Iconography

Iconography.

Iconography

Iconography. The technique and process of preparing lists or catalogues of pictures and other forms of visual representation in order to assemble items sharing a given artist, country, medium, owner, period, etc, or a combination of such criteria, eg, an iconography of oil portraits of 19th-century Canadian musicians. A well-made iconography should provide access to all these criteria through supplementary indexes, and each entry should provide information also on date of creation, physical measurements, provenance, published reproductions, etc. In this sense the aims of iconography are somewhat parallel to those of bibliography, discography, and archival inventories, and might be defined as the description of objects of visual art. In a wider sense, however, the term is applied to the description of a given subject, such as music, through visual art. Iconography thus is a means as well as an end. A well-indexed iconography on a musical subject may guide the music historian towards knowledge about the use of instruments at concerts, at dances, or in domestic life, at various times and in various places and social strata. Conversely, when such practices are known from musical sources, the information can help to date a painting or identify its locale.

Research in the iconography of music in Canada was facilitated by the National Inventory Programme, which began in 1972 (as the Information Systems Division of the National Museums of Canada) and in 1982 became the Canadian Heritage Information Network (CHIN). CHIN's database provides free text searching in more than 30 information fields including subject. Several provinces have also started information networks designed to be compatible with, and to expand the coverage of, CHIN. In 1988 Ontario's Trillium Network and in 1990 the Saskatchewan Heritage Information Network were launched. Similar projects were under negotiation in 1991 in British Columbia and Quebec and efforts in the other provinces and territories were at the planning stages. CHIN is also a partner in the Conservation Information Network, an international project. EMC's 1981 selective list of art inspired by music and musicians (see Art, visual) was the first attempt of its kind. In 1980 Francine Sarrasin of Montreal (B MUS Montreal, MA UQAM, and doctorate from the École des hautes études en sciences sociales de Paris), started an inventory of Canadian paintings with instruments, and she had listed over 300 by 1986 (See Bibliography).

The first edition of EMC provided the first retrospective and contemporary pictorial documentation of Canadian music and musicians, though Willy Amtmann'sLa Musique au Québec 1600-1875 serves the early period well. For the later period, however, photography provides the main element in the visual documentation of music in Canada. Dale McIntosh'sHistory of Music in British Columbia 1850-1950 is a good example of provincial coverage, and Paul Woodford has explored the photographic documentation of music in Newfoundland. Many photographers, particularly those specializing in publicity stills of performers, have photographed Canadian musicians. However, a few - notably Walter Curtin and Tony Hauser - have undertaken special projects, photographing musicians from the historian's and artist's viewpoint. Karsh and Cavouk have made notable individual portraits. Canadian collections of still photography include those of the National Archives of Canada, the Notman Archives of the McCord Museum at McGill University, the Musée du Québec, the NFB, the CBC, the Glenbow Museum in Calgary, and various other archival institutions, but a simple approach by subject rarely is possible. Separate picture files on music, mainly of photos and reproductions, and often combining Canadian and non-Canadian subject matter, have been established at the BN du Q, the National Library of Canada, the Vancouver Public Library, the Metropolitan Toronto Library, and elsewhere. The NL of C has indexed pictures of Canadian musicians in periodicals. It also acquired more than 1000 picture files of international scope compiled by the noted English music scholar Percy A. Scholes; these contain, for the most part, reproductions from journals and countless references to reproductions in separate publications, thus forming an important index to international iconography.

With the aim of documenting representations of music in the visual arts throughout the world, RIdIM (Répertoire International d'Iconographie Musicale) was founded in 1971 under the joint sponsorship of the International Musicological Society, the International Association of Music Libraries, and the International Council of Museums. Its Canadian work, encompassing not only Canadian subject matter but also works of art from other countries displayed in Canadian museums, is carried out by a committee of CAML with the Music Division of the NL of C as headquarters. The Research Center for Musical Iconography at the City U of New York is the world headquarters for RIdIM.

See also Bibliography; Discography.


Further Reading

  • Sarrasin, Francine. 'L'iconographie des instruments de musique dans les arts graphiques et la peinture au Canada: une étude de cas, le violon,' MA thesis, UQAM 1983