Table of Contents
March 2012, Volume 94 Number 1
Splashed Ink Landscape by the Zen monk-painter Sesshū Tōyō (1420–1506?) embodies a complex relation between medieval Japanese ink painting and artistic subjectivity. A careful study of the history and semantics of splashed ink and the painting’s inscriptions reveals Sesshū’s work to be a multifaceted pictorial artifact that reflects how monk-painters during Japan’s medieval period imagined artistic transmission in terms of a spiritual bloodline. It also demonstrates how using the splashed ink mode to formalize such transmission allowed the monk-painter to be cast as a cultivated gentleman according to classical literati aesthetic discourse.
The wash drawings and oil paintings of subjects from Greek tragedy by Anglo-Swiss painter Henry Fuseli (1741–1825), routinely categorized as romantic classicism, might be better explained in terms of the contemporary revival of Greek tragedy, made possible by the philosophical anthropology of Johann Gottfried von Herder and David Garrick’s theater of character. From this climate of experimentation with foreign cultures arose a morally detached spectator and a critique of Eurocentrism in the era of Captain Cook and the American Revolution. Fuseli’s classicism thus played its part in the formation of the modern liberal version of cultural pluralism.
A biography of a statue sculpted in or near the Lagoon region of Côte d’Ivoire reveals how her “social life” has become entangled with American art history. Created to address spiritual beings in her homeland, she was purchased by Paul Guillaume in France and was exhibited by Alfred Stieglitz and Marius de Zayas in New York in 1914. Donated to Fisk University by Georgia O’Keeffe in 1949, she has engaged in a dialogue with African American artists. In all of these interactions, the figure has been not a passive object but an active agent of cultural change.