KHI 2021+ Lecture Series

Alexander Marr:
Landscape, Ambiguity and Misogynist Aesthetics

Niklaus Manuel, Felseninsel, ca. 1515. Pen and ink on paper (25.9 x 19.9 cm). Kupferstichkabinett, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin

Northern Renaissance landscape art has traditionally been connected to the rise of naturalism. Dürer’s watercolours, for instance, purportedly convey a new authenticity rooted in the frankness of individual witnessing. But there is a more sinister side to this enterprise, in which landscape is entwined with falsehood, perilous imagination, the eroticized body and gendered violence. Tracing these themes in the graphic works of Swiss mercenary artists Niklaus Manuel and Urs Graf, this talk will focus on some Alpine capricci that render subject and intent purposely equivocal. Informed by the latent anthropomorphism of Dürer’s early engravings, the drawings are bound up with Manuel and Graf’s fascination with sexual violence. Through pictorial ambiguity, they grappled with a misogynistic fear of women, expressed as brutality—both actual and aesthetic—towards the female body. The disingenuous wit of such works poses questions about how we should approach the ethics of images and artists, and how their past connects to our present.

Alexander Marr is Reader in the History of Early Modern Art at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of Trinity Hall, where he is Dean of Discipline. He specializes in European art and architecture ca. 1400–1800, especially their intellectual, literary, and scientific aspects. His awards include a Philip Leverhulme Prize (2008) and an ERC Consolidator Grant (2013). He was elected a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and of the Royal Historical Society in 2013. He was the Founding Director of the Cambridge Centre for Visual Culture (CVC). His books include Rubens’s Spirit: From Ingenuity to Genius (2021); Logodaedalus: Word Histories of Ingenuity in Early Modern Europe (2018); Between Raphael and Galileo: Mutio Oddi and the Mathematical Culture of Late Renaissance Italy (2011). He is currently writing a monograph on Hans Holbein the Younger and ingenuity (Holbein’s Wit).

 This talk is part of the KHI 2021+ Lecture Series, organized by the doctoral and postdoctoral fellows, in collaboration with scientific staff and senior scholars of the Institute. It is envisioned as a forum to reflect on the futures of Art History through conversations with innovative voices in the discipline, working in different areas but sharing methodological concerns. 

08 July 2021, 3:00pm

KHI 2021+ Lecture Series
The event takes place online. 


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