The emancipation of the untutored mind: The role of the exotic in Alexander von Humboldt’s aesthetic theory of nature

de Lorenzo, Catherine and van der Plaat, Deborah (2003). The emancipation of the untutored mind: The role of the exotic in Alexander von Humboldt’s aesthetic theory of nature. In: Art Association of Australia and New Zealand Conference 2003, Canberra, A.C.T., (). 5-6 December 2003.


Author de Lorenzo, Catherine
van der Plaat, Deborah
Title of paper The emancipation of the untutored mind: The role of the exotic in Alexander von Humboldt’s aesthetic theory of nature
Conference name Art Association of Australia and New Zealand Conference 2003
Conference location Canberra, A.C.T.
Conference dates 5-6 December 2003
Publication Year 2003
ISBN not found
Volume Online
Total pages 1
Language eng
Abstract/Summary In the second volume of his popular treatise Cosmos: A sketch of a physical description of the universe (1845–62) the German naturalist Alexander von Humboldt (1769–1859) argued that the exposure of the European eye to the exotic flora of the tropical world would heighten the ‘artistic powers’ and intellectual insight of the ‘untutored mind’. Enabling him to ‘spontaneously arrive at the impression that “one sole and indissoluble chain binds together all nature’ — a conclusion the cultivated intellect discerned only through slow and ‘laborious deduction’ — Humboldt’s thesis offered a social rationale for both the artistic and scientific documentation of the new world and its display in European cities. Humboldt noted that the diverse mediums of literature (nature poetry and travel writing), landscape painting (the panoramic landscape) and the cultivation and display of exotic plants functioned readily as vehicles for the European engagement with the exotic. A more recent aid to this project, he noted, was offered by the new technology of the photograph. In this paper the significance of von Humboldt’s thesis and its impact on the motive of artistic and scientific practices in countries identified by von Humboldt as exotic will be considered. Particular attention will be paid to John William Lindt’s (1845–1962) photographic study of his garden and hermitage in the Yarra Ranges (1880–1910) and the contemporary images of the gardens of Hubert de Castella in the Yarra Valley by Nicholas John Caire (1837–1918). Within easy travelling distances from Melbourne these manipulated landscapes were used by both artists as sites for soirées of food, wine, art, and song. The photographic record of these gardens and the surrounding environs was in turn supplemented by two written documents: Trip to the Black Spur: [occupying four days] (1880) and Companion Guide to Healesville, Black Spur, Narbethong and Marysville (1904). It will be argued that the union of landscape photography, painting, gardening, and literature hosted by these gardens was shaped by a Humboldtian thesis in which the exotic is positioned as an emancipatory tool for the common man.
Subjects 1201 Architecture
Keyword Architecture
Lindt
Humboldt
Victorian Landscape
Q-Index Code EX
Q-Index Status Provisional Code
Institutional Status Unknown

 
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Created: Tue, 09 Mar 2010, 10:06:06 EST by Maria Campbell on behalf of Faculty Of Engineering, Architecture & Info Tech