Price Essay Picturesque
In art historical discourse, this nuance is now largely lost because of the success of ‘painterly’.
Picturesque has become confined to being the lower term, even to the point where there is little recognition that the concept we name ‘painterly’ relies on a binary opposition to the ‘picturesque’.
While some complexity is introduced and some definition is lost in recognising this, we claim that both publication in 2015, a new translation was made by Jonathan Blower which usefully extends English readers’ understanding of the text.
Nevertheless, thorny issues remain, as Blower explains in discussing his decision to follow the first, 1932, translation by Marie Donald Mackie Hottinger, in which she renders (the painterly).
Rather, we aim to open the more general issue of the value in recognising the consequences of the necessary imperfections of translation.
Beyond the conceptual clarity achieved, the success of ‘painterly’ relies on two other currents in art history.
Firstly, painterly contrasts nicely with picturesque in modern English, where picture has come to mean something like in German.
Picturesque is a term which owes part of its historical success to its ambiguity, signifying both an origin of subjectivist aesthetics and a popular naïve taste for the rustic.
For historians of art and architecture this ambiguity is ramified by an issue of translation between ‘picturesque’ and its usual equivalent in German, by contrasting it with the belief of naïve observers that picturesqueness was a property of objects.
(Wölfflin 2015: 105) which is a naïve belief that there are objects inherently suited to picturing.