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“Intoxicated by turpentine”: An Olfactory History of Painting (1750-1939)

“Intoxicated by turpentine”: An Olfactory History of Painting (1750-1939)

Objective

“Intoxicated by turpentine.” When Marcel Duchamp so described the painters of his time, the avant-garde artist was not only criticizing a traditional way of thinking about the materiality of art, he was also modernizing a commonplace of medical discourse as well as a recurring and significant motif in the French commentary on the arts. Investigating historically the stereotype of “the smell of paint,” this research project seeks to underscore the important role of olfaction in the material history of art and in the historical conceptions of the art of painting in France from the mid-18th century to the first half of 20th. At the crossroads of art history and history of the sciences, this research will describe how medical concerns about the smell of paint significantly influenced the making and the composition of colors as well as the size and organization of the painter’s studio, consequently affecting the social status of the artist and, ultimately, the critical discourse on art, which often used the smell of a painting in metaphors expressing an aesthetical judgment. Thus, from the creation of a painting to its reception, the frequent references to the smell of paint unveil a hidden aspect of the history of art that will be illuminated through this analysis of a variety of historical sources, including, in particular, medical works, technical treatises on painting, industrial archives, art criticism, satirical drawings, etc. Finally, this historical research on the smell of a painting will be applied to the creation of a pedagogical tool aimed at the museum-going public. It will present the historical evolution of the painter’s studio through the smells of the painter’s materials. This sensory experience of the materiality of painting aims to embody art history, providing museum visitors with an alternative to the digital approach to works of art.
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Coordinator

UNIVERSITE LUMIERE LYON 2

Address

86 Rue Pasteur
69365 Lyon

France

Activity type

Higher or Secondary Education Establishments

EU Contribution

€ 196 707,84

Project information

Grant agreement ID: 845788

Status

Grant agreement signed

  • Start date

    1 August 2019

  • End date

    31 July 2021

Funded under:

H2020-EU.1.3.2.

  • Overall budget:

    € 196 707,84

  • EU contribution

    € 196 707,84

Coordinated by:

UNIVERSITE LUMIERE LYON 2

France