The Dehumanization of the Swing

In the Art History the stylistic analysis has dominated over the thematic one. The stylistic analysis, as the name suggests, brings together works from certain geographical areas and historical periods, with common formal characteristics, in order to define a style. And even though this type of analysis seeks to account for the political, religious, economic and social context of the works, the fact is that its emphasis is put in the morphology. The styles follow each other and "evolve" in an almost Darwinian sense, as the "evolution" of forms or structures that adapt to the changing circumstances.

Against this stylistic paradigm, the thematic one is focused on the background of the works, on what-they-address, and establishes connections between them based on this thematic affiliation. This thematic paradigm tries to identify something like underground currents which would traverse the above-mentioned geographical, temporal and stylistic categories; that is to say, the morphological categories. This is important because that means paying attention to what underlies the forms of the works, that means being interested in the content rather than in the form, in the meaning. In fact the notion of "dehumanization of art" by Ortega y Gasset (The Dehumanization of Art and Other Essays on Art, Culture and Literature, 1925) could be similarly understood as the consequence for art of having gradually disregarded its content, its roots, its thematic heritage, getting lost in the labyrinth of forms.

From this t
hematic paradigm, we propose to confront artworks from different areas, periods and styles, and that however share --or could share-- a theme. In this case we have chosen the theme of the swing. This analysis allows to confirm to what extent the most recent works on this subject have lost wealth or intensity with respect to older works, how they are interested now in shallower, more formal, more abstractmore "dehumanized" questions.

Image after Penelope Painter's skyphos (c. 450 b.C.) [pd], Jean-Honoré Fragonard's L'Escarpolette (The Swing, c. 1767) [pd] and Juan Navarro Baldeweg's Pieza de columpio (Swing Piece, 1976) [fu/fd].