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HISTORY PAINTING REDISTANCED: FROM BENJAMIN WEST TO DAVID WILKIE*

  • MARK SALBER PHILLIPS (a1)
Abstract

This essay extends my previous investigations of distance to a genre of art that took distance (or elevation) as its essential signature. In a landmark article Edgar Wind argued that Benjamin West created a “revolution in history painting” by substituting distance in time for distance in space. I argue that a wider and more plastic understanding of distance can help to guide our studies of historical representation, visual as well as verbal. Temporal distance, I suggest, is mediated by at least four basic modes of distance, which I identify as formal, affective, ideological, and conceptual. Understood in these terms, a heuristic of distance and redistancing provides grounds for analyzing the various schools and genres that make up the field of historical representation—neoclassical and nineteenth- century history painting among them.

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Susan Rather , “Benjamin West, John Galt, and the Biography of 1816,” Art Bulletin, 86 (June 2004), 342–5

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Modern Intellectual History
  • ISSN: 1479-2443
  • EISSN: 1479-2451
  • URL: /core/journals/modern-intellectual-history
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