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Absorption and theatricality: painting and beholder in the by Michael Fried

By Michael Fried

With this largely acclaimed paintings, Fried revised the way eighteenth-century French portray and feedback have been considered and understood."A reinterpretation supported through vast studying and via a chain of brilliantly perceptive readings of work and feedback alike. . . . an exciting book."—John Barrell, London overview of Books

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21 Aristotle says that tragedy is an imitation of an action, and consequently it is first and foremost an imitation of people in action. What the philosopher says of tragedy applies equally well to painting, which must express by means of action and gestures all that pertains to the subject that it represents . . Or, to take another example, here is Du Bos's explanation of why, despite what he believed to be painting's greater power over the soul, tragedies in the theater often made one weep whereas paintings with very rare exceptions did not: [U]ne Tragedie renferme une infinite de tableaux.

Mort (Salon of 1765; 112 Fig. 35) represent female figures wholly absorbed in extreme states and oblivious to all else. Mathon de la Cour, in a long rapturous commentary on the last of these, notes that the young girl's costume is artlessly arranged and comments: "Le soin de son ajustement ne l'affecte plus; eUe n'est occupee que de son chagrin" (The appearance of her dress no longer concerns her; she is preoccupied only by her sorrow). : son miroir. Salon of 1763. London, Wallace Collection. a THE PRIMACY OF ABSORPTION Mais, petite, votre douleur est bien profonde, bien reflechie!

In their classical versions the sister doctrines had been grounded in the conviction, derived from Aristotle and stated forcefully by Alberti, that the art of painting at its highest consisted in the representation of significant human action; 8 and with their reactivation shortly before 1750 that conviction too became important once more. The terms in which it was reasserted owed a great deal to the Abbe Du Bos, whose Refoxions critiques sur la poesie et sur la peinture (1719) strongly influenced French artistic thought of the second half of the century.

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