Appel à communication : « Colour in the drawings of the early modern period » (25-27 octobre 2017, Rome, Bibliothèque Hertziana)

Colour in the drawings of the early modern period – symbiosis and antagonism

This year’s Gernsheim study days are dedicated to the subject of colour in early modern drawings. The structure and appearance of these drawings in a genuinely achromatic medium will be examined selectively and comprehensively. Given that colour that extends beyond an imitation of nature has a connotation of preciousness and even exuberance, this ‘optional’ addition to drawings becomes a fraught component of representation. One of the reasons for this is that discrepancies repeatedly come to light between art-historical texts and works of art, between theory and practice. Therefore, the question of the role that colour plays in drawings and whether it can provide clues to the status of the works themselves needs to be investigated. Is it, for example, a case of study material from a work process that is directed towards painting – thus leading to the assumption that colour is associated with a specific closeness to the target medium – or alternatively a completed work? In particular, the phenomenon of the collector drawing, which was still quite new in the 16th century, is linked to considerations about the (intrinsic) value of the content of the image and the image itself and about semantics and aesthetics and their respective connection with an audience. Contexts for the interpretation of a heightened level of reality versus abstraction, evocation versus alienation, or media reference versus texture will be key aspects covered by the lectures. The artistic exchange across the Alps makes a transregional examination necessary in order to be able to make distinctions in terms of production aesthetics and reception aesthetics. The discussion will be geared primarily towards the use of colour-related drawing tools such as inks, chalks, watercolours and gouache; coloured primers will only be covered as an aside. The conference will focus on the following questions: What aspects are inscribed in the use of colour in drawings and what initially heuristic categories can be formed from them? Does colour stand out as a separate means of representation or does it blend in symbiotically in the graphical mode? In what regard does colour have an effect as an evidence factor, where and how does the negotiation process with reality occur as a visible reference to an aesthetic category? What motivations determine the use or avoidance of colour in drawings? Does colour open up a conceptual space beyond the object to be drawn? Finally, it can be asked whether feelings of resentment with regard to the use of colour, as they are expressed in Vasari’s assessment of the relationship between colore and disegno, changed how colour was handled in later draughtsmanship. If Karel van Mander already attributes painterly qualities to the drawing, to what extent then does colour still remain a potential addition? And does colour run the risk of hiding the graphical properties of the drawing?

Please send your exposé and CV to by 18 April 2017. The Bibliotheca Hertziana will cover travel costs (economy class) and accommodation in accordance with the provisions set out in the German law on the assumption of travel costs. Conception and Organization: Iris Brahms (Kunsthistorisches Institut der Freien Universität Berlin), Tatjana Bartsch and Johannes Röll (Photographic Collection of the Bibliotheca Hertziana)


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