Mannerism, Baroque, and Modernism: Deleuze and the Essence of Art


My aim here is to render Mannerism separable again from the Baroque. Attempts by art history and art criticism to define Mannerism will be juxtaposed with close-readings of key passages in Deleuze’s work, especially from Francis Bacon. The Logic of Sensation, which considers the art of 20th-century British figurative painter Francis Bacon, as well as from The Fold. From the concept of the “Figure” developed in the former, I will distill an initial concept of Mannerism as an art that proceeds by way of diagrammatic deformation. I will then compare this concept to Deleuze’s concept of the Baroque (the “fold taken to infinity”) and argue that, while the Baroque pushes the anti-classical and revolutionary “catastrophe” of Mannerism to the extreme, it simultaneously and paradoxically forms a conservative and restorative reaction to it. It is by exploring Mannerism’s “very particular relations” with the Baroque, finally, that we can also discover in Mannerism a precursor to 20th-century Modernism, and in Deleuze’s modernist allegiance, several neo-mannerist tendencies.

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