Approach: The Social History of Art

The relatively newly developed twentieth-century approach, the social history of art, can trace its roots back to the late eighteenth and early nineteenth-century German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Griederick Hegel (1770-1831.) It is essentially from the ideas of Hegel that the revolutionary Karl Marx (1818-1883) was able to formulate his theory on human behavior. It was from this theory, which came to be known as Marxism, that Marxist art historians began to emerge and develop the social history of art. It is important to note in what historical conditions this approach came into development. Three articles written by respectively by three prominent social art historians, Arnold Hauser (1888-1966), T.J. Clark (1943-??) and Theodore Hartt (1914-1991) collectively explain how approach was able to both defined and redefined itself. Sociological art history, is frequently described as, the subject matter, the means and process of production—including the structure, style and composition—as tools to reveal the basic economic condition of in which the artwork was produced in.

There are three initial limitations to this approach. Firstly, art has a dual nature, in that; it is a product of an individual’s inner logic. Sociology is unable to analyze artworks independence. Secondly, it does not address a works quality. Lastly, it does not explain the connection, or lack of connection, between an artistic quality and its popularity. There are positive aspects that other approaches either do not address or are insufficient in addressing them. For example, the history of styles is preoccupied with the formal elements of art and hardly touches upon historical explanation. A phenomenon, which sociological history of art, easily explains is the coexistence of styles. A population, in the most part, fails to be homologous; thus, an explanation for the lack of homogenous artwork that is produced within a particular culture. Lastly, this approach allows art historians to ask more questions about art.

Annotated Bibliography

Since I am not currently taking any other course in art history I decided to do research on a top that I personally find interesting, typography.  In the majority of art, words are not the main emphasis.  In modern art, where a lot of inspiration is drawn from pop culture and ads, word and their stylistic qualities have a more dominant role.  Pop art, particularly incorporates this into their works and I personally find it fascinating the manner in which they choose to interpret and represent these well known words, such as Campbells or Pepsi.

20th Century Art: Museum Ludwig Cologne. Los Angeles: Taschen, 2003.

This book contains a selection of the Museum Ludwig in Cologne 20th Century art. It begins with the turn of the century, and it covers the key aspects, phrases and approaches of modern art. The collection concentrates on the attempt to understand the workings of artistic creativity, and to recognize and ultimately document the spirit of each development. It contains a chronology of the Museum and its collection. The majority of the book contains short bibliographies of artist and their work (mostly showing those held at the museum.) The biographies are typically one to two pages and describe the artist’s career, the progress of their career, their tribute to their movement and art history as a whole and occasionally it contains information about their inspiration from previous artists. Most importantly it contains many of the prominent American Pop artists.

Alloway, Lawrence. “On Style: An Examination of Roy Lichtenstein’s Development, Despite a New Monograph on the Artist.” Art Forum 10 (March 1972): 53-59

Alloway summarized Lichtenstein’s work as governed by the style of matter and as following the rules of dialogue in iconography. He describes how the subject matter was not invented by Lichtenstein, rather it taken from existing comic books. The linear patter he uses does not de-comicize the image, because it still retains the style of the comic. Thus Lichtenstein, in Alloway’s view, references two levels: to a specific drawing and the general knowledge of comic strips. Alloway presents several examples of Lichtenstein’s work , which were inspired from comic strips. Alloway shift on subject matter mimics to focus of Lichtenstein own shift away from comic strips, in which the art gives up the idea of allusion. Lastly, Alloway gives a somewhat of review on the monograph Roy Lichtenstein by Diane Waldem and Harry N. Abrams, in which he states that the production of the plates where poor and served no justice to Lichtenstein’s works.

Alloway, Lawrence. “Popular Culture and Pop Art.” Studio International 178 (July 1969): 17-21.

Alloway begins by giving a separate definition of “popular culture” and “pop art” and then goes on to connect the two terms to one another and their interconnected relationship towards one another. Further, Alloway gives a brief summary of how and why the emergence of Pop art came to be and be of its own movement. An important statement that Alloway makes is that Pop art is neither abstract nor realistic, though it has contacts in both directions. Rather it deals with material that already exists, which is often the subject matter for Pop artists. It’s commonality with popular culture lead it be an instant success, not by art critics, but by the mass. This article by Lawrence Alloway is unique in that was written not only by a prominent figure in the Pop art movement, but it was written during the movement itself. It provides a clear and concise analysis of Pop art and its relationship to culture.

Amaya, Mario. Pop Art…and After. New York: The Viking Press, 1965.

Presented within this book is a study of the Pop art movement, while Pop art was relatively new and still in its development. It describes the atmosphere in which the movement developed and reflects some of the then current ideas. The author describes the movement as being instantly famous and successful. The book concentrates on artist mostly from America and Great Britain who either use the techniques and process of commercial art for aesthetic purposes or through a painterly approach that reflects commercially inspired ad-mass references.

Andre, Michael. Review of The Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again), by Andy Warhol. ARTnews 75 (May 1976): 78.

Michael Andre, the reviewer of this article, felt that and emphasized throughout his review that Andy Warhol is childish. He places Warhol in the sphere of an artist in the sense of painting and not in the sphere of creative writing and philosophy. He writes that this book is a philosophy of “clever lies” and asserts that Warhol knows nothing. He notes that the book is more of a character analysis, more specifically of Warhol’s character, which can be inferred back from the subtitle, the “beliefs, concepts and attitudes of an individual.”

Archer, Michael. Art Since 1960 2. New York: Thames and Hudson, 2002.

This book broadly chronologies a number of major themes to examine the variety of forms and practices that have appeared since Pop art. It takes a renewed consideration of the relationship between art and how everyday life connects the works associated with Pop. Importantly, the book goes into detail of how the work of the 1960s challenged the modernist account of art history. The result of this challenge came the recognized idea that the meaning of an artwork does not necessarily lie within it, but often arises out of the environment in which it exits.

Bazerman, Charles, ed. Handbook of Research on Writing: History, Society, School, Individual, Text. New York: Taylor and Francis Group, LLC., 2008.

This book contains a wide interdisciplinary inquiry into how people write, how we learn to write, under what conditions and for what purposes we write, what resources and technologies we must use to write, how our current forms and practices of writing emerged within social history, and what impacts writing has had on society and the individual. The volume is divided into five parts. Part Two and Four are of the most interest. Part Two deals with the surveys from an historical and social perspective the many social domains within which writing has had transformative effect and had become part of the cognitive and material infrastructure. Part Four is devoted to the issues of the individual and writing: development, cognition, affect, identity, multilingualism, health, disaffiliates, and disorders.

Brauer, David E., Jim Edwards, Christopher Finch, Walter Hopps, eds. Pop Art: U.S./U.K. Connections, 1956-1966. Houston: Menil Foundation, Inc., 2001.

This catalogue contains essays and chronologies that embody the separate aspects of U.K. and U.S. It looks back, what was then, 45 years ago in which Pop art demonstrated its importance and vitality. his catalogue examines the coincidence of timing and the relative difference between the art made in England and that made in America. It includes a further examination of the relationship between Pop art on the East and West Coasts of America.

Burt, Sir Cyril. A Psychological Study of Typography. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1959.

This study is an investigation of the act of reading and how the appearance of print affects the reader. The study takes two fundamental and distinct considerations into account: first, the alphabetical symbols in themselves (for example their linear shape); and second the human habits of systematizing and using these shapes, in capital and lower case, being read from left to right continuously through a series of punctuated paragraphs and successive, separated pages. The study finds that the liability of a page of print according to the finding of the present investigation is determined by: the size and substance of the letters; the space between them and the words they constitute; and the distance between the successive lines. Other important factors are the texture and the color of the paper, the quality of the impression and the density of the ink.

deAK, Edit. Review of “Philosophy of Andy Warhol (From A to B and Back Again),” by Andy Warhol. Art in America 63 (November 1975): 21-22.

The reviewer deAK is disappointed by Warhol’s book saying that “I think Warhol is a moral, hard-working capitalist who would not treat his customers with nothing but the best.” His use of “nothing” in this sentence is actually used to mock Warhol and his book. For Warhol is known for his “nothingness.” Warhol is known for not divulging any information about himself to the public, even in an autobiography.

Gelb, I.J.. A Study of Writing: The Foundation of Grammatology. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1952.

The book contains twelve chapters, but it can be broken up structurally into five parts. First, the place of writing among the various systems of human inter-communication. Followed by four chapters devoted to the descriptive and comparative treatment of the various types of writing in the world. The sixth chapter deals with the evolution of writing. The next four chapters deal with general problems, such the future of writing and the relationship of writing to speech, art, and religion. Of the two final chapters, on contains the attempts to establish a full terminology of writing, the other is an extensively bibliography. The main point of interest in the book is the section “writing and Art,” where it focuses on the study of writing from the artistic point of view.

Geldzahler, Henry and Kenworth Moffett. “Pop Art: Two Views.” ARTnews 73 (May 1974): 30-31.

This article is a composition of two articles in one, one by Henry Geldzahler and the other by Kenworth Moffett. It presents a review of Pop art in general and the Lawrence Alloway’s exhibition of “American Pop Art” at the Whitney Museum of Art which opened April 6, 1974. Moffett’s article questions why the exhibition organized by Alloway happened at all. Geldzahler takes the point of view that the years of the “purest” Pop were represented by the careers of the leading Pop artists, such as Johns, Warhol, and Lichtenstein and thus the exhibition was a success. Whereas Moffett asserts that the show was too soon, since Pop art was less than a decade old. The two writers take opposing viewpoints on the style of the Pop as well. Geldzahler praises the artist’s ability to depict the universal icons for people everywhere; Moffett believes Pop art is rigid, static and uncreated as it exploited rather than extended the art context. This article presents an important insight to the opposing view of Pop art, even after it was a success and viewed by critics as art.

Hamilton, Richard and Lawrence Alloway. “Roy Lichtenstein.” Studio International 175 (January 1968): 20-31.

Richard Hamilton gives a retrospective of Lichtenstein’s work. He discusses, who he feels is the ultimate and purest Pop artists and how his work and other Pop artists challenged conventions of what art. This article is followed up by one written by Lawrence Alloway and his interpretation of Lichtenstein’s career. Alloway gives specific examples throughout Lichtenstein’s career, whereas Hamilton is more conceptual. Alloway also incorporates other movements in art, such as Abstract Expressionism, and describes their effect on Lichtenstein.

Hobhouse, Jacob. Review of Jasper Johns, by Michael Crichton. ARTnews 77 (Summer 1978): 193-194.

The author views this catalogue as a great success, which engages Johns as a whole from all levels of perceptions, not solely as a specialist. The review gives a brief overview of the organization of the catalogue, which is divided into three sections. Hobhouse asserts that the best section of the book is the series of proposals and digressions called “The Function of the Observer,” in which it offers an account of the relation between the observer of John’s work and Johns as an observer of the world.

Lippard, Lucy R.. Pop Art. New York: Frederick A. Praeger, Inc., 1966.

This book is comprised of several essays by different authors. It explains how it was felt that no one person could be fully acquainted with the new movement. Each author has a decidedly different background and approach. Their points of view often conflict and there is no attempt for them to reconcile. The text is broken up into six chapters, notably containing: “New York Pop,” “Pop Art in California” and “Pop Icons.”

Massin. Letter and Image. Translated by Caroline Hillier and Vivienne Menkes. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, 1970.

This book describes how the image is an annihilated form, which is read instantaneously, but presents an immediate impression of the world. It illustrates how the letter is the vehicle of communication and advertising today makes an image of the letter itself. The last chapter titled “The Letter and the Written Symbol in Painting” provides several examples of paintings in which the artist have all incorporated letters as the dominate focus in their work. It asserts that there are several reasons for the sudden interest in artist to use the letter, for example the structural quality of the letters in the Latin alphabet are purely geometric in shape. It presents a select group of artists who it feels demonstrates the variety of method used, and at the same time illustrates various attempts which were based on the common objective of transfiguring lettering into pictorial images or giving writing as a pictorial dimension.

McShine, Kynaston, ed. Andy Warhol: A Retrospective. New York: Bullfinch Press, 1989. With essays by Kynaston McShine, Robert Rosenblum, Benjamin H.D. Buchloh, and Marco Livingstone.

This book marks a full-scale critical examination of Andy Warhol. It spans the wide range of his creativity, from the earliest works of the fifties to the works executed just before his death. Most noteworthy is the vast amount of plates, which are in full color. The plates are divided into many sections depending on the subject matter. Their division is marked by one full page of color (which varies). The plate’s subject matter range from self-portraits, gold-leaf drawings, advertisement based work, comic strip Imagery, soup cans, portraits of celebrities, and death and mortality.

Pellegrini, Aldo. New Tendencies in Art. Translated by Robin Carson. New York: Crown Publishers, Inc., 1966.

This book maps out modern art, its movements and the political and social implications on these movements and artists. It begins its evolutionary history of modern art with the development of abstract art during WWII. A fundamental characteristic of art at the time this book was published was the movement of internationality. It explains that there are two distinct attitudes present in modern art. In one, the artists expresses himself and in the other the artists constructs. It is from the latter expression that a third attitude emerges, which does nothing more than “display.” This last category is important; for certain forms of pop art belong here, such as the works that limit themselves to enlarging or reproducing images.

Polano, Sergio. abc of 20th-Century Graphics. Translated by Giovanna Crespi and Richard Sadleir. Electa: Phaidon Press, 2002.

This book contains a coherent selection of the many essays written by Polano on the themes of graphics and images, scripts and lettering. It is separated into two parts. The first part contains topics such as, typology, “paper architecture,” “talking figures,” and “the return of pictograms.” Most importantly, typology explores the features of the letter, ranging from calligraphy to digital type, in the dialectic between the method used to trace the marks and the surface on which they are traced. And the “return of pictograms” is dedicated to the form of icon (sign/pictograms). The second part proceeds with examples.

Swenson, G.R.. “What is Pop Art?: Part I” ARTnews 62 (November 1964): 24-27, 60-64.

This article contains the first half of eight interviews conducted by G.R. Swenson. This particular article features the artists, Jim Dine, Robert Indiana, Roy Lichtenstein, and Andy Warhol. It asks questions such as “what is Pop art?” do you consider yourself a Pop artist? and where do your ideas about art begin? The interview gives insight into the mind of the artists, and what they think about Pop art.

Swenson, G.R.. “What is Pop Art?: Part II” ARTnews 62 (Feberary 1964): 40-43.

This article contains the second half of eight interviews conducted by G.R. Swenson. This particular article features the artists, Stephen Durkee, JasperJohns, James Rosenquist and Tom Wesselmann. Only one of the artists interviewed in this half objected to being a Pop artists—Jasper Johns.

Varnedoe, Kirk. Jasper Johns: A Retrospective. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1996. With an essay by Roberta Bernstein.

This survey of Jasper Johns’ work is a full mapping of his four decades, traced in his paintings, drawings, prints and sculptures. It was produced from the Museum of Modern Art and features works in their collection. Most noteworthy is the section that contains a chronology accompanied with plates. This vast section is subdivided into nine sections of time periods ranging in totality from 1930-1995. The plates illustrate the universal icons of Johns work which he incorporated into the vocabulary of contemporary art.