristics of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times", in which he develops (amongst other things) a broader theory of aesthetics and moral philosophy. His system has recently been summarised as follows .....
"Shaftesbury's aesthetic theory was one of the first and most influential produced by an English-speaking philosopher. Beauty, for Shaftesbury, is a kind of harmony, proportion, or order. [.....] Shaftesbury sometimes maintained that virtue is a species of beauty, or that virtue and beauty are 'one and the same'. He suggested that the positive reaction we have when observing a moral action or character is the same as (or one example of) the positive reaction we have when observing the beauty of nature or works of art. [..... He maintained nevertheless] that one needed training in order to make correct aesthetic judgements" (Shelley, 2010 online, e10-11).
1709-1713 George Berkeley's "Immaterialist" Theory of Reality brings together ontological and phenomenological considerations into a single higher-order debate. Berkeley's central point is that everything we know about reality is what we have perceived about it, which means in turn that that knowledge is doomed always to be subjective rather than objective.
HOW TO RECOGNISE ROCOCO PERIOD ARTWORKS: Firstly check the date and country of origin, because the Rococo style is closely associated with the reign of Louis XV in pre-revolutionary France. Then look for delicacy of curve and no little finishing ornamentation and detail. This will be obvious in ceramics and architecture but more subtle in two-dimensional art. In painting, for example, Watteau's late works (1717-1721) are considered typical of the movement, combining delicacy and glow with a new freedom of theme. Because the fêtes galantes content was of necessity aristocrat-friendly, the style fell rapidly out of favour as the guillotine ushered in its bloody egalitarianism in the 1790s. Because Britain was roundly Francophobe at this time the Rococo style tended to be regarded as a French excess, and its implementation was patchy.
1716 [See firstly 1697] Under the direction of Luigi Riccoboni [Wayne S. Turney biography], and at the invitation of Philippe II, Duc d'Orleans, the newly declared Regent of France, the Italian Theatre is re-established at the Hôtel de Bourgogne in Paris, and is allowed once again to influence the artworks of the moment [e.g., 1716 (Watteau)].
1716 Still only in his 30th year, Jean-Antoine Watteau [see 1703] completes "The Shepherds" [image], an early example on a "fêtes galantes" [French = "gallant festivities"] theme, in which upper class patrons are posed into scenes drawn from the classics and the like. The following year he will "The Pleasures of the Ball" (1717) [image], and "Pierrot" (1717-1719) [image], works which are nowadays identified as "Rococo".
1719 The German philosopher Christian Wolff [Wikipedia biography] publishes an essay entitled "Rational Thoughts on God, the World, and the Soul of Man" in which he follows Leibniz [see 1684] in approaching perfection as the harmonious coming together of parts. Here is Guyer (2007 online) on this .....
"In the case of the visual arts of painting and sculpture, Wolff locates their perfection in imitation or veridical representation, while other arts find their perfections in the fulfilment of intended uses. [.....] Pleasure arises from the imitation of perfection" (Guyer, 2007 online, e7).
1725 The French weaver Basile Bouchon uses continuous punched paper to precode the pattern of the weave in advance [Bouchon was the son of an organ maker, and may well have inherited some of the old Greek automatic control skills from his father's workshop].
1725 The British philosopher Francis Hutcheson [Wikipedia biography] publishes an essay entitled "An Inquiry concerning Beauty, Order, Harmony, and Design", in which he argues that humankind is blessed with an "internal sense" which triggers feelings of pleasure whenever the "external senses" (vision and hearing) chance upon that class of things which we describe as beautiful.
1728 [See firstly 1725, Bouchon] The French weaver Jean Philippe Falcon uses punched slats for the same purpose. The mass production of any repeating woven pattern thus became simple once the appropriate slats had been produced. [See next 1745 (Vaucanson)]
1728 In that it invites one to consider what it might be like to undo a lifetime of visual experience and see the world through the eyes of an infant, John Locke's "Molyneux Question" [see 1690] generated considerable scholarly interest. However for a long time it looked as if it could never actually be answered, because it was impossible to construct to order an experiment wherein a person blind from birth could be given sight for the first time. Nevertheless this is exactly what happens when congenital cataracts are surgically removed, and so surgeons were soon taking advantage of this form of "natural experiment" to put the Molyneux Question to the test. The British physician William Cheselden [Wikipedia biography] publishes the first significant academic report of sight renewal, and refers to a 13 year old male .....
"He knew not the shape of anything nor any one thing from another, however different in shape or magnitude [.....] but upon being told what things were, whose form he knew before from feeling, he would carefully observe, that he might know them again." (Cheselden, 1728, cited in Von Senden, 1960, p129 and pp182-183.) [See next 1932 (Von Senden)] [THREAD = THE VISUAL SYSTEM (THE MOLYNEUX QUESTION)]
1730?? A young French scholar, Jacques de Vaucanson joins the Order of Minims.
1735 The German philosopher Alexander Baumgarten [Wikipedia biography] submits his Masters' thesis under the title "Philosophical Meditations", in which he used the Greek word aisthetike to refer to "that which is sensed or imagined". Over the ensuing years he accumulates material for a more mature work on the broader explanatory philosophy of sensing and imagining. He will call this work "Aesthetica", publishing Volume 1 in 1750 and Volume 2 in 1758, and it is now recognised as the work which pioneered use of the term "aesthetics" to refer to the philosophy of artistic appreciation as a whole. [See next 1757, Burke] [THREAD = HISTORY OF AESTHETICS]
1738 Now earning his living as an engineer, Vaucanson demonstrates the mechanism for a flute-playing automaton to the French National Academy. This is followed by a tambourine player and an anally unretentive clockwork duck. [See next 1745]
1739 The Scottish philosopher David Hume publishes "A Treatise on Human Nature" in which he promotes the empiricist position on the Nature-Nurture Debate and argues that our understanding of Self is automatically limited by the fragmentary experience we have of the operation of our own individual selves. He also helped argue the need for peer-verification to be included in the loop of scientific development. Fodor (2003) suggests that cognitive science as a discrete area of intellectual endeavour dates from this work.
1741 Moving on from his work with theatrical automata Vaucanson becomes advisor to the French government on mechanising the silk industry [see next 1745].
1744 The German philosopher Georg Friedrich Meier [Wikipedia biography] draws on his time as a student of Baumgarten [see 1735] to establish a critical position of his own on the relationship between the intellectual and the emotional sides of aesthetic experience. He sets his system out in "Theoretical Doctrine of the Emotions" (1744), which has recently been assessed as follows [note the interesting proposal concerning the power of disagreeable emotions to gratify nonetheless] .....
"His position is not just that the passions have influence on sensible cognition, but that they are themselves a great source of sensible pleasure, and that it is therefore part of the aim of art to arouse them. Meier analyses the passions [.....] as a form of mental activity: they are 'efforts or strivings of the soul' that result in a desire or an aversion. [.....] This might lead one to expect that desires or aversions can be sources of great pleasure or displeasure, depending upon whether they are realised or not, but Meier goes on to argue that 'all emotions, the disagreeable ones not excluded, produce a gratification', because they are active states or perfections of the soul, and 'whenever the soul feels a perfection in itself, it is sensitive of a gratification'. And because they are so strong, the passions, whether desires or aversions, are those among our mental states that make us most aware of our own mental activity, and therefore are actually the strongest source of pleasure for us: 'in the passions almost the entire lower power of cognition and desire is engaged, that is, almost the entire lower part of our soul'" Guyer, 2007 online, e22; emphasis added).
KEY CONCEPT - THE JAMES-LANGE THEORY OF EMOTION: This is the name given to the particular theoretical position as to the relationship between overt behaviour and the experience of the emotions, which holds that we feel the emotion after the behaviour has firstly been instinctively triggered, and not that we feel the emotion first and then behave in accordance with that feeling. The interpretation was published independently in Europe by Carl Lange [see 1885] and in America by William James [see 1884]. The James-Lange Theory is frequently encountered in aesthetics, albeit it is not always referenced as such.
1745 Tiepolo's "Discovery of the True Cross" [image] depicts St. Helena's archaeological success [see 326 above].
1745 [See firstly 1741] Vaucanson combines techniques from his theatrical automata with the pre-programming systems developed by Bouchon and Falcon [see 1725 and 1728, respectively] to produce a fully automatic loom, although the design will not be widely available until mass produced as the Jacquard Loom in 1805 [q.v.].
1746 The French philosopher Charles Batteux [Wikipedia biography] publishes "Les Beaux Arts Réduits à une Même Principe" [In English as "The Fine Arts Reduced to a Single Principle"], in which he defends the points (a) that the fine arts exist only to the extent that they imitate the beauties of nature, and (b) that no little practical skill and personal élan is needed to make it so. [THREAD = THE NATURE OF BEAUTY]
1748 The Italian artist Giovanni Battista Piranesi [Wikipedia biography] opens a workshop in Rome specialising in veduti [= "views"], photographically detailed etchings of that city's imperial ruins. He also produces the carceri d'invenzione [= "imaginary prisons"], a series of 16 prints depicting imaginary underground vaults crammed with archwork, stairways, balconies, and the like, and pervaded by an atmosphere of darkly troubled whimsy [example]. [THREAD = DISTURBING ART]
1749 The German painter Anton Mengs is appointed to the court of Frederick Augustus, Elector of Saxony. Over the coming decades he produces a number of formative Neoclassical works such as "The Triumph of Trajan" and "Temple of Glory". He has been assessed as sitting on the stylistic cusp between Baroque and Neoclassicism.
1750 The Austrian engineer Lorenz Rosenegger founds the Heilbrunn Palace Mechanical Theatre [organise a tour], and, in the spirit of Vaucanson, exhibits some 200 water-driven automata.
1751 The scholars Jean Le Rond D'Alembert and Denis Diderot publish the first volume of "Encyclopedia". The work was intended to grow by volumes and to serve as a definitive account of all things important [a sort of 18th century Wikipedia]. It will turn out, however, that the editors had underestimated just how much there would be to include, and by 1780 the thing had grown to 35 volumes containing some 20 million words. The work has since been assessed as a high point [or low, depending on which direction you come from] of the Enlightenment.
1753 The British painter and social satirist William Hogarth [Wikipedia biography] publishes "Analysis of Beauty" [buy], a methodical and exhaustive review of the various tricks of the artist's trade, with conjecture as to why each should be as effective as it is. He covers, for example, the need for "fitness", "variety", "uniformity", "regularity", and "symmetry" in an object, also "simplicity", "distinctness", "intricacy", and an appropriate degree of "quantity". He also examines the use of lines, distinguishing carefully between the straight and the circular, as well as the "art of composing well" a complex scene. He says far less, however, about the derivation of an understanding of any depicted drama, be it straightforward or figurative. [THREAD = HISTORY OF AESTHETICS]
1755 A young Immanuel Kant, newly graduated in philosophy from the University of Königsberg, joins the faculty there as lecturer in metaphysics.
1755 The German art historian Johann Winckelmann publishes "Thoughts on the Imitation of Greek Works in Painting and Sculpture", in which he espoused the view that "the one way for us [= Germany] to become great, perhaps inimitable, is by imitating the ancients [.....] What is imitated, if handled with reason, may assume another nature".
1757 [See firstly 1735, Baumgarten] The British philosopher Edmund Burke publishes "A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful" [buy] in which he distinguishes between beauty, that which is merely aesthetically pleasing, and the sublime, whose perfection has the added ability to haunt us, perhaps even to the point that it destroys us in the process. This issue would be taken up again by Goethe (1774) and Kant (1790) [q.v.].
1757 The German philosopher Moses Mendelssohn [Wikipedia biography] publishes "Foundations of the Fine Arts and Sciences", in which he generally follows Wolff [see 1719] and Meier [see 1744], but with a greater emphasis on the need to explain the enjoyability of art. Here is how the University of Pennsylvania's Paul Guyer now explains it .....
"But Mendelssohn adds a critical point here, leading to a fundamental revision in the significance of artistic imitation: in order for us to enjoy the mixed emotions in a pleasing representation of something that is objectively displeasing, our sense of the difference between the represented content and our act of representing it cannot be allowed to collapse, and the role of artistic imitation is precisely to create enough distance between our representation and its object to allow us to enjoy the representation rather than to collapse that space by creating the illusion that we are in the actual presence of the depicted object. [.....] Thus contrary to Wolff, Mendelssohn does not suppose that what we enjoy in imitation is accuracy of representation taken to the point of illusion, but rather the room for the experience of our own mental activity that the knowledge that the depicted object is only being imitated allows" (Guyer, 2007 online, e28-29).
1757 The French writer Charles de Brosses [Wikipedia biography] publishes "Du Culte des Dieux Fétiches", the first academic account of "fetishism", the use of small human figures and artefacts in primitive religious ritual [fuller definition]. In so doing he opened up the intriguing possibility that Humankind's far from monogamous love affair with its religions might be a combination of superstition and ignorance and nothing more [THREADS = CHURCH HISTORY, FROZEN MOTION, and THE UNCANNY]. The two key notions here are "anthropomorphism" and "animism", as now further explored .....
KEY CONCEPT - ANTHROPOMORPHISM: Anthropomorphism (literally man-form-ism) is an assertion of human characteristics in inanimate objects or subhuman species. Thus if you talk deeply and meaningfully to your canary or swear at your car when it fails to start, then you are elevating those objects to humanlike status. Similarly, if you conceive of animals as feeling human emotions such as love, regret, compassion, etc.
KEY CONCEPT - ANIMISM: Animism is "the attribution of a living soul to inanimate objects and natural phenomena" (O.E.D.). The term was popularised by the anthropologist E.B. Tyler following detailed study of primitive religions (Tyler, 1863), but has been frequently revisited thanks to humankind's liking for anthropomorphic explanation. Piaget (1926/1973) devotes an entire chapter to the developmental aspects of animism, seeing it as an entirely "spontaneous" (p236) property of immature cognition. Young children "simply talk about things in the terms used for human beings, thus endowing them with will, desire, and conscious activity" (p239). In fact, he identified two distinct developmental periods, as follows .....
"..... we noted two periods in the spontaneous animism of children. The first, lasting until the ages of four to five, is characterised by an animism which is both integral and implicit; anything may be endowed with both purpose and conscious activity [..... but] this animism sets no problem to the child. It is taken for granted. After the ages of four to six, however, questions are asked on the subject, showing that this implicit animism is about to disappear" (p242).
1759 The Scottish philosopher Alexander Gerard [Wikipedia biography] publishes "Essay on Taste", in which he attempts to demonstrate the reducibility of the faculty of taste to component processes, rather than accepting its inherent irreducibility. His position has recently been summarised as follows .....
"The idea, roughly, is this. The reducibility of taste implies that the perceptions of taste, which are pleasures, are not natural to their objects in the way Hutcheson, for example, supposed. Thus objects of taste must acquire their pleasurability. They do so by association. [.....] It seems that the mind forges very strong associations between its own processes and their objects, such that any pleasure natural to a mental process will transfer to its object. It seems also that any process that requires the mind 'to exert its activity, and put forth its strength, in order to surmount any difficulty' is naturally pleasurable, as is the mind's consciousness of its success in surmounting any difficulty" (Shelley, 2010 online, e17-18).
1760 The German writer and amateur philosopher Johann Hamann begins to publish short treatises on philosophy and literature. In the later ones he applies a Kantian analysis to language, an area Kant largely ignored. He successfully teases apart the lexical and the semantic aspects of word use, arguing that "one takes words for concepts, and concepts for the things themselves" (Hamann, Collected Works, Vol. 5, p264). [This is precisely the argument subsequently put forward in Lichtheim (1885) and Freud (1891), as well as in Ellis (1982) and the body of cognitive science which derives therefrom. The idea that the processing of words and concepts needs to be kept separate has been incorporated into the Konrad artificial consciousness software.]
1761 The French painter Jean-Baptiste Greuze [Wikipedia biography] exhibits "The Village Betrothal" [image] to sufficient popular acclaim for the Italian actor Carlo Bertinazzi [Wikipedia biography] to stages the depicted scene as a tableau vivant. [See next 1781 (Genlis)] [THREADS = FROZEN MOTION and THE UNCANNY]
1762 A young German scholar named Johann Herder enrols to study medicine at the University of Königsberg. It turns out that he cannot cope with the messiness of the dissections, and so switches to theology instead, attending Kant's classes in metaphysics and becoming acquainted with the Königsberg-based Hamann. After graduating he begins work on "How Philosophy Can Become More Universal and Useful for the Benefit of the People [zum Besten des Volkes]" (1765) and "Fragments on Recent German Literature" (1767-8).
1763 Winckelmann follows up his 1755 work with "Essay on the Beautiful in Art",
1764 Winckelmann completes "History of Ancient Art", "a thorough, comprehensive, and lucid chronological account of all antique art" (Wikipedia), which, with its detailed treatment of the Greek world, becomes a major resource for the Neoclassical movement.
1764 The British novelist Horace Walpole publishes "The Castle of Otranto", a darkly atmospheric novel in which ancient prophecies seem to be coming true, mysterious knights and unlikely coincidences abound, and only a few live happily ever after. The work is now conventionally accepted as the first "Gothic novel", starting a tradition which would go on to include the authors Bram Stoker, Edgar Allan Poe, and Daphne du Maurier.
ASIDE - HOW TO RECOGNISE GOTHIC FICTION: "Prominent features of Gothic fiction include terror (both psychological and physical), mystery, the supernatural, ghosts, haunted houses and Gothic architecture, castles, darkness, death, decay, doubles, madness, secrets, and hereditary curses. The stock characters of Gothic fiction include tyrants, villains, bandits, maniacs, Byronic heroes, persecuted maidens, femmes fatales, monks, nuns, madwomen, magicians, vampires, werewolves, demons, angels, fallen angels, revenants, ghosts, perambulating skeletons, the Wandering Jew, and the Devil himself" [Wikipedia].
1765 The Scottish writer James Macpherson publishes "The Works of Ossian" in which he claims to have collected and translated the poems of a Dark Age Irish prince named Oisin ["Ossian"]. For reasons which still need to be fully investigated, "Ossian" receives a very mixed reception. Many were entranced by its being a record of the past travails of people who might just have been the reader's own ancestors [precisely why this should appeal is one of the outstanding psychological puzzles]; others doubted both its historical accuracy or its literary worth [Samuel Johnson would famously dismiss it as "a gross imposition" upon the intellect]. It inspired paintings by Gérard, Girodet (1805), and Ingres (1813).
1765 The Swiss physician Philippe Curtius [Wikipedia biography], having developed a profitable sideline making anatomically precise wax models, gives up medicine in favour of wax modelling as commercial sculpture. When he dies in 1794 he will leave his collection to his housekeeper's daughter, one Madame Tussaud, who uses it well. [THREAD = THE UNCANNY]
1768 The German philosopher Gotthold Lessing publishes "Laocoon: An Essay on the Limits of Painting and Poetry" in which he argues that (contrary to some classical opinion) art and literature obey different rules of goodness.
1768 The Danish author Heinrich Gerstenberg [Wikipedia biography] publishes "Ugolino", a stage tragedy based on characters from Dante's "Divine Comedy". The work is nowadays identified within the Sturm und Drang idiom.
1768 The society-favourite portrait painter Joshua Reynolds helps found the Royal Academy of Art and becomes its first President. This provides him with the opportunity to promote the "Grand Style" of painting, a genre in which subjects are depicted at their best by minimising or ignoring their known imperfections.
1768 The Swiss watchmaker Pierre Jaquet-Droz [Wikipedia biography] and his son Henri-Louis start work on a series of high-specification clockwork automata, including "The Writer" (6000 components), "The Musician" (2500 components), and "The Draughtsman" (2000 components) [see images]. [THREADS = AUTONOMOUS ROBOTICS and THE UNCANNY]
1769 The Hungarian inventor Johann Von Kempelen [Wikipedia biography] attempts to go one better than Jaquet-Droz [above] by constructing his "Turk", a life-sized chess-playing automaton [image]. No record of the inner workings of this contraption will ever be published, and the eventual verdict will be that the machine's "central processor" (as it were) is nothing more complicated than a human accomplice hidden within the structure. [THREAD = ANIMATED MECHANISM]
1770 A young German lawyer named Johann Goethe publishes "Annette", his first collection of poems. He also makes the acquaintance of Herder [see next].
1770 The Swiss author Paul Henri Mallet publishes a collection of North European legends under the title "Northern Antiquities", including, in English for the first time, the Icelandic epic "The Edda". One of the encounters described therein - that of Thor fighting the Midgard Serpent - will be taken by Henry Fuseli [see 1780] for his diploma work [image].
1770 Johann Herder [see 1762], with a growing personal reputation, leaves Hamann and Kant in Königsberg and makes the acquaintance of Goethe - five years his junior - in Strasbourg, and in so doing passes on his respect for Rousseau and his liking for the Ossian fables. This meeting is often assessed as marking the birth of the "Sturm und Drang" movement in German literature and popular thought.
1771 The Italian physician Luigi Galvani discovers that he can make the muscles of recently killed frogs twitch when stimulated by a spark. These discoveries set the scene for the modern theory of excitable tissues.
1771 [See firstly 1744 (Meier)] The Swiss philosopher-mathematician Johann Georg Sulzer [Wikipedia biography] publishes the first instalment of "General Theory of the Fine Arts", a magnus opus encyclopaedia of aesthetic theory and practice. Sulzer's own aesthetic will later be summarised as follows .....
"[Sulzer] departs from the purely Wolffian conception that the experience of beauty consists simply in a clear but obscure recognition of the perfection of an object relative to a conception of its purpose because he holds that the experience of the beauty of an object is an awareness of its effect on our representational faculty rather than an awareness of the cause of that effect in the object. Thus the experience of beauty becomes the sensation or sentiment (Empfindung) caused by the perfection of the object, rather than a clear but indistinct cognition of that perfection. The real object of pleasure then becomes the activity of one's own representational state, manifested in the form of sentiment, that is caused by the perfection of the beautiful object. [.....] On Sulzer's account, a beauty that appeals to the full range of our cognitive and emotional capacities through its purposiveness as well as its form is a 'higher species' of beauty than one that appeals to our sense of form alone" (Guyer, 2007 online, e53-54).
KEY CONCEPT - THE JAMES-LANGE THEORY OF EMOTION (2): Note Sulzer's admirably clear position on the sequence of emotional cognition. Specifically it is consistent with the conceptualisation of emotion proposed a hundred years later by the James-Lange Theory of Emotion [see insets, 1744 and 1884].
1772 The German writer-philosopher Christoph Wieland publishes "The Golden Mirror", a collection of oriental stories with a moral. This comes to the attention of Duchess Anna of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach at Weimar. The term "Weimar Classicism" is now used to describe the brief popularity of the poetical-romance movement in Germany as expressed by the writers Wieland, Herder [who worked at Weimar from 1776], Goethe, and Schiller..
1772 Johann Herder [see 1762] publishes "On the Origin of Language" in which he promotes German over French as the proper language for German society.
1773 Goethe publishes "Götz von Berlichingen", a tragic play.
1773 Johann Herder [see 1762] publishes "Correspondence Concerning Ossian and the Songs of Ancient Peoples" [Lieder alter Völker]. He argues that "a poet is the creator of the nation around him; he gives his people a world to see and has their souls in his hand to lead them to that world", and, noting the part played by the ancient Celtic bard Ossian in the history of Scotland, begins to seek out similar virtues in ancient German and Norse Volkspoesie [literally "peoples' poetry", especially when elevated to the status of ethnocentric mythology]. Herder's intense patriotism, especially in popularising the use of the term Das Volk to encompass a nation's true identity, would return to haunt the world in the 1930s. Garland (1952) will eventually comment as follows .....
"Herder's essay on Ossian ... derives from his acceptance of the views of Rousseau. He writes in praise of the folk-song ... and asserts the superiority of folk-song as poetry over the elegant verse of the eighteenth century. Unfortunately, however, for his argument, his finest example of folk-poetry is Macpherson's Ossian, a sophisticated travesty of primitive strength in which sentimentality masquerades as powerful emotion. Herder ..... quite failed to realise that Ossian's stormy romanticism is not genuine, but a product of modern romantic longing for supposedly lost simplicity and strength" (pp16-17).
1774 The British poet Thomas Warton publishes a treatise on "The Origin of Romantic Fiction in Europe" in which he distinguishes between "Romantic" and "Classical".
ASIDE - HOW TO RECOGNISE ROMANTICISM IN ART AND LITERATURE: "By its nature, romanticism does not lend itself to precise definition, exegesis, and analysis" (Blanning, 2010, p6). That said, it is characterised by no little heroic struggle against the odds, no little genius, and - ominously - no little appeal to the mythical former glories of one's tribe.
1774 Goethe publishes "The Sorrows of Young Werther", his first novel. The novel includes quotations from Macpherson's "Ossian" and was a commercial success.
ASIDE: Werther dwells continually upon the painfulness of youth's passions, upon infatuation, rejection, and suicide. In 1818 Mary Shelley had Frankenstein's monster read a copy of the book, and be reduced to tears because it, too, had been rejected by the world. Werther is currently assessed as one of Goethe's few contributions to the Sturm und Drang movement. Later works are classified as Weimar Classicist.
Goethe's position on aesthetics comes out in the following .....
"Beauty is a primeval phenomenon [Urphänomen], which itself never makes an appearance, but the reflection of which is visible in a thousand different utterances of the creative mind".
1776 The German playwright Friedrich Klinger publishes the play "Sturm und Drang" [= "Storm and Urge"], in which he allows free dramatic rein to the violent emotions of the American Revolution. This title catches on and soon becomes used to describe any artform which sets out to explore the emotional extremes of human existence. The main exponents of this style will be Hamann.
ASIDE - HOW TO RECOGNISE STURM UND DRANG LITERATURE: "The protagonist in a typical Sturrn und Drang stage work, poem, or novel is driven to action - often violent action - [..... by] revenge and greed. [Such literature] features an anti-aristocratic slant while seeking to elevate all things humble, natural, or intensely real (especially whatever is painful, tormenting, or frightening) [.....] The parallel movement in the visual arts can be witnessed in paintings of storms and shipwrecks showing the terror and irrational destruction wrought by nature. These pre-romantic works were fashionable in Germany from the 1760s on through the 1780s" (Wikipedia).
1777 The German sculptor Franz X. Messerschmidt (a.k.a. "the psychotic artist") [Wikipedia biography] takes early retirement in Bratislava suffering from "a confusion in the head". There he works on a series of character heads, each intended to show a different "canonical grimace" modelled on his own reflection [specimen]
1778 Herder now publishes "On Cognition" to complement his earlier work on linguistics.
1780 Drawing heavily from the Changeling legends of European folklore [see 1520], the Swiss-born British artist Henry Fuseli [Wikipedia biography] exhibits "The Changeling" [image]. [THREAD = THE UNCANNY]
1781 Johann Fuseli [see 1780] exhibits "The Nightmare", in which "a sleeping woman, her legs apart, her arms dangling, her hair tumbling, her lips parted, her nostrils flared" (Blanning, 2010, p64) shares her bed chamber with a goblin and a crazy horse [image]. It becomes an instant sensation. Fuseli will continue to be obsessed by the dark side of dream imagery, but lived a century too early to benefit from Freud's "Interpretation of Dreams" [see 1900]. As to Fuseli's longer-term relevance, Myrone (2001) [buy] observes as follows .....
"[Fuseli's] vividly stylised images of ghosts and fairies, muscle-bound superheroes, fainting maidens and voracious viragos, are obvious prototypes for the figures in today's comic books, action movies, and computer games" (p6). [THREADS = DISTURBING ART and THE UNCANNY]
1781 The French noblewoman, governess to royalty, writer, and skilled survivor in dangerous times Stéphanie de Genlis [Wikipedia biography] reportedly helps popularise the tableau vivant as a medium of entertainment at the social gatherings of those who could afford them. [See next 1781 (Hart)] [THREADS = FROZEN MOTION and THE UNCANNY]
1781 The Swiss painter Jean-Étienne Liotard [Wikipedia biography] publishes "Traite des Principes et des Règles de la Peinture" [= "Treatise on the Principles and Rules of Painting"] in which amongst other things he famously remarks that "Painting is the most outstanding sorceress. She can persuade us through the most evident falsehoods that she is pure Truth".
1781 Inspired perhaps by the popular success of Henry Fuseli's "Nightmare" [see 1781], the British painter Maria Cosway [Wikipedia biography] begins to turn out "a series of paintings on obscure literary themes, emphasising the supernatural and horrific aspects of the subject" (Myrone, 2001, p49). [THREAD = DISTURBING ART]
1781 [See firstly 1781 (Genlis)] An aspirating young actress named Emma Hart [Wikipedia biography] becomes mistress of Sir Harry Featherstonehaugh and entertains his friends by dancing nude for them. Her good looks soon get her sittings as an artist's model [see 1782 (Romney)], and the resulting artworks prove so popular with well-to-do gentry that she softens her act. Instead of out-and-out nudity she develops instead her "attitudes", semi-naked posings in the character of this or that Greek Goddess. These in turn prove so popular that in 1791 she marries into the nobility as Emma, Lady Hamilton, after which her appearance in artworks - but not the gossip of the time - is even more subdued. The "attitudes", meanwhile, inspire a host of "pose plastique" imitators, both on and off the stage. [THREADS = FROZEN MOTION and THE UNCANNY]
RESEARCH ISSUE - TABLEAUX VIVANTS AND POSES PLASTIQUES: A "tableau vivant" [= "living picture"] is a live-posed scene, usually from a known artwork, and therefore requiring a number of participants and complex supporting scenery. A "pose plastique" [= "plastic pose"] is a live posed portrait, sometimes with a historical reference, sometimes not, and requiring only a single participant with little or no scenery. The term "plastic" is used here in its original sense, and indicates that when the sitter's pose is adjusted - a hand moved higher, perhaps, or an eyebrow lowered - the new position is maintained. Cognitive science has no integrated theory to offer for the effectiveness of either genre because neither falls simply into the category of "negative action" described by Keir Elam [see 1980]. Both involve two-dimensional surface decoration made three-dimensional and vibrant, and both - by this token - have their pragmatics complicated by the intervening mind(s) of the performer(s).
1781/7 Kant publishes "Critique of Pure Reason" [buy], the first of three linked treatises concerning cognition, dealing primarily with perception, knowledge, and the relationship between the two.
KEY CONCEPT - THE NOUMENON: [(Pl. noumena).] A noumenon is "an object of purely intellectual intuition, devoid of all phenomenal attributes" (O.E.D.). Alternatively, it is "a basic reality underlying observable phenomena" (Wikipedia). The noumenon is Kant's notion of that which logically precedes the phenomenon, and which cannot therefore be consciously known. They are instead grasped [our word, chosen here to imply a less conscious form of knowing than knowing] "transcendentally".
1782 Having drawn upon the favours of Emma Hart [see 1781] as his model, the British artist George Romney [Wikipedia biography] exhibits "Circe" [image]. His model, the future Lady Hamilton, still only 17 years old, shows off the unforced beauty which will shortly make her fortune.
1784 The French painter Jacques-Louis David unveils "Oath of the Horatii", in which a Roman patrician of the Horatius family holds aloft his three sons' swords and has them jointly swear on same that they will defend Rome to the death. The work had been funded by Louis XVI as an allegory to encourage loyalty to the crown in times of troubles [it failed, for he would be guillotined at the height of the French Revolution in 1793]. "The Horatii" is followed by a series of works also adopting Greek and Roman themes, creating a major new style named "Neoclassicism".
ASIDE - HOW TO RECOGNISE NEOCLASSICISM IN ART: Here are some of the features to look for in Neoclassicist artworks: (1) It contrasts historically with Baroque and Rococo. (2) It sits alongside and contrasts with Romanticism and Gothic. (3) The background is deliberately de-emphasised in favour of the foreground [The far wall on Horatii strikes as little more than a quickly colour-washed stage backdrop]. (4) The foreground colours are not particularly vivid, because what is important is the message, not the impact on the eye. (5) The composition in terms of the placing and grouping of the key figures is dictated by the message. There is no extraneous detail. (6) Brushstrokes cannot be seen (again because the message is deemed to be more important than the painter's craft). (7) There is a "frozen moment" feel to the work. (8) The message takes a position on some personal, ethical, social, or political issue from history. It allows the past to inform the present, using allegory.
1785 The German writer Karl Philipp Moritz [Wikipedia biography] begins to promote the notion that art pleases us to the extent that it is "complete in itself" and is graced with an "internal purposiveness". Thus .....
"Moritz continues that a beautiful object does not please us, like a clock or a knife, because it satisfies some need of its own, not even the need to be pleased, but, remarkably, that 'the beautiful needs us in order to be cognised'. [..... For example] when we see a play put on before an empty theatre we are displeased, not for the sake of the author or actors, but for the sake of the play itself, as a work of art whose need to be contemplated is going unfulfilled" (Guyer, 2007 online, e61).
1785 [See firstly 1757] Moses Mendelssohn publishes "Morning Lessons", in which he introduces into his explanatory system a third basic cognitive faculty, the "Faculty of Approval", to sit between those of cognition and desire. The work also includes a convenient example of the use of the German work Affekt to indicate the phenomenal experiencing of an emotion, thus .....
"In the Morning Lessons Mendelssohn [discusses] the effect of the activity of the mind in aesthetic experience on the state of the body [..... He] says that if 'each sensible rapture, each improved condition of the state of the body, fills the soul with the sensible representation of a perfection, then every sensible representation must also, in turn, bring with it some well-being of the body ... And in this way a pleasant emotion [Affekt] arises'" (Guyer, 2007 online, e30-31).
1785 The British philosopher Thomas Reid [Wikipedia biography] publishes "Essays on the Intellectual Powers of Man", in which he distinguishes between "instinctive" judgements of perfection (where we cannot put into words why we find something beautiful), and "rational" judgements (where we can). [THREAD = HISTORY OF AESTHETICS]
]. This work will be identified by Ernst Gombrich [see 1950], along with others by Jacques Louis David, Goya, Velasquez, and William Blake as demonstrating a new freedom amongst artists to choose their own topic of argument. This is how Gombrich puts it .....
"It is curious how rarely artists before the middle of the eighteenth century [.....] painted a scene from a romance, or an episode of mediaeval or contemporary history. All this changed very rapidly during the period of the French Revolution. Suddenly artists felt free to choose as their subjects anything from a Shakespearean scene to a topical event, anything, in fact that appealed to the imagination and aroused interest" (pp380-381). [THREAD = ART AS REPORTAGE]
1786 The French painter Jean-Baptiste Regnault [Wikipedia biography] exhibits "Pygmalion Priant Venus d'Animer sa Statue" [= "Pygmalion Begging Venus to Bring his Statue to Life"] [image], an interpretation of the Pygmalion-Galatea myth [see 8CE (Ovid's Metamorphoses)]. [THREAD = ARTIFICIAL LIFE]
1789 The German poet-playwright Johann Friedrich Schiller publishes a gothic novel of his own, entitled "The Ghost-Seer". He also turns a philosophical eye onto the relationship between artistic beauty and life's broader ethical and social issues. His conclusions are neatly summarised in the poem "The Artists" in which he argues that beauty ennobles humankind and is the key to wisdom. His views on psychology includes the term Spieltrieb [literally "play-drive"], a human motivation towards - ultimately -joy.
1790 The British philosopher Archibald Alison [Wikipedia biography] publishes "Essays on the Nature and Principles of Taste", in which he argues that mere personal preference [= "taste"] for a something has to be learned. Specifically, the object of taste has to be associated with an object of instinctive appeal. [THREAD = HISTORY OF AESTHETICS]
1790 Kant's "Critique of Judgement" links the philosophy of aesthetics to his earlier theories of pure and practical reason [see 1781 and 1788, respectively], espousing the principle that sublime beauty lies in the fitness to please and harmony of the exemplar object; that in the absence of covetous desire it can give pleasure. This third Critique is an attempt at a science "of the power to cognize beauty" (Pluhar, 1987, xlix), and one of Kant's first points is that aesthetics has to treat the terms "beautiful" and "sublime" differently, thus ......
"A critique of pure reason, i.e., of our ability to judge according to a priori principles, would be incomplete if it failed to include, as a special part, a treatment of judgement, which, since it is a cognitive power, also lays claim to a priori principles. [..... Our problems arise] mainly in those judgements [Beurteilungen] called aesthetic, which concern the beautiful and the sublime in nature and in art" (pp5-6).
In fact there are gradations of liking everywhere, beginning with agreeability, then moving upwards through goodness to the beautiful, and each new definition brings problems of its own. With agreeability, for example, Kant is forced to consider two substantially different types of perception, thus .....
"Agreeable is what the senses like in sensation. [.....] Hence whatever is liked, precisely inasmuch as it is liked, is agreeable [.....] The green colour of meadows belongs to objective sensation, i.e., to the perception of an object of sense; but the colour's agreeableness belongs to subjective sensation, to feeling [.....] through which the object is regarded as an object of our liking [.....] This is why we say of the agreeable not merely that we like it but that it gratifies us" (pp47-48).
"Good is what, by means of reason, we like through its mere concept. We call something good for [this or that] if we like it only as a mean. But we call something intrinsically good if we like it for its own sake. [.....] In order to consider something good, I must always know what sort of thing the object is [meant] to be, i.e., I must have a [determinate] concept of it. But I do not need this in order to find beauty in something. [.....] A liking for the beautiful must depend on the reflection, regarding an object, that leads to some concept or other [.....]. This dependence on reflection also distinguishes the liking for the beautiful from [that for] the agreeable, which rests entirely on sensation" (pp48-49).
"As regards the agreeable everyone acknowledges that his judgement [is] confined to his own person. [.....] It is agreeable to me. [.....] Hence about the agreeable the following principle holds: Everyone has his own taste of sense. It is quite different (exactly the other way around) with the beautiful. [.....] Many things may be charming and agreeable to [a person]; no one cares about that. But if he proclaims something to be beautiful, then he requires the same liking from others; he then judges not just for himself but for everyone, and speaks of beauty as if it were a property of things" (pp55-56).
"There are two kinds of beauty, free beauty [.....]and merely accessory beauty [.....] Free beauty does not presuppose a concept of what the object is [meant] to be. Accessory beauty does presuppose such a concept, as well as the object's perfection in terms of that concept" (p76).
"The beautiful and the sublime are similar in some respects. We like both for their own sake, and both presuppose that we make a judgement of reflection rather than either a judgement of sense or a logically determinative one. Hence in neither of them does our liking depend on a sensation, such as that of the agreeable, nor on a determinate concept, as does our liking for the good" (p97).
1791 [See firstly 1784, Neoclassicism] A young French art student named Jean Auguste Domonique Ingres [Wikipedia biography] enrols at the French Royal Academy of Painting at Toulouse where he is tutored in the merits of Raphael. Over the coming decades he will become a major force in Neoclassicism. [See next 1795]
1792 A young German philosopher named Johann Fichte anonymously publishes "Attempt at a Critique of All Revelation" in which he challenged Kant's idea of the noumenon, recommending instead that we treat consciousness as not being grounded "in a so-called 'real world'" (Wikipedia). Consciousness is in and of itself, and needs to be investigated as such [see next 1796].
1793 Another of David's students, Anne-Louis Girodet, paints "The Sleep of Endymion". It shows Endymion, cursed-blessed by Zeus to live forever, but asleep, being visited by the moon-goddess Selene [a.k.a., Diana]. This work has now been identified as formative within the Romantic genre, thus .....
"The peculiarities which mark Girodet's position as the herald of the romantic movement are already evident in his 'Endymion'. He has a decided inclination to the ancient style [but his works] are also distinguished for life, nature, and beauty" (Wikipedia). Girodet will become in the fullness of time a favourite of Napoleon Bonaparte, executing a number of major works at his commission [see, e.g., 1802].
1794 A young German painter named Caspar David Friedrich [Wikipedia biography] studies at the University of Copenhagen under the Sturm und Drang masters Lorentzen and Juel. "Mood was paramount [in their work], and influence was drawn from such sources as the Icelandic legend of Edda, the poems of Ossian, and Norse mythology" (Wikipedia). He later explained his method as follows .....
"The artist should paint not only what he sees before him, but also what he sees within him. If, however, he sees nothing within him, then he should also refrain from painting that which he sees before him. Otherwise, his pictures will be like those folding screens behind which one expects to find only the sick or the dead" (Wikipedia). [See next 1805]
1794 The British novelist Ann Radcliffe publishes the best-selling "The Mysteries of Udolpho", a Gothic fiction piece in the style of Walpole, save that the central male character is beginning to become more into the heroic mould than an outright villain.
1794 The British artist William Blake [Wikipedia biography] exhibits "The Ancient of Days" [image]. This work is another of those named by Ernst Gombrich [see1950] as helping to break with the entrenched traditions of the 18th century, thus .....
"But in his hands the figure has become dream-like and fantastic. In fact, Blake had formed a mythology of his own, and the figure of the vision was not strictly speaking the Lord Himself, but a being of Blake's imagination whom he called Urizen. Though Blake conceived of Urizen as the creator of the world, he thought of the world as bad and therefore of its creator as of an evil spirit. Hence the uncanny nightmare character of the vision [.....] Like the mediaeval artists, he did not care for accurate representation, because the significance of each figure of his dreams was of such overwhelming importance to him that questions of mere correctness seemed to him irrelevant" (p388; emphasis added). [THREADS = DISTURBING ART and THE UNCANNY]
1795 Ingres [see 1791] decamps to Paris to complete his studies under the pioneer of Neoclassicism, Jacques-Louis David. Then, prompted by a less than enthusiastic reception in France galleries, he spent his middle years working in Italy with Italian sponsors, soon winning the Grand Prix de Rome for "Ambassadors of Agamemnon in the Tent of Achilles" (1801) [image]. [See next 1813]
1802 A young Scottish poet named Walter Scott publishes "The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Border", a collation of Scottish folk ballads which touch (as folklore inevitably must) on verbal history, popular nationalism, legend, and tradition.
1802 The struggling young British painter John Constable [Wikipedia biography] remarks to a correspondent that "The great vice of the present day is bravura, an attempt to do something beyond the truth" (cited in Gombrich, 1950, p390).
1802 Working his way through a series of commissions from Napoleon Bonaparte, Anne-Louis Girodet produces "Malvine, Dying in the Arms of Fingal" and "Ossian Receiving the Ghosts of the Fallen French Heroes", both on themes suggested by Macpherson's "Ossian".
1804 The Swiss physician Ignaz Troxler [Wikipedia biography] publishes a paper entitled "Űber das Verschwinden gegebener Gegenstände innerhalb unserer Gesichtkreises" [= "On the Disappearance of Objects in the Visual Field"], in which he records the subjective fading out of objects on the edge of a fixated visual scene. To experience "Troxler's fading" for yourself, click here. [See next 1833 (Brewster)] [THREAD = PATTERN RECOGNITION MECHANISMS (VISUAL)]
KEY CONCEPT - STABILISED RETINAL IMAGES: "Troxler's fading" is a simple enough phenomenon to experience but is just the tip of a much larger theoretical iceberg. The real issue concerns what the phenomenon tells us about the nature of the visual system. What is it that allows vision to fail - and fading is failing - so quickly, and why? Follow the THREAD to see more recent thinking on this issue.
KEY CONCEPT - STABILISED AUDITORY IMAGES: The strange perceptual phenomena obtained with stabilised retinal images are mutatis mutandis similar to some of the illusions obtained by unnaturally stimulating the auditory system. A stabilised auditory image might involve the fading of one or other auditory "formants" (single frequencies in a many frequency sound) resulting in a change in the quality of the final perception, or the subjective re-identification of a monotonously repeating word. The present resource will not include this line of research because we are primarily interested in the visual system. We note in parting, however, that stabilised auditory effects might well be involved in the repetitive chanting found in certain religious systems.
1805 Drawing on the travels and experiences of his youth, the Polish soldier-scholar-adventurer Jan Potocki starts work on a story chain under the title "The Manuscript Found in Saragossa", fragments of which are published over the ensuing ten years. The work will not be available in English until Ian Maclean's 1995 translation. "The stories reflect Potocki's interest in secret societies, the supernatural, and oriental cultures" (Wikipedia). Indeed Potocki was himself "probably a Freemason and had a strong interest in the occult" (ibid.).
1805 Following the Bouchon-Falcon breakthrough in 1725/8, another French weaver - Joseph Jacquard - improves Falcon's system, enabling continuous loops of up to 24,000 instruction cards to be put together. The Falcon-Jacquard system is nowadays routinely cited in histories of computing, because it reduced a repetitive human craft to an essentially numerical process, it brought numerical control to a manufacturing industry, and it involved programming as we nowadays understand it.
1805 Caspar Friedrich [see 1794], now based in Dresden, wins this year's Weimar Competition thanks to Goethe being particularly impressed with his work. His growing reputation gets him elected to the Berlin Academy in 1810.
"Scott's ponderousness and prolixity were out of step with Modernist sensibilities. Nevertheless, he was responsible for two major trends that carry on to this day. First, he essentially invented the modern historical novel [.....] Second, his Scottish novels followed on from James Macpherson's Ossian cycle in rehabilitating the public perception of Highland culture after years in the shadows following [.....] the Jacobite rebellions. [..... However,] his re-creations of the Highlands were more than a little fanciful" (Wikipedia).
1808 Goethe completes the first draft of his play "Faust: The First Part of the Tragedy", a complex piece of social observation in which Mephistopheles, a devil, bets with God that he can corrupt even the most upright of human beings. They test this hypothesis on an ambitious but struggling academic named Faust, overly keen to discover the secrets of existence [cf. Gerbert, Bacon, John Dee, and Edward Kelley]. Faust's ambitions and lusts make his seduction comparatively simple and leave him shamed at the trail of human destruction he has caused. The world will have to wait until 1832 for the denouement to the story.
1810 Friedrich completes "The Abbey in the Oakwood", a sepia-toned landscape in which monks carrying a coffin thread their way through a grove of winter-stripped oaks towards a ruined abbey. Images such as these will later abound in 20th century horror movies.
1811 The Scottish physician Sir Charles Bell publishes "New Anatomy of the Brain" in which he analyses the organisation of the spinal cord and proposes a fundamental distinction between sensory and motor functions. The motor tracts, he claims, run ventrally.
1812 Caspar Friedrich [see 1805] produces "Old Heroes' Graves" [image], in which the spirit of Arminius, victor of the Teutoburg Forest campaign against the Romans in 9AD, returns to help the German states in their struggles against Napoleonic France. [See next 1818]
ASIDE - HOW TO RECOGNISE FRIEDRICH'S PROTO-SYMBOLISM: "Bare oak trees and tree stumps [are] recurring elements of Friedrich's paintings, symbolising death. Countering the sense of despair are Friedrich's symbols for redemption: the cross and the clearing sky promise eternal life, and the slender moon suggests hope and the growing closeness of Christ. In his paintings of the sea, anchors often appear on the shore, also indicating a spiritual hope" (Wikipedia). Or more succinctly, "the sun does not shine often in Friedrich's paintings and, when it does, it is usually going down" (Blanning, 2010, p72).
1812 [See firstly 1620? (Laanen)] The German writers Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm [Wikipedia biography] publish "Kinder- und Hausmärchen" [= "Children's and Household Tales"], a collection of German folk and fairy tales. Not only will these stories reappear as English fairy stories such as "Cinderella", "Tom Thumb", "Hansel and Gretel", etc., etc., but they also provide fascinating insight into the interplay of a society's folklore and its formal belief system(s). Each tale is effectively a morality play in miniature and strongly reinforces the status quo. Tale #39, "The Elves", includes the following take on the changeling issue .....
"A certain mother's child had been taken away out of its cradle by the elves, and a changeling with a large head and staring eyes, which would do nothing but eat and drink, laid in its place. In her trouble, she went to her neighbour, and asked her advice. The neighbour said that she was to carry the changeling into the kitchen [.....] and boil some water in two eggshells, which would make the changeling laugh, and if he laughed, all would be over with him" (p208).
The Grimms' mediaevalist imagery inspired both painted artworks such as Alexander Zick's "Aschenputtel" [= "Cinderella"] and book illustrations such as those by Arthur Rackham for the English translation. More recently, highly sanitised versions of the tales have made a fortune for the Disney Corporation and continue to inspire a host of neo-mediaevalist illustrators [specimens].
1816 Ernst Hoffman publishes a short story entitled "Der Sandman" ["The Sandman"] in which a young student, Nathaniel, falls for the female automaton, Olimpia, only to descend into suicidal madness when he finally finds out the truth. Hoffman's collection of stories went under the title "The Night Pieces" and is an example of a Gothic genre in literature which does not appear to have been paralleled in art until later in the 19th century. Freud published an essay entitled "The Uncanny" in 1919 in which he discussed the psychodynamic symbolology in this and similar works. Another story, "Rath Krespel", is about the confrontation between vulnerable innocence [in this case the ailing Antonia] and evil genius, and reappears in George du Maurier's "Trilby" [see 1894].
1817 The British poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge coins the term "willing suspension of disbelief" to describe the willingness of a reader to engage as audience in any act of story-telling, be it in literature, drama, in poetry, or in any of the particular forms of visual art. [Cf. Kris's "aesthetic illusion" (1953) and Radford's "Paradox of Fiction" (1975)] [THREAD = THE PERFORMATIVE EXCHANGE]
"The principal aim of art is not, therefore, to imitate nature, to decorate our surroundings, to prompt us to engage in moral or political action, or to shock us out of our complacency. It is to allow us to contemplate and enjoy created images of our own spiritual freedom - images that are beautiful precisely because they give expression to our freedom. Art's purpose, in other words, is to enable us to bring to mind the truth about ourselves, and so to become aware of who we truly are. Art is there not just for art's sake, but for beauty's sake, that is, for the sake of a distinctively sensuous form of human self-expression and self-understanding" (Houlgate, 2009 online).
1818 Caspar Friedrich [see 1794] now exhibits "Der Wanderer über dem Nebelmeer" [= "Wanderer above the Sea of Fog"], since acclaimed as a masterpiece of 19th century sublime. We shall say more concerning this work here, since we shall be returning to it in some detail in due course [see 1998 (Wollheim)]. [See next 1837]
1818 Mary Shelley's novel "Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus" popularises the notion that biological systems can be "sewn together" and that (relatively) normal cognition and affect can be obtained from what would previously have been regarded as a monster. The book was written very much as a cautionary tale (hence the Promethean reference of the subtitle). Its theme was science biting off more than it could chew.
"I can hardly describe to you the effect of these books. They produced in me an infinity of new images and feelings, that sometimes raised me to ecstasy, but more frequently sunk me into the lowest dejection. In the Sorrows of Werter, besides the interest of its simple and affecting story, so many opinions are canvassed and so many lights thrown upon what had hitherto been to me obscure subjects that I found in it a never-ending source of speculation and astonishment. The gentle and domestic manners it described, combined with lofty sentiments and feelings, which had for their object something out of self, accorded well with my experience among my protectors and with the wants which were forever alive in my own bosom. But I thought Werter himself a more divine being than I had ever beheld or imagined; his character contained no pretension, but it sank deep. The disquisitions upon death and suicide were calculated to fill me with wonder. I did not pretend to enter into the merits of the case, yet I inclined towards the opinions of the hero, whose extinction I wept, without precisely understanding it. As I read, however, I applied much personally to my own feelings and condition. I found myself similar yet at the same time strangely unlike to the beings concerning whom I read and to whose conversation I was a listener. I sympathized with and partly understood them, but I was unformed in mind; I was dependent on none and related to none. 'The path of my departure was free,' and there was none to lament my annihilation. My person was hideous and my stature gigantic. What did this mean? Who was I? What was I? Whence did I come? What was my destination? These questions continually recurred, but I was unable to solve them" (Frankenstein, Chapter 15).
1820? The American painter William Hicks [Wikipedia biography] exhibits "Peaceable Kingdom" [image in bio], a distinctly idealised depiction of William Penn's 1682 treaty with the Native Americans. This picture will be identified by Carl Jung (1961 [q.v.]) as an instance of a Paradise Archetype in art. [THREAD = PSYCHODYNAMICS IN ART (JUNGIAN)]
1820 The Spanish artist Francisco Goya [Wikipedia biography] exhibits "The Giant" [image]. This work is another of those named by Ernst Gombrich [see1950] as helping to break with the entrenched traditions of the 18th century, thus .....
"Most of [Goya's prints] are fantastic visions of witches and uncanny apparitions. Some are meant as accusations against the powers of stupidity and reaction, of cruelty and oppression, which Goya had witnessed in Spain, others seem just to give shape to the artist's nightmares. ["The Giant"] represents one of the most haunting of his dreams - the figure of a giant sitting on the edge of the world. [.....] The monster sits in the moonlit landscape like some evil incubus. Was Goya thinking of the fate of his country, of its oppression by wars and human folly? Or was he simply creating an image like a poem? For this was the most outstanding effect of the break in tradition - that artists felt free to put their private visions on paper as hitherto only poets had done" (pp384-386; emphasis added).
1821 The British inventor Charles Babbage demonstrates a prototype "Difference Engine", a complex mechanical calculator. He later begins work on his "Difference Engine No, 1", a 15-ton mechanical calculator designed to resolve polynomial functions at high speed and to high levels of accuracy. The machine is never finished and Government funding is withdrawn in 1842.
1823 The German poet Heinrich Heine [Wikipedia biography] publishes the tragic play "Almansor". 110 years later this work will be one of those burned in the streets of Berlin for not neatly representing the Nazi ideal. Ironically the play includes the following dismally accurate prediction: "..... where they burn books, they will ultimately burn people also".
1824 The French anatomist Marie-Jean-Pierre Flourens devises a method of deliberately inflicting carefully targeted brain injuries on animals in order to observe which behaviours were lost as a result, and which preserved. His general conclusions were as follows .....
"Each part of the nervous system  has a proper function; and that is what makes it a distinct part: but the activity of each of these parts affects the activities of all the others; and that is what makes them parts of a particular system. [What matters] is the way each distinct part of this system contributes to the common activity" (Flourens, 1824).
"It is evident that the movements of the organs of speech must have a special centre in the brain, because speech can be completely lost in individuals who present no other signs of paralysis. [From these observations I believe] that the principal lawgiver of speech is to be found in the anterior lobes of the brain" (Bouillaud, 1825; cited in Head, 1926, p1).
ASIDE: The role of the frontal lobes in directing purposive behaviour is nowadays well established. They seem to be the home of planning, response selection, working memory, and the monitoring processes which (in most of us) allow us to withhold socially unacceptable behaviours when in polite company. They also help prevent contention for resources whenever mental multi-tasking results in competition for the same resource. [These facilities have all been incorporated into the Konrad software.]
1825 Olinde Rodrigues coins the word "avant-garde" to describe the creative arts' potential role in leading the rest of society towards radical social reform. [THREAD = AVANT-GARDE AND EXPERIMENTAL ART]
1827 The German philosopher Karl Trahndorff [Wikipedia biography] publishes "Aesthetics, or Theory of Philosophy of Art", in which he coins the term Gesamtkunstwerk [= "total artwork"]. The notion will reappear in Wagner's theory of musical drama a generation later. [THREAD = AESTHETIC THEORY]
1832 The British philosopher John Stuart Mill [Wikipedia biography] publishes an article entitled "On Genius", in which he espouses the view that "knowing come only from within", and that genius resides in being able to work things out for oneself. Education systems which are based upon the "cramming" of facts - learning by rote - fundamentally fail the students involved. [THREAD = THE NATURE OF THE CREATIVE ACT]
1833 Unaware of Ignaz Troxler's earlier paper [see 1804], the British physicist Sir David Brewster [Wikipedia biography] reports perceptual fading when gaze fixation was consciously prolonged. [See next 1904 (Tscherning)] [THREAD = PATTERN RECOGNITION MECHANISMS (VISUAL)]
1834 Having seen weaknesses in his 1824 Difference Engine design, Babbage turns now to the blueprints for a more powerful "Analytical Engine". Central to this design is a programming facility using the Jacquard Card mechanism.
1834 The British inventor William G. Horner [Wikipedia biography] invents "The Zoetrope", a drum-stroboscope [image; action video courtesy of Bre Pettis] capable of generating (relatively) smooth perception of movement from a sequence of fractionally different image frames. [See next 1839 (Daguerre)] [THREAD = THE HISTORY OF CINEMATOGRAPHY]
1835 [See firstly 530BCE (Pythagoras)] The German mathematician Martin Ohm [Wikipedia biography] includes a discussion of the Golden Ratio in his mathematical writings, introducing as he does so the alternative popular name "der goldene Schnitte" [= "the Golden Section"]. [See next 1854 (Zeising)] [THREAD = THE NATURE OF BEAUTY]
1837 Caspar Friedrich [see 1812] exhibits "Landscape with Owl, Grave, and Coffin", one of his last works. He will now become little spoken of until the rise of German nationalism in the 20th century brings his work out of obscurity.
1838 The German physicist Gustav Theodor Fechner [Wikipedia biography] reports an experiment on the subjective experience of a colour illusion when presented with spinning black and white patterns. This will prove the first of many studies into human perceptual abilities using the objective and replicable methods of the physical sciences. Fechner's new science will become known as "psychophysics", and will in the fullness of time evolve into modern experimental psychology. [See next 1860]
1839 The American author Edgar Allan Poe publishes "Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque", a collection of short stories on a generally dismal theme. They were deliberately created as Gothic fiction because it was selling well at the time, and Poe needed money. But their obsession with death, decomposition, premature burial, etc., seem to have come from Poe's inner being. For example in "The Fall of the House of Usher" deals with the fatal character failings of one Roderick Usher, his "mansion of doom", and of a mentally disturbed twin-sister too soon buried. This, together with works like "The Masque of the Red Death" and "The Pit and the Pendulum" would go on to provide fertile sources for the Hammer Horror films over a century later.
1841 The British chemist William H. Fox Talbot [Wikipedia biography] demonstrates the "calotype", an early form of photographic image making. [See next 1861 (Sellers)] [THREAD = THE HISTORY OF CINEMATOGRAPHY]
1842 The Swiss theologian Jacob Burckhardt, having noted the need for a new academic discipline in art history, publishes the first of a series of works on art collections and styles across Europe. In his analysis of Renaissance Italian art he would popularise the term Manierismus [German = "Mannerism"] to describe the bella maniera work of Raphael and those who based their practice upon his.
1842 The British artist Joseph Mallord William Turner [Wikipedia biography] exhibits "Steamer in a Snowstorm" [Tate image]. This work is another of those named by Ernst Gombrich [see1950] as helping to break with the entrenched traditions of the 18th century, thus .....
"In Turner, nature always reflects and expresses man's emotions. We feel small and overwhelmed in the face of the powers we cannot control, and are compelled to admire the artist who had nature's forces at his command" (p390).
1842 The Austro-Hungarian poet Nikolaus Lenau [Wikipedia biography] publishes an epic poem entitled "Die Albigenser" in which the sad history of the Cathars [see 1198] is brought up to date in romanticised verse.
1846 The German philosopher Friedrich Theodor Vischer [Wikipedia biography] publishes the first volume of his "Aesthetics, or the Science of Beauty". Other volumes will follow over the ensuing decade, all emphasising the basic human faculty for the "symbolic interjection" of our emotions into our mental model of the world of objects. [See next 1873 (Robert Vischer)] [THREAD = EMOTIONALITY IN ART]
1848 A group of British painters led by William Holman Hunt, John Millais, and Dante Rosetti, react against the popularity of Mannerism on the grounds that it is essentially mechanical, and establish the "Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood". The objectives of the movement are to reclaim the subject matter and methods of Renaissance painting such as it had been prior to Raphael.
1849 Gustave Courbet's painting "Stone Breakers" depicts a very everyday theme painted in a very retinally faithful style using the subjects themselves and not models. This gets mixed reviews [critics accused Courbet of the "deliberate pursuit of ugliness"] but soon inspires the school of painting known as "Realism".
HOW TO RECOGNISE "REALIST" ARTWORKS: [See firstly 350BCE, Aristotle's Poetics, concerning the portrait painter's role being to beautify their subject.] By setting out to be "true to life" a Realist artwork becomes important for what it is not, that is to say, it is not Classical because it depicts no mythical or religious encounter or deed, nor is it Mannerist because it has not been artificially beautified, nor is it Romantic because it there is no instantly identifiable hero, and so on. Realist artworks are important instead because their very matter-of-fact-ness prompts you to contemplate instead the back story - to identify psychologically for a moment with the characters depicted, to put yourself in their place and - ultimately - to understand the world differently as a result. What, for example, would it be like to be one of Courbet's stonebreakers? What are their names? Are they brothers? Cousins? Do they have children? What are their ambitions in life? How does society at large treat them? Is that treatment fair and just? If not, what can be done about it and by whom? And so on .....
1849 The German composer Richard Wagner publishes an essay entitled "Art and Revolution" in which he sets out his masterplan for the proper placement of art in society, namely as a Neoclassical ideal rather than as something which merely sells well [what Bell (1914, p98) will later refer to as "literary music"]. In so doing he refines and popularises Trahndorff's notion of the Gesamtkunstwerk [see 1827] as a combination of music, choreography, a strongly poetic libretto, and the very loftiest of purposes.
1849 The German physician-physicist Hermann von Helmholtz [Wikipedia biography] is appointed Director of the Königsberg Physiological Institute, and succeeds in measuring the transmission speed of the nervous impulses which activate the leg of the frog at around 100 feet per second. [See next 1851]
1850 The American physician Henry J. Bigelow reports on the case of a 25 year old railroad worker named Phineas P. Gage, the victim of a blasting accident in 1848 which had driven a four-foot long iron bar in through his left cheek and out through the top of his skull. The injury destroyed much of the left frontal lobe, together with the medial elements of the right. Nevertheless it did not prevent the victim walking part of the way to the surgery, nor his survival for another twenty years. What is equally noteworthy were the changes to the man's personality which resulted. Whilst his general intellectual level remained more or less unaffected, his injury changed him from a well-respected and competent foreman to a state of indifference, carelessness, and frequent profanity.
1850 The French painter William-Adolphe Bouguereau [Wikipedia biography] wins this year's Prix de Rome with "Zenobia" [image], and begins to develop a reputation for near photo-realistic traditionalism.
1851 Hermann von Helmholtz [see 1849] invents the opthalmoscope, an instrument for studying the internal structures of the eye. He also studies the processes of judgement involved in colour perception, and his "Handbuch der Physiologischen Optik" (various volumes from 1856) [in English as "Handbook of Physiological Optics"] will remain the standard textbook on the perception of form, colour, and movement for nigh on a century. [THREAD = THE SCIENCE OF VISION]
1851 The French playwrights Jules Barbier and Michel Carré dramatise four of Ernst Hoffmann's "Night Pieces" [see 1816], including "The Sandman", and stage it in Paris under the title "Tales of Hoffmann".
1853 The French painter Gustave Moreau [Wikipedia biography] has "A Scene from the Song of Songs" and "The Death of Darius" accepted by this year's Paris Salon, establishing him as a painter of biblical and classical themes. [See next 1864]
1854 [See firstly 530BCE (Pythagoras)] The German psychologist Adolf Zeising [Wikipedia biography] publishes "Proportionen der Menschlischen Körpers" [= "The Proportions of the Human Body"], in which he argues from selected examples that there is a nature-wide law of "Proportionality" based on the Golden Section. [See next 1865 (Fechner)] [THREAD = THE NATURE OF BEAUTY]
1855 The American artist James Whistler [Wikipedia biography] arrives in France to seek his fortune. He settles in the Bohemian quarter of Paris and slowly forges contacts with Courbet [see 1849], Manet [see 1865], and Baudelaire [see 1857]. He achieves his first exhibited work, "La Mere Gerard" [image] in 1858, just prior to removing to London. In England his "At the Piano" [image] gets him accused of "a recklessly bold manner and sketchings of the wildest and roughest kind" (Wikipedia). His "Symphony in White, No. 1" (1861)[image] was well received when exhibited at the Salon des Refusés in Paris in 1863. [See next 1871]
1856 The British Pre-Raphaelite painter William Holman Hunt [Wikipedia biography] completes "The Scapegoat" [Wikipedia image], an apparently uncomplicated portrait of a goat on the salt flats beside the Dead Sea. His expressed intention is to depict the Levitican scapegoat, cast out as a symbol of atonement [see full story], thereby inviting us also to remember the later sacrifice of Christ's crucifixion. Not all viewers of the work were able to decipher the symbolism. [THREAD = ARCHETYPES IN ART (THE SCAPEGOAT)]
1857 Influenced by the works of Edgar Allan Poe, the French writer Charles Baudelaire publishes "The Flowers of Evil" [buy], a book of poems on humankind's general fascination with the darker side of its nature. Individual topics ranged from rape and poison via Satan and diabolism to lesbianism, vampyrism, and pus. This genre will shortly be supported by the likes of Stéphane Mallarmé and Paul Verlaine, and is currently flagged as on the stylistic cusp between Gothic Romanticism and what Jean Moréas will describe in 1886 as "Symbolism".
1859 The British physician-zoologist Charles Darwin [Wikipedia biography], after 20 years collecting data and honing his arguments, publishes "The Origin of Species", in which he spells out the first formally complete theory of evolution. [See next 1872] [THREAD = THE NATURE OF INSTINCT]
1859 The Danish-French painter Camille Pissarro [Wikipedia biography] has his first work accepted for exhibition at the Paris Salon. His style has been influenced by that of Gustave Courbet [see 1849], Jean-Francois Millet, and Jean Corot, and his subjects are typically plein air rural studies. [See next 1872 (Cézanne)]
1860 Inspired by the works of Sir Walter Scott, the Italian painter Giovanni Fattori produces a number of Romantic paintings on themes of Scottish independence. Over the ensuing years he develops a style emphasising strong but geometrically simple composition. He also benefits from membership of the Macchiaioli, "a group of Tuscan painters whose methods and aims are somewhat similar to those of the Impressionists" (Wikipedia).
1860 Gustav Fechner [see 1838] publishes "Elements of Psychophysics" in which he reports a series of experiments into the relationship between what is available to our senses, what is detected by them, and the phenomenal perceptions which result. Equations and graphs showed many underlying predictabilities, all empirically replicable. [See next 1865]
KEY CONCEPT - PSYCHOPHYSICAL METHODS: Fechner is nowadays recognised as one of the founding fathers of experimental psychology. His experimental methods all require subjective judgement on the part of the person being tested, and their results therefore need careful interpretation if the whole process of enquiry is to avoid being either consciously or unconsciously biased. Nevertheless the procedures followed by the researcher are entirely replicable and the records maintained are every bit as objective as those maintained by "hard" scientists such as physicists and chemists.
1861 The American inventor Coleman Sellers [Wikipedia biography] patents the "Kinematoscope", a simple way of flicking through a series of slightly different images to obtain the impression of motion. [See next 1870 (Heyl)] [THREAD = HISTORY OF CINEMATOGRAPHY]
1861 Having shown promise in his drawing classes at the School of Fine Arts in Aix, the young French painter Paul Cézanne [Wikipedia biography] leaves Provence for Paris and enrols at the Académie Suisse, where he meets and mixes with Armand Guillaumin, Camille Pissarro [see 1859], Jean Guillemet, and the Bohemian intellectuals frequenting the Cafe Guerbois on Avenue de Clichy [more on these]. He is soon dispirited, however, and returns south to work at his father's bank. [See next 1863]
1863 Hermann von Helmholtz [see 1849] now turns his laboratory skills to the auditory system, publishing his findings in "Tonempfindungen als Physiologische Grundlage für die Theorie der Musik" [in English as "On the Sensations of Tone as a Physiological Basis for the Theory of Music"]. [THREAD = THE SCIENCE OF HEARING]
1863 Paul Cézanne [see 1861] achieves his first professional success at this year's Salon des Refusés, although his style strikes critics and public alike as rough and untutored. He will later refer to this time as a period of "couillarde", that is to say, of vigour, heartiness, and daring (Brion, 1972). Works from this period include "Portrait of Louis-Auguste Cézanne" (1866) [image], which will eventually be included in the 1882 Salon exhibition, and "Leda and the Swan" (1868) [image]. [See next 1872]
1865 Gustav Fechner [see 1838] now turns his laboratory skills to aesthetics by studying judgements of the "Golden Rectangle". He finds that the ideal rectangle has height and width in the ratio 21:34. [See next 2010 (Phillips et al)] [THREAD = THE NATURE OF BEAUTY]
1865 The French painter Edouard Manet exhibits "Olympia", a female reclining nude [now in the Musee d'Orsay, Paris][image]. The painting depicts no more nudity than had been seen in various Renaissance works but because Manet seems to be criticising French society's attitude to women the work caused quite a controversy. The main cause of offence was initially that the central character is clearly depicted as a prostitute rather than a classical beauty, and then that the expression on her face is one of unexplained challenge. The art world has been discussing the causes of the furore ever since. Almost exactly a century later the young performance artist Carolee Scheeman will reprise the work in tableau vivant format.
ASIDE: In fact the painting's name seems not to have been chosen by Manet at all, but by a friend and sponsor of his, the art critic Zacharie Astruc. Flescher (1985) points out that Olympia was not a common French girl's name at the time: it was an assumed name with a particular meaning. Specifically it seems to have grown popular in the 1830s when it was adopted by French prostitutes as their nom d'enterprise. Parent-Duchâtelet (1831) had studied the practice here, and had identified "Colette, 'La Courtille', 'Brunette' as designations adopted by the lower classes, while Angelina, Flore, and Olympe signified those of a higher echelon". Floyd (2004) suggests that Olympia was deliberately painted to be visually similar to a certain Marguerite Bellanger, an intimate of Emperor Napoleon III.
ASIDE: None of the competing explanations of the Olympia controversy makes much of the Olimpia automaton in Hoffmann's "The Sandman". It may or may not be relevant that Barbier and Carré's "Tales of Hoffmann" had been staged in Paris in 1851, giving Parisians a recent alternative source for the name Olympia. The name would certainly be appropriate to the extent that the automaton Olimpia had been built to utter but a single human word, the word "yes", surely an ideal (albeit short) vocabulary for a prostitute. There is, however, little sense of the uncanny when viewing Manet's ouevre.
1866 The first steam-powered steering system is patented by the Scottish engineer J. Macfarlane Gray in 1866, and installed in the SS Great Eastern. The essence of the invention was that when the helm was moved to a new position no direct attempt was made to move the rudder. Instead, the helm moved a steam valve which powered a gear-train which moved the rudder. It is now known that the separation in this way of the control instruction from the power to execute it is typical of mechanical action systems in both engineering and biology.
1868 The Dutch physiologist Franciscus Donders publishes a paper entitled "On the Speed of Mental Processing" in which he brings "central processing time" into the reaction time equation to help account for whatever mental decision making was needed between the sensory and the motor conduction processes. He devised a technique for comparing the average time for a simple reaction task with the average time for exactly the same reaction delivered or withheld according to the outcome of a broader decision task [this two-stimulus/two-response arrangement was known at the time as Donders' "type b" reaction and is known now as "choice reaction time"; Donders "type a" reaction was a single response to a single stimulus, and his "type c" reaction was a single response to two stimuli]. The simple reaction was always quicker than the one requiring the additional decision making, and by subtracting one set of timings from the other Donders was able to factor out what we would nowadays conceptualise as "thinking time".
KEY CONCEPT - PERCEPTUAL STAGES (3): [See firstly 1662, Descartes on Neurotransmission] Donders' early psychophysical experimentation raised an important new awareness, namely that different parts of the end-to-end process of cognition take finite amounts of time. Perceiving takes time, reasoning and decision making takes time, and so too does converting a mental act of will into the muscle contractions needed to express it physically. [This inset topic continues after 1874, Wernicke]
1869 The British anthropologist Sir Francis Galton [Wikipedia biography] publishes "Hereditary Genius" [buy], in which he concluded that intellectual ability - and thus success and richness - was largely inherited, even to the extent that the rich should be encouraged to breed more freely than the poor. "I have no patience," Galton wrote, "with the hypothesis [that] babies are born pretty much alike". [THREAD = THE PSYCHOLOGY OF CREATIVITY]
1870 [See firstly 1838 (Fechner and psychophysics)] The British scientist W. Stanley Jevons [Wikipedia biography] steps out of discipline for a few days to devise and conduct a simple yet theoretically important experiment in human psychophysics. He is interested in measuring the "span of apprehension", that is to say, the number of simple objects which can accurately be visually perceived in a single brief exposure. He obtains his data using a only a supply of dried beans and a flat tray. For each trial he tosses a random number of beans into the tray and immediately estimates how many there are. He then counts the beans accurately and records any error. As the results accumulate they expose a fundamental property of human cognition - we can only accurately apperceive around five separate items at a time. Beyond that number we apperceive instead groups of items of approximated size, whose true number cannot be established in a single glance but needs to be counted.
1870 The Austrian writer Leopold von Sacher-Masoch [Wikipedia biography] publishes the novel "Venus in Furs" [buy], in which the central character obtains sexual gratification by being whipped by a beautiful woman. [THREAD = DISTURBING ART]
1871 James Whistler [see 1855] unveils "Arrangement in Grey and Black: The Artist's Mother" [image]. Popularly known as "Whistler's Mother", this work stands as an example of mid-Victorian stylistic experimentation and has remained instantly recognisable ever since. [See next 1885]
1871 Drawing upon his experience treating battlefield head injuries during the American Civil War, the American neurosurgeon Silas Weir Mitchell [International Brain Research Organisation biography] publishes a paper entitled "Phantom Limbs", in which he summarises the stump hallucinations experienced following traumatic amputation [see details].
RESEARCH ISSUE - PHANTOM LIMB: Peter Brugger [see 1994] has recently suggested that phantom phenomena might help explain the Doppelgänger hallucination, pointing out that the latter may be regarded as a whole body phantom.
1872 The German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche [Wikipedia biography] publishes "The Birth of Tragedy" [buy], in which, amongst other things, he distinguishes between a "Dionysian" mental world wherein - after the Greek god Dionysus - everything is impulsive and hedonistic, and an "Apollonian" mental world wherein - after the ways of Apollo - everything is logical and ordered [more on this distinction]. In this, and many later works, the Dionysian way of being is seen as the best way of encouraging an artist's creative energies. [This distinction is further discussed in 1953 (Ehrenzweig)]
1872 Charles Darwin [see 1859] now publishes "The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals", in which he identifies groups of human emotional states, complete with characteristic facial expressions, which have much in common with the instinctive (and by definition non-verbal) communication of lower vertebrate species. His groupings include "low spirits" (anxiety, grief, despair), "high spirits" (joy, love, tenderness), the violently negative states of hatred and anger, a cluster of mildly negative states such as disgust and guilt, a cluster of avoidance-related states such as surprise, fear, and horror, and a cluster of self-related derivative states such as shame and shyness, in which blushing plays a major part. [THREAD = THE NATURE OF INSTINCT]
1872 Paul Cézanne [see 1861] now studies for a while under Camille Pissarro [see 1859] at Pontoise, just outside Paris, and takes his mentor's advice never to paint with anything but the three primary colours. Pissarro also persuaded Cézanne to curb his petulant temper and finish more of his works in single sittings. As a result, "his canvases gained a new freshness and immediacy" (Brion, 1972, p27). [See next 1873]
1873 The German philosopher Robert Vischer [Wikipedia biography] publishes "Über das Optische Formgefühl" [= "On the Sense of Optical Feeling"], in which he follows his father's writings on empathy [see 1846 (Friedrich Vischer)] by emphasising the ability of the best artworks to exploit the essentially human ability for Einfühlung [= "feeling in"], that is to say, of projecting our feelings onto just about anything - animate or otherwise - in the outside world. [THREAD = EMOTIONALITY IN ART]
1873 The British philosopher Alexander Bain [Wikipedia biography] publishes "Mind and Body", in which he includes a neural circuit diagram [reproduced as Figure 2 in Wilkes and Wade (1997) and in Olmsted (2006 online)]. This diagram predates those adopted by the early Connectionists by 70 years [see 1943 (McCulloch and Pitts)]. [THREAD = NEURAL CONNECTIONISM]
1873 Paul Cézanne [see 1861] now relocates to nearby Auvers, where he continues to develop his personal style. The results can be seen in his second attempt at "A Modern Olympia" (1873) [image]. [See next 1874]
1874 The German neurologist Carl Wernicke reports on cases of fluent aphasia associated with lesions to the left parieto-temporal region of cerebral cortex. Wernicke accompanies his case reports with an early information flow diagram.
KEY CONCEPT - PERCEPTUAL STAGES (4): [See firstly 1868, Donders] By the late 19th century neurologists were starting to map the input and output sides of linguistic cognition. Wernicke (1874) [show me this] started the ball rolling by showing how the psychological function of word recognition sits in place atop the anatomical auditory nerve. Kussmaul (1878) [show me this] adds an "ideational centre" to take care of the highest cognitive functions. Lichtheim (1885) [show me this] shows only three substantive modules and five neurotransmission pathways, but cross-references these to the clinical symptoms expected if they are damaged. Lichtheim also recognises the possibility that some functional modules can be tightly localised whilst others are anatomically more distributed. Freud (1891) [show me this] shows a "word concept system" comprising four localised lexical processors alongside an "object concept system" made up of content-specific memory fragments. Modern neuropsychology will eventually incorporate all these findings into a larger 21-module X-shaped explanatory diagram of its own, namely that of Ellis (1982) [show me this].[This inset topic continues after 1902 (Meinong)]
1874 The German philosopher Franz Brentano [Wikipedia biography] publishes "Psychology from an Empirical Standpoint", in which he advances the concept of Vorstellung, the notion that the sensory systems somehow "presented" their contents to higher functions. His subsequent distinction between the act and the content of a presentation was to make him famous. "By presentation," he explained, "I do not mean that which is presented, but rather the act of presentation [den Akt des Vorstellens]" (1874, p79). He also coins the terms "intentionality" and "intentional inexistence" to describe how cognition needs without exception to be directed towards (or be in some way about) some focal object. By focusing on the dynamic sequence of mental processing in this way, Brentano takes a similar approach to the Perceptual Stages Debate as modern cognitive psychologists, and his general approach was further developed by one of his students, Alexius Meinong [see 1902].
1874 The French painter Fernand Cormon [Wikipedia biography] exhibits "Meutre au Serail" [= "Murder in the Seraglio"] [Flickr image], and begins to develop a reputation for the gory and the sensationalist.
1874 Paul Cézanne [see 1861] now submits three canvases (including "A Modern Olympia") to the First Impressionist Exhibition. However as his works get better known so too do the criticisms get louder. For example, the guardian of good taste Joris Huysmans accuses Cézanne of "a disconcerting absence of balance" (Vollard, p39). And so begins the debate - still not finally concluded - over whether Cézanne's works were masterpieces or monstrosities. [See next 1877]
1874 During a term in Florence, the Swiss symbolist painter Arnold Böcklin [Wikipedia biography] sets out on a ten-year experiment weaving some darker imagery into his otherwise Neoclassical themes [for examples see ArtMagick e-Gallery] [THREAD = DISTURBING ART]
1875 The German physiologist-philosopher Wilhelm Wundt, one-time assistant to Helmholtz, starts to put together the world's first dedicated psychology laboratory at the University of Leipzig, to pursue what he terms "physiological psychology". Over the ensuing years the Leipzig laboratory attracts researchers from across the world.
1877 The German sexologist-psychiatrist Richard von Krafft-Ebing [Wikipedia biography] publishes "Psychopathia Sexualis" [buy], a collection of psychiatric case studies characterised by abnormalities in sexuality and sexual behaviour. Amongst the syndromes identified therein is "paraesthesia", where the sexual desire is aroused by or directed towards an inappropriate goal object, as with fetishism or paedophilia.
1877 Paul Cézanne [see 1861] now has 17 paintings included in the Third Impressionist Exhibition. These include "Portrait of Victor Chocquat" (1875) [image], a picture so ugly in one critic's eyes that he felt constrained to warn pregnant women not to view it for fear that it could still their baby in the womb. [See next 1880]
1877 The American philosopher-logician Charles S. Peirce [Wikipedia biography] is elected to the National Academy of Sciences, and publishes "The Fixation of Belief", in which he characterises the scientific method as the least unproductive of a number of rival methods of investigative enquiry. [THREAD = THE SCIENTIFIC METHOD]
1878 The British photographer Eadweard Muybridge [Wikipedia biography] famously uses an array of stills cameras triggered in quick succession by tripwires to demonstrate that a galloping horse has all four feet off the ground at the same time for part of its stride. He will make a lot of money over the coming years with 12-up prints, each a fraction of a second apart, of the horse, nudes, and athletes, moving in frozen time in this way. [See next 1882 (Marey)] [THREAD = HISTORY OF CINEMATOGRAPHY]
1879 A young Gustav Klimt enters the Vienna School of Arts and Crafts to study as an architectural painter. Upon graduating he receives commissions to paint murals and ceilings in a number of Vienna's public buildings.
1879 The German physician Wilhelm Maximilian Wundt [Wikipedia biography] establishes a laboratory for psychological experimentation at the University of Leipzig. Over the next two decades he investigates such phenomena as muscle movement, perception, and reaction time, as well as analysing the modularity of linguistic processing [see 1902].
1880 The Italian art historian Giovanni Morelli [Wikipedia biography] publishes "The Work of the Italian Masters" in which he sets out the principles of objectively based art history, an approach known as "connoisseurship".
1880 Paul Cézanne [see 1861] now enters what has since been assessed as his "constructive period". He has learned how to view scenes analytically as assemblages of geometric shapes - spheres, cylinders, cones, etc., then using that data to synthesise [= construct] the desired artwork. The essence of his new technique is summarised as follows .....
Brion (1972) names "Rocks at l'Estaque" (1879-1882) [image] as typical of this period, and we can indeed see therein traces of the old couillade, an Impressionist middle ground, and multiple points of perspective. [See next 1882]
1880 The French painter Bertrand-Jean ("Odilon") Redon exhibits "Spirit of the Forest". Later works such as "Cactus Man" (1881) [image] and "The Crying Spider" (1881) [image] earn him a reputation for unnatural and disturbing composition.
RESEARCH ISSUE - DISTURBING ART: [See firstly 1745 (Meier on Emotion in Aesthetics)] The physiological and psychological activities which somehow culminate in a negative emotional experience are just as unavailable for conscious introspection as are those which support our more positive affective experiences. Most of what takes place takes place subconsciously, and our conscious selves are left to make what sense they can out of what little is passed on to them. Physiological science accordingly has no satisfactory explanation of the tingling on the back of the neck when we are afraid, or the welling up of some sudden sadness, or the visceral disgust which comes with the smell of rotting flesh. And by the same token aesthetic science can do no more than superficially correlate the shapes and colours which bring out this or that specific emotion. They know the what and when about what makes a picture sad or scary, but not the underlying how, why, or where.
1881 The German physiologist Hermann Munk [Wikipedia biography] publishes "Über die Funktionen des Grosshirnrinde" [= "On the Functions of the Cerebral Cortex"], in which he reports amongst other things on the behaviour of dogs with deliberately inflicted injury to the cerebral hemispheres. In one often-quoted instance, he notes how an occipital lobe lesion may impair a dog's object recognition ability but leave intact the lower ability to avoid colliding with the same object when walking about! Munk famously termed this phenomenon Seelenblindheit [= "mind blindness"], usually translated as "psychic blindness". [See next 1986 (Weiskrantz)] [THREAD = LOCALISATION OF BRAIN FUNCTION (VISION)]
1882 The German composer Richard Wagner stages the first performance of the opera "Parsifal", a story involving the Knights of the Grail at Montsalvat, a fictional castle built to protect the Holy Grail and other early Christian relics. The opera recounts the search for Longinus' Spear - the weapon which had tortured Christ upon the Cross - which has been separated from its custodians by dark doings. One of the characters, Kundry, "the most complex character in all of Wagner's dramatic works" (Everett, 2009), seems to be a female version of the legendary Wandering Jew, sometimes beautiful [see Arthur Rackham's "The Grail Bearer" (????)] and sometimes haggardly.
1882 The French inventor Etienne-Jules Marey [Wikipedia biography] demonstrates his photographic "gun", a device capable of taking 12-exposures a second onto a single photosensitive plate. He used this technique to photograph birds in flight and other zoological phenomena. [See next 1888 (Le Prince)] [THREAD = HISTORY OF CINEMATOGRAPHY]
1882 The young French painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec [Wikipedia biography] begins a five-year period of study under Léon Bonnat [see 1882] and Fernand Cormon [see 1874] in the Montmartre quarter of Paris. [See next 1889]
1882 The French painter Léon Bonnat [Wikipedia biography] becomes a professor at the École des Beaux Arts, Paris, pursuing a practice which places the "overall effect" of a work above its technical detail.
1883 Francis Galton [see 1869] now publishes "Inquiries into Human Faculty and its Development", in which he includes a short chapter to the topic of "Colour Associations", in which cites the biographical writings of Baron von Osten Sacken who experienced colour phenomena when recalling numbers and historical events. [See next 1907 (Ferrari)] [THREAD = SYNAESTHESIA]
1884 The American philosopher William James [Wikipedia biography] publishes a paper entitled "What is an Emotion?" [full text online], in which he puts forward the view of the emotions which we know today as the "James-Lange Theory of Emotion" [see inset 1744].
1884 The American engineer Herman Hollerith, a US Census Bureau civil servant, obtains his first patent for a punched card data recording system. By 1889 he has enough experience for his Tabulating Machine Company to win the contract to process the data from the 1890 US census. [The Census Bureau, for their part, was quick to buy, because it had only just finished manually processing the 1880 figures! All went perfectly, and within a year the machines had tabulated over 62 million US citizens (Cortada, 1993).]
1885 The neurologist Ludwig Lichtheim develops Wernicke's 1874 diagram into a generic two-level biological cognitive hierarchy often referred to nowadays as "Lichtheim's house". Damage to any of the three processing modules or five information flow pathways produces a characteristic type of language disorder.
1885 The Danish physiologist Carl Georg Lange publishes Om Sindsbevaegelser [= "The Mechanism of the Emotions"] (Lange, 1885/1912), in which he helps to state what will go on to become famous as the James-Lange Theory of the emotions [see inset 1744]. The essence of the argument may be seen in the following extract .....
"We have in every emotion as certain and manifest factors: (1) a cause, -- a sense impression, which acts as a rule by the aid of memory, or of an associated idea; -- and thereafter (2) an effect, namely, the previously discussed vasomotor changes, and further, issuing from them, the changes in the bodily and mental functions. The question now arises: What lies between these two factors? Is there anything at all? If I begin to tremble because I am threatened with a loaded pistol, does first a psychical process occur in me, does terror arise, and is that what causes my trembling, palpitation of the heart, and confusion of thought; or are these bodily phenomena produced directly by the terrifying cause, so that the emotion consists exclusively of the functional disturbances in my body?" (p673; emphasis added).
1885 James Whistler [see 1871] takes his "Ten O'Clock Lecture" [full text online] on tour in a thinly veiled attack on establishment values in general (and John Ruskin in particular) and the myth of the "art-loving nation". The true artist - he argues - "takes no joy in the ways of his brethren" (e3), and studies instead the "curious curvings" of Nature, that they might come to grace humanity's humble artefacts. Unfortunately this whole "wondrous" process is soon to be perverted by the arrival of "the middleman", who seeks not the dainty and the lovable in a painting, but its purpose. In Whistler's own words .....
"Then sprang into existence the tawdry, the common, the gewgaw. The taste of the tradesman supplanted the science of the artist, and what was born of the million went back to them, and charmed them, for it was after their own heart; and the great and the small, the statesman and the slave, took to themselves the abomination that was tendered, and preferred it [.....] And the artist's occupation was gone, and the manufacturer and the huckster took his place" (e4).
"..... with his translation from canvas to paper, the work becomes [the middleman's] own. He finds poetry where he would feel it were he himself transcribing the event, invention in the intricacy of the mise en scene [i.e., methodically constructed], and noble philosophy in some detail of philanthropy, courage, modesty, or virtue suggested to him by the occurrence. [.....] Meanwhile, the painter's poetry is quite lost on him" (e8; bold emphasis added).
1886 Reflecting on the poetry of Baudelaire [see 1857], Mallarmé, and Verlaine, and the paintings of Moreau and Redon [see 1880], the art critic Jean Moréas publishes the "Symbolist Manifesto" exhorting adherents of the promising new artform to describe real world phenomena not for their own sake but only to the extent that their appearances represent secret deeper ideas. In poetry this meant evoking rather than describing, and generally using symbolic imagery as the language of the poet's soul, in generating a shared state of mind rather than a shared representation. In painting it often meant focusing even more intensely on the mysticism of the Romantic movement at the expense of ancillary detail, thus .....
ASIDE - HOW TO RECOGNISE SYMBOLIST ARTWORK: Initially an outgrowth of Gothic Romanticism, Symbolist art emphasises the imagination. It uses dreamlike, sometime nightmarish, content to tease out some deeper truth, especially where other methods might fail.
1886 Robert Louis Stevenson's novel "Doctor Jeckyl and Mister Hyde" popularises the possibility that the human psyche might contain both an evil side and a good side, in constant struggle for control over one's thought and behaviour.
1886 Alluding directly to the recent death of his sister, the Norwegian painter Edvard Munch exhibits "The Sick Child" [image]. The work received hostile reviews for having dared to record something so personal as intimate family grief. Munch responds that it is "soul painting", and therefore wholly legitimate. He also concludes that the purpose of art is "to explain life and its meaning". Three years later he will decamp to Paris to spend time studying the styles of Gauguin and Toulouse-Lautrec. He develops a personal style which uses colour rather than form as the primary vehicle of a work's symbolism.
1887 The British anthropologist Sir James George Frazer [Wikipedia biography] contributes an article entitled "Totemism" to the Encyclopedia Britannica. In it he collates what is then known about "savage totemism", that is to say, the use of "material objects which a savage regards with superstitious respect". Totems can relate to one's clan, to one's gender, or to oneself in isolation. Here is how Frazer sees it working .....
"The connection between a man and his totem is mutually beneficient; the totem protects the man, and the man shows his respect for the totem in various ways, by not killing it if it be an animal, by not cutting or gathering it if it be a plant. As distinguished from a fetish [see 1757 (de Brosses)], a totem is never an isolated individual, but always a class of objects, generally a species of animals or of plants, more rarely a class of inanimate natural objects, very rarely a class of artificial objects. [..... A] clan totem is reverenced by a body of men and women who call themselves by the name of the totem, believe themselves to be of one blood, descendents of a common ancestor, and are bound together by common obligations and by a common faith in the totem. Totemism is thus both a religious and a social system" (e3-4). [THREAT = ART, RITUAL, AND BELIEF]
1888 The French painter Paul Serusier [Wikipedia biography] joins Paul Gauguin's circle and puts the resulting experience to work in "The Talisman" [image in the bio], a work which will eventually be assessed as a masterpiece of Post-Impressionist cloisonnism [more on this]. [See next 1890] [THREAD = HISTORY OF AESTHETICS]
1888 The German-born American anthropologist Franz U. Boas [Wikipedia biography] publishes "The Central Eskimo", a report on his fieldwork on behalf of the U.S. Bureau of American Ethnology, including observations on the use of song and dance in Eskimo society. [See next 1894]
1889 The French poet Léon Deschamps [Wikipedia biography (French)] founds "La Plume", a "literary review and artistic bi-monthly", promoting poetry by "Les Décadents" as art and design by the Symbolists and the nascent Art Nouveau movement. One of the disciples is the young Italian poet Filippo Marinetti [see 1909]. [THREAD = AVANT-GARDE AND EXPERIMENTAL ART]
1889 Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec [see 1882] now starts to feature regularly at the Salon des Independents and, when the Moulin Rouge cabaret opens its doors nearby, is chosen to promote its Belle Époque brand. He responds with a famously exuberant set of posters [gallery] which brings him not just fame in France but internationally. Sadly alcohol and illness will bring him at early death in 1901, aged only 36.
1889 A young Parisian painter named Paul Gauguin [Wikipedia biography] exhibits "The Yellow Christ" [image]. In this work a central caricature of Christ on the Cross is surrounded by three peasant women and set against a countryside which is more Provence than Golgotha. The colours are predominantly bright yellows and oranges, there is little attempt at chiaroscuro within each block of colour, and the figurework strikes as carelessly over-contoured. This latter effect will soon be recognised as part of Gauguin's signature style, and named "Cloisonnism" by the art critic Edouard Dujardin because the heavy use of contour reminded him of the colour separation boundaries found in cloisonné enamel, where the pigments need to be carefully kept from running together during firing. [See next 1891]
1889 A young French painter named Maurice Denis [Wikipedia biography] exhibits "The Road to Calvary" [image], a work which obtains the most compelling visual poetry out of figurative simplicity and drabness of colour. The following year he publishes a paper entitled "Définition of Néo-Traditionisme", in which he promotes an agenda of experimental but nonetheless reverential Symbolism. He also teamed up with like-minded practitioners such as Paul Serusier [see 1888] to form "Les Nabis" [Hebrew = "prophets"]. His Définition manifesto famously reminds its readers that even the most sublime of paintings is, at heart, just "a flat surface covered with colours", and his "Easter Mystery" (1891) [image], which relocates a carefully posed Resurrection to St. Germain-en-Laye, shows what you can accomplish if you put your hand - and no little artistic vision - to it. [See next 1898] [THREAD = AVANT-GARDE AND EXPERIMENTAL ART]
1890 Paul Cézanne [see 1861] suddenly a number of works in progress, including "Portrait of Madame Cézanne in a Pleated Dress", "Boy in a Red Waistcoat" [image], and "Mountains and Hills in Provence" [image]. All are characterised by strong blocks of colour, little attempt at chiaroscuro, and heavy contour; Cézanne, in other words, as the world at large will soon come to know and love him. Brion (1972) remarks .....
"Because Cézanne created his own space and broke away from traditional perspective, and because he chose to paint his pictures, especially his still lifes, from arbitrary points of view and unusual angles of vision, the relations of masses are reorganised and rebalanced in a manner that has puzzled his contemporaries, for it disregarded all conventional notions of reality or of art" (p47; emphasis added). [See next 1895]
1890 The British inventor William K. Dickson [Wikipedia biography] patents the "Kinetograph", a 35mm implementation of George Eastman's sprocket drive. [See next 1895 (Lumiere Brothers)] [THREAD = HISTORY OF CINEMATOGRAPHY]
1890 The German-born American biologist Jacques Loeb [Wikipedia biography] argues that the basis of many simple animal behaviours is the Kettenreflex, or "chain reflex", whereby a time-extensive piece of complex instinct is built up from individually far simply components, each facilitating in some way the one which follows until the final goal state is achieved.
1890 William James [see 1884] now publishes his magnum opus "Principles of Psychology". Our present interest is with what James has to say about the nature of, and prospects for, psychology as a science - can it ever succeed when its most important data - inarticulate phenomena such as dreaming, creative thought, intuition, emotional experience, etc. - are so difficult to bring into experimental focus. He named this problem the "Psychologist's Fallacy" [for an example of the Psychologist's Fallacy in aesthetic theory, see 1953 (Ehrenzweig)], and summarised it as follows .....
"The Psychologist's Fallacy: The great snare of the psychologist is the confusion of his own standpoint with that of the mental fact about which he is making his report. [.....] The psychologist [.....] stands outside of the mental state he speaks of. Both itself and its objects are objects for him. Now when it is a cognitive state (percept, thought, concept, etc.), he ordinarily has no other way of naming it than as the thought, percept, etc., of that object. He himself, meanwhile, knowing the self-same object in his way, gets easily led to suppose that the thought, which is of it, knows it in the same way in which he knows it" (Vol 1, p196). [THREAD = PSYCHOLOGY AS SCIENCE]
1891 [See firstly 1874 (Wernicke)] The Viennese neurologist Sigmund Freud [Wikipedia biography] publishes "On Aphasia", in which he proposes that human communication is centred on a relatively non-modular conceptual system but operates through four highly modularised "word systems", two each for spoken and written language [show me this diagram]. This anticipated the modern cognitive scientific approach by nearly a hundred years. [See next 1896]
1891 The young French painter Henri Matisse [Wikipedia biography] studies under the ageing masters William-Adolphe Bougereau [see 1850] and Gustave Moreau [see 1853], and puts his new skills to good use in his early still lifes and landscapes. [See next 1897]
1891 The American dancer Marie Louise ("Loie") Fuller [Wikipedia biography] introduces American audiences to her trademark "Serpentine Dance", a bright and airy burlesque in which her skills are amplified by the clever use of lighting effects and the use of stick extensions under the silk of her costume. The popular success of this work will get her invited to perform at the Folies Bergère in 1892. She will return to fin de siècle Paris regularly, being a popular sitter for Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec [see 1882], and appearing in one of the Lumière Brothers [see 1895] early cinema shorts [You Tube clip]. [THREAD = AVANT-GARDE AND EXPERIMENTAL DANCE]
1891 The Irish playwright Oscar Wilde publishes "The Picture of Dorian Gray", his only novel. Inspired by the Gothic fiction genre, it weaves a morality tale with a distinctly Faustian theme, allowing Gray to pursue a life of eternal youth, self-indulgent womanising, murder, and general debauchery, whilst diverting all the worry-lines and grey hairs to his portrait.
1891 The French painter Henri Rousseau exhibits "Tiger in a Tropical Storm (Surprised!)". His "flat, seemingly childish, style" brings much criticism, but is now recognised as an early example of "Primitive [alternatively "Naive"] art.
HOW TO RECOGNISE PRIMITIVISM IN ART: Primarily from the subjective experience that the work in question reflects a different and untutored viewpoint on the world, be it that of a child (where the lack of tutoring is actual) or an adult from a different culture (where the lack of tutoring may be more down to cultural differences than anything else).
1892 Munch is invited to exhibit in Berlin and in the following year produces "The Scream". When not everyone is impressed by its soul-revealing emotional starkness he replies that it is always the artist's duty to "open his heart".
1892 The British philosopher Bernard Bosanquet [Stanford University biography] publishes "A History of Aesthetic" [buy] in which he promotes the view that art is "revelatory of the spiritual character of the world" (Sweet, 2008 online, e13). His point then is that it is impossible to create a meaningful aesthetic theory without adopting (or creating for oneself) a matching position on both ontology and mental philosophy.
1893 [See firstly 1781 (Hart)] The showman Edward Kilyani's "Living Pictures" troupe performs a season at London's Palace Theatre. By now the tableau vivant genre has polarised Victorian society, being seen by some as nothing but a front for pornography, prostitution, and paedophilia, and by others as just an innocent pastime. [THREADS = FROZEN MOTION and THE UNCANNY]
1893 Sponsored by the impresario Florenz Ziegfeld, the German bodybuilder Eugen Sandow [Wikipedia biography] removes to Chicago to perform at the World's Columbian Exposition. His posed "muscle displays" [image in bio] and feats of strength make him an instant attraction.
1894 The Franco-British writer George du Maurier publishes the best-selling "Trilby". Inspired by the Antonia story from Ernst Hoffmann's "Night Pieces" [see 1816], and drawing on the theatrical popularity of Mesmer's hypnosis shows, it tells the tale of Trilby, a tone-deaf girl who therefore cannot sing. Yet when she falls into company of "the evil musical genius" Svengali she discovers new talents. Unfortunately she can only perform when hypnotised.
1894 In a paper in Nature entitled "The Artificial Spectrum Top" the British scientist Charles Benham [Wikipedia biography] describes the visual illusions which could be induced using his "top". The essence of the illusion is that if you spin a black and white patterned disk the phenomenal experience includes illusory - that is to say, "subjective" - colours. To experience this illusion for yourself, try out the demonstration applet on the Michael Bach sensory illusions website.
1895 Paul Cézanne [see 1861] now stages a one man show at Ambroise Vollard's gallery in Paris, and for the first time the positive comments just about outweigh the negative. He has now outgrown the mantle of Impressionism and starts to be recognised as one of a new breed - a "Post-Impressionist". He is ready for what Brion (1972) calls "The Great Synthesis", the components of which are a rich source of imperative emotion giving you something to say as a painter, and the technical skills of arranging three dimensional form into convincing two dimensional form on the canvas. As for exactly what is involved in creating "significant form" of this sort, see the 1914 entry for Clive Bell.
1895 The French inventors Louis and Auguste Lumiere [Wikipedia biography] patent the "Cinematographe" and start selling simple motion pictures to an eager public. [See next 1902 (Melies)] [THREAD = HISTORY OF CINEMATOGRAPHY]
1896 [See firstly 1891] Sigmund Freud produces the manuscript of "Project for a Scientific Psychology", a highly reductionist theory of cognition grounded in nervous activity. Unhappy with the result he puts the draft safely away in a drawer where it will remain until after his death. Freud's Project is particularly clear on how the psychodynamic process of cathexis might be implemented by attaching emotional excitation at cellular level to otherwise non-emotional mental activation. [See next 1897]
KEY CONCEPT - CATHEXIS: The word "cathexis" is the standard (i.e. Strachey) translation rendering of Besetzung in Freud's Project and later writings. "Bound" cathexis is Freud's notion of specifically invested libido, that is to say, of a long-term memory engram which is in some way "loaded" with emotional energy by virtue of the mechanisms described in the entry for Freud's Project. The advantage of having libidinal energy bound in this way is that the mind remains more or less in balance as a result; the disadvantage is that it is the system is no longer as flexibly responsive as it might have been. "Free" cathexis, on the other hand, is Freud's notion of levels of libido over and above that bound to long-term memory engrams. The advantage of having libidinal energy free to invest itself in the short-term as the fancy suddenly takes it is that the mind is more flexibly responsive than when that energy is bound to specific objects in the long term.
1896 The young French poet Alfred Jarry stages a mixture of slapstick and absurdist humour under the title "Ubu Roi" at Paris's Theatre de l'Oeuvre. The work is intended to be taboo-breaking and is duly received with a near riot in the audience.
1896 The German psychiatrist Paul E. Flechsig [Wikipedia biography] publishes "Gehirn und Seele" [= "Brain and Mind"], in which he draws up a cytoarchitectural map of the cerebral hemispheres on the basis of the cellular maturation profiles of the nervous tissues involved. He distinguishes areas which approximate to their adult microstructure at birth from areas which take many months of "myelination" to achieve that final form. It seems intuitively likely that such late myelinating areas are not needed until the infant becomes more mobile and independent, that is to say, that structural neuroanatomy paces its development to coincide with functional need, arriving in most of us neither too soon nor too late. Suffice it to note at present that the "primary visual cortex" - the area which Korbinian Brodmann [see 1909] will name Area 17 - is available for use well before the adjacent secondary and tertiary visual areas [18 and 19], and that the prefrontal areas are particularly slow to develop. Flechsig also uses the term Rindenblindheit [= "cortical blindness"] to indicate a loss of visual field awareness resulting from a lesion to primary visual cortex. [Compare 1917 (Poppelreuter)] [THREAD = THE VISUAL SYSTEM]
KEY CONCEPT - "PSYCHIC BLINDNESS": Flechsig's use of the term Rindenblindheit follows in the tradition of aphasiologists such as Paul Broca [see 1861], Karl Wernicke [see 1874], and Sigmund Freud [see 1891], and indicates an acquired neurogenic cognitive disorder particular to the cognitive functions carried out by the brain area in question [in this case, the primary visual cortex] prior to its being damaged. A century later, Lawrence Weiskrantz [see 1986] will popularise the term "blindsight" to refer to the unconscious residual abilities of the visual system in such cases.
1897 [See firstly the various types of Identification in the Companion Glossary] Sigmund Freud [see 1896] mentions the process of "identifying with" another person in his correspondence with Wilhelm Fliess (Letter 58 in Masson, 1985, p230) [buy]. This is the first of several mentions of this process prior to it becoming stated more formally in "The Interpretation of Dreams" [see 1900].
1900 Sigmund Freud [see 1897] publishes "Die Traumdeutung" [German = "the significance/implication of dreams"], the work which introduces the world to the principles of psychoanalysis. The work is translated into English as "The Interpretation of Dreams" in 1913, makes Freud famous, and changes Humankind's perception of itself for ever.
1901 One of Brentano's students, the Moravian Edmund Husserl, publishes his first major work, "Logical Investigations" in which he develops Brentano's ideas on "intentionality".
1901 The young Spanish painter Pablo Picasso [Wikipedia biography] takes rooms in Paris and over the next three years turns out a series of blue-themed canvases including "The Old Guitarist" (1903) [image], "La Vie" (1903), and "Portrait of Suzanne Bloch" (1904). For this reason, the period 1901-1904 is now referred to as his "blue period". [See next 1904]
1901 Basing himself in Chicago, the American architect Frank Lloyd Wright [Wikipedia biography] helps popularise the "Prairie School" of American architecture, leading in 1909 to the Robie House [image] on the campus of the University of Chicago. [See next 1937]
1902 The French magician/film director Georges Méliès [Wikipedia biography] screens "Le Voyage Dans la Lune" [You Tube full length video], a 14-minute science fiction reel which is noteworthy in our present context for its pioneering use of special effects and trick photography. [See next 1903 (Porter)] [THREAD = HISTORY OF CINEMATOGRAPHY]
1902 [See firstly 1868 (Perceptual Stages) and 1874 (Brentano)] Alexius Meinong's "On Assumptions" sets out his Theory of the Objektiv. His basic argument is that mental representations of discrete external objects [Gegenstände] are rarely, if ever, the true objects of perceptual judgment, nor, therefore, the content of phenomenal experience. Instead, there is a brief but important transitional stage of perception during which a particular Objektiv [an "objective", or "object of judgment"] emerges which incorporates but does not totally equate to the literal contents of the sensory field. When perception works properly this Objektiv becomes an Annahmen [an "assumption"]. This arrangement therefore permits "what if?" and "for the sake of argument" reasoning, forms of cognition which afford a very high survival value because they allow an infinite number of complex relational truths to be tested prior to committing to a particular response (not just the limited and uncomplicated truths of what might or might not be out there in the world). Meinong illustrates his point by asking his reader "to believe something that he knows only too well to be false" (1902, p11). One of his favourite mind games was to ask his students to imagine firstly a red cross, and then a cross which was not red. He would then point out that in terms of mental content the latter was actually a blue cross (say), and not a not-red one. This, in turn, allowed him to argue that perceptual reality and external reality were often surprisingly distant. [THREAD = STAGES OF PERCEPTION]
KEY CONCEPT - PERCEPTUAL STAGES: [See firstly 1874 (Wernicke and Brentano)] Meinong's notions of Objektiv and Annahmen raise a serious problem for stage theories of perception. This is because different types of content usually indicate different processing modules, only the first of which has access to the original input to the system. With biological perception we like to call this original input "sensation", but the evidence indicates that the first module in the sequence is NOT host to phenomenal awareness as we experience it. In fact the first processing that takes place is concerned with safety reflexes like the cochlear reflex (which acts at emergency speed to protect the ear in the event of sudden loud noise) and the eyeblink and pupillary reflexes in vision. The problem with staged processing, therefore, is that there will always exist as many "objects" as there are processing stages. Indeed one of the greatest sources of philosophical confusion in tracking the experience of objects is their lack of consistency in modelling the known modular anatomy of the perceptual pathway. In Leipzig, however, Wundt [see 1879] had been working on precisely this problem, and identifies both two and four stage pathways, depending on which way the information chooses to travel .....
1902 [See firstly 1874 (Perceptual Stages)] Wilhelm Wundt's "Principles of Physiological Psychology" provides one of the most sophisticated diagrams yet of the functional architecture of the visual and auditory pathways [show me this diagram]. One innovation is to show two simultaneously active ascending visual pathways, one from the "Visual Centre" directly to the "Apperception Centre", and the other indirectly via a cluster of "Intermediate Centres" capable of initiating behavioural responses in a semi-automatic fashion rather than as fully reasoned out volitional acts. This indirect visual pathway passes through three processing stages en route for conscious awareness.
1902 William James [see 1884] publishes "The Varieties of Religious Experience", in which he discusses the psychology behind religious phenomena such as affiliation, conversion, saintly forbearance, and mysticism. [THREAD = ART, RITUAL, AND BELIEF]
1903 The American film director Edwin S. Porter [Wikipedia biography] screens "The Great Train Robbery" [You Tube full length video], a film which is noteworthy as the first screen Western. [See next 1906 (Tait)] [THREAD = HISTORY OF CINEMATOGRAPHY]
1904 Henri Matisse, a student of Gustave Moreau, paints "Luxury, Calm, and Pleasure", an early work in the "Fauvist" tradition [the name itself would not be given until 1905, see below].
1904 The Danish opthalmologist Marius Tscherning [Wikipedia biography] publishes "Physiological Optics", in which he notes amongst other things that the object fading previously observed to take place on sustained fixation [see 1804 (Troxler)] could, with appropriately designed stimuli, take place one or two fragments at a time, as well as holistically. [See next 1927 (Guilford)] [THREAD = PATTERN RECOGNITION MECHANISMS (VISUAL)]
1904 Pablo Picasso [see 1901] now enters his "rose period" (1904-1906), in which his output is routinely tinged with pinks and oranges and harlequins are often included. Amongst the class-defining works from this period are "Family of Saltimbanques" (1905) [image] and "Boy Leading a Horse" (1906) [image]. [See next 1907]
1904 The British painter and art historian Roger Fry [external biography] is appointed Curator of the European Section of the Metropolitan Museum in New York City.
1905 Henri Rousseau completes "The Hungry Lion Throws Itself on the Antelope" [image]. It is exhibited at the Salon d'Automne that year.
ASIDE - HOW TO RECOGNISE FAUVIST ARTWORKS: The French word fauves means "wild beasts", and as a style Fauvism accordingly calls for a certain primitive simplicity in composition, form, colour, and execution. Superficially, there are strident patches of colour [one critic remarked of Fauvist works that "a pot of paint has been flung in the face of the public"].
1905 The German artists Fritz Bleyl, Erich Heckel, Ernst Kirchner, and Karl Schmitt-Rottluff found a common-interest group named "Die Brücke", to promote Expressionist art in Germany. [See next 1910 (Walden)] [THREAD = AVANT-GARDE AND EXPERIMENTAL ART]
1906 The French historian Joséphin Péladin publishes a pamphlet "From Parsifal to Don Quixote: The Secret of the Troubadors".
1906 The Russian ballet dancer Alexander Shiryaev experiments with an early system of stop-motion animation, using it to capture the meticulously choreographed movement of dancing puppets. [THREAD = ANIMATED MECHANISM]
1906 Following his experience under Micheli, Amodeo Modigliani transfers to Paris to join the penniless artists in the Montmartre garrets. Here, doing his best work (some say) under the influence of marijuana and alcohol, he developed a distinctive style nowadays described by some as "Figurative".
ASIDE: - HOW TO RECOGNISE FIGURATIVE ARTWORK: The term "Figurative" is not universally liked because it means different things at different points in history. To start with it indicated merely the depiction of the human figure. However in the sense that the word is used of Modigliani's work it indicates a work somewhere between purely representational but far short of abstract.
1906 The German philosopher Max Dessoir founds the journal Zeitschrift für Ästhetik und allgemeine Kunstwissenschaft.
1906 The Australian film director Charles Tait [Wikipedia biography] screens "The Story of the Kelly Gang" [You Tube video clip], a film which is noteworthy for extending cinema running times beyond an hour. [See next 1908 (Griffith)] [THREAD = HISTORY OF CINEMATOGRAPHY]
1906 The German psychiatrist Ernst Jentsch publishes a paper under the title "On the Psychology of the Uncanny" in which he notes the human fascination with artworks and objects whose status on the animate-inanimate dimension is not quite certain. With Ernst Hoffman's Sandman story [1818 above] he argues as follows .....
"Horror is a thrill that with care and specialist knowledge can be used well to increase emotional effects in general - as is the task of poetry for instance. In storytelling, one of the most reliable artistic devices for producing uncanny effects easily is to leave the reader in uncertainty as to whether he has a human person or rather an automaton before him [.....]. Conversely, the effect of the uncanny can easily be achieved when one undertakes to reinterpret some kind of lifeless thing as part of an organic creature." [THREADS = THE UNCANNY and FROZEN MOTION]
1907 The French painter Georges Braque [Wikipedia biography] exhibits a number of works in the Fauvist style, only to become inspired by a Cezanne retrospective that autumn. Over the coming months he experiments with Cezanne's "simultaneous perspective" technique. The art critic Louis Vauxcelles uses the term "cubiques" to describe the new technique, because the painted surface ends up "full of little cubes".
1907 Inspired by the technical style of Gauguin [see 1889] and Cezanne [see 1866], and motivated by an interest in the art of primitive cultures, Picasso now produces a number of "African Period" works, in which elements of tribal maskwork and other imagery are included. More significantly, however, works from this period start to use the compound perspective about to be recognised as "Cubism". The emerging new style is used in "Les Demoiselles d'Avignon" [image]. Demoiselles also shows elements of the "Analytical Cubism" which will shortly make him famous, and over the coming months Picasso and Braque work together to develop it further. [See next 1912]
1908 The American actor David W. Griffith [Wikipedia biography], having impressed his bosses at American Mutoscope, is given his own production project - "The Adventures of Dollie" [You Tube full length video] - to direct. He does a good job and other, more ambitious, projects follow, including "Birth of a Nation", the first cinema blockbuster. In 1920 he will found United Artists. Technically Griffith is now known for creative camera placement and for cross-cutting between parallel narrative threads to give greater pace. [See next 1915 (Chaplin)] [THREAD = HISTORY OF CINEMATOGRAPHY]
1909 Picasso and Braque work together on their new style.
1909 The German neurologist Korbinian Brodmann [Wikipedia biography] publishes a monograph entitled "Comparative Localisation Studies" in which he maps the human neocortex. He bases this map on "cytoarchitectonic" criteria - on years of painstaking microscopic analysis of brain tissue samples, noting differences in cell size and morphology, and their relative frequency in a given area. Using this method of analysis each hemisphere turns out to have 52 differentiable areas, which Brodmann identified using his now famous "Brodmann Numbers" [full map]. It will soon be established that Areas 17, 18, and 19 - the neocortex at the brain's occipital pole - constitute the primary, secondary, and tertiary visual areas, respectively.
1909 In an essay entitled "Analysis of a Phobia in a Five Year Old Boy", Sigmund Freud [see 1891] introduces the notion of the "Oedipus conflict" to refer to a failure on the part of boys aged three to six years to identify psychologically with their fathers in order to possess their mothers incestuously but vicariously. As this explanatory proposition becomes more widely known the full impact of Freud's views on psychosexual motivation starts to become apparent. [For more on cathexis see Glossary (Cathexis); for more on defense mechanisms in general see Glossary (Defense Mechanisms); for more on identification see Glossary (Identification)]
RESEARCH ISSUE - PSYCHOSEXUAL CONTENT IN ART: Freud's explanatory analysis - although it may shock those new to the ins and outs of psychoanalytic theory - is not particularly complex. He proposes firstly that instinctive energies can "cathect" [= attach themselves] to otherwise emotionally neutral people and things. He proposes secondly that the resulting emotional attractions can be hurtful, especially if thwarted, and are therefore routinely held in check in the unconscious by a repertoire of "defense mechanisms". And he proposes thirdly that the resulting "repressed" emotional energy finds subtle and indirect avenues of expression - not least through dreaming and artistic creativity. [See next 1910 (Psychosexual Motivation in Art)]
1909 The avant-garde Italian poet Filippo Marinetti [Wikipedia biography] compiles "The Futurist Manifesto" as a half page appeal in Le Figaro. He then stages his first Futurist piece, "Roi Bombance", at the same venue which Jarry had used for "Ubu Roi" in 1896. His practice will eventually be summarised as follows .....
"Performance was the surest means of disrupting a complacent public. It gave artists' licence to be both 'creators' in developing a new form of artists' theatre, and 'art objects' in that they made no separation between their art as poets, as painters, or as performers. [.....] Futurists must teach all authors and performers to despise the audience, he insisted. Applause merely indicated 'something mediocre, dull, regurgitated, or too well digested'. Booing assured the actor that the audience was alive" (Goldberg, 1979, pp10-12).
1909 The Austrian painter-playwright Oskar Kokoschka [Wikipedia biography] stages the play "Murderer, the Hope of Women" [details], since acclaimed as an early example of Expressionist theatrical writing, full of powerful and disturbing imagery. [THREADS = AVANT-GARDE AND EXPERIMENTAL ART; DISTURBING ART]
HOW TO RECOGNISE EXPRESSIONISM IN THE THEATRE: The essence of all avenues of Expressionism is that the emotionally laden idea within the artist needs to come out regardless of convention and public approval. Expressionist theatre is therefore always more willing to offend than earlier explorations of emotional conflict such as Sturm und Drang [see 1776]. Thus "Expressionist plays often dramatise the spiritual awakening and sufferings of their protagonists [and are] modelled on the episodic presentation of the suffering and death of Jesus in the Stations of the Cross" (Wikipedia). Dialogue is often heavily stressed and fragmentary, "heightened, whether expansive or rhapsodic, or clipped and telegraphic" (ibid.), and some self-reflective exploration of emotionality is essential.
1909 [See firstly 1904] Roger Fry publishes "An Essay in Aesthetics" in which he rejects the view that art is basically just the imitation of the real world, and proposes instead that the job of the artist is to take a critical position on this or that issue of public interest. He begins by adopting the James-Lange position on the relationship between human intellect and human emotion [see inset, 1744], thus .....
"I must begin with some elementary psychology, with a consideration of the nature of instincts. A great many objects in the world, when presented to our senses, put in motion a complex nervous machinery, which ends in some instinctive appropriate action. [.....] The whole of animal life, and a great part of human life, is made up of these instinctive reactions to sensible objects, and their accompanying emotions" (p13).
He turns then to the interaction of emotion with memory, thus .....
"But man has the peculiar faculty of calling up again in his mind the echo of past experiences of this kind, of going over it again, 'in imagination', as we say. He has, therefore, the possibility of a double life; one the actual life, the other the imaginative life. Between these two lives there is this great distinction, that in the actual life the [.....] instinctive reaction [.....] shall be the important part of the whole process [..... but that] in the imaginative life no such action is necessary, and, therefore, the whole consciousness may be focussed upon the perceptive and the emotional aspects of the experience" (p13).
He then offers the following illustration from what was then the cutting edge of entertainment technology .....
"We can get a curious side glimpse of the nature of this imaginative life from the cinematograph. This resembles actual life in almost every respect, except that what the psychologists call the conative part of our reaction to sensations, that is to say the appropriate resultant action, is cut off [..... so that] in the first place we see the event much more clearly [..... and] in the second place [.....] one notices that whatever emotions are aroused by them, though they are likely to be weaker than those of ordinary life, are presented more clearly to the consciousness" (pp13-14).
1909 The French anthropologist Arnold Van Gennep [Wikipedia biography] publishes "The Rites of Passage", in which he searches for the common denominator amongst Humankind's otherwise diverse "coming of age" practices. He classifies the psychological effects of such practices as "pre-liminal", "liminal", or "post-liminal", according to whether they arise before, during, or after the critical moment of transition from one state of existence [e.g., pubescence] to the next [e.g., young adulthood].
1910 With his "Portrait of Daniel-Henry Kahnweiler", Picasso moves his style forward to what is now known as "Analytical Cubism". The Kahnweiler in question, a Parisian art-dealer, promotes Cubism so effectively that it becomes an established "school" almost instantly.
HOW TO RECOGNISE CUBISM: "Analytical Cubists 'analysed' natural forms and reduced the forms into basic geometrical parts on the two-dimensional picture plane" (Wikipedia). Topics will be frequently still lifes, without any human figures, and the final impression is one of monochromaticity and multifacetedness [see, for example, Braque's "Violin and Candlestick" (1910)]. "Synthetic Cubism is more of a pushing of several objects together [and has] less shading, creating flatter space" (Wikipedia).
1910 The Czech art historian Antonin Matĕjček coins the term "Expressionism" as a contrasting school to the Impressionists.
ASIDE - HOW TO RECOGNISE EXPRESSIONISM IN ART: "Influenced by the Fauves, Expressionism worked with arbitrary colours as well as jarring compositions. In reaction and opposition to French Impressionism which focused on rendering the sheer visual experience of objects, Expressionist artists sought to capture emotions and subjective interpretations: It was not important to reproduce an aesthetically pleasing impression of the artistic subject matter; the Expressionists focused on capturing vivid emotional reactions through powerful colours and dynamic compositions instead" (Wikipedia).
1910 Sigmund Freud [see 1900] publishes "Leonardo da Vinci and a Memory of his Childhood" [buy], a psychoanalytic study of Leonardo da Vinci [see 1466] in which he attempts to reconcile what is known about the artist's private life and what we can still see in his output. Freud is searching, needless to say, for material compatible with his own theories, noting with relish Leonardo's "cool repudiation of sexuality" (p99), his "insatiable and indefatigable thirst for knowledge" (p108), and his pedantic record keeping (p143). Freud's argument begins by explicitly linking the inner world of a person's instincts with the outer world of his/her work, thus .....
"Observation of men's daily lives shows us that most people succeed in directing very considerable portions of their sexual instinctive forces to the professional activity" (p111).
Freud turns then to the "childhood memory" referred to in his title. This is the "vulture phantasy", a short anecdotal entry by Leonardo in Codex Atlanticus (F65v). In a passage about the flight of vultures Leonardo confides as follows .....
"It seems that I was always destined to be so deeply concerned with vultures; for I recall as one of my very earliest memories that while I was in my cradle a vulture came down to me, and opened my mouth with its tail, and struck me many times with its tail against my lips" (p117).
Freud interprets this phantasy as follows .....
"We can now reconstruct the origin of Leonardo's vulture phantasy. He once happened to read [.....] that all vultures were females and could reproduce their kind without any assistance from a male: and at that point a memory sprang to his mind, which was transformed into the phantasy we have been discussing, but which meant to signify that he also had been such a vulture-child - he had had a mother, but [an absent] father. With this memory was associated, in the only way in which impressions of so great an age can find expression, an echo of the pleasure he had had at his mother's breast. The allusion made by the Fathers of the Church to the idea of the Blessed Virgin and her Child [.....] must have played its part in helping the phantasy to appear valuable and important to him. Indeed in this way he was able to identify himself with the child Christ ....." (p128).
As to where these structures show themselves in Leonardo's practice Freud turns to the greatest painting of all time, Leonardo's "Mona Lisa" [see 1507], and particularly to its famous smile, to test his theory .....
"When, in the prime of life, Leonardo once more encountered the smile of bliss and rapture which had once played on his mother's lips as she fondled him, he had for long been under the dominance of an inhibition which forbade him ever again to desire such caresses from the lips of women. But he had become a painter, and therefore he strove to reproduce the smile with his brush, giving it to all his pictures (whether he in fact executed them himself or had them done by his pupils under his direction [.....] These pictures breathe a mystical air into whose secret one does not penetrate. [..... They] gaze in mysterious triumph, as if they knew of a great achievement of happiness, about which silence must be kept. [.....] It is possible that in these figures Leonardo has denied the unhappiness of his erotic life and has triumphed over it in his art, by representing the wishes of the boy, infatuated with his mother, as fulfilled in this blissful union of the male and female natures" (pp162-163).
RESEARCH ISSUE - PSYCHOSEXUAL MOTIVATION IN ART: [See firstly 1909 (Psychosexual Content in Art)] Freud's "Leonardo" revitalised one of the oldest debates in aesthetics, namely that concerning the almost inevitable mismatch between an artist's more or less idiosyncratic intentions and a viewer's more or less idiosyncratic interpretations. Leonardo exposed new and shocking depths to these idiosyncracies, and then challenged us to accept as data not just the non-empirical but also the downright invisible. An artist's intentions were intentions even if they reflected unconscious motivations which revealed themselves at the conscious level only with the greatest reluctance. This problem remains unresolved to the present day, despite having been approached from two different directions. One tradition of enquiry has focused on the philosophy of perception and representation, per se, and ignored the Dionysian turmoil beneath, and the other tradition has focused on the psychosexual and ignored the airier issues of perceptual stages and artistic intention. Levinson (1996 [q.v.]) and Wollheim (1998 [q.v.]) provide state-of-the-art examples of how far the upper level of enquiry has got. The psychodynamic tradition has been pursued by such authors as Adrian Stokes [see 1925], Anton Ehrenzweig [see 1953 and 1967], Ernst Kris [see 1953], Ernst Gombrich [see 1953], Hanna Segal [see 1993], and Stephen Newton [see 1996].
1910 The Hungarian choreographer Rudolf von Laban [Wikipedia biography] founds the Monte Veritá Dance School in Southern Switzerland to promote the avant-garde and esoteric in dance. [See next 1913 (Wigman)] [THREAD = AVANT-GARDE AND EXPERIMENTAL ART]
1910 The German art critic Herwarth Walden [Wikipedia biography] founds a magazine entitled "Der Sturm" to promote German Expressionism, and follows this two years later with a gallery to showcase their works to collectors such as Daniel-Henri Kahnweiler and Solomon Guggenheim. Amongst those regularly contributing are Edvard Munch, Wassily Kandinsky, and Paul Klee. Walden will eventually close down operations in 1932 in the face of increasing hostility from the Nazi Party. [THREAD = AVANT-GARDE AND EXPERIMENTAL ART]
1910 [See firstly 35000BP (SHAMANS AND SHAMANISM)] The French philosopher Lucien Lévy-Bruhl [Wikipedia biography] publishes "How Natives Think", in which he examines mysticism as an unavoidable primitive way of dealing with the world's many harsh realities. [Compare 1912 (Durkheim)] [THREAD = ART, RITUAL, AND BELIEF]
1910-1912 As explained in Virginia Woolf's 1940 biography, Roger Fry's interest in Cézanne's role in transforming French art arises in 1906 but takes four more years to become the subject of two major exhibitions. These take place at the Grafton Gallery in London. This from the Catalogue for the second of these events .....
"Another charge that is frequently made against [naive and primitive artists] is that they allow what is merely capricious, or even what is extravagant and eccentric, in their work - that it is not serious, but an attempt to impose on the good-natured tolerance of the public. [.....] The difficulty springs from a deep-rooted conviction, due to long-established custom, that the aim of painting is the descriptive imitation of natural forms. [..... But these artists] do not seek to imitate form, but to create form; not to imitate life, but to find an equivalent for life. By which I mean that they wish to make images which by the clearness of their logical structure, and by their closely-knit unity of texture, shall appeal to our disinterested and contemplative imagination. [.....] In fact they aim not at illusion but at reality" (Fry, 1912, p167).
1911 The French poet Guillaume Apollinaire coins the term "Orphic Cubism" to describe the work of Sonia and Robert Delauney within the broader Cubist movement.
1911 The German activist-intellectual Franz Pfemfert [Wikipedia biography] produces the first edition of a magazine entitled "Die Aktion", in which he hopes to promote radical politics and Expressionist literature. [THREAD = AVANT-GARDE AND EXPERIMENTAL ART]
1911 The Munich-based Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky forms a self-help artists' cooperative under the name Der Blaue Reiter [= "the blue rider] to promote the expression of spiritual material in art. The membership of the group includes Franz Marc and a young Swiss artist named Paul Klee. The cooperative exhibits 1911 to 1913, publishing its theory as "The Blue Rider Almanac".
1911 The Dutch painter Piet Mondrian [Wikipedia biography] is heavily influenced by the 1911 exhibition of Cubism in Amsterdam. Luck has it that we can clearly see the effect this experience has on his style because he produced two versions of "Still Life with Ginger Pot": the first [image] is Cubist, whilst the second [image] is more abstract and geometrical.
1912 The British cartoonist W. Heath Robinson [Wikipedia biography] starts to build a popular following for his sketches of unlikely, impossible, or just plain daft, machines [examples]. [Compare 1915 (Rube Goldberg)]
1912 [Save as indicated this entry draws on the investigative scholarship behind Reuben Hoggett's Cybernetic Zoo website.] The New Zealand electrical engineer Alban J. Roberts [Cybernetic Zoo biography] exhibits a radio-controlled airship [the present author's presumption is that this expertise led to his becoming involved in top secret (and therefore poorly documented) guided weaponry research during WW1 - compare Companion Resource (scroll to Section 4.6)]. [See next 1920] [THREAD = ANIMATED MECHANISM and AUTONOMOUS ROBOTICS]
1912 The German painter Ludwig Meidner [Wikipedia biography] begins to produce paintings on nightmarish themes. His "Apocalyptic Landscapes", for example, are a series of oils in which Meidner depicts a variety of cataclysmic visions [images]. [THREAD = DISTURBING ART]
1912 [See firstly 35000BP (SHAMANS AND SHAMANISM)] The French sociologist Émile Durkheim [Wikipedia biography] publishes "Les Formes Élémentaires de la Vie Religieuse" [= "The Elementary Forms of Religious Life"], in which he investigates the notion of "the sacred" in primitive society. [Compare 1910 (Lévy-Bruhl)] [THREAD = ART, RITUAL, AND BELIEF]
1912 Picasso's "Still Life with Chair-Caning" marks a new form of Cubism now known as "Synthetic Cubism". This contrasts with the earlier Analytical Cubism.
1912 Klee visits Paris to experience at first hand the experimentation going on there, and, as a result, adapts his personal style to make greater use of large blocks of colour.
1912 Marcel Duchamp exhibits "Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2", using an experimental style in which three successive body and limb positions are shown, giving a frozen-in-time cinematic effect. This work has since been identified as including elements of both the Cubist and Futurist styles. [THREAD = FROZEN MOTION]
1912 [See firstly 1911] Roger Fry publishes "Art and Socialism" [buy] in which he relates the following anecdote .....
"Speaking recently in Liverpool, Mr Bernard Shaw placed the present situation as regards public art in its true light. He declared that the corruption of taste and the emotional insincerity of the mass of the people had gone so far that any picture which pleased more than ten per cent of the population should be immediately burned" (p44).
"Display is indeed the end and explanation of it all. Not one of these things has been made because its contemplation would give any one any pleasure, but solely because each of these things is accepted as a symbol of a particular social status. I say their contemplation can give no one pleasure; they are there because their absence would be resented by the average man who regards a large amount of futile display as in some way inseparable from the conditions of that well-to-do life to which he belongs or aspires to belong. [.....] The doctor who lines his waiting-room with bad photogravures and worse etchings is acting on exactly the same principles; in short, nearly all our 'art' is made, bought, and sold merely for its value as an indication of social status" (p48).
In the same year he publishes "The French Group", in which he remarks on the often obstructive role played by past experience in the appreciation of an artwork, thus .....
"All art depends upon cutting off the practical responses to sensations of ordinary life, thereby setting free a pure and as it were disembodied functioning of the spirit; but in so far as the artist relies on the associated ideas of the objects which he represents, his work is not completely free and pure, since romantic associations imply at least an imagined practical activity [..... so that] when the first shock of wonder or delight is exhausted the work produces an ever lessening reaction. Classic art, on the other hand, records a positive and disinterestedly passionate state of mind. It communicates a new and otherwise unattainable experience. Its effect, therefore, is likely to increase with familiarity" (p169). [See next 1920]
1913 The Italian Futurist painter and musician Luigi Russolo presents "noise music" from an orchestra of tone generators and sets out the theory behind it in "The Art of Noises".
1913 A young German psychologist named Wolfgang Köhler [Wikipedia biography] is appointed director of the Prussian Academy of Science's Anthropological Research Station on Tenerife. He will publish his research findings in "The Mentality of Apes" (1917), one of the classic works on primate cognitive abilities (and therefore, by extension, our own). For our present purposes we mention only the tests of insight learning which he carried out on a chimpanzee called "Sultan" [Wikipedia biography].
1913 The French dramatist Jacques Copeau founds a theatre company and sets up shop in the Theatre du Vieux-Colombier on the Parisian rive gauche. He published the plans for the new undertaking under the title "Essay on Dramatic Revival", in which he explains that his target audience is students and intellectuals rather than middle-class theatre-goers, and that his players will work in new and creative ways using minimal scenery ["Just give us a bare platform", he says]. [THREAD = AVANT-GARDE AND EXPERIMENTAL ART]
1913 The German dancer Mary Wigman [Wikipedia biography] becomes a student at Rudolf von Laban's dance school at Monte Veritá [see 1910]. In 1920 she will open her own school in Dresden to promote Expressionism in dance. [THREAD = AVANT-GARDE AND EXPERIMENTAL ART]
1913 Filippo Marinetti [see 1909] now publishes "The Variety Theatre Manifesto" as a prescription for creating more or less controlled mayhem as a vehicle for theatrical enlightment. Amongst the tricks used to amplify the theatre's challenging experience is the use of itching powder on the seats. Fights could also be arranged by selling the same ticket to more than one customer (Kirby, 1971). [THREADS = AVANT-GARDE AND EXPERIMENTAL ART and THE PERFORMATIVE EXCHANGE]
1913 Edmund Husserl [see 1901] now publishes his follow-up work, "Ideas", in which he looks at how experience requires an "ideal" ego at the heart of the system to do the experiencing.
1913 Sigmund Freud [see 1891] now publishes a paper entitled "The Theme of the Three Caskets" [In Volume 12 of the Standard Edition], in which he analyses two Shakespearean plays - The Merchant of Venice and King Lear - for their hidden psychodynamic messages. [THREAD = PSYCHODYNAMICS IN ART (FREUDIAN)]
1913 The German painter August Macke [Wikipedia biography] organises an exhibition of progressive Rhineland artists under the title "Die Rheinische Expressionisten" [= "The Rhineland Expressionists"]. Amongst those contributing are Max Ernst [see 1923] and Paul Seehaus. Sadly Macke is destined to be killed in action on the Western Front in 1914. [THREAD = AVANT-GARDE AND EXPERIMENTAL ART]
1914 In a radical departure from his two-dimensional artwork, Duchamp exhibits a bottle rack under the title "Bottle Rack".
1914 The German psychologist Hans Volkelt [Wikipedia biography (German)] publishes "Űber der Vorstellungen der Tieren" [= "On the Consciousness of Animals"], in which he reports amongst other things on the hunting behaviour of funnel-web spiders. Normally, these spiders lie in wait for their prey at the end of a silken tube built into the centre of their web. When an insect becomes entangled in the web they dash out of the central funnel, kill it, and retrieve it into their lair. However, when a fly is put directly into the mouth of the funnel the spider adopts defensive rather than aggressive behaviour. Spiders, in other words, do not know much about flies. They, too, just mechanically follow an inbuilt program. [THREAD = THE NATURE OF INSTINCT]
1914 The British-based Polish ethnographist Maria Czaplicka [Wikipedia biography] publishes a literature review entitled "Aboriginal Siberia", in which she collates reports of the life and ways of the Siberian tribes, including the role of their "Shamans" in maintaining their belief system.
1914 The British art critic Clive Bell [Wikipedia biography] publishes "Art" [buy] in which he argues down the importance both of a painting's historical context and of its artist's expressed intent. For Bell it is a particular "combination of lines and colours" which gives an artwork its power to evoke an aesthetic experience in the mind of an onlooker. This view puts him in direct confrontation with theorists such as Maurice Denis [see 1898], and will be revisited in Wimsatt and Beardsley's "intentional fallacy" paper in 1946 [q.v.]. Concerned that aesthetics should be a theoretically sound psychological science, he proceeds to develop the following "aesthetic hypothesis" .....
"That there is a particular kind of emotion provoked by works of visual art, and that this emotion is provoked by every kind of visual art, by pictures, sculptures, buildings, pots, carvings, textiles, etc., etc., is not disputed, I think, by anyone capable of feeling it. This emotion is called the aesthetic emotion; and if we can discover some quality common and peculiar to all the objects that provoke it, we shall have solved what I take to be the central problem of aesthetics. We shall have discovered the essential quality in a work of art, the quality that distinguishes works of art from all other classes of objects. [But] what is the quality common and peculiar to all members of this class? [.....] There must be some one quality without which a work of art cannot exist [.....] Only one answer seems possible - significant form. In each, lines and colours combined in a particular way, certain forms and relations of forms, stir our aesthetic emotions. These relations and combinations of lines and colours, these aesthetically moving forms, I call 'Significant Form'; and Significant Form is the one quality common to all works of visual art" (p13; emphasis added). "In pure aesthetics we have only to consider our emotion and its object: for the purposes of aesthetics we have no right, neither is there any necessity, to pry behind the object into the state of mind of him who made it" (p14).
Bell then cautions against the careless use of the word "beauty" because it does not apply solely to works of art, thus .....
"That beauty is the one essential quality in a work of art is a doctrine that has been too insistently associated with the name of Whistler, who is neither its first nor its last, nor its most capable, exponent - but only of his age the most conspicuous. [.....] He is a lonely artist, standing up and hitting below the belt for art. To the critics, painters, and substantial men of his age he was hateful because he was an artist; and because he knew that their idols were humbugs he was disquieting. [.....] It is not very difficult to find a flaw in the theory that beauty is the essential quality in a work of art - that is, if the word 'beauty' be used as Whistler and his followers seem to have used it, to mean insignificant beauty. It seems to me that the beauty about which they were talking was the beauty of a flower or a butterfly. Therefore, if you wish to call the essential quality in a work of art 'beauty' you must be careful to distinguish between the beauty of a work of art and the beauty of a flower ....." (p100-101).
He speaks more highly of Cézanne [see 1866], thus .....
"Cézanne discovered methods and forms which have revealed a vista of possibilities to the end of which no man can see [.....] What the future will owe to Cézanne we cannot guess [.....] Cézanne is the Christopher Columbus of a new continent of form [.....] While he was working away in his corner of Provence [he] was always looking for something to replace the bad science of Claude Monet. And somewhere about 1880 he found it. At Aix-en-Provence came to him a revelation that has set a gulf between the nineteenth century and the twentieth: for, gazing at the familiar landscape, Cézanne came to understand it, not as a mode of light [.....] but as an end in itself and an object of intense emotion. [.....] From that time forward Cézanne set himself to create forms that would express the emotion that he felt for what he had learned to see. Science became as irrelevant as subject. Everything can be seen as pure form, and behind pure form lurks the mysterious significance that thrills to ecstasy" (p110-111).
He also addresses the problem of how to know how much detail is appropriate when digging down in search of this all-important significance, thus .....
"The contemporary movement has pushed simplification a great deal further than Manet and his friends pushed it [.....] Since the twelfth century, in sculpture and glass, the thirteenth in painting and drawing, the drift has been towards realism and away from art. Now the essence of realism is detail [.....] Detail is the heart of realism, and the fatty degeneration of art. The tendency of the movement is to simplify away all this mess of detail which painters have introduced into pictures in order to state facts. But more than this was needed. There were irrelevancies introduced into pictures for other purposes than that of statement. There were the irrelevancies of technical swagger. Since the twelfth century there has been a steady elaboration technical complexities. [.....] What details are not irrelevant? In a work of art nothing is relevant but what contributes to formal significance. Therefore all informatory matter is irrelevant and should be eliminated" (p118).
1914 Klee exhibits "In the Style of Kairouan", composed of coloured geometrical shapes, a piece since described as "his first pure abstract" work. [THREAD = ABSTRACT ART]
1915 The American painter-photographer Emmanuel Radnitzky (henceforth "Man Ray") stages his first show of paintings and drawings. Over the ensuing five years Ray will align himself with the Dadaist movement [see 1916] and experiment with novel techniques of producing images [see, e.g., 1920].
1915 The zoologist W.M. Barrows publishes a paper entitled "The Reactions of an Orb-Weaving Spider, Epeira sclopetaria Clerck, to Rhythmic Vibrations of its Web", in which he records having stimulated the spider's web with different frequency tuning forks, and demonstrating thereby that the most effective artificial stimuli were (a) simple, and (b) necessarily similar to those given out by a species' natural prey. [THREAD = THE NATURE OF INSTINCT]
1915 The British music hall performer Charles S. Chaplin [Wikipedia biography] shoots to fame as a movie star in "The Tramp". [See next 1920 (Wiene)] [THREAD = HISTORY OF CINEMATOGRAPHY]
1915 The Italian artists Fortunato Deporo [Wikipedia biography] and Giacomo Balla [Wikipedia biography] draft the manifesto "Ricostruzione Futurista dell'Universo" [in English as "Futurist Reconstruction of the Universe"]. Futurist ideas appear thereafter in Deporo's practice both in Italy and, from time to time, New York City. Typical of the Italian futurist genre is Deporo's ballet "Machine of 3000" (1924) [image]. [THREAD = AVANT-GARDE AND EXPERIMENTAL ART]
1915 The American cartoonist Reuben ("Rube") Goldberg [Wikipedia biography] starts to build a popular following for his sketches of unlikely, impossible, or just plain daft, machines [example]. [Compare 1912 (Heath Robinson)]
1915 "Futurist Synthetic Theatre Manifesto". The key lies in the word "synthetic", which here indicates "very brief" "one-idea" performances. The audiences were often left mystified, but this was part of the manifesto, thus .....
"The Futurists refused to explain the meaning of these Syntheses. It was 'stupid to pander to the primitivism of the crowd', they wrote, 'which in the last analysis wants to see the bad guy lose and the good guy win'. There was no reason, the manifesto went on, that the public should always completely understand the whys and wherefores of every scenic action" (Goldberg, 1979, pp19-20).
1916 The German artists Hugo Ball and Emmy Hennings get together with the Romanian artist Tristan Tzara and a group of like-minded colleagues sheltering from the rigours of WW1 in neutral Switzerland, and begin putting on shows at the "Cabaret Voltaire" in Zurich. Their performances are openly critical of bourgeois society and its support for the war. This movement soon becomes known as "Dadaism" and famous for rejecting conventional aesthetic values. Dadaism has since been variously summarised as "anti-art", anti-establishment, and deliberately iconoclastic. It has also been acclaimed as one of the formative roots of modern performance art.
1916 The British actor James H. Finlayson [Wikipedia biography] drifts into early Hollywood comedies as one of Mack Sennett's Keystone Kops. Over the coming years his trademark beady-eyed irascibility makes him a favourite comedy support artist, not least in Hal Roach's Laurel and Hardy productions, and he will eventually be recognised as a master of the double-take [You Tube tribute]. [THREAD = THE PERFORMATIVE EXCHANGE]
RESEARCH ISSUE - PSYCHOLOGY AND THE "LATE-" AND "DOUBLE-TAKE": Late-takes and double-takes are dramatic devices in which a stage or movie director ensures firstly that we are interested in how a particular character will react to a forthcoming surprise or revelation, before emphasising that reaction by delaying it momentarily. This permits the audience to see the character's mind at work, in slow motion as it were, and thereby places the audience sufficiently far ahead of the unfolding drama to relish the moment more thoroughly than would otherwise have been the case. The outcome is often - but not always - processed as humorous. The underlying cognition has not yet been precisely modelled.
1916 Three years after his death, representatives of the Swiss philologist Ferdinand de Saussure [Wikipedia biography] have his "Course in General Linguistics" [buy] published. This work is now acclaimed as seminal in the science of Semiotics.
1917 Now resident in New York City, Marcel Duchamp submits a signed urinal basin under the title "Fountain" for the annual Independent Artists exhibition. It is rejected by the panel on the grounds that a commonplace object cannot, for a number of reasons, be a work of art. Amongst the reasons given are (a) the fact that it had not been created by an artist, (b) that it had not been created to be art, and (c) that it was not unique.
1917 Sigmund Freud [see 1891] now publishes "Mourning and Melancholia" (Freud, 1917/1957), in which he look at what (and in whom, and why) makes some people permanently and pathologically bereaved - melancholics as type. [See next 1921 (Freud)] [THREAD = PSYCHODYNAMICS IN ART (FREUDIAN)]
1917 Edmund Husserl's [see 1901] papers on the cognition of "the living present" are published as "The Phenomenology of Internal Time Consciousness". Topics discussed include what now is, how long it is, what it contains, how it interacts with memory contents from both near and distant past, and how all this constrains phenomenal experience so that we experience time as we do.
1917 The Dutch painter and art critic Theo van Doesburg [Wikipedia biography] founds the journal "De Stijl" [= "The Style"] to promote "pure abstraction and universality" in design by emphasising straight lines and primary colours. Piet Mondrian [see 1911] contributes articles and together the De Stijl movement fosters "Neoplasticism". Mondrian's "Composition VII" (1913) [image] is typical of the new genre. [See next 1930 (Mondrian)]
1917 With input by Roger Fry [see 1912], London's Burlington Fine Arts Clubs mounts an exhibition of drawings by "dead masters". Fry contributes to the exhibition Catalogue as follows .....
"I come now to the Rembrandts, of which there are several good examples [in this exhibition]. [.....] I believe that Rembrandt was never a linealist, that he never had the conception of contour clearly present to him. [.....] The last thing he saw was a contour, and more than anything else it eluded his vision. His vision was in fact so intensely fixed on the interplay of planes [.....] that with him the drawn line [..... is used more] to indicate directions of stress and movement [than contour]. He seems almost to dread the contour, to prefer to make strokes either inside or outside of it, and to trust to the imagination to discover its whereabouts. [.....] In conclusion I would suggest that the art of pure contour is comparatively rare in modern art" (Fry, 1919/1920, p177). [See next 1920 (Fry)] [THREAD = ART MOVEMENTS (FORMALISM)]
1917 [See firstly 1909 (Brodmann)] The German military neurologist Walther Poppelreuter [Wikipedia biography] publishes a monograph entitled "Disturbances of Lower and Higher Visual Capacities Caused by Occipital Damage" [buy] in which he analyses 52 detailed neurological case reports compiled from WW1 head-injuries. These data give many hints as to the broad cross-mapping of visual perception onto the neocortical region at the brain's "occipital pole" [show me where this is]. Unfortunately they then raise more problems than they solve: sometimes his patients suffered attentional deficits, often a contraction of the visual field, sometimes spared peripheral vision but lost focal vision (sometimes vice versa), sometimes defective depth perception, or number and/or word blindness, difficulties estimating the number of dots, and so on. In other words what we loosely refer to as "vision" includes so many lesser but compounded abilities! Poppelreuter therefore developed a battery of separately appropriate psychophysical and neuropsychological tests, and assessed each of his patients on each of the target visual abilities in turn. Here are some of his patients' notes [we have underlined the comments regarding picture cognition] .....
"[Case 17, "SW":] Wounded on 30 June 1915 by grenade splinters [.....] near the median occipital line. [.....] no disturbance of binocular depth perception or localisation by touch. [.....] Visual search is not slowed. [.....] Sorting of buttons is slow but correct. [.....] If very large pictures which contain many complex details are shown to SW he finds it difficult to get a quick and reliable overview" (pp310-311).
"[Case 19, 'B':] Wounded on 13 August 1915. [.....] Visual agnosia is present even for simple pictures [but] is more pronounced for complex pictures. [.....] Visual imagination also appears to be impaired; when asked for the number of sides of a hexagon he answers '4'" (p312).
"[Case 21, 'SH':] Wounded on 23 August 1914 in the left occiput by gunshot. [.....] Identification and naming of simple meaningful pictures is slowed but not impaired. [.....] Although he apperceives details correctly, he cannot comprehend the meaning of a scene" (p314).
"[Case 34, 'HP':] Wounded on 4 September 1914 by shrapnel or a rifle bullet in both occipital lobes. [.....] Apart from severe concentric field restriction he showed severe mindblindness, even with simple familiar objects. Reading was nearly impossible, except for a few words. [.....] Binocular depth perception is normal. Identification of meaningful pictures has meanwhile improved, but is still severely impaired. [.....] With more complex pictures and films he has great difficulties" (pp329-330).
And finally, for a defect in gist processing - what Poppelreuter termed "glancing over" (p162) - with preserved detailed scanning .....
"[Case 35, 'FR':] Wounded on 9 May 1915 [with] two wounds at the rear of the head. [.....] FR finds it very difficult to discriminate and identify lines. Normal binocular depth perception. [.....] Apperception of meaningful single pictures is not impaired [but] a severe impairment emerges with the apperception of complex picture series: FR is unable to identify the context, and relies entirely on details" (pp330 331).
Sadly Poppelreuter's battery of tests did not extend to judgements of emotion or beauty. [THREAD = THE SCIENCE OF VISION]
1918 The Dadaist performer Richard Huelsenbeck sets up the "Cafe des Westens" in Berlin to continue the pioneering work of the Cabaret Voltaire. Unfortunately their attacks on the war drew negative press. Only when they marketed their iconoclasm a bit more cleverly did it achieve acceptance for a couple of years, and then only on the fringe of theatre going. [THREAD = AVANT-GARDE AND EXPERIMENTAL ART]
1918 [See firstly 1757 (Charles de Brosses)] Oskar Kokoschka [see 1909] commissions the sculptress Hermine Moos to produce a life-sized doll in the image of his ex-mistress Alma Mahler. He assists her in this project with a life-sized sketch [image] of the woman in question, and, when the work is completed, uses it as part artist's model, part fetish object. [THREAD = THE UNCANNY]
to reveal the most troublesome memory complexes hidden in a person's unconscious [we recommend Winer (2002/2007 online) for a full tutorial on the technique]. Jung's rationale here is as follows .....
"The associations often enable us to recognise the nature of the complex, thus obtaining valuable clues for causal therapy. A by-product, not to be underestimated, is the scientific knowledge which we thus gain of the origin and inner construction of the psychogenic neuroses" (Jung, 1918, p108).
RESEARCH ISSUE - MEMORY COMPLEXES AND AESTHETICS: Complexes of inter-associated memory fragments have only to become emotionally invested in some way to become, in turn, potential sources of creative inspiration (in artists) and/or dramatic interpretation (in their public) [it may even be that by recording simultaneously how we see the world and what we feel about it, memory complexes will turn out to be the only art-predisposing mental factors]. Unfortunately, research in this area is exceptionally difficult technically. There are, for example, only two methods of analysing complexes. Both borrow heavily from computer science, and neither has really been pushed to its limits. The first method is to record the individual nodes in a given memory complex, and to set out your findings graphically as a "semantic network" [see example]. Such networks soon reach a limit of usefulness, simply because there is too much data to be shown. The second method is far more frugal because it steps back from the specific data and deals instead with the data types involved. Thus one data type - <TEACHERS> could stand for many hundreds of specific named teacher "occurrences". Computer scientists often referred to this abstract analysis of naturally occurring data as a "Data Model" [for a longer history of the data modelling process, and a detailed tutorial, see the Companion Resource]. It remains to be seen whether network analysis of this sort can assist aesthetic theory.
1919 The German architect Walter Gropius [Wikipedia biography] sponsors the "Romantic Bauhaus Manifesto", and rebadges the Saxon School of Arts and Crafts as the Weimar Bauhaus. So begins a period of rapidly growing reputation, initially in avant-garde art and interior design, but then increasingly in architecture and design in general, as well as in theatre. Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky soon join the teaching staff, as do Lothar Schreyer and Oskar Schlemmer. The Bauhaus will eventually be shut down by the Nazis in 1933 for promoting "degenerate" art. [THREAD = AVANT-GARDE AND EXPERIMENTAL ART]
1919 Freud (1919) revisits Jentsch's notion of the uncanny in which he applies his own theories to the subject. He begins with an extremely thorough dictionary search for meanings of the words "uncanny" and "canny" [German = (un)heimlich], before noting that the sense of uncanny as an aesthetic experience comes from the body of usage where heimlich, by signifying "at home", actually means "concealed, kept from sight" (p223). Freud then goes far deeper into the Sandman story than Jentsch, noting Nathaniel's recurring nightmare of losing his eyes to the Sandman. The dread of him, says Freud, "became fixed in his heart" (p228), and as the story unfolds eventually destroyed him. Freud's conclusion is different to Jentsch's in that he attributes the feeling of the uncanny "to the idea of being robbed of one's eyes" (p230), and that, in psychoanalytic thinking, is a sublimated fear of castration. The everyday aesthetics of the uncanny, in other words, is every bit as psychosexual in origin as any case of hysteria. Freud also points out that the eponymous villain of Sophocles' "Oedipus the King", the mother-loving father-killing King Oedipus, blinded himself in self-punishment at the end of the play, so we may also conclude that the Oedipus complex and the uncanny share some deep causal dynamic. [THREADS = THE UNCANNY and FROZEN MOTION]
1920 Assisted by Man Ray, Marcel Duchamp produces his first kinetic piece, a "motorised sculpture" entitled "Rotary Glass Plates". This and subsequent spinning pieces often generate interesting visual illusions. In 1931 Duchamp suggests the alternative name "mobile" for such artworks.
1920 [This entry draws on the investigative scholarship behind Reuben Hoggett's Cybernetic Zoo website.] After a successful wartime career in the RNAS, and based now in Britain, Alban J. Roberts [see 1912] turns techno-performer with "Kaiser", a man-sized radio-controlled android. This so appeals to the public that Pathe Gazette arrange to have it put through its paces for the news cameras [see stills]. [THREADS = ANIMATED MECHANISM and FUTURIST PERFORMANCE]
1920 A young American newspaper cartoonist named Walter E. ("Walt") Disney [Wikipedia biography] teams up with an American animator named Ubbe Iwerks [Wikipedia biography] to try to make money in and around Kansas City with animated short films. Despite a good public reception, high production costs soon bring the venture to its financial knees. [See next 1923 (Disney)] [THREAD = HISTORY OF CINEMATOGRAPHY]
1920 The German film director Robert Wiene [Wikipedia biography] screens "The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari" [You Tube full length video], a film which will be acclaimed the standard bearer for German Expressionist cinema. [See next 1922 (Murnau)] [THREAD = HISTORY OF CINEMATOGRAPHY]
1920 The German painter-draughtsman George Grosz [Wikipedia biography] releases the portfolio "Gott mit Uns" [= "God with Us"; the imprint on the belt clasp of the German Army uniform], a protest art collection of anti-WW1 caricatures [specimens] frequently contrasting well-heeled war-profiteers with the broken bodies of those who actually did the fighting. [THREAD = ART, WARFARE, AND PROPAGANDA]
1920 The Spanish painter Joan Miró [Wikipedia biography] sets up studio in Paris, initially to develop his understanding of Cubism but later to move towards Surrealism with works such as "The Tilled Field" (1924) [image]. [THREAD = SURREALIST ART]
1920 [See firstly 1911 (Fry) and 1914 (Bell)] Roger Fry now publishes "Vision and Design" [buy] in which he complements reprints of earlier papers with a purpose-written retrospective essay. This retrospective provides valuable insight into his own and Clive Bell's treatment of "formalism" [see 1914]. Here is his personal position on this issue .....
"I conceived the form of the work of art to be its most essential quality, but I believed this form to be the direct outcome of an apprehension of some emotion of actual life by the artist, although, no doubt, that apprehension was of a special and peculiar kind and implied a certain detachment. I also conceived that the spectator in contemplating the form must inevitably travel in an opposite direction along the same road which the artist had taken, and himself feel the original emotion. I conceived the form and the emotion which it conveyed as being inextricably bound together in the aesthetic whole" (Fry, 1920, p206).
..... and here is Bell's .....
Since it was impossible in these cases to doubt the genuineness of the aesthetic reaction it became evident that I had not pushed the analysis of works of art far enough, had not disentangled the purely aesthetic elements from certain accompanying accessories. It was, I think, the observation of these cases of reaction to pure form that led Mr Clive Bell to put forward the hypothesis that however much the emotions of life might appear to play a part in the work of art, the artist was really not concerned with them, but only with the expression of a special and unique kind of emotion, the aesthetic emotion. A work of art had the peculiar property of conveying the aesthetic emotion, and it did this in virtue of having 'significant form'" (p206).
Fry's central conclusion is as follows .....
"What I think has resulted from Mr Clive Bell's book, and the discussions which it has aroused on this point is that the artist is free to choose any degree of representational accuracy which suits the expression of his feeling. That no single fact, or set of facts, about nature can be held to be obligatory for artistic form. Also one might add as an empirical observation that the greatest art seems to concern itself most with the universal aspects of natural form, to be the least preoccupied with particulars" (pp206-207; emphasis added).
1921 A young Austrian-British philosopher named Ludwig Wittgenstein publishes "Tractatus", "an ambitious project to identify the relationship between language and reality, and to define the limits of science" (Wikipedia). It is not an easy read, presenting seven clusters of highly abstract propositions with minimal evidential support. Here, courtesy of an unnamed Wikipedia commentator, are the seven headline propositions .....
"(1) The world is everything that is the case.
(2) What is the case (a fact) is the existence of states of affairs.
(3) A logical picture of facts is a thought.
(4) A thought is a proposition with sense.
(5) A proposition is a truth-function of elementary propositions.
(6) The general form of a proposition is the general form of a truth function, which is: .
(7) Where (or of what) one cannot speak, one must pass over in silence."
Wittgenstein later (1929) submits this work to the examiners at Cambridge University as his Ph.D. thesis, gets a job as lecturer, and is eventually promoted to Professor of Philosophy in 1939. He summarised the basic point of Tractatus as follows .....
"The main point is the theory of what can be expressed by propositions, i.e., by language (and, which comes to the same thing, what can be thought) and what cannot be expressed by propositions, but only shown; which I believe is the cardinal problem of philosophy" (Wikipedia, citing Edwards, 1982).
ASIDE - PROJECT KONRAD DESIGN FEATURE: Wittgenstein's seven principles (to the extent that we understand them) have been incorporated into the proposition processing modules at the heart of the Konrad software [more on this].
1921 [See firstly 1812 (Grimm)] The Swedish Nobel Prize winning author Selma Lagerlöf [Wikipedia biography] publishes "Troll och Människor" [= "Trolls and Men"], a collection of Gothic tales. One of these - "The Changeling" - is a tale of troll abduction, but with an interesting twist intended to draw the reader's attention to the risks of belief-inspired child abuse. [See next 1932 (Freaks)] [THREAD = THE UNCANNY]
1921 Sigmund Freud [see 1891] now publishes "Group Psychology" (Freud, 1921/1955), in which he describes the process of identification as follows .....
"Identification is known to psychoanalysis as the earliest expression of an emotional tie with another person. It plays a part in the early history of the Oedipus complex. A little boy will exhibit a special interest in his father; he would like to grow like him and be like him, and take his place everywhere. We may say simply that he takes his father as his ideal. [.....]. He then exhibits, therefore, two psychologically distinct ties: a straightforward sexual object-cathexis toward his mother and an identification with his father which takes him as his model. The two subsist side by side for a time without any mutual influence or interference. In consequence of the irresistible advance towards a unification of mental life, they come together at last; and the normal Oedipus complex originates from their confluence. The little boy notices that his father stands in his way with his mother. His identification with his father then takes on a hostile colouring and becomes identical with the wish to replace his father in regard to his mother as well. Identification, in fact, is ambivalent from the very first; it can turn into an expression of tenderness as easily as into a wish for someone's removal" (Freud, 1921/1955, Group Psychology [Standard Edition (Volume 18)], p105). [See next 1923 (Freud)] [THREAD = PSYCHODYNAMICS IN ART (FREUDIAN)]
outer world of actions, objects, and persons" or "the inner world of concepts and ideas" (McCaulley, 1981, p298). Here is how Jung explains the distinction .....he extremes are Extraversion (E) and Introversion (I), according to whether a person is primarily interested in "the
"According to definition, the normal man is influenced in equal measure from within as from without. He makes up [the] middle group. On one side of this group are those individuals whose motivations are mainly conducted by the outer object, and on the other are those who allow themselves to be determined primarily by the subject. I have designated the first group as extraverted, the latter as introverted [.....]. The differentiation of type begins often very early, so early that in certain cases one must speak of it as being innate. The earliest mark of extraversion in a child is his quick adaptation to the environment, and the extraordinary attention he gives to objects, especially to his effect upon them. Shyness in regard to objects is very slight; the child moves and lives among them with trust. [.....] Apparently he develops more quickly than an introverted child, since he is less cautious. [.....] Every thing unknown seems alluring. Reversing the picture, one of the earliest marks of introversion in a child is a reflective, thoughtful, manner, a pronounced shyness, even a certain fear concerning unknown objects. [.....] Everything unknown is regarded with mistrust. Outside influence is, in the main, met with emphatic resistance. The child wants his own way, and under no circumstances will he submit to a strange rule that he does not understand. When he questions, it is not from curiosity or desire for sensation, but because he wants names, meanings, and explanations which could provide him with a subjective security over against the object. I have seen an introverted child who made her first efforts to walk only after she had learnt the names of all the things in the room with which she might come in contact" (Jung, 1928, pp82-84).
The other dimensions are as follows .....
Dimension S-N: The extremes here are Sensing (S) and Intuition (N), according to whether a person "prefers" to perceive "the immediate real practical facts of experience and life" or else "the possibilities, relationships, and meanings of experiences" (Ibid.).
Dimension T-F: The extremes here are Thinking (T) and Feeling (F), according to whether a person makes decisions "objectively, impersonally, considering causes of events and where decisions may lead" or else "subjectively and personally, weighing values of choices and how they matter to others" (Ibid.).
Dimension J-P: The extremes here are Judgment (J) and Perception (P), according to whether a person prefers to live "in a decisive, planned, and orderly way, aiming to regulate and control events" or else in "a spontaneous flexible way, aiming to understand life and adapt to it" (Ibid.). [See next 1939 (Jung)] [THREAD = PSYCHODYNAMICS IN ART (JUNGIAN)]
RESEARCH ISSUE - JUNGIAN PERCEPTION OF ART: The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) is a psychometric test of personality based on the Jungian dimensions listed above. Type ISFP is listed online [check it out] as being an inherently artistic personality, but there is ample scope for more research here.
KEY CONCEPT - MEMORY COMPLEXES: In everyday English, the word "complex" can be used either as an adjective [e.g., "a complex issue"] or as a noun [e.g., "a military complex"]. The word's root is the Latin complexio [= "connection"]. The word was therefore the lexeme of choice when early psychiatrists were looking for a term to describe recurring combinations of symptoms - "syndromes" - seen in the early asylums. This is why we still describe the sort of delusions of grandeur seen in certain psychotic patients as a "Napoleon complex". A young Sigmund Freud also used the word in his On Aphasia monograph [see Companion Resource], where he described the semantic referent of any given word as a Komplex (e.g., Freud 1891/1992, p148) of interlocking associations. Other famous complexes include Freud's "Oedipus complex", Adler's "inferiority complex", and Jung's "erotic complex". This latter is Jung's (e.g., 1918, p117) term for a complex of memory fragments "all showing characteristic disturbances which are ex hypothesi of a sexual nature" (p119), and which may be linked and integrated moreover by an overarching narrative or explanatory theme.
1921 The Italian novelist-turned-dramatist Luigi Pirandello [Wikipedia biography] stages "Sei Personaggi in Cerca d'Autore" [in English as "Six Characters in Search of an Author"] [see synopsis]. The work provides a powerful insight into the nature of theatrical reality by exposing many of the artifices by which we like to have that reality created, but which are herein omitted. It has been classified as "Theatre of the Grotesque", thus .....
"The spirit of the grotesque [.....] grows directly out of Pirandello's concept of 'umorismo', the painful laugh that accompanies a tragic sense of bewilderment in the face of a cruel and incongruous life. [.....] As a play, a grotesque ideally is itself a denial of any imposed form, neither a comedy nor a tragedy, but an experience where inner life forces the spectator into the same sense of bewilderment as the characters" (Longman, 1974 online, e1-2; emphasis added). [THREAD = THE PERFORMATIVE EXCHANGE]
1922 Karel Capek's play "R.U.R." introduces the word "robot". Thanks to the creativity of the play's director, Frederick Kiesler, it also included "television" screens [actually a camera obscura system] a full decade before television had actually been identified!
1922 The Austrian (later American) film director Fritz Lang [Wikipedia biography] screens "Dr. Mabuse" [You Tube video clip], a four-hour psychological thriller. [See next 1923 (Disney)] [THREAD = HISTORY OF CINEMATOGRAPHY]
1922 The German film director Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau [Wikipedia biography] screens "Nosferatu" [You Tube full length video], a highly atmospheric retelling of Bram Stoker's "Dracula" [see 1897], and the film which most successfully transferred the gothic tradition in art and literature onto the silver screen. [See next 1922 (Lang)] [THREAD = HISTORY OF CINEMATOGRAPHY]
1922 The German psychiatrist-art historian Hans Prinzhorn [Wikipedia biography] publishes "Bildnerei der Geisteskranken" [= "The Artistry of the Mentally Ill"], in which he presents works from the archive of schizophrenic patients' art at the University of Heidelberg Psychiatric Hospital. Some items from the Prinzhorn Collection will eventually be included in the Nazi Party's exhibition of Degenerate Art [see 1937]. [THREAD = ART, WARFARE, AND PROPAGANDA]
1922 The latest offering from Man Ray [see 1915], a photograph entitled "La Marquise Casati" [image], produces a curious (and to the present author disturbing) four-eyed effect by jogging the camera at the moment of exposure. [THREAD = DISTURBING ART]
RESEARCH ISSUE - FACE PROCESSING: There are three distinct traditions in the modern literature on face perception. The first may conveniently be dated to Charles Darwin's scene-setting work "The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals" [see 1872 and its THREADS], and is interested in the extraction of indicators of emotionality from such facial parameters as eye movement, brow movement, and mouth shape. This is the zoological tradition, as comes through to the modern day via the works of Konrad Lorenz [see 1937], Niko Tinbergen [see 1951], Ray Birdwhistell [see 1952], and Desmond Morris [see 1967]. [To get a flavour of the issues currently being addressed by zoological ethology, click here]. The second research tradition falls within the branch of cognitive science known as "cognitive neuropsychology", and may conveniently be dated to the model of modular face recognition proposed in the paper by Bruce and Young (1986 [q.v.]). This approach is interested in the cross-correlating of clinical problems in face recognition with models of the likely underlying information processing networks. [To get a flavour of the issues currently being addressed in this area of cognitive neuropsychology, click here]. The third tradition is the use of deliberately distorted facial images as stimuli, and can either measure the ability of such images to induce such emotions as fear and disgust or else their ability to impair the recognition process. The precise relationship between morphological anomalies of this sort and the emotionality of disturbing art remains to be determined.
1923 The French stage performer Etienne Decroux enrols at the Vieux-Colombier stage school and begins to develop "corporeal mime", the sort of whole body attitude-sequence performance later made world-famous by his student Marcel Marceau. The essence of the Decrouxian method is that the actor should become "totally expressive", to the exclusion of conventional speech and gesture.
1922 The German choreographer Oskar Schlemmer [Wikipedia biography] stages his "Triadisches Ballett" [= "Triadic Ballet"] in Stuttgart. The name derives from the ballet's three act structure, three participants, and a general divisibility of things by three. The company will tour for several years and acquire a reputation for visually striking avant-garde performance. Schlemmer's main theoretical innovation is that his human dancers perform many of their movements in the never perfectly human style of puppets and marionettes. [THREAD = THE UNCANNY]
1923 The Director of the Mannheim Art Gallery, Gustav Hartlaub, coins the term Neue Sachlichkeit [= "New Objectivity"] for an exhibition of alternatives to Expressionism in German art. One branch within this movement, represented by Otto Dix [see 1924] and George Grosz [see 1917], obtained its emotional effect by showing more unvarnished truths of trench warfare than those who were not on the field liked to see.
1923 Walt Disney [see 1920] now relocates to Hollywood and teams up with his banker brother Roy O. Disney [Wikipedia biography] to form Disney Brothers Studio. Five years later they will produce "Steamboat Willie" [You Tube full length video], the first sound Mickey Mouse cartoon, and set off on the road to Disneyland as we know and love it today. [See next 1927 (Lang)] [THREAD = HISTORY OF CINEMATOGRAPHY]
1923 The Gestalt psychologist Max Wertheimer [Wikipedia biography] publishes "Untersuchungen zur Lehre von der Gestalt", subsequently translated as "Laws of Organisation in Perceptual Forms", a clear statement of the laws of proximity, similarity, common fate, closure, etc. One of Wertheimer's students, Rudolf Arnheim, will apply these rules to the aesthetics of both cinema [see 1932] and gallery art [see 1954].
KEY CONCEPT - "FIGURE" VERSUS "GROUND": No account of visual perception can be complete without accounting for form [see, e.g., 1914 (Formalism)]. In turn, no account of form can be complete without incorporating the Gestalt Laws of Perceptual Organisation into the process, and no account of the Gestalt Laws can be complete without understanding the processes whereby some items are recognised as "figures" worthy of attention whilst others can safely be dismissed as "ground". The "figure-ground phenomenon" can be readily illustrated by studying so-called "reversible figures" where the information available to the visual system is deliberately inconclusive .....
It is also worth noting that some figures do not emerge easily from the retinal image, and need effort and time .....
1923 After seven years preparation Marcel Duchamp finishes "The Large Glass", a Proto-Surrealist work using glass panes instead of canvas and a variety of applique materials instead of paint.
1923 The magazine "Wierd Tales" begins publication.
1923 The Bauhaus experiments with puppets and mechanical figures.
1923 Matheson Lang stars as Matathias in the silent movie "The Wandering Jew".
1923 Influenced by August Macke's Rhineland Expressionists [see 1913], the German painter Max Ernst [Wikipedia biography] produces "Ubu Imperator" [image], a tribute to Alfred Jarry [see 1896], and the distinctly Surrealist "Men Shall Know Nothing of This" [image]. [See next 1948] [THREAD = AVANT-GARDE AND EXPERIMENTAL ART]
1924 The French writer André Breton leads a Dadaist splinter-group including Salvador Dali to declare "The Surrealist Manifesto". Joined later by René Magritte they deliberately produce "anti-art" with a dreamlike compositional quality.
1924 The German artist Otto Dix [Wikipedia biography] releases a portfolio of 50 tell-it-as-it-was etchings of WW1 trench warfare under the title "Der Krieg" [= "The War"] [specimen images]. The following year he will take part in the Neue Sachlichkeit exhibition in Mannheim. A number of his paintings will in due course be included in the Nazi Party's exhibition of Degenerate Art [see 1937].
1925 The "Exposition des Arts Décoratifs" introduces the term "Art Deco".
1925 The Russian film director Sergei M. Eisenstein [Wikipedia biography] screens "Strike" and "Battleship Potemkin", and is catapulted to instant international renown for his skill at cinematic montage [= dynamic narrative editing], especially where large crowd movements are involved [see specimen video]. [See next 1927] [THREAD = THE PERFORMATIVE EXCHANGE]
1925 The German painter Max Beckmann [Wikipedia biography] is appointed tutor at the Frankfurt Academy of Fine Art, where he promotes the Post-Expressionist principles of the New Objectivity movement [see 1923].
1926 The Austrian psychiatrist Melanie Klein [Wikipedia biography] sets up in practice in London and begins to put together her own variant of Psychoanalytic Theory. As with all good theories of psychotherapy, Klein's combines a detailed account of how minds are put together with equally detailed accounts (a) of how those minds can be damaged during that process and (b) of how to repair them when they are damaged. Central to all these considerations are the patient's experiences in very early childhood, because for Klein these experiences help habitualise a person's emotional responses to everyday people and objects. This is the thrust behind her explanatory notions of "object relations", "good objects", and "bad objects". She observes children as young as two years old at play, looking for hidden negative emotions such as aggression, envy, and greed, and suggests that that the guilt naturally associated with the depressive personality is the primary source of artistic creativity. In 1932 she will set out her theory in "The Psychoanalysis of Children" [buy]. Her collected works from the period 1921 to 1945 are available as "Love, Guilt, and Reparation" [buy]. [See next 1929] [THREAD = PSYCHOANALYTIC THEORY]
1926 The British educationalist Graham Wallas [Wikipedia biography] publishes "The Art of Thought", in which he puts forward a four-stage view of creative problem solving. The four stages are .....
Preparation: This is the first stage of creation, and involves consciously coming to grips with the task at hand. This means "doing your homework" as to what the task really involves, perhaps by working with the problem for a while, and perhaps by trying out previous failed solutions to find out why they failed. This helps put the problem into perspective, focussing the mind on the central difficulty. Thus "to realise what is structurally central and what is not, is, in most cases of thinking, of the highest importance" (Wertheimer, 1961, p269). This stage may take a considerable time, and should never be hurried. Indeed, the Greek scientist Archimedes actually warned his students not to ask too many questions about a problem all at once on the grounds that this was usually counter-productive.
Incubation: This is the second stage of creation, and involves unconsciously turning the problem over and over in your mind. It is therefore a period of apparent - but nonetheless vital - inactivity. This stage, too, cannot be rushed.
Illumination: This is the third stage of creation. It is very brief, and - like Archimedes jumping from his bathtub - typically involves the sudden appearance of a potential solution. This is the "1% inspiration" which most inventors claim has then to be supported by "99% perspiration".
Verification: This is the fourth stage of creation, and involves developing the potential solution into a fully functioning one. This stage, too, may take a considerable time, especially if the idea is related to a complex technological development. With major projects like the building of the atomic bomb or the race to the moon, the central objective reduces to thousands of constituent problems, each one of which follows the same four stages. That is why such projects tend to get measured in thousands of man-years of effort!
1926 The Spanish painter Salvador Dalí [Wikipedia biography] begins to develop a reputation at the Surrealist end of Dadaism. [See next 1931]
1926 Max Ernst [see 1923] now publishes a pamphlet entitled "Histoire Naturelle" [in English as "Natural History"]. In it he describes discovering the technique of frottage - "the scraping of pigments upon a ground prepared in colours and placed upon an uneven surface" (Ernst, 1945 [q.v.], p12). He even gives the exact date this happened - 10th August 1925 - and names the early works to result as "The Sea and the Rain" (1925) [image] and the symbolically challenging "Eve" (1925) [image]. [See next 1948]
1927 Fritz Lang [see 1922] now releases "Metropolis" [You Tube video clip], the very paradigm of Futurism in the cinema. [THREAD = HISTORY OF CINEMATOGRAPHY]
1927 The American psychologist J.P. Guilford [Wikipedia biography] publishes a paper entitled "Fluctuations of Attention with Weak Visual Stimuli", in which he warns that there are optional physiological explanations of the sort of object fading noted by Troxler [see 1804] and Tscherning [see 1904]. He distinguishes in particular between "local retinal adaptation", where it would be the retinal receptor cells which somehow get fatigued by over-fixating and stop relaying information to the rest of the visual system, and "central fatigue", where neural processing units further up the visual system receive a full set of data from the retina but are themselves physiologically drained in some way and unable to process what they have been given. [See next 1942 (Marshall and Talbot)] [THREAD = PATTERN RECOGNITION MECHANISMS (VISUAL)]
1927 The German philosopher Martin Heidegger, one-time student of Husserl, publishes "Space and Time", a highly original analysis of ontology and self. [Several of Heidegger's concepts, not least that of Dasein, the sense of "being there" which characterises sentient beings, are built into the Konrad software.]
1927 Sergei Eisenstein [see 1925] now adds "Oktober - Ten Days that Shook the World", another masterpiece of cinematic propaganda, to his résumé [see video extract]. [See next 1938] [THREAD = ART, WARFARE, AND PROPAGANDA]
1927 In an attempt to resolve the inconsistencies of the James-Lange Theory of Emotion, the Harvard physiologist Walter B. Cannon publishes his "Alternative Theory" of Emotion. He points out that the viscera are generally lacking in sensory innervation, that there is no one-to-one relationship between visceral activation and emotional state, that visceral changes generally lag behind emotional expression, and that many emotional expressions were demonstrably initiated by subcortical structures. Cannon therefore attributes emotion to activity in thalamic structures, as now summarised [a long extract heavily abridged] .....
"A THEORY OF EMOTION BASED ON THALAMIC PROCESSES: [.....] The neural organisation for an emotion which is suggested by the foregoing observations is as follows. An external stimulation stimulates receptors and the consequent excitation starts impulses towards the cortex. Arrival of the impulses in the cortex is associated with conditioned processes which determine the direction of the response. Either [the ascending impulses or the consequent cortical processes] excite thalamic processes. [.....] These neurons do not require detailed innervation from above in order to be driven into action. Being released for action is a primary condition for their service to the body - they then discharge precipitately and intensely. [.....] We may assume that when these neurons discharge in a particular combination, they not only innervate muscles and viscera but also excite afferent paths to the cortex by direct connection or by irradiation. The theory which naturally presents itself is that the peculiar quality of the emotion is added to simple sensation when the thalamic processes are roused" (pp119-120).
ASIDE - THALAMIC EMOTION AND THE KONRAD SOFTWARE: The sequence of events described above, which Cannon terms the "double control of behaviour" (p123), together with the proposed system's reliance on reafferent information flow, is closely mirrored by the Konrad software.
1927 The Italian fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli [Wikipedia biography] sets up shop in Paris and launches a distinctive range of knitwear [example] to considerable commercial success. Later designs draw heavily on the work of Salvador Dali [e.g., the "Lobster Dress" (1937)] and Jean Cocteau. [See next 1938]
1928 Breton suggests that the ultimate in Surrealist performance would be to fire a revolver at random into a crowd of passers-by.
1928 The Canadian artist Emily Carr [Vancouver Art Gallery biography] exhibits "Skidegate" [image in bio], one of many works themed on Native American totemism. [THREAD = PSYCHODYNAMICS IN ART (JUNGIAN)]
1928 The British naturalist-explorer Richard W. Hingston [Wikipedia biography] publishes a a review of insect behaviour entitled "Problems of Instinct and Intelligence among Tropical Insects", in which amongst other things he describes the foraging behaviour of the dung-beetle. These insects work in pairs to shape a bolus of dung out of animal droppings, and then roll it to a storage site to bury it. However, if upon their arrival at the dung they are given a ready-made dung ball, they ignore it. Instinct has given them a complex program to execute and they are not free to take this particular short-cut, no matter how sensible it might seem. [THREAD = THE NATURE OF INSTINCT]
1928 The German architect Paul Schultze-Naumburg [Wikipedia biography] publishes "Kunst und Rasse" [= "Art and Race"], an explicit appeal for the sort of "racially pure" German art which would shortly become part of the Nazi Party's racial ideology. [THREAD = ART, WARFARE, AND PROPAGANDA]
1929 The American philanthropist and art collector Solomon R. Guggenheim [Wikipedia biography] begins to collect works by "non-objective" [= wholly abstract] artists such as Kandinsky [see 1911] and Mondrian [see 1911]. In the ensuing decade he will accumulate sufficient material to establish the "Museum of Non-Objective Painting" in New York City. [See next 1959]
1929 The Austrian engineer Gustav Tauschek [Wikipedia biography] obtains the German patent for an electro-mechanical optical character sorting machine. [THREAD = MACHINE VISION]
1929 Melanie Klein [see 1926] now publishes a paper entitled "Infantile Anxiety Situations Represented in a Work of Art and in the Creative Impulse". In this paper she reviews (a) the case of the fictional six-year old boy in Ravel's opera "L'Enfant et les Sortilèges" [in English as "The Child and the Spells"; in German as "Das Zauberwort" [= "The Magic Word"]], and (b) the case of the real-life artist Ruth Kjär. The boy's behaviour is full of sadistic destructiveness, which Klein interprets as an "attack on the mother's body and on the father's penis in it" (p86). The woman's behaviour is full of periods of deep depression, which she herself attributes to "an empty space in me, which I can never fill" (p90), and Klein interprets as "a sadistic desire [.....] to rob the mother's body of its contents" (p92). Klein then makes the link to the creative arts by proposing a "desire to make reparation" (p93), which fuels symbolic attempts to make amends to the mother. [See next 1930 (Stokes) and 1993 (Segal)]
1930 The German art critic Niels von Holst publishes "German Portrait Painting in the Time of Mannerism".
image], a textbook example of how to achieve visual appeal [is it beauty?] with just a few blocks of plain colour separated by straight lines."Composition II in Red, Blue, and Yellow" (1930) [
1930 The up-and-coming artist-critic Adrian D. Stokes [Wikipedia biography] enters a period of psychotherapy under Melanie Klein [see 1926]. Two years later he will have learned enough to promote the thesis that Kleinian psychodynamics can be seen at work in Italian Renaissance painters of the 1400s, and publishes his ideas in ***** "The Quattro Cento" ***** [buy]. [See next 1934]
1930 Now one of the main figures in the Gestalt School, Wolfgang Köhler [see 1913] publishes "Gestalt Psychology" [buy], a textbook of gestaltist theory of perception and memory. This is one of the works which will be criticised by Anton Ehrenzweig [see 1953] for carelessly falling foul of William James' "Psychologist's Fallacy" [see 1890], thus .....
1930 Pablo Picasso [see 1912] exhibits "Crucifixion" [image], a work which will subsequently be described as "unique in the iconography of modern painting and of Christianity" (Rubin, 1968, p291).
1931 The German historian Otto Rahn tours South-West France studying the history and sites of the Cathars. He is motivated by the legend that significant Christian relics - possibly even the Holy Grail itself - were secreted at Montsegur during the Albigensian campaign [see 1198, 1906], and, since its protectors were then put to the sword, remain to be discovered. [See next 1933]
1931 Salvador Dalí [see 1926] exhibits "The Persistence of Memory" [image], a highly Surrealist and nowadays extremely well-known work.
1932 The British physicist Charles E. Wynn-Williams [Wikipedia biography] reports research carried out at Cambridge University's Cavendish Laboratory resulting in an automatic counting device (Wynn-Williams, 1932). Insofar as this device was entirely electronic (being valve-based rather than electromechanical), and insofar as it performed binary arithmetic (rather than decimal), this development was one of the main stepping stones on the way to the computer age. In the run-up to WW2, Wynn-Williams' reputation with calculating circuits will get him transferred to the top-secret Dollis Hill research station to work on code-breaking computers [for a fuller telling of this story see Section 3 of our e-resource "Short-Term Memory Subtypes in Computing and Artificial Intelligence (Part 2)"].
1932 [See firstly 1690 (Locke) and 1728 (Cheselden)] By now many reports of sight-restorative surgery relevant to the Molyneux Question have accumulated in the medical literature, and the time is therefore ripe for all this evidence to be reviewed and its implications assessed. Step forward the German neurologist Marius Von Senden [no bio available], who identifies 40 reports besides Cheselden's in the period to 1931, and publishes his analysis of these in "Raum und Gestaltauffassung bei Operierten Blindgeborenen" [in English as "Space and Sight" (1960)]. On balance, these reports [see extracts] support the view that there is no recognition of visual pattern or depth in newly sighted patients: that is to say, that there has been no "transfer" of knowledge from tactile experience to the visual modality. There is, on the other hand, some apparent ability to distinguish colour and brightness or even to judge that two patterns were different [see detailed findings]. Von Senden's work will remain relatively obscure until referenced by Donald Hebb in his 1949 book "The Organisation of Behaviour", and will not be translated into English until 1960. [THREAD = THE VISUAL SYSTEM (THE MOLYNEUX QUESTION)]
1932 [See firstly 1921 (Lagerlöf)] The American showman turned movie producer Tod Browning [Wikipedia biography] releases "Freaks", a cautionary tale set in a circus freak show, the point of which is that the nastiest deeds are done not by the freaks but by the so-called "normal" folk around them. [See next 1957 (Thalidomide)] [THREAD = THE UNCANNY]
1932 Rudolf Arnheim, a young German psychologist and student of Wertheimer's in Berlin during the 1920s, publishes "Film as Art", in which he compares the perceptual processes used in everyday life with those used when viewing movies.
1932 The Polish artist Hans Bellmer [Wikipedia biography] attends a performance of Offenbach's "Tales of Hoffmann" [see 1881] and is inspired thereby to express his artistic inspiration in a series of sexualised dolls and sculptures [see examples]. He will publish a selection of these in "Die Puppe" (1934). [See next 1936 (Morton Bartlett)] [THREAD = DISTURBING ART]
1933 The Nazis shut down the Bauhaus .
1933 Otto Rahn [see 1931] publishes the results of his research trip [see 1931] in "Kreuzzug gegen den Gral" [= "Crusade Against the Grail". He is also explicit as regards a link between the Cathars and the Celtic druids in the British Isles.
1933 The American composer John Cage [Wikipedia biography] is accepted as student by Arnold Schoenberg, and sets to work developing his own avant-garde compositional style. [See next 1938]
1933 John A. Rice and Theodore Dreier found Black Mountain College to pursue a liberal arts curriculum and generally promote John Dewey's theories of progressive education [more on this].
1933 Just before the closure of the Bauhaus by the Nazis, the artists Josef and Anni Albers leave Germany for the USA, there to join the drama course at Black Mountain College, NC, where they pursue the Bauhaus tradition in a new and safer locale. [See next 1949]
1933 The Hungarian photographer André Kertész [Wikipedia biography] experiments with distorting mirrors to create interesting and occasionally disturbing images. [THEME = DISTURBING ART]
1934 The British businessman William Hinds founds a film production company under the name "Hammer Film Productions". They produce four films over the ensuing four years, including "The Mystery of the Marie Celeste" (1936), starring Bela Lugosi, and "Song of Freedom" (1936), starring Paul Robeson. Things then go quiet until after WW2.
1934 The American art historian Edward F. Rothschild publishes "The Meaning of Unintelligibility in Modern Art" [buy]. He begins by identifying three factors which have to be present to a significant extent in an artwork for it to be acclaimed a "work of art". These three factors are as follows .....
"A work of art has three essential attributes: expression, involving the point of view of the artist, his attitude towards his theme, toward his public, toward himself, his faith, his feelings, his hopes - in short, a message in which certain more or less general and permanent attitudes and certain immediate feelings and reactions are given immediate or particular embodiment; style, the physical or sensory means, and their results or record in tangible, visual, or audible experience, which the artist employs as the vehicle of his expression or for the sake of their intrinsic integration; and quality, which is the degree of success approaching perfection that any observer may attribute to the result" (pp2-3).
Rothschild's substantive point is then that the artist's expression - the all-important message - can fly by many routes, not all of them straight and simple. Specifically, he argues that the low superficial intelligibility of a piece of modern art does not automatically prevent it having a significant message; such works are allowed, required even, to be "antiliteral" (p7) and idiomatic. The remainder of the work is an exploration of the "factors of unintelligibility" (p8). The first of these factors he names as "Individualism", the second as "Revolution", and the third "Dematerialisation". Individualism on the part of an artist implies not just having the courage of your convictions but also an "awareness of the function of self" during the process of observation (p12). Revolution implies constantly being on the look-out for "a new order" (p17). And Dematerialisation - arguably the most important of the three factors - implies a focus on the "insubstantialities" of Nature rather than its materialities. The art movement most associated with Individualism is Impressionism, thus .....
"It was with Impressionism that individualism became a 'systematic' source of unintelligibility. [.....] In an attempt to present a faithful rendering of the natural object it had become increasingly important to take complete account of sensory evidence. [.....] Previously artistic imagery had been determined by mental, tactile, and visual factors. With Impressionism it was determined by visual factors alone. [.....] The instruments of science are specialised or selective, and in operation they 'abstract'. Impressionism is like a science in that it uses a very specialised, selective instrument, the retina, to 'abstract' or extract all of the visual evidence which its object contains" (pp37-39).
The art movements most characterised by Revolution are Expressionism and Dadaism, for the following reasons .....
"[Expressionism's] language is violent and violence is one of the tenets of revolution. It is a fitting vehicle of the passion for action because it is explosive and dynamic. It is the idiom of propaganda, par excellence, because it appeals to the heart rather than to the head" (p61).
And finally, a number of art movements are characterised by Dematerialisation, including Cubism, Futurism, and Dadaism. Of Dadaism, he explains his point as follows .....
"As the Dadaists sincerely proclaimed, true Dadaists were against Dadaism. They meant that Dadaism was an 'ism' to end all 'isms', and in opposing 'isms' they opposed Dadaism. Paradox is the essence of Dadaism and one of the most typical forms of 'unintelligibility'. [.....] Dada, for all the ridicule which has been heaped upon it, was serious, universal, and deep-seated. [.....] The question as to whether or not what Dada produced was art is relatively unimportant" (pp72-74). [THREADS = HISTORY OF AESTHETICS and ARTISTIC MOVEMENTS (VARIOUS)]
1934 The Russian philosopher Mikhail Bakhtin [external biography] publishes "Discourse in the Novel", in which he coins the term "heteroglossia" [= "many tongues"] to describe the ability of conflicting types of speech to deliver ideas with the power required of great literature. What he terms "authoritative discourse" is so "unconditional" that whilst it is suited for textbooks it lacks the heteroglossia needed by effective fiction.
RESEARCH ISSUE: The formal study of the relationship between an author's message and the words (if any!!) by which that message is expressed is known as "pragmatics", and most modern theories of pragmatics are based on Austin's and Searle's Speech Act Theory. Because this theory requires a thorough prior grounding in psycholinguistics we recommend newcomers to the area to begin with our companion Psycholinguistics Glossary [scroll to the entry for praxis, and then work your way through the cluster of onward pointers]. Given that art is all about framing ideas in novel ways, applications of pragmatic theory to aesthetics are surprisingly rare [for notable exceptions, see 1968, Kowzan; 1969, Mounin; 1977, Eco; 1997, Butler; and 2010, Sacharova]
1934 The 1923 silent movie "The Eternal Jew" is remade with Conrad Veidt in the title role.
1934 Adrian Stokes [see 1925] now publishes "The Stones of Rimini" [buy], in which he famously distinguishes between the psychodynamics of "carving" and "modelling" as everyday sculpting skills. Carving, he asserts, is the process whereby an artist frees an artwork which is already in the stone from its imprisonment. Modelling is putting together an artwork which begins life in the artist's head and is then constructed out of initially formless materials. The different processes tap into the artist's unconscious mind in different ways. Depression is most likely to reveal itself in carving whilst paranoid-schizoid personality is most likely to reveal itself in modelling. [See next 1937]
1934 The German film director Leni Riefenstahl makes Triomph des Willens ["Triumph of the Will"] to document the 1934 Nazi Party rally at Nuremburg.
1934 [See firstly 1917 (Poppelreuter)] The German neurologist Karl Kleist [Wikipedia biography] publishes a monograph entitled "Wartime Brain Injuries and their Significance for Brain Localisation", in which he analyses some 1600 detailed neurological case reports compiled from WW1 head-injuries. These data give many hints as to the likely cross-mapping of different functional subcomponents of cognition as a whole in different anatomical locations [show me this diagram]. Using Brodmann's Numbers to pin his attribution of function to specific brain locations his diagram has stood up remarkably well in the face of subsequent research. Note how the Occipital Lobe [Areas 17, 18, 19, lateral and medial] is wholly devoted to vision but that eye movements are controlled from further afield [Area 8, lateral]. Note also the stippled "cingulate" cortex [Areas 23 and 24, medial], one of the few areas of neocortex directly concerned with emotion. [THREAD = FUNCTIONAL NEUROANATOMY]
1934 The American philosopher-psychologist John Dewey publishes "Art as Experience" [buy], including the warning that European museums risked being little more than "memorials of the rise of nationalism and imperialism" (p8).
1935 The Harvard psychologists Christiana Morgan [Wikipedia biography] and Henry Murray [Wikipedia biography] publish a paper entitled "A Method for Investigating Fantasies" [abstract], in which they report their initial experiences with a projective test known as the "thematic apperception test" (TAT). The essence of this test is that subjects who are shown a photograph and asked to explain what they think is going on will usually say an awful lot more about themselves than the photograph. Here are the actual instructions used .....
"This is a test of creative imagination. I am going to show you a picture, and I want you to make up a plot or story for which it might be used as an illustration. What is the relation of the individuals in the picture? What has happened to them? What are their present thoughts and feelings? What will be the outcome?" (p280).
..... and here is the nub of their findings .....
"That every subject almost immediately projects his own circumstances, experiences, or preoccupations into the evoker was only too obvious. [..... Some,] in fact, gave stories which were frank and unabashed autobiographies" (p282; emphasis added).
TEST YOURSELF NOW: How much do you like to read into everyday images? How many of your personal ambitions and hang-ups do you "project" into the characters on show? Take an online derivative of the TAT now - just click here.
[See 1962 (Arnold)] [THREAD = PERSONALITY AND ART]
1936 The American photographer Morton Bartlett begins to build a small family of half scale child-dolls, and photograph them in various tableaux. Apart from being the subject of a short article in the magazine Yankee in 1962 this collection will never be exhibited in the artist's lifetime, becoming famous only after being uncovered in 1993 [q.v.], a year after his death. [THREAD = THE UNCANNY]
1936 The young American artist