The Rebirth of the Amateur Artist. The Effect of Past Opinions on the Amateur Artist in Current Research

  • Wendy Wiertz (Speaker)

Activity: Talk or presentation typesOral presentation


In 1528 Il Cortegiano by Baldassare Castiglione, in which he depicted the ideal courtier, was published. According to the author, aristocratic men and women should pursue the arts and music. By the eighteenth century, the upper classes produced a lot of amateurs artists. They were positively regarded, and they had the chance to show their art works at prestigious official exhibitions. This position of amateur artists would completely change during the nineteenth century. At the end of his life, in 1827, Goethe spoke dubiously about dilettantes. "It is simply the essence of dilettantes, not knowing the difficulties which are part of a matter and that they want to undertake something they do not have the power to do". The negative connotations of the term 'dilettantism' and its practitioners only worsened throughout the nineteenth century. The term came to connote a level of mediocrity, domesticity and lack of commitment and professionalism. An association with volunteerism and the social hobbies of the leisured woman became imperative. Consequently, it became increasingly difficult for male and female amateurs to display their works of art (both fine and applied arts) at official exhibitions. Their oeuvre was put in the margin of the formal circuit and generally forgotten. The attention was exclusively turned to the superior, professional artist who was preferably white and male. Art historical research followed this nineteenth-century view. This process continued until the 1970's when the lives and oeuvres of (amateur) women artists were rediscovered, studied and displayed. Since the 1980's, Belgian and Dutch art historians have rediscovered women "dilettantes" preceding centuries. The rebirth of the amateur artist is a fact. This presentation sketches the historiographical tradition and how perceptions from the past influenced the current art historical research.
Period18 Sep 2014
Event titleInternational Conference for PhD Students: Decline-Metamorphosis-Rebirth
Event typeConference
LocationLjubljana, SloveniaShow on map
Degree of RecognitionInternational