Patronizing the Arts

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Overview

What is the role of the arts in American culture? Is art an essential element? If so, how should we support it? Today, as in the past, artists need the funding, approval, and friendship of patrons whether they are individuals, corporations, governments, or nonprofit foundations. But as Patronizing the Arts shows, these relationships can be problematic, leaving artists "patronized"—both supported with funds and personal interest, while being condescended to for vocations misperceived as play rather than serious work. In this provocative book, Marjorie Garber looks at the history of patronage, explains how patronage has elevated and damaged the arts in modern culture, and argues for the university as a serious patron of the arts.

With clarity and wit, Garber supports rethinking prejudices that oppose art's role in higher education, rejects assumptions of inequality between the sciences and humanities, and points to similarities between the making of fine art and the making of good science. She examines issues of artistic and monetary value, and transactions between high and popular culture. She even asks how college sports could provide a new way of thinking about arts funding. Using vivid anecdotes and telling details, Garber calls passionately for an increased attention to the arts, not just through government and private support, but as a core aspect of higher education.

Compulsively readable, Patronizing the Arts challenges all who value the survival of artistic creation both in the present and future.

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Editorial Reviews

The Common Review
Although replete with endnotes and intended for academics, Patronizing the Arts is no dry study. Garber peppers her work with literary passages, enlightening etymologies of key words, and derision. Garber is fighting an uphill battle in this book, advocating first for the arts' centrality to the research-driven university and second for their increased priority on university budgets already overwhelmed, especially as the current economic crisis deepens.
— David Kaye
Washington Post Book World - Jonathon Keats
Patronizing the Arts . . . offers useful information graced with intermittent insight.
The Common Review - David Kaye
Although replete with endnotes and intended for academics, Patronizing the Arts is no dry study. Garber peppers her work with literary passages, enlightening etymologies of key words, and derision. Garber is fighting an uphill battle in this book, advocating first for the arts' centrality to the research-driven university and second for their increased priority on university budgets already overwhelmed, especially as the current economic crisis deepens.
From the Publisher
One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 2009

"The title of Garber's erudite, incisive study contains the crux of her persuasive proposal: though financially supported by foundations, corporations and wealthy individuals, the arts are also deemed 'nonessential.'. . . Her stimulating analyses, both highly informed and refreshingly unpedantic, will be of great interest to the scholar and general reader who appreciates a salient cultural critique."Publishers Weekly

"Patronizing the Arts . . . offers useful information graced with intermittent insight."—Jonathon Keats, Washington Post Book World

"In this captivating book, Garber considers the alternative meanings of 'patronize' in reference to artistic endeavors and raises many interesting questions along the way. The central question regards the relationship between patron and artist that most effectively enhances the creative environment. . . . Garber addresses these issues and more in a lively style that takes the reader from a consideration of government funding, to private philanthropy, to a reexamination of the nature of art and how it is created, powerfully arguing art's linkages with science. She finally advocates greater university support of artists, where visions can theoretically be realized in a setting of academic freedom and exploration."Choice

"Although replete with endnotes and intended for academics, Patronizing the Arts is no dry study. Garber peppers her work with literary passages, enlightening etymologies of key words, and derision. Garber is fighting an uphill battle in this book, advocating first for the arts' centrality to the research-driven university and second for their increased priority on university budgets already overwhelmed, especially as the current economic crisis deepens."—David Kaye, The Common Review

Washington Post Book World
Patronizing the Arts . . . offers useful information graced with intermittent insight.
— Jonathon Keats
Choice
In this captivating book, Garber considers the alternative meanings of 'patronize' in reference to artistic endeavors and raises many interesting questions along the way. The central question regards the relationship between patron and artist that most effectively enhances the creative environment. . . . Garber addresses these issues and more in a lively style that takes the reader from a consideration of government funding, to private philanthropy, to a reexamination of the nature of art and how it is created, powerfully arguing art's linkages with science. She finally advocates greater university support of artists, where visions can theoretically be realized in a setting of academic freedom and exploration.
Washington Post Book World
Patronizing the Arts . . . offers useful information graced with intermittent insight.
— Jonathon Keats
The Common Review
Although replete with endnotes and intended for academics, Patronizing the Arts is no dry study. Garber peppers her work with literary passages, enlightening etymologies of key words, and derision. Garber is fighting an uphill battle in this book, advocating first for the arts' centrality to the research-driven university and second for their increased priority on university budgets already overwhelmed, especially as the current economic crisis deepens.
— David Kaye
Publishers Weekly

The title of Garber's erudite, incisive study contains the crux of her persuasive proposal: though financially supported by foundations, corporations and wealthy individuals, the arts are also deemed "nonessential." These two types of patronizing, Garber argues with wit and aplomb, have led to art's simultaneous devaluation (as "recreational") and overvaluation (as transcendent). This paradox is not a problem requiring a solution, she says, but rather, an inevitable dialectic. Harvard English professor Garber (Vested Interests: Crossdressing and Cultural Anxiety), begins by uncovering the contradictions inherent in patronage: the word's very origin is the Latin pater, "father," and its connections to patriarchy, she says, are not coincidental. Garber traces the patron/artist relationship through the centuries and considers the new class of "American Medicis" in the private, government and corporate sectors. She counterbalances the paradox of patronage with the "paradox of the artist," whose work's usefulness lies in its "apparent uselessness." Garber concludes with a call for increased arts patronage by colleges and universities. Her stimulating analyses, both highly informed and refreshingly unpedantic, will be of great interest to the scholar and general reader who appreciates a salient cultural critique. (Sept.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691124803
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 7/28/2008
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 1,247,955
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Marjorie Garber teaches English at Harvard University, where she also chairs the Visual and Environmental Studies Department and directs the Carpenter Center for Visual Arts. Her many books include "Shakespeare After All" and "Academic Instincts" (Princeton).

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Read an Excerpt

Patronizing the Arts
By Marjorie Garber Princeton University Press
Copyright © 2008
Princeton University Press
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-691-12480-3


Chapter One THE PARADOX OF PATRONAGE

TIMON: What have you there, my friend?

PAINTER: A piece of painting, which I do beseech Your lordship to accept....

TIMON: I like your work, And you shall find I like it. -TIMON OF ATHENS

Artists have always had patrons. From the time of Maecenas, a wealthy Etruscan noble who supported Virgil and Horace and was duly celebrated in their verse, to the Medicis and later the popes, and then to Isabella Stewart Gardner and the Guggenheim and MacArthur Foundations, rich sponsors have often supported painters, sculptors, and poets. And inevitably, these relationships have been loaded-fraught with over-, and underestimation, with pettiness as well as generosity, with disdain as well as desire.

The artist had the talent, and the patron the money. In some cases, though by no means all, the dynamic of the relationship involved forgetting this key and defining fact. Artists, who often have very little money, could occasionally live as if they were rich, or at least live among the rich, receive invitations to their parties, and be received at their city and country homes. And patrons, who have often, though by no means always, possessed considerable artistic vision and taste, could experience pleasure in a creative society of peopleand be made to feel that their place in the world might transcend the means by which they came to financial and social prominence. By mobilizing the fantasies that artists have about patrons, and vice versa, productive instances of patronage can be forged and precipitated. For example, when he wanted to raise funds to rebuild Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, the American actor Sam Wanamaker put together a highly effective coalition of philanthropic socialites, actors, and British and American academics. Each was possessed of a quality or attribute lacking in, and admired by, the others-wealth, fame, charisma, gravitas.

A complicated and contradictory mixture of deep gratitude and powerful resentment is thus built into the dynamic of patronage. Which of these two will predominate in any given encounter between patron and protégé is never entirely predictable, although the volatility of their bond has been the stuff of many historical biographies and romanticizing films, such the 1984 hit Amadeus and the 1988 French period piece Camille Claudel (featuring Gérard Depardieu as Auguste Rodin and Isabelle Adjani as his eponymous admirer/amante). Indeed, as we have already noted, the relationship between patron and artist often follows the psychic structure of a love affair, with attendant fantasies, appropriations, misunderstandings, and disappointments. The more disinterested this relationship appears, the greater is its capacity to surprise and disconcert one party or the other-or both.

The histories of words are often suggestive, and the history of "patron" is no exception. The word stems originally from the Latin pater, "father," and the connections with, or analogies to, a system of patriarchy are not incidental but central. Many of the ambivalences of that familial power relation reemerge in the context of patronage. The Latin patronus means "protector of clients" (whether those clients were individuals, cities, or provinces); the "former master of a freedman or freedwoman"; and an "advocate or defender." The English word "patron" quickly acquired the meaning of "one who takes under his favor and protection, or lends his influential support to advance the interests of, some person, cause, institution, art, or undertaking."

A patron was once also a "donor," who commissioned works of art, like altarpieces, for churches and other institutions. In recognition of this generosity, using the medieval and early modern versions of Photoshop, the artist carefully inserted an image of the donor into the work of art: a donor kneeling in prayer at the foot of the cross, a donor in close proximity to a saint. Nicholas Rolin was the chancellor of the Duke of Burgundy, Philip the Good (from 1422 to 1457). He was fortunate enough to have lived in the time of Jan van Eyck and Rogier van de Weyden, court painters to Philip the Good, and so he is prominently on display in van Eyck's Rolin Madonna (where he kneels opposite the Virgin, wearing a gold brocade jacket trimmed with mink) and in van der Weyden's Beaune Last Judgment.

Medieval and Renaissance paintings and stained-glass windows regularly display such donors, dressed in the height of modern fashion, posing unselfconsciously (and without a hint of anachronism or blasphemy) in the same panels as naked saints and the crucifixion. In 1493 a guild of wealthy citizens and craftsmen from Haarlem in the Netherlands commissioned a sumptuous illuminated manuscript as a welcoming gift to a monastery, the Hermits of St. Augustine, who had undertaken to pray for the guild's members. The manuscript is a virtual "Who's Who of Haarlem," with donors depicted at the bottom of almost every page, kneeling in prayer next to saints or other religious figures.

In centuries past, patrons were mentors, sponsors, and agents for the artists they took under their protection. The painter lived with the patron and tried to obtain commissions from the patron's friends. Artists were members of the household retinue, rather than godlike creative beings; sometimes they even wore livery, in order to indicate their dependent status. The baroque artist Andrea Sacchi entered the household of Cardinal Antonio Barberini in 1637 and was placed in a category with three slaves, a gardener, a dwarf, and an old nurse. In 1640 he was promoted, joining other pensioners like writers, poets, and secretaries. Jan van Eyck was peintre de monseigneur (court painter) in the household of Philip the Good, paid-according to the terms of his contract-not for his work itself but for his availability to do it. Anthony van Dyck was the court painter of Charles I. These were patronage relationships of a kind that seldom exists now. There were, of course, variations on this pattern. Some artists worked exclusively for single, powerful patrons, while others, like their twenty- and twenty-first-century counterparts, might paint, and then exhibit, without knowing who would purchase their work. Transactions could be mediated by dealers or dilettantes, domestic or foreign-"but," as Francis Haskell noted, "artists [in Baroque Italy] usually disliked the freedom of working for unknown admirers, and with a few notable exceptions exhibitions were assumed to be the last resort of the unemployed."

In the realm of literature, the patron emerged as an especially important figure with the rise of print culture. Indeed, it has been suggested that it would make more sense to list and catalogue early modern works by the names of their patrons than by the names of their authors, since patronage was a much more powerful system than authorship in that period, and the imprint of the patron's interests on the collectivity of the work he or she sponsored might be more telling than any assessment of the author's supposed subjectivity. Only with the development of the system of
Copyright, in the eighteenth century, did authorship really become the major factor in determining who "owned" a written work. This paradigm shift had far-reaching implications for literary patronage. The seventeenth-century poet and playwright Ben Jonson, famously sensitive on the question of his social place, expressed satisfaction at the way he was treated at Penshurst, the home of the Sidney family,

Where the same beer and bread, and self-same wine That is his lordship's, shall be also mine. And I not fain to sit (as some this day At great men's tables) and yet dine away. Here no man tells my cups; nor standing by A waiter, doth my gluttony envy; ... Nor, when I take my lodging, need I pray For fire, or lights, or livery; all is there;.... (Jonson, "To Penshurst" [1616])

In this case the rather touchy poet felt, or wished to feel, like a guest rather than a servant in the house of his patron. But patronage was often less comfortable and more intrusive than the Penshurst ideal. Classic quotations on the topic are telling. We might compare the observation of the Painter in Shakespeare's Timon of Athens-"When we for recompense have prais'd the vile, / It stains the glory in that happy verse / Which aptly sings the good"-with Francis Bacon's testy remark that "books (such as are worthy the name of books) ought to have no patrons but truth and reason." But in fact books in this period often did have patrons and dedicatees, and in many cases the favor of the patron was crucial to the economic survival of the writer.

Perhaps the most famous contretemps between patron and "patronized" in English letters was the public quarrel between Dr. Samuel Johnson and his supposed patron, Lord Chesterfield. Johnson had sought Chesterfield's assistance, without success, at a time when he was in deep financial need, and was hard at work on his pathbreaking Dictionary of the English Language. Chesterfield was completely unresponsive until, many years later, the dictionary at last appeared in print, at which point it was belatedly accompanied by Chesterfield's endorsement. Johnson's celebrated letter of rebuke, dated 1755, is a model of its kind:

My Lord:

I have been lately informed by the proprietor of the World that two Papers in which my Dictionary is recommended to the Public were written by your Lordship. To be so distinguished is an honour which, being very little accustomed to favours from the Great, I know not well how to receive, or in what terms to acknowledge....

Seven years, My lord have now past since I waited in your outward Rooms or was repulsed from your Door, during which time I have been pushing on my work through difficulties of which it is useless to complain, and have brought it at last to the verge of Publication without one Act of assistance, one word of encouragement, or one smile of favour. Such treatment I did not expect, for I never had a Patron before.

[...] Is not a Patron, My Lord, one who looks with unconcern on a Man struggling for Life in the water and when he has reached ground encumbers him with help. The notice which you have been pleased to take of my Labours, had it been early, had been kind; but it has been delayed till I am indifferent and cannot enjoy it, till I am solitary and cannot impart it, till I am known, and do not want it.

In Johnson's Dictionary itself the first definition under "patron" was equally to the point: "One who countenances, supports or protects. Commonly a wretch who supports with indolence, and is paid with flattery." It was after Johnson's experience with Chesterfield that he famously altered a couplet in his poem "The Vanity of Human Wishes." In the 1749 version of the poem, adapted from a satire of Juvenal, Johnson had catalogued a litany of woes, all concerned with the harshness of poverty:

There mark what ills the scholar's life assail, Toil, envy, want, the garret and the jail.

The penurious scholar worked, starved, competed with others for his livelihood, slept in an attic, might wind up in debtor's prison. But in 1755, after the spat regarding the Dictionary's patronage, he replaced the humble but anodyne "garret" with the far more pointed and personal "patron." Henceforth the list of grievances would read, uncompromisingly,

Toil, envy, want, the patron and the jail.

The fact that a patron could so readily be summed up as part of the problem, rather than presented as the solution to it, tells the whole story in brief-for Johnson's London, and for the ages.

Many recent writers, following Jürgen Habermas, have described the eighteenth century as a time of expansion of the public sphere, with attendant pleasures and dangers. Nowhere was this clearer than in the changing market for art and literature. Thus, for example, in a study forthrightly titled Painting for Money: The Visual Arts and the Public Sphere in Eighteenth-Century England, art historian David Solkin discusses "artists and writers about art who embraced the realities of a burgeoning market economy." In this period, he notes, "for the first time in English history, paintings became an object of widespread capital investment; and alongside other cultural producers who contributed to an increasingly active trade in luxury goods, artists soon learned that many rules they had long accepted as absolute imperatives would have to give way to the higher laws of supply and demand." During the first half of the eighteenth century, painters continued to work for individual patrons on commission, as they had in previous centuries. However, a new mode of display, the exhibition, created an increasingly important space for commercial competition among painters and sculptors. Ironically, the same century that produced Immanuel Kant's famous definition of beauty as "disinterested" (interessenlos) also propelled art into the fray of commerce and the challenge of public taste-that is, into modernity.

Portrait painting, long a favorite of patrons and a mainstay of artists' incomes, came under particular criticism as a species of "self-love." Portrait painters, one observer said acidly, are "chiefly obliged" to the

Vanity and Self-love of their Employers, Passions which must ever be gratified, and the Owners of them are ever ready (though Remiss upon other Occasion) to open their Purses to the irresistible Flattery of Portrait Painting.... For be the Taste and Fashion of the Times what they may, or let them vary ever so much, or be they ever so preposterous- it is impossible for the Craft of Man to invent a Method to prevent the Sale of Portraits and Looking Glasses.

(Recall the painter poking fun at the "glass-fac'd" flatterer in Timon of Athens.)

Was a patron a vain narcissist or a generous underwriter and collector? The tension produced by these two ostensibly incompatible models of patronage emerges in the debates between two major eighteenth-century institutions: the Society of Artists of Great Britain and the Royal Academy. The Society fostered annual exhibitions for the sale of artwork. However, the Academy remained resistant to the notion of a general public that might consume art in a free marketplace. Sir Joshua Reynolds concisely presents the position of the Academy in his third Discourse on Art:

Be as select in those you endeavour to please, as in those whom you endeavor to imitate. Without love of fame you cannot do anything excellent, but by an excessive and undistinguishing thirst after it, you will come to have vulgar views; you will degrade your style; and your taste will be entirely corrupted. It is certain that the lowest style will be the most popular, as it falls within the compass of ignorance itself; and the Vulgar will always be pleased with what is natural, in the confined and misunderstood sense of the word.... I MENTION this, because our Exhibitions, while they produce such admirable effects, by nourishing emulation and calling our genius, have also a mischievous tendency, by seducing the Painter to an ambition to please indiscriminately the mixed multitude of people who resort to them.

Patrons continued to receive bad press at the hands of some of the most eloquent and nimble satirists of English literature and English art. William Blake, himself no fan of art schools, academies, or Sir Joshua Reynolds, wrote a series of torrid epigrams on the bad taste of the age, and particularly on the folly of aspiring English collectors. "You must agree that Rubens was a Fool / And yet you make him master of your School," begins a short poem addressed "To English Connoisseurs," and another chants "Rafael Sublime Majestic Graceful Wise ... Rubens Low Vulgar Stupid Ignorant," and so on. Yet another of these barbed verses is entitled, with a fine diminuendo,

On the Great Encouragement Given by English Nobility to Correggio Rubens Rembrandt Reynolds Gainsborough Catalani DuCrowe & Dilbury Doodle

(Continues...)



Excerpted from Patronizing the Arts by Marjorie Garber
Copyright © 2008 by Princeton University Press. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Table of Contents

Preface xi
Chapter 1: The Paradox of Patronage 1
Chapter 2: Governing Assumptions 42
Chapter 3: Minding the Business of Art 97
Chapter 4: Arts or Sciences 140
Chapter 5: The University as Patron 178
Notes 197
Index 221

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