History of the Art of Imagination
Art of Imagination is two-fold. It is the “art” – the skill and techniques evolved over centuries – and the “imagination” by which we mean the vision of the artist which lifts the work of art above the ordinary, and gives it a life of its own. This combination of art and vision has been created through time and blossomed at different periods throughout the history of art, notably in these periods:
14th -15th Century: The Early Flemish School which reached its high point in the visionary paintings of Jan van Eyck (1385-1441) and his brother Hubert who were the first to invent oil painting, Hieronymus Bosch (c1450-1516) painted visions which were full of a dark and surreal power
15th Century: The Italian Renaissance produced the poetic paintings of Sandro Botticelli (c1444- 1510); the mystical beauty of the works of Piero della Francesca (c1415 -1492) and the powerful and enigmatic works of Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519).
16th- 17th Century: The Flemish and Dutch Schools gave rise to Pieter Breughel the Elder (1525-1569) who gave a broad allegorical meaning to his landscapes, and Rembrandt van Rijn (1606-1669), who did paintings of great religious intensity.
18th Century: The English Mystic Artists were William Blake (1757- 1827) a poet and visionary only appreciated by a small circle of artists late in his lifetime, and his follower and admirer Samuel Palmer (1805-1881) who founded a school of artists based on Blake called the Ancients.
19th Century: The Pre-Raphaelite Brethren formed themselves in England to return to the sincerity of the Early Renaissance before Raphael developed his “grand” manner. The three most prominent members were Sir John Everett Millais (1829-1896), William Holman Hunt (1827-1910) and Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828-1892).
19th to early 20th Century: The Symbolists in France explored the exotic world of dreams. Begun by Gustave Moreau (1826- 1898) the movement embraced Odilon Redon (1840-1916) and Paul Gauguin (1848-1903). Other artists in the Symbolist school were Norwegian Edvard Munch (1863-1944), and Austrian Gustav Klimt (1862- 1918).
1924 -1945 The Surrealist Movement was created after the first World War by artists and writers who were influenced by the horrors of the war and by their interest in the writings of Sigmund Freud. They were introspective, interested in exploring the subconscious. The most notable were Max Ernst (1891-1976), founder of Dada, Giorgio de Chirico (1888-1974), and Rene Magritte (1898-1967). Salvador Dali (1904-1989), with his dark dream paintings, became the most famous. In the USA Georgia O’Keeffe (1887- 1986) painted with a mystical intensity that was to influence many younger painers in America.
1945 – The Vienna School of Fantastic Realism was formed after the Second World War when a group of young artists banded together. They were Erich Brauer, Ernst Fuchs, Rudolf Hausner, Wolfgang Hutter and Anton Lehmden, all marked by the horrors of the recent war.
The founder of the group was Ernst Fuchs (1930 – ) whose work reflected the terrible experiences of life in a Concentration Camp. After the war ended Ernst attended the Vienna Academy of Art and there discovered that techniques were no longer being taught. He journeyed to Paris and there began his research and experimentation which resulted in his rediscovery of the Mische Technique, one of the secrets of the Renaissance; a way of painting with egg-tempera and oil glazes which made the picture absolutely permanent. After an Exhibition of his work in this technique in Paris in 1954, Ernst Fuchs’ fame spread abroad, and young artists from all over the world came to learn this technique, which he generously shared with all those who could learn from him.
A few years later many artists from America came to study with Fuchs. Bob Venosa, Mati Klarwein, Phil Jacobson, Joseph Askew, Brigid Marlin, Herbert Ossberger, Linda Gardner, Clayton Campbell, Hanna Kay, Sandra Reamer and Olga Speigel, among others. They were joined by artists from as far away as Japan and Israel, and a new World-wide Art Movement was formed.
In the beginning of the 20th Century, art as it had been known began to change. The ever-increasing use of the photograph made mere copying obsolete. The Impressionists wished to make a new form of art by seeing the world anew and wonderfully fresh, but by its nature this fresh vision could not last, and they in turn were successively followed by Cubism and the Abstractionism. Artists, influenced both by disaffection with a world at war, and influenced by the growing interest in psychiatry became inward-looking, exploring their inner worlds, and experiencing a growing alienation from society.
The cult of the individual became supreme. Instead of Schools of Art giving rise to, and developing new talent, the concept came in of every artist as a lone genius.
This was reinforced in the Thirties and Forties by the Western artists’ reaction to the heavy posterish images of the State Art in Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and Communist-ruled countries. In contrast to this kind of didactic art, freedom to express oneself seemed the only important thing.
Yet now in the new Millenium there is a growing doubt as to whether this individualism has been carried too far. Has something been lost in the rush for absolute freedom?
In our day the new artists are seeking media attention by clever innovation, by “found objects” and by installing anything from dead animals to dirty furniture as exhibits. Perhaps now it is the artist as artist that is the real exhibit. The human ego writ large has replaced the former great asperations of art.
In a more ideallistic age John Ruskin (1819- 1900) wrote, “What we want art to do for us is to stay what is fleeting, and to enlighten what is incomprehensible, to incorporate the things that have no measure, and immortalise the things that have no duration.”
One unexpected consequence of Modernism is that the spiritual and universal quality of art has been lost.
With the lack of a common aim, the sense of a brotherhood among professional artists has disappeared. Perhaps each artist is trying to find an individual answer to the question “What is Art?”. At the very dawn of Modernism the writer, Leo Tolstoy (1828- 1910) wrote, “We must distinguish art from counterfeit art. A real work of art destroys the separation between himself and the artist, and even between himself and all those others who also appreciate this art.
“[But now..] Instead of art which feeds the spirit, an empty and often vicious art is set up, which hides from us our need for true art. And true art for our time would demand the union of all people without exception – above all virtues it sets brotherly love to all men.”
Another unexpected consequence of Modernism is that respect for the craft of art has diminished.
Many art schools are no longer teaching either drawing or the craft and techniques of painting and sculpture. Talented young artists are driven to despair as they find no real instruction is given to them, and no respect is accorded to the methods developed over time.
If action is not taken, the skills that have taken centuries to evolve will in due course disappear completely!
In 1961 a group of artists from England, dissatisfied with the way the art world was going, began to work together, calling themselves the Inscape Group. They were Diana Hesketh (1931–), Peter Holland, .Brigid Marlin (1936–) Jack Ray and Steve Snell (1946-). They worked together to experiment with different ideas and techniques.Their progress may be summarised as follows:
1966 One member of the Inscape group, Brigid Marlin, went to study with Ernst Fuchs in Vienna. She was able to learn the Mische Technique, which was recieved with enthusiasm by other members who began to work with, and teach the technique in England, Europe and America.
1968 Members of the Inscape group were invited by Ernst Fuchs to come to Wartholz Castle, to his Summer Seminar, where artists from all over the world came to exchange ideas, and work together experimenting with old and newly evolved techniques. The Summer Seminar continued for seven years under the direction of Wolfgang Manner, and brought about great art and great friendships.
1972 As artists from different countries worked to promote each other and the cause of fine art, World-wide Exchange Exhibitions were set up in different countries and the Inscape Group became known as Inscape International.
1973- 1992 Inscape International. went on to exhibit in Paris, Ireland, Holland, Sweden, Tokyo, the United States and Canada. Lectures and classes were given on the Mische technique in Europe, the United States and Canada,
1993 Professor Ernst Fuchs summoned some of the Inscape artists to meet at Grafenegg Castle near Vienna to discuss the way forward towards promoting the Art of Imagination. He asked each artist to work towards this end. He had by now founded The Ernst Fuchs Museum in the villa built by Otto Wagner, and was planning an International Museum for Fantastic Art at the Saxe-Coburg Palais in Vienna.
1994 Maurizio Albarelli launched a major Exhibition “Du Fantastique au Visionnaire”, the largest of its kind ever to be staged, at the Zitelle Cultural Centre, Venice, which included the work of many members of Inscape International.
1996 Rosemary Bassi organized the first of several shows of Fantastic paintings and sculpture inclluding Inscape International Members at her Galerie Rolandseck near Bonn, Germany
1997 Inscape International decided to expand their Membership and work to help to promotion of Imaginative Art around the World. To facilitate this it changed its name to The Society for Art of Imagination. Ernst Fuchs agreed to be Honorary President.
1998 The Society for Art of Imagination launched a World Premiere- the very first Open Exhibition for Art of Imagination. It took place at the Mall Galleries, London. Virginia Rogers, a patron of vision, pledged to the Society $10,000.00 every year to distribute as prize money.
1999 The Erlangen Museum near Nurnberg, Germany, arranged a huge exhibition “Phantastik am Ende der Zeit” planned by Dr. Christine Ivanovic. The show was arranged in historical order , starting with the early woodcuts and engravings of Schongauer 1481, and Altdorfer c 1511, then on to the paintings of Bosch and Breughel, followed by Ensor and Munch, Max Ernst, Dali , and Paul Wunderlich. The Vienna School of Fantastic Realism was well represented, and the Exhibition displayed the work of many Members of The Society for Art of Imagination .The Exhibition formed part of a Symposium on Fantastic Art and attracted more than 10,000 visitors.
1999 & 2000 The Open Exhibition for Art of Imagination at the Mall Galleries continued. This Exhibition had now become a very popular annual event, giving artists of Imagination a public forum, and a chance to win valuable prizes. Many artists have been discovered through showing there, and have been taken up by visiting art dealers. The money awards helped artists who were finding it hard to survive.
A Magazine called Inscape was launched by the Society, to appear twice annually.
Lectures and classes were set up to spread the knowledge of good techniques in painting and sculpture.
2001 H R Giger agreed to be an Honorary Patron, and invited Vonn Stropp, 1st Prize-Winner of the Art of Imagination Exhibition 2000 , and other members of the Society to visit his home in Switzerland, and travel with him to the H R Giger Museum at Gruyeres. An Exhibition of Members’ work at his Museum was discussed.
2001 Damian Michaels from Australia, a Member of the Society for Art of Imagination and Editor of the acclaimed magazine “Art Visionary”, launched the opening of his International Collection of Fantastic and Visionary Art at the Orange Museum, Australia, which was opened by the Director of the Society or Art of Imagination. The Exhibition was recieved with great enthusiasm and praise for its excellent quality. A special workshop on the Mische Technique was also organised in Melbourne.