Art Loses its Aura?
The New York Times has some interesting photos showing painters and sculptors at work, as in the photograph above, not one of the more interesting ones, unfortunately, but I couldn't copy a fascinating one showing Norma Jeanne Bernstein painting the singer and actress Tamara Drasin in 1931, a photograph in which the painting retains a special quality of mystery, potentially disconfirming Walter Benjamin's famous point about painting's loss of its aura, its uniquely 'sacred' quality originally derived -- if I might speculate, or perhaps vaguely recall -- from the artist as 'prophetic' figure whose halo was lost in the gutter (according to Baudelaire):
Walter Benjamin, in his famous 1936 essay, "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction," argued that photography and film changed the nature of all art, because they shifted attention from the artifact, which was unique and authentic, to the portable image, which could be reproduced again and again with no loss of power or value -- and from the painter's or sculptor's hand to the photographer's eye . . . . [T]he painting's uniqueness, which Benjamin called its aura, disappears in the photograph. (John Leland and Darcy Eveleigh, "Artists Caught on a Camera's Canvas," New York Times August 16, 2012)The paintings above by the De Hellebranth sisters might never have had much of an aura to lose, for they certainly lack any in this photographic reproduction, but if you go to the actual article and look at Bernstein's painting of Tamara Drasin, the first in the gallery series, I believe you'll agree that the aura of this painting is retained in its photographic reproduction.
I realize Benjamin meant that an artwork that can be reproduced 'mechanically' lacks an aura -- and a photograph doesn't actually reproduce a painting -- but Leland and Eveleigh state that a painting's uniqueness, or aura, vanishes in the photograph, though they perhaps meant merely that photographs lack an aura.
Perhaps someone more knowledgeable than I can clarify this point.