Style and Museum

Style and copy: the case of Johann Anton Ramboux

Author: Marco Jalla, Université de Genève


The "Museum Ramboux" is a collection of no less than 321 watercolour copies painted by Johann Anton Ramboux between 1832 and 1840. It was intended as documentary material for the study of Italian art at the Academy of Fine Arts in Düsseldorf. Ramboux’s copies were long praised for their "fidelity" to the original by art historians such as Karl Friedrich von Rumohr, Franz Kugler or Johann David Passavant. At the beginning of the 20th century, Aby Warburg was still firmly convinced that Ramboux's copies were a "valuable and reliable aid" to study Italian art. But then other major art historians criticized them as romantic interpretations of the original, matching more the style of the Nazarene school than that of the original paintings. By considering the relationships of several generations of art historians with Ramboux's watercolour copies, I aim to investigate the question of style in copy paintings and its development at a key period in the history of art history.


Marco Jalla is a doctoral student in Contemporary Art History at the University of Geneva. His research focuses on the functions of the copy of painting in the 19th century. He is a former student of the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris and has a double degree in History (EHESS) and in Art History (ENS - TU Berlin). After having taught for five years at the University of Geneva as an assistant, he was a research associate in Art History at the University of Tokyo, where he coordinated the collaboration between the Artl@s group (ENS/Unige) and Japan. He has just returned to Switzerland to defend his thesis and is currently collaborating with the Musée d'art du Valais.

“Style”: with or without it? The notion of style in André Malraux’s, George Duthuit’s and André Breton’s writings of Art History

Author: Anne Foucault, Université Paris-Nanterre


When writing his major work Le musée imaginaire in 1947, André Malraux profoundly impacted at the same time the understanding of museums and of the power of artistic reproductions, but also provoked a series of critical reactions. The notion of style is at the heart of Malraux’s museum, which is perceived as the place where styles coming from various places and periods can be confronted to each other, and thereby provoking a kind of unity from the confrontation. For Malraux, style is as much a conquest – from the museum over the object, transforming it in a work of art, and from the artist over his predecessors – as a trace of what we perceive of the cultural past. Georges Duthuit and André Breton will both position themselves against those views – the former explicitly, by publishing in 1956 Le musée inimaginable, the latter more discretely, for example with L’art magique (1957) – and reject style as a strictly formal notion, that retrieves from the object any function but the purely aesthetic one. Linked to a radical scepticism towards traditional museums and the autonomy of art, their conceptions, if not strictly similar, show through their reject of style a specific and counter-current vision of the artistic fact, which emphasizes the role of the object and of its creator as social actors. This communication aims to show how the notion of style plays a controversial but key-role in these three authors’ construction of art history – from Malraux’s global universalism to Breton’s selective and deliberately discriminating historiography.


Anne Foucault defended her PhD in Contemporary art history, entitled Reconsideration of Surrealism (1945-1969) : from the Déshonneur des poètes to « eternal Surrealism », which is soon to be published. She has published several papers on postwar surrealism, in reviews (Europe, Revue française d’histoire du livre) and collective publications (Centre allemand d’Histoire de l’art) especially regarding political and historiographical issues, and has participated in several conferences and symposiums in France, England and the United States. After working as a teaching assistant at the Université Paris Nanterre and Université Lyon II, she is currently working at the Musée national d’art moderne – Centre Georges Pompidou, in collaboration with curator Aurélie Verdier, on a research project, Inconnu – Divers, focusing on André Breton studio’s wall.


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