We had a very interesting e-mail from one of our users. We've decided to post it here together with our reply, and ask you to join the discussion. Perhaps together we'll find optimal way of further development of WikiPaintings.
Art is great and beautiful, but also complex, confusing and frustrating. Using the same historicist approach that dictates a certain path of art movements through time is allowing for the continued misinformation of the general public, and insuring that poor art historians and critics remain in positions of power (and so the art market prevails over art itself). An encyclopedia of painting is possible, but grouping these artists across time under art "movements" is ignoring their own, individual, nuanced trajectories full of unexpected twists and turns. Please do not disseminate concepts that are still in discussion. The idea of art movements as a linear history of art itself is already questioned and discredited by most serious scholars. Please do not force artists and their works into neat little boxes. Categorize only what is objective and certain: dates, names, techniques. But please, please do not force a conceptual framework onto art! Please don't help maintain misconceptions about art! Please don't objectify art - it is much much more. This is a great project, but it is already headed in a labeling rather than informing and enlightening direction. Please. Help art break free from the confines of imposed categories!
Thank you very much for your passionate remark! It’s a real pleasure that someone obviously well-informed and so in love with art still finds our project great, despite of the fundamental disagreement with its structure.
We truly do understand your point of view. Indeed, when applied to such a different (in historical perspective and conceptual value) items as art of 15 and 20 century, notions like art movement and genre are somewhat confusing, because they have slightly (and sometimes crucially) different meaning in those contexts.
However, do you really think it’s possible, or productive, to talk about art history without these notions? Can you study art avoiding terms like Renaissance,
Let’s not go to extremes, because both of them are absurd. Putting art into “neat little boxes” of styles, and claiming that Monet’s Impressionism is literally the same as Levitan’s Impressionism is just as stupid as avoiding all style classification at all, and stating that those two artists have nothing in common and differs one from another as much, as Rembrandt differs from Malevich.
There are plenty of amazing sites, dedicated to individual artists, which provide well-structured analytical scope of their “nuanced trajectories full of unexpected twists and turns”. There are also quite a lot of extensive web recourses which do not apply any classification to art. We offer something in between. You can browse some artist’s woks chronologically and analyse evolution (or degradation :) of his unique style, but you can also compare stylistically related paintings of different artists and draw your own conclusions.
We don’t see how it’s possible to provide basic knowledge without “labels”. Would you use them as information or disinformation depends solely on your intellectual potential.
We just provide you with tools. Use them creatively!