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A Privileged Profession: Artists and Melancholia

banner Date: Wednesday October 22, 2014
Time: 6:00pm
Venue: ICTE Auditorium, Sir Llew Edwards Building Free. All Welcome. Please RSVP to artmuseum@uq.edu.au by Friday 17 October. Bookings are essential as numbers are limited. Refreshments will be served, after the lecture, in the foyer of the UQ Art Museum. The exhibitions Five Centuries of Melancholia and Lindy Lee: The Dark of Absolute Freedom will be open for viewing. Presented in partnership with the University of Queensland Art Museum.

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Feeling blue?’ ‘Down in the dumps?’‘In a bad humour?’ Most people have expressed these sentiments at one time or another in their lives. But these words once described a real medical disorder, ‘melancholia’, ruled by the planet Saturn and the element of earth. By labelling themselves as melancholic, artists created and defined a new elite identity in which self-worth did not depend on noble blood or material wealth, but rather on talent and intellect. They expressed this concept in their own self-portraits, which appealed to an audience whose gaze was trained to discern the invisible internal self by means of external appearances. Through the centuries, the troubled persona of the artist-genius, invented by Albrecht Dürer, has continued to embody the alienating and depersonalising forces of civilisation.

Laurinda S. Dixon is Professor of Art History in the Department of Art and Music Histories at Syracuse University. Her scholarly specialty is the relationship of art and science before the Enlightenment, and she lectures widely on the subject at universities and museums throughout the world. She is the editor of In Sickness and in Health: Disease as Metaphor in Art and Popular Wisdom (University of Delaware Press, 2004); and author of Bosch: Art and Ideas (Phaidon Publishers, 2003) and The Dark Side of Genius: The Melancholic Persona in Art, ca. 1500–1700 (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013).

Image:  Double self-portrait, Carlo Dolci. 1674 oil on canvas, 74.5 x 60.5 cm Uffizi Gallery, Florence. Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.