Friday, June 1, 2012

Art History Is Not Linear No. 5

This posting is a continuation of a series that can be found on my sidebar. I started the series with the idea of showing that art history is not linear, and that the totality of art is a never-ending circle of inspiration. Knowing that, all art should be viewed freshly.

detail of a Flemish tapestry, c. 1500  |  detail of William Morris tapestry, 1894
William Morris & Co. designed a series of tapestries in the 1890s based on the Holy Grail. John Henry Dearle designed much of the work.

detail of Russian woodcut, early 1700s  |  detail of Ivan Bllibin illustration, 1907
Ivan Bilibin in some ways mirrored William Morris. He researched Russian art from the past and consciously gave it a fresh reinterpretation.

Maison Carrée, Nîmes. France, 20 B.C.  |  Jefferson's model for the Virgina Capitol, c. 1787
Thomas Jefferson visited the Maison Carrée in 1787 and judged it to be the most perfect of extant buildings of antiquity. Because he remained in France while the capitol was built, and not trusting the expertise of American builders, Jefferson had this exact model made and sent to the Richmond, Virginia site.

Alfred Leete, 1914  |  James Montgomery Flagg, 1916-17

English fabric design, 1792  |  French fabric design, 1923
Both fabrics are from the collections of the Victoria & Albert Museum. Some of the museum's Art Deco fabric patterns can be viewed here.

Norman Rockwell cover art, 1934  |  Raleigh cigarette ad from the early 1970s
Norman Rockwell painted 317 covers for The Saturday Evening Post.


  1. It is really interesting how much artists and designers reflect on what has gone before. It could be a conscious decision or sub-conscious. Sometimes it appears to be unique but so often other parallels can be found in past eras.
    I recall visiting the museum in Delphi, Greece, and being very surprised to find an ancient Greek safety pin. The curator said, 'there is nothing new under the sun'.
    I like the button for the month of June.

    1. Dear Rosemary -

      It is true that there seems to be nothing new under the sun; I have yet to showcase it in this series, but one of my favorite parallels is a Renaissance painting in the National Gallery of the Virgin Mary and Child that has always struck me as being Art Nouveau. I'd love to include the safety pin you mentioned.

      I'm glad you like my June button — it was time for something with a little color! The button is rather ingeniously constructed. The three enamel circles and the enamel triangle are all interconnected on one separate layer.

    2. Dear Mark - if you look here you will find a 4th - 2nd century BC Greek safety pin.

    3. Thanks, Rosemary; perhaps I have my first item for N. 6!

  2. That 18th Century wallpaper really does look Deco. The late 18th Century started using geometric devices that can look surprisingly modern, and while we may not associate squiggle-shapes with that period, they do show up with some regularity. I recall one typical Colonial paper with the name Green Worm.
    --Road to Parnassus

    1. Hello, Parnassus - I googled "Green Worm wallpaper" and didn't find the paper you mentioned, but I'm imagining that it was a delightful design. One of the things researchers are learning in Colonial Williamsburg is that our ancestors lived with much brighter colors than we had previously thought. The grayed "Williamsburg" colors that contemporary paint stores have been selling for years are for the most part inaccurate.

  3. Just opened your blog and I'm thrilled that I did. Interestingly today I downloaded an El Greco painted in 1598 because it looked so modern. Thought it might it fun to ask people to guess its age. Also remember the Sistine Chapel before its restoration

    1. Thanks for visiting, smr! El Greco is indeed timeless, and perhaps he will find his way to No. 6 of the series.

  4. It's not surprising that art influences art over the ages. The surprising thing would be if it didn't. But we need to look at it with a fresh eye, as you say, Mark. I do try.

    I like the button, too. Love turquoise.

    P.S. Also love your sidebar. It's so nicely designed. A pleasure to behold.

    1. Hi, Yvette - As I said at the beginning of the series, I was compelled to start these comparisons because I discovered that my art students were looking at contemporary art almost exclusively. They had no idea that the artists they admired were looking a lot further back than my art students were.