A new essay by Julia Secklehner, ‘Crossing Borders and Period Boundaries in Central European Art: The Work of Anna Lesznai (ca. 1910–1930),’ has been published in the volume Rethinking Period Boundaries: New Approaches to Continuity and Discontinuity in Modern European History and Culture, edited by: Lucian George and Jade McGlynn.
The normativisation of art history has a long tradition. From what is widely considered the discipline’s foundational text, Giorgio Vasari’s Lives of the Artists (1550), the history of art has long viewed its subject matter as a lineage in which different stages of development follow each other in a logical succession, according to principles of progress and formal innovation. Key to the establishment of the discipline, this way of periodizing forges categories which, besides referring to particular places in time and space (e.g. Vasari’s ‘Italian Renaissance’), help foreground what makes a given stage of development ‘innovative’ or ‘progressive’ and, thus, worthy of the scholar’s attention. While providing one of the most essential structuring devices for the history of art as a discipline and connecting its internal developments to broader events in social and political history, this system of periodization nonetheless comes with notable flaws. Even though Vasari’s account was recognised as the standard text for studies of the Italian Renaissance for centuries, it was predicated on a clear political-artistic bias: because of the support he received from the Florence-based Medici family, Vasari favoured Florentine painters, most notably Michelangelo, to their non-Florentine counterparts. As is well known, this had far-reaching consequences: while Florence gained a reputation as the cradle of the Renaissance, its rival city Siena was long relegated to secondary status and its artistic production presented as ‘lagging behind’ that of Florence.
The essay is open access. To continue reading, click here.
To read more about Anna Lesznai on this blog, click here.
Header image: Anna Lesznai, Little Peter Transported Home on a Carriage Drawn by Buffaloes: A Tale about Furniture and a Little Boy, 1918, Hungarian National Gallery, Budapest – photo: hu.museum-digital.org CC BY-NC-SA