(Roughly) Daily

“Photography always acknowledged there were cameras before photography”*…

 

Bernardo Bellotto’s “The Demolition of the Ruins of the Kreuzkirche,” 1765

In an era when photographs are the de facto language of record keeping, memories of modern history before the camera can sometimes feel a tad distant. But people and places did exist before 1839. And in 18th century Europe, the need to produce visual accounts of events large and small was becoming increasingly important. Social and technological developments in the early modern era were buttressing a new sense of global connectivity heralded by the rise of mercantilism and early colonial contact with the New World. It was a period defined by travel and trade, and the lords of Europe must have seen their situation as pivotal enough to commemorate with oil on canvas. The urge to self document is a modern one. A contemporary recognition of history as something worth immortalizing on one’s own terms. In keeping with the technological progress of the time, less than a century later a new medium would be invented to supersede painting’s documentary role.

“Eyewitness Views: Making History in Eighteenth Century Europe,” now on view at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, gathers a series of such canvases by Italian-trained artists of the early modern era—painterly predecessors of breaking news photography. As a response to the increasing awareness of time as a commodity—an ephemeral something worth remembering—painters were commissioned to record the day’s most important spectacles and events. From political rallies and papal visits to public festivals and natural disasters, the images offer an expansive view of life at a time when the boundaries of time and space were opening up enormously—a sentiment reflected in their size and scope. Documentary paintings were one way for those in power to formalize the narrative, “making history” on their own terms and based on their own hierarchy of importance.

More at: “These 18th century painters made eyewitness news images at the dawn of globalization“; see the exhibition at the Getty through July 30.

* David Hockney

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As we believe our eyes, we might send sharply-focused birthday greetings to Jennie Boddington; she was born on this date in 1922.  After a successful career as a filmmaker, she became the first full-time curator of photography for the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, Australia.  She was the first such curator in Australia, and perhaps only the third in the world.

 source

 

Written by LW

June 7, 2017 at 1:01 am

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