Anne Robinson, Karen Saxby
As long as humankind has needed ritual, theater and dialogue, it has fashioned and deployed masks. Modern art's relationship with masks underwent a transformation in the late nineteenth century, as Japanese and African mask craft penetrated the European consciousness; prior to this, though, they could be found in any artist's studio, where they served as models for the execution of a portrait. Even death masks (e.g. of Napoleon, Gericault, Beethoven) were collected, for their phrenological and artistic qualities. This guided audio tour elaborates the perennial strangeness of the mask, using over 40 examples deriving from various cultures and dating from between 1860 and 1930. Literary commentary on the subject, by writers such as Oscar Wilde ("Give [a man] a mask, and he will tell you the truth") and Claude Levi-Strauss (whose "The Way of Masks" remains a basic text on the subject), complete the tour. The accompanying book presents annotated works by, among others, Rodin, Paul Gauguin and Arnold Bocklin, in large-format color illustrations.