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Presence in Absence

The Empty Studio as Self-Portrait

Esner, Rachel

Zeitschrift für Ästhetik und Allgemeine Kunstwissenschaft, Bd. 56 (2011), Iss. 2: S. 79–100

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Esner, Rachel


From the Romantic era onward, many of the discourses surrounding artistic creativity have merged the artist and his working space: the place of work is viewed as the mirror of the man and his oeuvre, a sanctuary, a social or an exhibition space. A popular topos in this context was the view of the empty studio. This paper explores the 19th-century empty studio image as a self-portrait of the artist. It examines how the depictions of the space and its objects work to inscribe the artist’s presence, and to express his or her  artistic self-conception and identity within the changing artistic-social structures of the period.