Why connoisseurship matters, ctd.

August 28 2012

A reader writes:

I have a similar experience [to] today's contributor on connoisseurship/university. Having completed both a BA, MA and part of a Ph.D at Sussex, the only time any object handling/connoisseurship occurred was a lunch time optional course at the Barlow Collection (which is sadly no longer at Sussex) on Chinese ceramics. At that time Sussex arguably had the best Art History department in the country - Nigel Llewellyn, Evelyn Welch, Norbert Lynton, David Mellor, Craig Clunas, Maurice Howard etc. The course was heavily centered around philosophy/methods/approaches etc. Having attended fine art/antiques auctions since I was in nappies (at 32 I'm still the youngest person I ever see at auctions), I took my university friend who'd got a first (I'd got a 2:1) to Julian Dawson's saleroom in Lewes. Whilst I was busy rummaging and making notes, she asked me 'how can you tell what's a print and what's a painting?.' I expect her essays were brilliant though...

This is why I feel sorry for anyone studying what we might call 'new art history'. It can leave some students unable to cope in the real, non-theoretical world of art history (i.e., the one where most of the jobs are).

Update - a reader writes:

You've written two posts called "Why connoisseurship matters", but you haven't actually explained why it matters yet.

Crikey. Looks like I'll have to return to this in some depth, and Explain. Things. Really. Slowly.

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