Art Disputes: Conflict and competition across the ages

Edward Payne, Durham University
Bernadette Petti, The Bowes Museum

Disputes on all levels – public and private, professional and personal – structure the history of art, practically, intellectually and critically. Horace’s celebrated pairing of painting with poetry was preceded by Simonides’ declaration that painting is mute poetry, while poetry is spoken painting. The battle between the sister arts exploded in the Renaissance and early modern periods, extending beyond the duality of words and images, rhetoric and the visual arts, to encompass other forms of paragone. Painting and poetry, painting and sculpture, sight and touch, colour and line, ancients and moderns, idealism and naturalism, realism and Romanticism: all provoked heated debate.

But art disputes involve more than the crafted objects and theoretical issues of the past. They also concern people, their lives and livelihoods, reputations and professions. Disagreements mark and define the art world today. Arguments over interpretations and attributions, valuations and questions of ownership, continue to prompt conversation and controversy. This session will examine selected histories and case studies of disputes across the art world, with topics ranging from clay and funerary sculpture, to landscape painting, photography and art criticism.


Triumph of the Underdog: From Bernini’s clay modelli to the paragone of materials
Fiona Sit (University of Leeds)

‘A Sensitive Man… At Fair Prices’: Marbriers and funerary monuments in 19th-century Paris
Kaylee P. Alexander (Duke University)

Who’s Afraid of Raphael? Nicola Consoni at Frogmore
Stefano Cracolici (Durham University)

The Appropriation of the Image: The battle over Caspar David Friedrich’s Tetschen Altarpiece
Sander Oosterom (Cornell University)

Photographic Self-Portraits as Comments on the Paragone Debate
Zsuzsanna Szegedy-Maszák (Budapest History Museum)

Peter Fuller: The aesthetic dimension vs the ‘mega-visual tradition’
James A. Brown (Bath Spa University)



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