Thursday, September 08, 2011

No Small Beer

Rachael Ziady DeLue on nineteenth century American landscape painter George Inness:
The central claim of this study is that the aim of of his art, what he called his ‘struggle,’ was the construction of a model of spiritual sight, the means by which to discern and then see with God.  More broadly, I argue that Inness understood his art to be a cognitive practice – a means by which to explore the workings of the eye and mind.  He developed a set of pictorial strategies that in his view constituted a scientific system utilized in exploring the processes by which knowledge of the world was acquired, reasoned about, and described.  Inness saw himself as a philosopher; his chosen tool of reasoning was paint.  It is this self perception that forces us to understand his quest as something more than just an expression of faith, more than an attempt to make manifest in paint the nineteenth century’s belief in a spiritual beyond (although it was, most emphatically, these things).  For in looking to see with God, in seeking to attain an acuity of vision far greater than the nor, Inness sought a vision that would enable him to discern a system of structure of knowledge (and to represent his system or structure in paint) whereby nothing less than the nature and meaning of existence – in spiritual but also physical and physiological terms – would be defined and articulated.  No small beer, this quest.
That from her book on the subject.  Small wonder that Sally Promey referred to "The 'Return' of Religion in the Scholarship of American Art."