Project (2015)

Kunst, Fantasia and Ingenium: Printed Artists’ Manuals and the Shaping of Artistic Education in Northern Europe

This research project investigated the role art manuals, including model- and drawing-books such as Vogtherr’s Kunstbüchlein and Beham’s Kunst und Ler büchlein, played in the formation and circulation of artistic knowledge in early modern Europe, with an emphasis on German material. It investigated the relation between these books and emerging discourses on imagination (fantasia) and invention (ingenium, Erfindung), in connection to the artist’s creative process, the mechanisms of art-making, and the growth of a personal style. Additionally, the project sought to provide a thorough definition of the notion of Kunst in the early modern period, and disentangle its complex web of semantic layers, which encompass practical skills, technical dexterity, and rational knowledge. Resituating artists’ Kunstbüchlein within the wider context of the booming technical literature of the time, this comparative study hoped to shed light on how artists and craftsmen envisioned and classified artistic knowledge, and how they differentiated it from other categories of knowledge, whether it be hands-on know-how or theoretical learning.