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The After-life of Classical Antiquity and the Human Rights of the Eye : Aby Warburg's Study of Manet's ‘Déjeuner sur L'herbe’

  • The Journal of Aesthetics and Science of Art
  • Abbr : JASA
  • 2014, 42(), pp.287-318
  • Publisher : 한국미학예술학회
  • Research Area : Arts and Kinesiology > Other Arts and Kinesiology
  • Published : October 31, 2014

Bora Kim 1

1홍익대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

This essay examines Aby Warburg's approach to modern art focusing on his study of Manet's ‘Déjeuner sur L'herbe’. Modern Art meant enlightenment and emancipation to Warburg, who had a progressive viewpoint on Art. His main concern was that ‘Denkraum(Thought-space)’ was threatened to be destroyed in the age of machine civilization. In this context, what mattered to him were not isms but the role of Art on creating Denkraum. Warburg regarded image as ‘storage of energy’ which is filled with social memories. In his last project Mnemosyne Atlas, Warburg tried to bring his life-long study on ‘the after-life of antiquity’ together and included Manet's ‘Déjeuner sur L'herbe’ in the part where he dealt with the reception of antiquity after the Renaissance. Also, in the study of Manet's ‘Déjeuner sur L'herbe’, Warburg traced the origin of gesture in the painting and demonstrated a link between various precedents (ancient sarcophagi, Raimondi, Bonasone, Dürer, Berchem, etc.) and Manet. At the same time, he analyzed the development of the view of nature from the ancient to the modern. Warburg insisted that ‘Déjeuner sur L'herbe’ engaged in the intellectual enterprise of throwing a line across the centuries from Arcadia via Rousseau to Batignolles. This work was a document on the energetic inversion of modern nature-feeling based on aesthetic impulse and enlightenment of Renaissance. According to his point of view, Manet was in the fight for ‘the human rights of the eye’ and had the possibility of finding a style creating new expressive values in the spiritual heritage of the past. Through this approach of reading continuity and inversion together, Warburg challenged an interpretation fixed by the language or historical linearity. Moreover, his approach differed from biographical criticism or formalist criticism which related modern painting with a medium-purity, flatness, and autonomy. For Warburg, who looked research objects in polarity, art always remained a field of oscillation. Warburg's study of Manet, through which he tried to identify transition in continuity, shows a case of his culturological, dialectical reading of an artwork.

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