Total Pageviews

Monday, September 29, 2014

Time Tested Art

  Name the six greatest artists of the 12th Century AD.  Take your time.  Here's a hint: one of them sculpted the masterpiece above: the KarlSchreinn.

Or does that make it too easy?

The 12th Century AD was extraordinarily eventful.  Surely, the great artists working at the great courts thought themselves to be tremendously important.  We know the Karlsschrein (Shrine of Charlemagne) in Aachen Cathedral was made at the command of Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor.  Fred II has had many books written about him.  Yet, the name of the sculptor is now forgotten.  In fact, every single celebrated "genius" of that century is currently forgotten.  Yet some of  the artwork is priceless.  Because it is currently thought to be beautiful and historically important. 

In the world of post modern academia, both the idea of beauty and the idea of historical importance would be considered quaint relics of a semantically primitive age.  In the post modern world, Beauty and Historical Importance would be considered "relative."  While "Genius" is considered to be absolute.

In fact, what is "relative" is the importance of post-modern ideas.  Take a post modern artist like Any Warhol.  You would find an absolute    Post Modern concensus that the print of Marilyn Monroe is an artistic masterpiece, and that Warhol is a "genius," or at least an important artist.

But in 1000 years will anyone remember Warhol's name?  Will anyone looks at his images?  Nobody knows.  But one thing is sure.  If, in 1000 years, the ideas of Post Modernism are thought of as "quaint" and "semantically primitive," every single artist working in that idiom may be considered irrelevant, or, simply, "decorative."    And every artwork not intricately linked to some important historical event to lend it importance, may be worthless.
Which brings us around to Ancient Art. What's so great about the image above of the lion and the bull minted by Croesus of Lydia in 545 BCE?

Well, it's the first gold coin in the history of the world.  The first.  What could be more historically important?  And, if you're familiar with the symbolism of the image, it tells a fascinating story about religion myth, and conquest in the 7th Century BCE.

Have you ever heard of Julius Caesar?  What might be the importance of a contemporary portrait rendered by an artist of obvious talent?

Will there ever be a time in human history when this artwork is considered irrelevant?  Highly unlikely.  Because the importance of this artwork is not linked in an way to topical academic fashion.  It does not need to to be dignified by essays filled with technical vocabulary.  That is it beautiful is obvious even to those who would argue tirelessly that such a thing doesn't  really exist.

And it will be important as long as Julius Caesar and the Roman Empire are thought to be historically important.  How about Alexander the Great?  Have you heard of him?  If not you could read any one of hundreds of biographies.  Many were written in the 4th century BCE.  And hundreds have been written since.  He's really a fascinating figure.  He conquered most of the known world, in his day.  The contemporary portrait above is extraordinarily beautiful.  And the story behind its minting is fascinating.

Is the artist who engraved it a "Genius?"

Gee wilikers, could there possibly be a less interesting question in the history of art and ideas?

No comments:

Post a Comment