Call for Papers: ‘Shared Invention: From Antiquity to the 21st Century’ (Clermont-Ferrand, Aubusson and Limoges, 6–8 April 2016)

issue_91_2015_news03[1]An international colloquium entitled ‘Shared Invention: From Antiquity to the 21st Century’ will be held 6–8 April 2016, and proposals for papers are now being accepted. The colloquium is being organized by Laurence Riviale and Jean-François Luneau, lecturers at Blaise Pascal University, Clermont-Ferrand (France), in partnership with Musée national Adrien Dubouché, Limoges (France) and Cité de la Tapisserie, Aubusson (France). It will take place in Clermont-Ferrand, Aubusson and Limoges. ‘Shared invention’, or collective creation, is the chosen theme for this international colloquium, whose aim is to enable art historians working in a range of fields to understand better creation in the fine arts and production in the decorative arts.

When an artist’s work of art is translated into another medium, if the craftsman is not himself the inventor, but only a docile workman, how can differences in two items made by two craftsmen according to the same design be accounted for, but by a margin of liberty and sensitivity in which the very personality of the maker expresses itself? This margin will be at the heart of the debate, taking into account historical, social, and cultural contexts of all the periods in question.

After the Middle Ages, during which painters and sculptors belonged to a regular, legally instituted trade, those whom we now denote ‘artists’ tried to distinguish themselves by invention, leaving execution or transposition to craftsmen, and strove to elevate their trades to the dignity of liberal arts. For Giorgio Vasari, such a claim is satisfied by the expression ‘arts of design’, which were to become the ‘fine arts’, that is, painting, architecture and sculpture. ‘Design’ thereby has became the discriminating point for all academies that were subsequently founded, from the Accademia delle arti del disegno in Florence (1563) to the French Académie royale (1648), and later on, the British Royal Academy (1768). Art historians have seldom questioned this hierarchy and have more readily studied the creations of a ‘genius’, leaving the craftsman’s production in the shadow.

But is invention only the privilege of the artist who provides the design? Recent scholarly studies have striven to understand the processes of creation at the heart of workshops through artistic documentation, such as the miscellanies of modelli and inventories of human positions collected by painters in the sixteenth century, revealing the almost universal use of what has been called, paradoxically, the ‘invention copy’ – that is, the creation of a new composition achieved by putting together heterodox bits from everywhere. This type of process highlights the role of the patron, who may be the true inventor, as he owns designs and ideas and is responsible for this aspect of the composition from beginning to end. In this case, the so-called ‘artist’ is but a kind of go-between, and can only be understood as a mere workman.

Papers devoted to etchings or engravings, stone masonry, wall-painting or paper, furnishing or fashion fabrics, chinaware, stoneware, stained glass, etc., are welcome, especially if they emphasize not only the margin of liberty mentioned above, but also the aspects of works of art appropriate to their destination and intended meaning. Summaries of 2500 or 3000 characters will be submitted, along with a short CV (three lines), before 22 June 2015, to laurence [dot] RIVIALE [at] univ-bpclermont [dot] fr, or laurence [dot] riviale [at] orange [dot] fr, or J-Francois [dot] LUNEAU [at] univ-bpclermont [dot] fr. Applicants will receive a reply in September 2015.

Languages: French, English (there will be no interpreters).

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