How Artists Die: The Poetics of Mortality in Nineteenth-Century Art
Marc Gotlieb is Halvorsen Director of the Williams Graduate Program in the History of Art, offered in collaboration with the Clark Art Institute. A past Editor-in-Chief of The Art Bulletin, he has also taught at Emory University and the University of Toronto. His research and publications encompass French romantic art, academic art, Orientalism, and the image of the old masters in nineteenth-century art. The Deaths of Henri Regnault was published by the University of Chicago Press in 2017. He is currently preparing a study on the role of the viewer in the art of Jean-Léon Gérôme, as well as a study of teacher-student conflicts in nineteenth-century art, pedagogy, and artistic experience.
At I Tatti, Gotlieb will explore the image of the Renaissance old masters in nineteenth-century art and visual culture, with particular attention to artists’ deaths. To be sure, artists left this world under varied circumstances — violent, painful, peaceful, or in ways simply unknown, in other words just like anyone else. But the premise of Gotlieb’s project is that how artists died is not only an empirical but a discursive question. The manner in which they passed was mediated across a rich, shifting, and by and large unexamined poetics of mortality that dominated this era’s visual culture, and in a manner that shaped the lives (and deaths) of artists themselves. The prior examples of Raphael, Leonardo, Michelangelo, and many others, proved seminal to this exploration, as Romantic artists leveraged stories about their prestigious predecessors on their own behalf. We commonly think of nineteenth-century artistic biography, historiography and their evidentiary protocols as inhospitable to this kind of mythical thinking, as hostile to figurative play. And yet modern practices of artistic biography emerged, operated side by side, and indeed were inscripted with an improvised and deeply felt system of myth-making that shaped the expectations of audiences and readers, no less than the experiences of artists alike.