Christopher S. Wood on Les Intentionnistes: Monet, Elstir

In this talk, Christopher S. Wood (NYU) seeks to locate impressionism within a wider horizon of self-taught or DIY artistic practices.

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Christopher Wood

Les Intentionnistes: Monet, Elstir: The talk seeks to locate Impressionism within a wider horizon of self-taught or DIY artistic practices. The Parisian press mocked the rebellious artists who showed their works not in the official Salon but in a separate exhibition in the atelier of the photographer Nadar, in spring 1874: exactly 150 years ago. Before they acquired the label Impressionists, they were depreciated as Les intentionnistes: a term suggesting that Monet and his friends had all sorts of ideas about painting, but no talent. From the start Impressionism and anti-academic art generally were associated with de-skilling. Impressionist painting delivered a shock with its natural attitude to the world, its affirmative ethos, and its apparently reverse-engineerable facture.

At first unpopular, later extremely popular, Impressionism broadcasts on two channels at once, elite and non-elite. The implication of Impressionism for modernist and avant-garde art are familiar enough: to this day one recognizes the ironic embrace of low production values as a criterion of elite creative practice. Meanwhile elite art is shadowed by a much vaster social phenomenon also catalyzed—it will be argued—by Impressionism, namely, bricolage, amateur art, and DIY; a kind of modern folk art.

Christopher S .Wood is an art historian and professor in the Department of German at New York University. A former professor in the Department of History of Art at Yale University, he has been a fellow at the Society of Fellows, Harvard University; the American Academy in Rome; the American Academy in Berlin; the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton; and the Internationales Forschungszentrum für Kulturwissenschaften, Vienna. He has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship and is a Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Wood is the author of The Embedded Portrait: Giotto, Giottino, Angelico, Princeton University Press, 2023; A History of Art History, Princeton University Press, 2019; Anachronic Renaissance (with Alexander Nagel), Zone Books, 2010; Forgery, Replica, Fiction: Temporalities of German Renaissance Art, University of Chicago Press, 2008; and Albrecht Altdorfer and the Origins of Landscape, University of Chicago Press, 1993. He is also the editor of The Vienna School Reader: Politics and Art Historical Method in the 1930s, Zone Books, 2000.

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