UQ History of Emotions Public Lecture in Art History
6.00 pm Thursday 5 October 2017

UQ Art Museum

Professor Andrew Leach
The University of Sydney
'Ecstasy, Agony'

The Canadian sculptor Stanley Lewis owes his fame, in part, to the acknowledgment given him by the novelist Irving Stone. In the process of writing his forceful depiction of Michelangelo, Stone had been taught by Lewis to “carve marble” in the manner of the Renaissance master, allowing the writer insight into “the thinking and feeling of the sculptor at work.” Published nearly four centuries after Michelangelo’s death, Stone’s 1961 novel The Agony and the Ecstasy resonated with a generation of scholars, artists and architects who understood the contemporary value of trading historical acuity for super-historical lessons, and who, like Stone (and perhaps Lewis), imagined reaching back through time to grasp the truth of artistic experience. Beyond a firm but futile resistance to the kinds of interpretation Stone’s depiction popularised, there was scant recognition in its wider uptake that his Michelangelo, like that of much post-war Renaissance art history, was a modern creation resting upon a foundation of historical and biographical research. This lecture will consider the ways in which historians of art and architecture helped to shape the modern historical figure dramatized first by Stone, and later projected on to the screen by Carol Reed’s direction and Charlton Heston’s performance. It will look at the historiographical mechanisms by which Michelangelo’s modern reputation as an architect (and as the “father” of the architectural baroque) was established, tested and defended. Using Stone’s Michelangelo as a starting point, the lecture will reflect on the historicity of ecstasy, on the conditions of social and institutional crisis against which his integrity as an artist was defined, and on the legacy of this figure, constructed thus, in an ecstatic baroque.

Andrew Leach is Professor of Architecture at the University of Sydney, where he directs the Architectural Theory and History Research Group in the Sydney School of Architecture, Design and Planning. Among his recent works are the short history Rome (2017) and edited collections on the twentieth-century historiography of baroque architecture and of the urbanisation of the Gold Coast (both 2015). Another new book treats the theme of discomfort (2017). He is author of What is Architectural History? (2010) and the book of his lecture Crisis on Crisis, or Tafuri on Mannerism will be published in September. Next year, he will work on a new project, on the modern historiography of architectural mannerism, as a 2017–2018 Wallace Fellow at the Harvard Center for Italian Renaissance Studies, Villa I Tatti.

Free event. All welcome.
Refreshments will be served after the lecture.
RSVP here

Presented by the UQ Node of the Centre for the History of Emotions and the UQ Art Museum, in conjunction with the exhibition Ecstasy: Baroque and Beyond.

David Stephenson (USA, Australia, 1955–)
20106 Sant'Ivo alla Sapienza, Rome, Italy, 1642–1650, Francesco Borromini 1997/printed 2016
from the series “Domes Photographs”
archival pigment ink print, edition 2/5
101.5 x 101.5 cm
Collection of The University of Queensland, purchased 2016.
Reproduced courtesy of the artist and Bett Gallery, Hobart.