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Anthony Cutler: “The Contagion of the Gaze: A Persistent Motif in Medieval Art and Modern Theory”
October 16, 2019 @ 6:00 pm - 7:30 pm
This public lecture by Prof. Anthony Cutler (emeritus, Art History, Penn State) will explore the artistic device in which one or more individuals depicted within an image regard us, even while we regard it from outside. Already extant in Greek red-figure vase painting, the motif recurs in the art of Late Antiquity, Western Medieval and especially Islamic miniatures, and the Renaissance. Following experiments of this sort in late nineteenth-century posters, the heyday of the form comes in the art of the mid-twentieth century, in Magritte’s Not to be Reproduced (1937), implicitly in Orson Welles’s film Citizen Kane (1941), and Jasper Johns’s Target with Four Faces (1965). Since there can be no question of “influence” across this huge field, some sort of theoretical scrutiny, emic or etic, of this all but perennial and universal motif is called for. Even sophisticated contemporary videogames, predicated on the aesthetics of mutual observation and the metaphysics of reciprocity, remain unhelpful in this respect.