Stylization

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Stylization

 

in art, the decorative generalization of figures and objects by means of various conventional techniques, including the simplification of line, form, and relationships of space and color. Stylization is a natural method of rhythmic organization in decorative art, where the subordination of each pictorial element to the overall composition is particularly important. Stylization is most characteristic of ornamentation, in which the object depicted becomes a motif of a pattern. The stylization of solid forms (for example, the streamlined industrial products of the 1930’s and 1940’s) has played an important role in the history of design. Stylization brings decorative features into easel art.


Stylization

 

(in Russian, stilizatsiia), in literature and art, the intentional re-creation of another person’s style in order to present a particular aesthetic and ideological position in a new artistic context. The Soviet scholar M. M. Bakhtin, in reference to stylization in literature, has written: “The elements of another artist’s mode of expression are important to the stylizer, but only as an expression of a particular viewpoint” (Problemy poetiki Dostoevskogo, 3rd ed., 1972, p. 324). The role of stylization is defined by the function for which the other style is used in the work. The functions of stylization include the depiction of the atmosphere and psychology of some past era (as in the historical novel) and the re-creation of local color or the expression of folk consciousness (for example, the folkloric stylization in romantic literature and in the fairy tales of A. S. Pushkin).

Stylization usually involves stylistic systems that are removed in time and space. It uses not so much individual styles as the styles of entire eras and national cultures perceived in a generalized way. Stylization must be differentiated from imitation, traditionalism, and the use of the legacy of the past as a universal norm—all of which are processes that arise in the development of art when a need is felt for an authoritative system of past aesthetic and ideological values (as in classicism). The widespread use of stylization coincides with the rise of historicism, as evidenced in preromantic and romantic aesthetics. In periods of crisis stylization tends to be related to a flight from contemporary life or from its intrinsic complexity. It represents a turning toward naive, extra-aesthetic forms of perceiving the world, such as primitivism. Literary stylization is related to such phenomena as skaz (imitation of a character’s manner of speech) and parody (ironic interpretation of another person’s style).

In the plastic arts, music, theater, and cinema, the intentional use for new aims of the stylistic features of folk art or the art of some past historical period has been accompanied by a desire to master devices of more or less remote cultures. Stylization has often served as a means of retreating into an imaginary, idealized world of the past or as a sign of dissatisfaction with the ordinary and commonplace and with traditional ideological and artistic norms.

Stylization is sometimes associated with a free interpretation of the content and style of the prototype. This tendency is seen in the stylization of ancient Russian architecture in the prerevolutionary structures of A. V. Shchusev and V. A. Pokrovskii and in the stylization of 17th-and 18th-century art in the painting and graphic art of A. N. Benois, K. A. Somov, and S. Iu. Sudeikin, as well as in N. N. Cherepnin’s ballet Le Pavilion d’Armide. The emphasizing of crude, barbaric elements of folklore characterizes M. F. Larionov’s paintings, S. S. Prokofiev’s Scythian Suite, and I. F. Stravinsky’s ballet Petrushka.

Sometimes a return to the past proves to be an organic renewal of a system of imagery. Such was the case in Prokofiev’s Classical Symphony and V. A. Serov’s Odysseus and Nausicaä. In book illustration, set design, and animated film, stylization is often vital in re-creating the atmosphere of other countries and historical periods and the folklore of various peoples. The decorative and applied arts often use stylizations of antique or exotic pieces of furniture or porcelain.

Stylization played an important role in the staging of various theatrical productions in the early 20th century. It often was used to overcome the drabness and lack of style of bourgeois theater and to bring contemporary theater closer to the clear-cut stylistic unity of folk and historical theater (for example, balagan, corn-media dell’arte, old Spanish theater, and Shakespearean theater). However, such use of stylization ultimately led to its aestheticiza-tion, a static representation, and a loss of a basis in life. Many directors, including V. E. Meyerhold in Russia and J. Copeau and C. Dullin in France, overcame direct stylization and found positive, life-based ways of adapting the legacy of the past.

REFERENCES

Eikhenbaum, B. Literatura. Leningrad, 1927.
Dolinin, K. A. “Printsipy stilizatsii v tvorchestve Anatolia Fransa.” Uchenye zapiski LGPIim. Gertsena, 1958, vol. 127.
Troitskii, V. Iu. “Stilizatsiia.” In the collection Slovo i obraz, Moscow, 1964.
Meyerhold, V. E. “O teatre.” In his book Stat’i. Pis’ma. Rechi. Besedy. Part 1: 1891–1917. Moscow, 1968.

S. M. ALEKSANDROV (literature), T. M. RODINA (theater), and A. M. KANTOR