Why do images of entertainers abound in European literature and art since Romanticism? From Baudelaire to Picasso, from Daumier to Fellini, mimes, clowns, aerialists, and jesters recur in major works by continental artists. In Art as Spectacle, Naomi Ritter investigates this phenomenon and offers explanations that transcend the array of works discussed. Her analysis implies much about the triangle of creator, work, and audience that inevitably controls art.
Although a broadly comparative study underlies Art as Spectacle, the book focuses mainly on examples from Germany and France. Three areas of argument-identification, primitivism, and transcendence-account for the performer's ubiquity in the arts of the last two centuries. Ritter shows that writers, painters, choreographers, and filmmakers have persistently identified with the entertainer, whose roots lie in primitive ritual: a source of all art. Accordingly, the artist also sees the player as morally or spiritually elevated.
With three chapters on literature, a chapter comparing poetry to painting, and a chapter each on dance, the visual arts, and film, Art as Spectacle offers unprecedented scope on a compelling topic in comparative studies. By integrating such varied material into an original commentary on the image of the entertainers, this book provides an invaluable resource for all the disciplines it touches.