In the lead-up to the “The Game,” Harvard’s annual football showdown with Yale, art historians from the rival schools got into the competitive spirit.
During an online discussion sponsored by the Harvard Art Museums, Elizabeth M. Rudy, the University’s Carl A. Weyerhaeuser Curator of Prints, and Freyda Spira, Robert L. Solley Curator of Prints and Drawings at the Yale University Art Gallery, explored artistic rivalries through the centuries.
According to Spira, the competition between the courts of Holy Roman Emperor Maximillian I and Frederick the Wise, Elector of Saxony, highlights how 16th-century pioneers revolutionized art with their efforts to create colored prints. The artists experimented with indigo, gold leaf, and crosshatching — the drawing of closely spaced parallel lines — to introduce color and tone to a process that until then was defined by black ink on white paper.
One well-known historical rivalry was more a product of hype, said Rudy, referencing the alleged clash between French Romantic artist Eugène Delacroix and French Neoclassical painter Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres. Many critics insisted the artists fell into two separate camps: the color and pigment favored by Delacroix versus the drawing and line preferred by Ingres. While Delacroix loved the works of Peter Paul Rubens, a Flemish master of color, and Ingres was obsessed with the High Renaissance Italian Raphael, whose work was exemplified by line, scholars have debunked claims that the artists were “the figureheads of two identifiable movements,” said Rudy. “They were complete dialectical opposites.” Still, stories of personal animus proved popular fodder for the press, helping fuel the myth.