Dr. Rachel Esner
The research project The Mediatization of the Artist aims to examine the emergence of the artist as a public figure in nineteenth-century France. Why and how did the artist develop into one of the most important and celebrated figures of the period? What image of the artist was constructed through and in the era’s various media – both new (the illustrated press, photography) and old (painting and sculpture, literature)? What visual and verbal tropes were employed in this symbolic construction and what were their wider cultural and political implications? What role did the new social type “the artist” play in the evolving bourgeois imagination and artist’s own self-understanding? And how did these media phenomena contribute to the age-old discourse surrounding broader questions of artistic autonomy, and the role of art and artists in society? These are issues that are relevant not only to the historical period under investigation, but also to us today.
The coordinator is currently working on a book entitled The Image of the Artist in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. She is also co-editing a volume of essays (together with Sandra Kisters) based on a conference of 2014 with the title The Mediatization of the Artist, which will be submitted for review to Palgrave Macmillan later this year.
The question of artistic identity and the role of art and artists in society is as relevant today as it was centuries ago. In an age of funding cuts to the arts, understanding the development of the public perception of the artist, while simultaneously demystifying it, can prove a useful tool of resistance and aid in the formation of new models for ideas of artisthood.