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Title: ‘The secondary arts’: analysing the artistic value of crafts and the decorative arts : re-evaluating their position in the contemporary study of the history of art
Authors: Portelli, Sarah
Keywords: Textile crafts -- Malta
Ganutell -- Malta
Artificial flowers
Knitting -- Malta
Quilts -- Malta
Issue Date: 2019
Citation: Portelli, S. (2019). The secondary arts’: analysing the artistic value of crafts and the decorative arts : re-evaluating their position in the contemporary study of the history of art (Bachelor’s dissertation).
Abstract: Why have the textile arts been consistently belittled throughout recent art history? During the Renaissance, painters and sculptors tried to distance themselves from other artisans by bringing forth the claim that these so called lesser arts do not require the same intellectual and philosophical capacity as their respective crafts. Most people gradually came to accept this claim, subsequently affecting the way through which a whole bevy of art forms were and still are perceived. But surely to boldly assume that most every single art form that was ever practiced throughout the history of humankind is both a false and sweeping statement. Who is to say that every single every single artist that ever painted or sculpted an artwork throughout the history of the world was automatically more philosophically inclined than anyone who practiced a craft that fell outside these two very distinct art forms. Many have attempted to eradicate this mindset, to alter it or abandon it all together in favour of a more inclusive, less restrictive evaluation of art appreciation. The conservative art historian is only narrowing their world view, limiting their potential sources of both enjoyment and study by downgrading the value of the cornucopia of different art forms and practices that fall under the hypernym of the textile arts. The Question of Originality: A criticism frequently fielded against the textile arts is that many makers depend on pre made patterns to execute their work. But the same can be said of many a painting and sculpture; most of the ancient sculptures that survive are second, fourth or even sixth hand copies of the original art work. However, the art of Ancient Egypt is famously formulaic; its tomb decorations and architectural style remaining comparatively static, changing very little over the civilisation’s millennia long existence. It is well known that Michelangelo drew inspiration from the impressive frescoes Signorelli executed for the Cathedral of Orvieto; Picasso and the entire wave of modern artists active in Paris during the early 20th Century were in awe of the African wood carvings flooding into Europe during this period, Francis Bacon deliberately referenced the work of earlier masters in his work, most notably being his ‘Study after Velazquez’s Pope Innocent X’ and yet the validity of their respective positions within the Art World are never seriously challenged. If it weren’t for artists drawing inspiration from the world around them and the artists that came before them, the formation of movements would not arise, the impact of an artist’s work might not be as successful or widespread and because so many artworks have been lost over the course of history, we might not even know of the works produced by an artist that have since been lost. So why is it that many mainstream art critics and historians seemingly appear to use two distinctly different measures to determine the artistic worth of textile arts? Why is it that when a painter or sculptor admits to being inspired by the works of an Earlier creative, their works are celebrated as being well studied and yet when the argument shifts toward the Textile Arts, the use of another master’s work is seen as evidence pointing towards the artist or artisan’s lack of creativity or skill? This dissertation and project strive to challenge this mindset by showcasing notable examples from throughout the known History of the Textile Arts, analysing the successive cycles of admiration and derision afforded to them throughout history. The primary focus will be on the works of Textile Artists who strove for equality of media in the Art World as well as creators working in disparate, oftentimes hostile environments who turned to specific media out of necessity; creating monumental artworks of varying scale and media worthy of wider spread recognition.

Appears in Collections:Dissertations - FacArt - 2019
Dissertations - FacArtHa - 2019

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