Melvyn Bragg discusses the rise of the idea of the artist and the claims made for it, and examines the role that aristocratic patronage of the arts has played in changing the status of the artist.
Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of the artist. The sculptors who created the statues of ancient Greece were treated with disdain by their contemporaries, who saw the menial task of chipping images out of stone as a low form drudgery. Writing in the 1st century AD the Roman writer Seneca looked at their work and said: "One venerates the divine images, one may pray and sacrifice to them, yet one despises the sculptors who made them". Since antiquity artists have attempted to throw off the slur of manual labour and present themselves as gifted intellectuals on a higher level than mere artisans or craftsmen. By the Romantic period Wordsworth claimed that poets were 'endowed with a greater knowledge of human nature and a more comprehensive soul than are supposed to be common in mankind'. How did the artist become a special kind of human being? What role did aristocratic patronage of the arts play in changing the status of the artist? And how have we constructed the image of the artist? With Emma Barker, Lecturer in Art History, The Open University; Thomas Healy, Professor of Renaissance Studies at Birkbeck University of London; Tim Blanning, Professor of Modern European History at the University of Cambridge.