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Tuesday, August 02, 2011

The Painting of Modern Life: Timothy J. Clark

Ritwika Pandey

1. Paragraph 1:
Topic sentence: The art of Manet and his followers had a distinct 'moral aspect' visible above all in the way it dovetailed an account of visual truth with one of social freedom.
Key Ideas: The artists depended for its force on something more than painterly hedonism or simple appetite for sunshine and colour.

2. Paragraph 2:
Topic Sentence: In its unconventionalized, unregulated vision, in its discovery of a constantly changing phenomenal outdoor world of which the shapes depended on the momentary position of the casual or mobile spectator, there was an implicit criticism of symbolic social and domestic formalities, or at least a norm opposed to these.
Key Ideas: We have many pictures in Early Impressionism of informal and spontaneous sociability, of breakfast, picnics, promenades, boating trips, holidays and vacation travel – projection of bourgeois recreation in 1860s and 1870s – also reflect the new aesthetic devices and the conception of art as a medium of individual enjoyment.

3. Paragraph 3:
Topic Sentence: The Contexts of bourgeois sociability shifted from community, family and church to commercialized or privately improvised forms – the streets, the cafes and resorts – the resulting consciousness of individual freedom involved more and more an estrangement from older ties; and those imaginative members of the middle class who accepted the norms of freedom, but lacked the economic means to attain them, were spiritually torn by a sense of helpless isolation in an anonymous indifferent mass.
Key Ideas: Individual enjoyment becomes rare in Impressionist art – private spectacle of nature is only left – social groups break into isolated spectators.

4. Paragraph 4:
Topic Sentence: The actual bourgeois’s being brought to enjoy the Impressionist painting, and to revel in its consonance with his day-to-day experience, is no doubt marvellous; but it does not seem to me much more than a metaphor, and is surely not warranted by what we know of this painting’s first purchasers and enthusiasts.
Key Ideas: Schapiro believes that once upon a time the bourgeoisie, or at least its enlightened members, really did delight in an ‘informal and spontaneous sociability’ – later estrangement and isolation came – ‘commercialized or privately improvised forms’ – informal and spontaneous sociability depicted in Manet’s Dejeuner sur L’herbe.

5. Paragraph 5:
Thesis Statement: The form of new art is inseparable from its content.

6. Paragraph 6:
Topic Sentence: Any social order consists primarily of classifications.
Key Ideas: Society is a set of means for solidarity, distance, belonging and exclusion – things needed pre-eminently for the production of material life – fix an order in which men and women can make their own living – have confidence in what they do – trivialize the concept of ‘social formation’ – the ‘economic life’ – the ‘economy’, the economic realm, sphere, level, instance, or what-have-you – is in itself a realm of representations.

7. Paragraph 7:
Topic Sentence: Social practice is that complexity which always outruns the constraints of a given discourse; it is the overlap and interference of representations.
Key Ideas: Social practice – the notion of social activity outlined so far can be sustained only if the world of representations does not fall into systems or ‘signifying practices’. – society is the battle field of representations – representations are continually subject to the rest of a reality – test of social practice – a test that consolidates or disintegrates our categories and eventually makes and unmakes a concept.

8. Paragraph 8:
Topic Sentence: In capitalist society, economic representations are the matrix around which all other organized.
Key Ideas: The class of an individual – his or her effective possession of or separation from the means of production - is the determinant of social life – in the nineteenth century often the presence of class as the organizing structure is gross and palpable – it is possible to expand the concept of class and include facts other than the economic facts – here we are clearly dealing with a class and a set of ‘class characteristics’ still in the making.

9. Paragraph 9:
Topic Sentence: It is clear that reality designated at the time – in the 1870s, say – as petit bourgeois included men and women whose trades had previously allowed them a modicum of security in the city’s economic life, but who had been robbed of that small safety by the growth of large scale industry and commerce.
Key Ideas: Class will in any case necessarily be a complex matter – there is never only one ‘means of production’ in society for individuals to posses or be denied – a shift of attention from putting stress on the material means occurred – new set of proposals was possible without the effect of bad faith – Mallarme said that painting shall be steeped again in its cause.

10. Paragraph 10:
Topic Sentence: Doubts about vision became doubts about almost everything involved in the act of painting; and in time the uncertainty became a value in its own right; we could almost say it became an aesthetic.
Key Ideas: In the Symbolist magazines of the late 1880s – in which the preference of painting for the not known, the not arranged, and the not interpreted was taken largely as an article of faith – painting has a subject – art seeks out the edges of things, of understanding – its favorable modes are thus irony, negation, deadpan, the pretence of ignorance or innocence – highest wisdom is knowing that things and pictures do not add up.

11. Paragraph 11:
Topic Sentence: The terms of modernism are not to be conceived as separate from the particular projects – the specific attempts at meaning – in which they are restated.
Key ideas: Notorious history of modernism’s concern for ‘flatness’ – two dimensions of the picture surface every time the painters after Courbet recover them – that literal presence of surface went on to become an form of art.

12. Paragraph 12:
Topic Sentence: Flatness was constructed as a barrier put up against the viewer’s normal wish to enter a picture and a dream, to have it be a space apart from life in which the mind would be free to make its own connections.
Key Ideas: Painting would replace or displace the real world – flatness was considered a part of modernity.

13. Paragraph 13:
Topic Sentence: Flatness was therefore in play – as an irreducible, technical fact of painting – with all of these totalizations, all of these attempts to make it a metaphor.
Key Ideas: The painters we most admire insisted also on its being awkward, empirical quiddity; but ‘also’ is the key word here- their particularity was what made flatness a matter to be painted.

14. Paragraph 14:
Topic Sentence: Circumstances of modernism were not modern and only became so by being given the forms called ‘spectacle’.
Key Ideas: Are we to take Impressionism’s repertoire of subjects and devices as merely complicit in the spectacle – lending it consistency or even charm – or as somehow disclosing it as farce or tragedy.

15. Paragraph 15:
Topic Sentence: Rediscover the force of these terms – light, looking, strict adherence to the facts of vision – since they have nowadays become anodyne.
Key Ideas: Are we supposed to give up believing in the ‘painting of light’? – simple determination of these artists to look and depict without letting the mind interfere too much? - wondering since where the traditional notion of impressionism gone.

16. Paragraph 16:
Topic Sentence: A matter of looking at Impressionist pictures again and being struck by their strangeness.
Key Ideas: It gives the impression of something seen and translated by the feeling rather than with every form defined.

17. Paragraph 17:
Topic Sentence: These criticisms are ungenerous, but they point to things in the paintings which truly are odd and ought to be recognized as such.
Key Ideas: The painters job is representing in a way which barely makes sense – the individual marks are scratched and spread into one another as if they had been worked overlaid almost cancelled out - even the painter would find it obscure.

18. Paragraph 18:
Topic Sentence: A space had to be kept between painting and representing: the two procedures must never quite mesh.
Key Words: The word ‘painting’ in a crude material way, would stand for the notion of what the paint could stand for effectively – the established equivalents in paint are always false – they are short cuts for the hand and eye and brain which tell us nothing that we do not already know; and what we know already is not worth rehearsing in paint.

19. Paragraph 19:
Topic Sentence: Painting was now supposed to be about seeing and the painter determined to stick to the look of a scene at all cost.
Key Ideas: Realist intentions are at work here – it involved a set of fragile and unprecedented equations between the painted and the visible.

20. Paragraph 20:
Topic Sentence: Painting is not uniquely an archaeological art and that it accommodates itself without effort to “modernity’.
Key Ideas: This writer’s confidence somewhat misses the point of the pictures he is describing – we must allow art to effect its own naturalization to costume – It is yet to be seen what the attractive new category meant and what kind of accommodation can art make with it.

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