Thursday, June 8, 2017

Victorian Camp

Thomas Cooper Gotch
ca. 1885-86
oil on canvas
Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide

"I am strongly drawn to Camp, and almost as strongly offended by it.  That is why I want to talk about it, and why I can.  For no one who wholeheartedly shares in a given sensibility can analyze it, he can only, whatever his intention, exhibit it.  To name a sensibility, to draw its contours and to recount its history, requires a deep sympathy modified by revulsion."

Edwin Landseer
Favourites (the property of HRH Prince George of Cambridge)
ca. 1834-35
oil on canvas
Yale Center for British Art

William Merritt Chase
Still-life with Hummingbird
oil on canvas
Indianapolis Museum of Art

"Indeed, the essence of Camp is its love of the unnatural: of artifice and exaggeration. . . . Camp taste turns its back on the good-bad axis of ordinary aesthetic judgment.  Camp doesn't reverse things.  It doesn't argue that the good is bad, or the bad is good.  What it does is to offer for art (and life) a different  a supplementary  set of standards."

Lawrence Alma-Tadema
Vintage Festival
oil on panel
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

Frédéric Bazille
Summer Scene
oil on canvas
Harvard Art Museums

Louis Comfort Tiffany
Angel of the Resurrection
leaded glass
Indianapolis Museum of Art

"To patronize the faculty of taste is to patronize oneself.  For taste governs every free  as opposed to rote  human response.  Nothing is more decisive.  There is taste in people, visual taste, taste in emotion  and there is taste in acts, taste in morality.  Intelligence, as well, is really a kind of taste . . ."

Ford Madox Brown
Pretty Baa-Lambs
ca. 1851-59
oil on panel
Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

Cornelius Krieghoff
The Artist at Niagara
oil on canvas
Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto

Ferdinand Bauer
Passion Flowers
oil on panel
Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide

Louis Ducos du Hauron
Still-life with stuffed and mounted rooster and parakeet
color transparency
George Eastman House, Rochester, New York

"Thus, the Camp sensibility is one that is alive to a double sense in which some things can be taken.  But this is not the familiar split-level construction of a literal meaning, on the one hand, and a symbolic meaning, on the other.  It is the difference, rather, between the thing as meaning something, anything, and the thing as pure artifice."

Max Klinger
The Kiss
etching, engraving, aquatint
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

Augustus Egg
Travelling Companions
oil on canvas
Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery

John Everett Millais
Hearts are Trumps
oil on canvas
Tate Britain

Rupert Bunny
oil on canvas
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney

"So, again, Camp rests on innocence.  That means Camp discloses innocence, but also, when it can, corrupts it.  Objects, being objects, don't change when they are singled out by the Camp vision.  Persons, however, respond to their audiences." 

– quoted passages are by Susan Sontag, from the essay Notes on "Camp" (1964)