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David Young Kim’s Journey with Renaissance Artists

What were Renaissance artists doing when they were not painting? Video interview with David Young Kim

by Javier Suarez

What is the importance of places? Can they have an agency? The Travelling Artist in the Italian Renaissance reevaluates and reconfigures the importance and sense of settings in the works of art of the Renaissance. Throughout the book, Professor Kim develops a critical approach towards the idea of “influence” as a building block of art history. Acknowledging the importance of “influence” as a general term, Kim describes and analyzes how “mobility” can be disruptive and simultaneously call into question and open new paths of interpretation.

The book shows how the production of diagrams (colorful and sometimes chaotic) that have tried to create order and genealogies can invisibilize other ways of understanding a work of art. The book also deals and questions the preeminence of the author (a biographical approach) in the studies of the Renaissance, approach that is highly indebted to Giorgio Vasari’s Le vite de’ più eccellenti architetti, pittori et scultori italiani; instead, mobility makes it possible to rethink the artist as a traveler and economic agent who moved around Europe not only for aesthetic reasons but also looking for economic improvement under the protection of an important bishop, noble or monarch.

Travelling, in this sense, is not just going for point A to point B. There is an intentionality in the travelling artist that recreates the place that he depicts; thus the representation of travelling is always part of a complex network of interconnections that gave form to the journey. Mobility also makes it possible to understand the artist not only as an introspective intellectual that paints closed in a room or workshop: mobility offers a cinematic portrait of artists in the Renaissance as sensorial subjectivities that enjoyed their time falling in love, drinking, eating and being exposed to diverse cultures; it is in this sense how Professor Kim introduces the idea of leisure in its analysis.

I highly recommend The travelling Artist in the Italian Renaissance for his creative methodology but also because it is an example of a highly interdisciplinary approach that can be helpful for everybody who wants to understand any historical mobility from the Renaissance artists to the Italian diaspora.

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