Robyn Burley


The phenomenon of repetition in the history of art has been the subject of numerous independent studies. For George Kubler, all artworks could be sorted within a linear chronological sequence of primes, replications, and mutations in order to address a particular visual problem. In contrast, outside the realm of mechanical reproductions, the anachronistic assembly of contemporary and historical quotations from existing visual models was suggested by Alexander Nagel and Christopher Wood as simply being a part of the visual mechanics of an image. Nagel and Wood thereby defined the terms substitution and performance to categorize the shift in the perception of artworks in their dependence on existing images within the substitutional mode; whereby a new image within the same pictorial type substitutes the old through the replication of its primary features, from those which sublimate the temporal historicity of existing artworks within a contemporary work through the performative principles. Despite their contrasting theories on the theme of multiplicity in art, tradition is seen to manifest in the work of all artists through their perception and awareness of it. This study offers a discussion on the mechanisms of influence and the replication of visual traditions in relation to the pictorial phenomenon of metapainting. Artistic self-reflexivity is often deconstructive of the fabricating process; subsequently, this study will attempt to trace elements of the mode of their creation with regards to the transcription of metapictorial signs in relation to their original context of creation and original function. As a comprehensive panorama is outside the scope of this study, I would limit its parameters to two areas of geographical and historical significance in Dutch and Spanish art in the seventeenth century. In the first chapter, I address the socio-economic conditions of the Netherlands, which enabled this systemic succession of pictorial borrowings as elements of rapen. This is facilitated through the transmission of ideas between artists stimulated by cluster dynamics within the guild and artists workshops through the pictorial trope of the studio portrait. The second half of this study is centred on the context of the museological perception of the collection in facilitating access to, and prompting a response from existing schemas, with a particular focus on the art of Velázquez. With the alternating political and cultural environments based on their geographic differences, coupled with the added consideration of the patron whose influence on the selection and utilisation of certain motifs from existing works in the collection is highly considered. I will explore the diverging attitudes to the culture of copying when the temporal and cognitive distance between prototypes is increased.

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