Digital Commons@RISD Home > Division of Liberal Arts > Contemporary Aesthetics (Journal Archive) > Vol. 17 (2019)
Artist and art historian Roger Fry used Paul Gauguin’s 1896 painting, Poèmes barbares, to advertise his 1910 exhibition, Manet and the Post-Impressionists. In Vision and Design (1920), Fry promoted the so-called “primitive” art of Oceania and sub-Saharan Africa as depending on unmediated perception that he associated with the Impressionists and Post-Impressionists. Although Fry’s assumption of an “ultra-primitive directness of vision” on the part of African makers ignores their own mediating conventions, his reliance on the Vischers’ notion of empathetic connection enhances the possibility of regarding the cultural products of peoples foreign to the percipient with what Paul C. Taylor terms an “ethical attentiveness that combats reductionism and objectification.” Further, such a form of attention can displace attempts to privilege European and Eurocentric art and thought, by referring to “primitive” art and thought, promoting recognition of their value in their own right.