Iconography is the branch of art history which studies the identification, description, and the interpretation of the content of images. The word iconography literally means image writing, and comes from the Greek e???? image and ??afe?? to write. A secondary meaning is the painting of icons in the Byzantine and Orthodox Christian tradition. The term is also used in many academic fields other than art history, for example semiotics and media studies, and in general usage, for the content of images, the typical depiction in images of a subject, and related senses. Sometimes distinctions have been made between Iconology and Iconography, although the definitions and so the distinction made varies.ontentsIconography as a field of studyedit Foundations of conographyEarly Western writers who took especial note of the content of images include Giorgio Vasari, whose Ragionamenti, interpreting the paintings in the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, reassuringly demonstrates that such works were difficult to understand even for wellinformed contemporaries. Gian Pietro Bellori, a th century biographer of artists of his own time, describes and analyses, not always correctly, many works. Lessings study of the classical figure Amor with an inverted torch was an early attempt to use a study of a type of image to explain the culture it originated in, rather than the other way round.A painting with complex iconography Hans Memlings socalled Seven Joys of the Virgin in fact this is a later title for a Life of the Virgin cycle on a single panel. Altogether scenes, not all involving the Virgin, are depicted. , Alte Pinakothek, Munich.painting with complex iconography Hans Memlings socalled Seven Joys of the Virgin in fact this is a later title for a Life of the Virgin cycle on a single panel. Altogether scenes, not all involving the Virgin, are depicted. , Alte Pinakothek, Munich.Iconography as an academic art historical discipline developed in the nineteenthcentury in the works of scholars such as Adolphe Napoleon Didron –, Anton Heinrich Springer –, and Émile Mâle – all specialists in Christian religious art, which was the main focus of study in this period, in which French scholars were especially prominent. They looked back to earlier attempts to classify and organise subjects encyclopedically like Cesare Ripas Iconologia and Anne Claude Philippe de Cayluss Recueil dantiquités égyptiennes, étrusques, grècques, romaines et gauloises as guides to understanding works of art, both religious and profane, in a more scientific manner than the popular aesthetic approach of the time. These early contributions paved the way for encyclopedias, manuals, and other publications useful in identifying the content of art. Mâles lArt religieux du XIIIe siècle en France originally , with revised editions translated into English as The Gothic Image, Religious Art in France of the Thirteenth Century has remained continuously in print.
edit Twentiethcentury iconographyIn the earlytwentieth century Germany, Aby Warburg – and his followers Fritz Saxl – and Erwin Panofsky – elaborated the practice of identification and classification of motifs in images to using iconography as a means to understanding meaning. Panofsky codified an influential approach to iconography in his Studies in Iconology, where he defined it as the branch of the history of art which concerns itself with the subject matter or meaning of works of art, as opposed to form, although the distinction he and other scholars drew between particular definitions of iconography put simply, the identification of visual content and iconology the analysis of the meaning of that content, has not been generally accepted, though it is still used by some writers.In the United States, where Panofsky immigrated in , students such as Frederick Hartt, and Meyer Schapiro continued under his influence in the discipline. In an influential article of , Introduction to an Iconography of Mediaeval Architecture, Richard Krautheimer, a specialist on early medieval churches and another German emigré, extended iconographical analysis to architectural forms.The period from can be seen as one where iconography was especially prominent in art history. Whereas most icongraphical scholarship remains highly dense and specialized, some analyses began to attract a much wider audience, for example Panofskys theory now generally out of favour with specialists that the writing on the rear wall in the Arnolfini Portrait by Jan van Eyck turned the painting into the record of a marriage contract. Holbeins The Ambassadors has been the subject of books for a general market with new theories as to its iconography, and the bestsellers of Dan Brown include theories, disowned by most art historians, on the iconography of works by Leonardo da Vinci.Technological advances allowed the buildingup of huge collections of photographs, with an iconographic arrangement or index, which include those of the Warburg Institute and the Index of Christian Art at Princeton which has made a specialism of iconography since its early days in America. These are now being digitised and made available online, usually on a restricted basis.With the arrival of computing, the Iconclass system, a highly complex way of classifying the content of images, with , classification types, and , keywords, was developed in the Netherlands as a standard classification for recording collections, with the idea of assembling huge databases that will allow the retrieval of images featuring particular details, subjects or other common factors. For example, the Iconclass code H is for the subject of Bathsheba alone with Davids letter, whereas is the whole Old Testament and H the story of David. A number of collections of different types have been classified using Iconclass, notably many types of old master print, the collections of the Gemäldegalerie, Berlin and the German Marburger Index. These are available, usually online or on DVD. The system can also be used outside pure art history, for example on sites like Flickr.
th century Central Tibetan thanka of Guhyasamaja Akshobhyavajrath century Central Tibetan thanka of Guhyasamaja Akshobhyavajraedit Iconography in religious artReligious images are used to some extent by all major religions, including both Indian and Abrahamic faiths, and often contain highly complex iconography, which reflects centuries of accumulated tradition.edit Iconography in Indian religionsCentral to the iconography and hagiography of Indian religions are mudra or gestures with specific meanings. Other features include the aureola and halo, also found in Christian and Islamic art, and divine qualities and attributes represented by asana and ritual tools such as the dharmachakra, vajra, dadar, phurba, sauwastika. The symbolic use of colour to denote the Classical Elements or Mahabhuta and letters and bija syllables from sacred alphabetic scripts are other features. Under the influence of tantra art developed esoteric meanings, accessible only to initiates this is an especially strong feature of Tibetan art.Although iconic depictions of, or concentrating on, a single figure are the dominant type of Buddhist image, large stone relief or fresco narrative cycles of the Life of the Buddha, or tales of his previous lives, are found at major sites like Sarnath, Ajanta, and Borobudor, especially in earler periods. Conversely, in Hindu art, narrative scenes have become rather more common in recent centuries, especially in miniature paintings of the lives of Krishna and Rama.edit Christian iconographyChristian art began, about two centuries after Christ, by borrowing motifs from Roman Imperial imagery, classical Greek and Roman religion and popular art the motif of Christ in Majesty owes something to both Imperial portraits and depictions of Zeus. In the Late Antique period iconography began to be standardised, and to relate more closely to Biblical texts, although many gaps in the canonical Gospel narratives were plugged with matter from the apocryphal gospels. Eventually the Church would succeed in weeding most of these out, but some remain, like the ox and ass in the Nativity of Christ.The Theotokos of Tikhvin of ca. , an example of the Hodegetria type of Madonna and Child.The Theotokos of Tikhvin of ca. , an example of the Hodegetria type of Madonna and Child.
After the period of Byzantine iconoclasm iconographical innovation was regarded as unhealthy, if not heretical, in the Eastern Church, though it still continued at a glacial pace. More than in the West, traditional depictions were often considered to have authentic or miraculous origins, and the job of the artist was to copy them with as little deviation as possible. The Eastern church also never accepted the use of monumental high relief or freestanding sculpture, which it found too reminiscent of paganism. Most modern Eastern Orthodox icons are very close to their predecessors of a thousand years ago, though development, and some shifts in meaning, have occurred for example the old man wearing a fleece in conversation with Saint Joseph usually seen in Orthodox Nativities seems to have begun as one of the shepherds, or the prophet Isaiah, but is now usually understood as the Tempter Satan.
In both East and West, numerous iconic types of Christ, Mary and saints and other subjects were developed the number of named types of icons of Mary, with or without the infant Christ, was especially large in the East, whereas Christ Pantocrator was much the commonest image of Christ. Especially important depictions of Mary include the Hodegetria and Panagia types. Traditional models evolved for for narrative paintings, including large cycles covering the events of the Life of Christ, the Life of the Virgin, parts of the Old Testament, and, increasingly, the lives of popular saints. Especially in the West, a system of attributes developed for identifying individual figures of saints by a standard appearance and symbolic objects held by them in the East they were more likely to identified by text labels.From the Romanesque period sculpture on churches became increasingly important in Western art, and probably partly because of the lack of Byzantine models, became the location of much iconographic innovation, along with the illuminated manuscript, which had already taken a decisively different direction from Byzantine equivalents, under the influence of Insular art and other factors. Developments in theology and devotional practice produced innovations like the subject of the Coronation of the Virgin and the Assumption, both associated with the Franciscans, as were many other developments. Most painters remained content to copy and slightly modify the works of others, and it is clear that the clergy, by whom or for whose churches most art was commissioned, often specified what they wanted shown in great detail.The theory of typology, by which the meaning of most events of the Old Testament was understood as a type or prefiguring of an event in the life of, or aspect of, Christ or Mary was often reflected in art, and in the later Middle Ages came to dominate the choice of Old Testament scenes in Western Christian art.Robert Campins Mérode Altarpiece of has a highly complex iconography that is still debated. Is Joseph making a mousetrap, reflecting a remark of Saint Augustine that Christs Incarnation was a trap to catch mens souls?obert Campins Mérode Altarpiece of has a highly complex iconography that is still debated. Is Joseph making a mousetrap, reflecting a remark of Saint Augustine that Christs Incarnation was a trap to catch mens souls?Whereas in the Romanesque and Gothic periods the great majority of religious art was intended to convey often complex religious messages as clearly as possible, with the arrival of Early Netherlandish painting iconography became highly sophisticated, and in many cases appears to be deliberately enigmatic, even for a welleducated contemporary. The subtle layers of meaning uncovered by modern iconographical research in works of Robert Campin such as the Mérode Altarpiece, and of Jan van Eyck such as the Madonna of Chancellor Rolin and the Washington Annunciation lie in small details of what are on first viewing very conventional representations. When Italian painting developed a taste for enigma, considerably later, it most often showed in secular compositions influenced by Renaissance NeoPlatonism.
From the th century religious painting gradually freed itself from the habit of following earlier compositional models, and by the th century ambitious artists were expected to find novel compositions for each subject, and direct borrowings from earlier artists are more often of the poses of individual figures than of whole compositions. The Reformation soon restricted most Protestant religious painting to Biblical scenes conceived along the lines of history painting, and after some decades the Catholic Council of Trent reined in somewhat the freedom of Catholic artists.edit Secular Western paintingSecular painting became far more common from the Renaissance, and developed its own traditions and conventions of iconography, in history painting, which includes mythologies, portraits, genre scenes, and even landscapes, not to mention modern media and genres like photography, cinema, political cartoons, comic books and anime.Renaissance mythological painting was in theory reviving the iconography of the ancient world, but in practice themes like Leda and the Swan developed on largely original lines, and for different purposes. Personal iconographies, where works appear to have significant meanings individual to, and perhaps only accessible by, the artist, go back at least as far as Hieronymous Bosch, but have become increasingly significant with artists like Goya, William Blake, Gaugin, Picasso and Joseph Beuys.edit Iconography in disciplines other than art historyIconography, often of aspects of popular culture, is a concern of other academic disciplines including Semiotics, Anthropology, Sociology, Media Studies and Cultural Studies. These analyses in turn have affected conventional art history, especially concepts such as signs in semiotics Discussing imagery as iconography in this way implies a critical reading of imagery that often attempts to explore social and cultural values. Iconography is also used within film studies to describe the visual language of cinema, particularly within the field of genre criticism.istory painting is the painting of scenes with narrative content from classical history, Christian history, and mythology, as well as depicting the historical events of the near past. These include paintings with religious, mythological, historical, literary, or allegorical subjectsthey embodied some interpretation of life or conveyed a moral or intellectual message. The historical events chosen would be iconographic, not only depicting important events, but ones of particular significance to the painters society, as for instance, the signing of the declaration of independence in American history painting. The event, if suitable, does not need to have actually occurred, and artists have frequently taken great liberties with historical facts in order to portray the message desired.
The gods and goddesses from the ancient mythologies represented different aspects of the human psyche, figures from religions represented different ideas, and history, like the other sources, represented a dialectic or play of ideas. For a long time, especially during the French Revolution, history painting often focused on depiction of the heroic male nude though this waned into the th century.Benjamin West, The Death of General WolfeBenjamin West, The Death of General WolfeOther artists depicted scenes, regardless of when they occurred, in classical dress. When, in , Benjamin West proposed to depict The Death of General Wolfe in contemporary dress, he was firmly instructed to use classical attire by many people. He did depict the scene in clothing that had occurred on the scene. Although George III refused to purchase the work, he succeeded both in overcoming his critics objections and inaugurating a more historically accurate style in such paintings.In the midnineteenthcentury there arose a style known as historicism, which marked a formal imitation of historical styles andor artists.Another development in the nineteenth century was the blending of this genre with that known as genre painting the depiction of scenes of everyday life. Grand depictions of events of great public importance were supplemented with scenes depicting more personal incidents in the lives of the great, or the everyday life in historical settings. The artists who depicted them sometimes connected the change with the moral messages conveyed by the public events they asserted that moral messages were also instructive in the ordinary life, and indeed, were even superior because more people would be able to apply the lesson implicit in a depiction of family life than in one of a heroic death on the battle field.edit History paintersJacquesLouis Davids Oath of the Horatii dramatises a historical eventacquesLouis Davids Oath of the Horatii dramatises a historical eventA history painter is not only a painter of historical motifs but depicts, in a grand style, man in general, and particularly the great events of Greek and Roman fable and history, the capital subjects of scripture history, a scene from a great literary work, or a famous event in the life of a baroque potentate. The subject commonly ought to be either some eminent instance of heroic action or heroic suffering, with characters painted in classical poses.History painting was the dominant form of academic painting the painting that came from the various national academies in the th century, in particular, but also in the postrevolutionary France as well. As such, history painting was a target for later movements. The Impressionists rejected all historical subjects and tableau. In other nations, such movements as the PreRaphaelite Brotherhood in England focused on subjects from national literature and myth, rather than classical subjects. At the turn of the th century, it was possible to see paintings emerging from the official national academies depicting Nausicaa at the same time that other painters were leaving the studio to paint in available light and focus only on humble subjects and pure sensation.mages in Judaism
It is commonly thought that the Jews absolutely prohibit graven images this, however, is not entirely true. There are numerous instances within the scriptures that describe the creation and use of images for religious purposes the angels on the Ark of the Covenant, the bronze snake Moses mounted on a pole, etc. What is important to note is that none of these are worshipped as God. Since God is incorporeal and has no form, He cannot be depicted. During the Late Antique period of Jewish history it is clear that restrictions on representation were relaxed considerably for example, the synagogue at Dura Europas had large figurative wall paintings. It is also clear there was a tradition of painted scrolls, of which the Joshua Roll and the Utrecht Psalter are medieval Christian copies, none of the originals having survived. There are also many medieval illuminated manuscripts, especially of the Haggadah of Pesach Passover. There does not seem to have been a Jewish tradition of icons as panel paintings, however.dit Images in Christianity
Fresco depicting the Virgin Mary and the Christ Child in the Catacomb of Priscilla in Rome. This is earliest known image of Mary and the Infant Jesus independent of the Magi episode. The figure at the left appears to be the prophet Balaam pointing to a star outside the frame. The star is from Numbers .Fresco depicting the Virgin Mary and the Christ Child in the Catacomb of Priscilla in Rome. This is earliest known image of Mary and the Infant Jesus independent of the Magi episode. The figure at the left appears to be the prophet Balaam pointing to a star outside the frame. The star is from Numbers .Christianity was born of the idea that the immaterial God took flesh in the person of Jesus Christ, making it possible to depict in human form the Son of God. It is for this reason that the Early Christians overturned the Old Testament proscriptions against images. Also, the concept of archetype was redefined by the Early Church fathers in order to better understand that when one shows veneration toward an image, the intention is rather to honor the person depicted, not the substance of the icon.Images flourished within the Christian world, but by the th century, certain factions arose within the Eastern Church to challenge the use of icons, and in they won Imperial support. The Iconoclasts actively destroyed icons in most public places, replacing them with the only religious depiction allowed, the cross. The Iconodules those who favored the veneration of images, on the other hand, argued that icons had always been used by Christians and should continue to be allowed. They further argued that not only should the use of icons be permitted, it was necessary to the Christian faith as a testimony of the dogma of the Incarnation of Christ. Saint John Damascene argued
Of old God the incorporial and uncircumscribed was not depicted at all. But now that God has appeared in the flesh and lived among men, I make an image of the God who can be seen. I do not worship matter, but I worship the Creator of matter, who for my sake became material and deigned to dwell in matter, who through matter effected my salvation.Finally, after much debate at the th Ecumenical Council, held in Nicaea in , the Iconodules, supported by the Empress, upheld the use of icons as an integral part of Christian tradition, and the Western Church, which had been almost totally unaffected by the dispute, confirmed this. It should be noted that according to the definition of the council, icons of Jesus are not intended to depict his divinity, but only the Incarnate Word. Saints are depicted because they reflect the grace of God, as depicted by their haloes.edit Eastern Christianity Main article IconIcon of Christ Pantokrator St. Catherines Monastery, Mt. Sinai.con of Christ Pantokrator St. Catherines Monastery, Mt. Sinai.The Eastern Orthodox Church fully ascribes to the teachings of the Seventh Ecumenical Council see above, and celebrates the restoration of the use of icons after the period of Iconoclasm on the First Sunday of Great Lent. So important are the icons in Orthodox theology that the ceremony celebrating their restoration is known as the Triumph of Orthodoxy.In the traditions of Eastern Christianity, only flat images or bas relief images are used no more than relief. They believe the first icons of Christ and the Virgin Mary to have been painted by St. Luke. Because the Eastern Church teaches that icons should represent the spiritual reality rather than the physical reality, the traditional style of Orthodox iconography was developed in which figures were stylized in a manner that emphasized their holiness rather than their humanity.Traditional icons differ from Western art in that they are not romantic or emotional, but call the viewer to sobriety nipsis. The manner of depicting the face, and especially the eyes, is intended to produce in the viewer a sense of calm, devotion, and a desire for asceticism. Icons also differ from Western art in that they use inverse perspective giving the impression that the icon itself is the source of light, and for this reason make very little use of shadow or highlight. The background of icons is usually covered with gold leaf to remind the viewer that the subject pictured is not earthly but otherworldly gold being the closest earthly medium in which to signify heavenly glory.Drawings made from icon murals in Betania Monastery, Georgia, exemplifying classical Orthodox iconography.Drawings made from icon murals in Betania Monastery, Georgia, exemplifying classical Orthodox iconography.Jesus and the Apostles are depicted wearing the robes of philosophers. The precise manner of depicting the face of Jesus and many of the saints is also fixed by tradition. Even the colours used in depicting the clothing of Jesus, the Virgin Mary, and other saints is fixed by tradition, with symbolic meaning attached to each color. Icons of Jesus depict him with a halo that displays three bars of a cross and the Greek letters which signify I AM the Divine Name which God revealed to Moses at the Burning Bush. The halos of saints, even the Theotokos Mother of God are usually simple circles, filled with gold leaf. Over the centuries, painters manuals have developed to help preserve the traditions and techniques of Orthodox iconography, one of the bestknown is the manual from the Stroganov School of iconography in Russia. Despite these strict guidelines, the Orthodox iconographic style is not stilted, and the individual artist is always permitted to bring his own style and spiritual insight into his work, so long as he remains faithful to Sacred Tradition, and many icons display remarkable movement and depth.
The thoughtful use of symbolism allows the icon to present complex teaching in a simple way, making it possible to educate even the illiterate in theology. The interiors of Orthodox Churches are often completely covered in icons of Christ, Mary and the saints. Most are portrait figures in various conventional poses, but many narrative scenes are also depicted. It is not unusual in narrative icons for the same individual to be depicted more than one time.Sacred Tradition determins not only the style of representation, but also the traditional placement of icons in an Orthodox church St. Georges Church in Qax, Saingilo, Georgia.Sacred Tradition determins not only the style of representation, but also the traditional placement of icons in an Orthodox church St. Georges Church in Qax, Saingilo, Georgia.Orthodox Christians do not pray to icons rather, they pray before them. An icon is a medium of communication, rather than a medium of art. Gazing at an icon is intended to help draw the worshipper into the heavenly kingdom. As with all of Orthodox theology, the purpose is theosis mystical union with God.Icons are venerated by the faithful by bowing and kissing them. Traditionally, the faithful would not kiss the face of the one depicted on the icon, but rather the right hand or foot depicted on the icon. The composition of an icon is planned with this veneration in mind, and the iconographer will usually portray his subject so that the right hand is raised in blessing, or if it is the saints full figure is depicted, the right foot is visible.Icons are also honored with incense and by burning lampadas oil lamps in front of them. Icons are carried in processions, and the bishop or priest may bless the people by holding an icon upright and making the sign of the cross with it over them.edit Western Christianityntil the th century, icons followed a broadly similar pattern in West and East, although very few such early examples survive from either tradition. Western icons, which are not usually so termed, were largely patterned on Byzantine works, and equally conventional in composition and depiction. From this point on the Western tradition came slowly to allow the artist far more flexibility, and a more realistic approach to the figures.In the th century the use of icons in the West was enormously increased by the introduction of prints on paper, mostly woodcuts which were produced in vast numbers. With the Reformation, after an initial uncertainty among early Lutherans, Protestants came down firmly against iconlike portraits, especially larger ones, even of Christ. Many Protestants found these idolatrous. Catholics maintained and even intensified the traditional use of icons, both printed and on paper, using the different styles of the Renaissance and Baroque. Popular Catholic imagery to a certain extent has remained attached to a Baroque style of about , especially in Italy and Spain.edit Islamic view of religious imagesSee also Islamic artMuslims view sanctified icons as idols, and strictly forbid their worship, nor do they pray in front of one. However, the various divisions of Islam take different positions on the role of visual depictions of living or onceliving creatures, including people. At one end of the spectrum, sects such as the Wahhabis totally ban drawings and photography. Some branches of Islam forbid only the former but allow the latter. The majority of Sunni Muslims permit both. Some Shia allow even the depiction of the Prophet Muhammad and the twelve Imams, a position totally unacceptable to most Sunnis.
edit Images in HinduismThe Hindu god Shiva. Note the blue skin and damaru drum held in his back hand.The Hindu god Shiva. Note the blue skin and damaru drum held in his back hand.ain article Hindu iconographyImages of Hindu gods and goddesses use a rich symbolism. Some figures are blueskinned the color of heaven or have multiple arms holding various symbols which depict aspects of the god.Art history is the academic study of objects of art in their historical development and stylistic contexts, i.e. genre, design, format, and look. Moreover, art history generally is the research of artists and their cultural and social contributions.As a term, Art history also history of art encompasses several methods of studying the visual arts in common usage referring to the study of works of art and architecture. The definition is, however, wideranging, with aspects of the discipline overlapping upon art criticism and art theory. Ernst Gombrich observed that the field of art history is much like Caesars Gaul, divided in three parts inhabited by three different, though not necessarily hostile tribes i the connoisseurs, ii the critics, and iii the academic art historians.As a discipline, art history is distinguished from art criticism, which is concerned with establishing a relative artistic value upon individual works with respect to others of comparable style, or sanctioning an entire style or movement and art theory, which is concerned with the fundamental nature of art, and is more related to aesthetics investigating the enigma of the sublime and determining the essence of beauty, i.e. artistic appeal. Technically, art history is not these things, because the art historian uses historical method to answer the questions How did the artist come to create the work? Who were the patrons? Who were his or her teachers? Who was the audience? Who were his or her disciples? What historical forces shaped the artists oeuvre and How did he or she and the creation, in turn, affect the course of artistic, political, and social events?DefinitionArt history is a relatively new academic enterprise, beginning in the nineteenth century. Whereas the analysis of historical trends in, for example, politics, literature, and the sciences, benefits from the clarity and portability of the written word, art historians rely on formal analysis, iconology, semiotics structuralism, poststructuralism, and deconstruction, psychoanalysis and iconography as well as primary sources and reproductions of artworks as a springboard of discussion and study. Advances in photographic reproduction and printing techniques after World War II increased the ability of reproductions of artworks accurately. Nevertheless the appreciation and study of the visual arts has been an area of research for many over the millennia. The definition of art history reflects the dichotomy within art i.e., art as history and in anthropological context and art as a study in forms.The study of visual art can be approached through the broad categories of contextualism and formalism. They are described as
The approach whereby a work of art is examined in the context of its time in a manner which respects its creators motivations and imperatives with consideration of the desires and prejudices of its patrons and sponsors with a comparative analysis of themes and approaches of the creators colleagues and teachers and consideration of religious iconography and temporal symbolism. In short, this approach examines the work of art in the context of the world within which it was created. Formalism The approach whereby the artwork is examined through an analysis of its form that is, the creators use of line, shape, color, texture, and composition. This approach examines how the artist uses a twodimensional picture plane or the three dimensions of sculptural or architectural space to create his or her art. A formal analysis can further describe art as representational or nonrepresentational which answers the question, is the artist imitating an object or image found in nature? If so, it is representational. The closer the art hews to perfect imitation, the more the art is realistic. If the art is less imitation and more symbolism, or in an important way strives to capture natures essence, rather than imitate it directly, the art is abstract. Impressionism is an example of a representational style that was not directly imitative, but strove to create an impression of nature. Of course, realism and abstraction exist on a continuum. If the work is not representational of nature, but an expression of the artists feelings, longings and aspirations, or his or her search for ideals of beauty and form, the work is nonrepresentational or a work of expressionism.edit Historical developmentedit The ancient worldThe earliest surviving writing on art that can be classified as art history are the passages in Pliny the Elders Natural History concerning the development of Greek sculpture and painting. From them it is possible to trace the ideas of Xenokrates of Sicyon, a Greek sculptor who was perhaps the first art historian. As a result, Plinys work, while mainly an encyclopaedia of the sciences, were disproportionately influential with respect to art from the Renaissance onwards, particularly the passages about the techniques used by the painter Apelles. Similar, though independent, developments occurred in th century China, where a canon of worthy artists was established by writers in the scholarofficial class who, being necessarily proficient in calligraphy, were artists themselves, and the Six Principles of Painting were formulated by Xie He.edit The beginnings of modern art historyiorgio Vasari, Selfportrait c.Giorgio Vasari, Selfportrait c.Anton von Maron, Portrait of Johann Joachim Winckelmann, Anton von Maron, Portrait of Johann Joachim Winckelmann, While personal reminiscences of art and artists have long been written and read see Lorenzo Ghiberti for the best early example, it was Giorgio Vasari, the Tuscan painter, sculptor and author of Lives of the Painters, who ushered in the era of the story of art as history, with emphasis on arts progression and development, a milestone in this field. His was a personal and a historical account, featuring biographies of individual Italian artists, many of whom were his contemporaries and personal acquaintances. The most renowned of these was Michelangelo, and Vasaris account is enlightening, though biased in places. Vasaris ideas about art held sway until the th century, when criticism was leveled at his peculiar style of history as the personal. Scholars such as Johann Joachim Winckelmann , criticised Vasaris cult of artistic personality, and argued that the real emphasis in the study of art belonged on the views of the learned beholder and not the unique viewpoint of the charismatic artist. Winckelmanns writings thus were the beginnings of art criticism. Winckelmann was famous for his critique of the artistic excesses of the Baroque and Rococo forms, and subsequently instrumental in reforming taste in favor of the more sober Neoclassicism, in a return to elemental Renaissance thinking. Jacob Burckhardt , one of the founders of art history, noted that Winckelmann was the first to distinguish between the periods of ancient art and to link the history of style with world history. Incidentally, from Winckelmann until the early th century, the field of art history was dominated by Germanspeaking academics.
edit The critical traditionWinckelmanns work marked the entry of art history into the highphilosophical discourse of German culture. Winckelmann was read avidly by Goethe and Schiller, both of whom began to write on the history of art, and his account of the Laocoon occasioned a response by Lessing. The emergence of art as a major subject of philosophical speculation was solidified by the appearance of Kants Critique of Judgment in , and was furthered by Hegels Lectures on Aesthetics. Hegels philosophy served as the direct inspiration for Karl Schnaases work. Schnaases Niederländische Briefe established the theoretical foundations for art history as an autonomous discipline, and his Geschichte der bildenden Künste, one of the first historical surveys of the history of art from antiquity to the Renaissance, facilitated the teaching of art history in Germanspeaking universities. Schnaases survey was published contemporaneously with a similar work by Franz Theodor Kugler.edit WölfflinMost acknowledge Heinrich Wölfflin , who studied under Burckhardt in Basel, as the father of modern art history. Wölfflin certainly made the first formal analysis of the field. He introduced a scientific approach to the history of art, turning on three concepts. Firstly, he attempted to study art using psychology, particularly the work of Wilhelm Wundt, one of the founders of scientific psychology. A principal, if strained, scientific conception was that of the artistic ideal of corporeal correspondence i.e. that art and architecture are good if they resemble the human body. For example, houses were good if their façades looked like faces. Secondly, he introduced the idea of studying art through comparison. Hence by comparing individual paintings to each other, one were able to make distinctions of style. His book Renaissance and Baroque developed this idea, and was the first to show how these stylistic periods differed from one another. In contrast to Giorgio Vasari, Wölfflin was uninterested in the biographies of artists. In fact he proposed the creation of an art history without names. Finally, he studied art based on ideas of nationhood. He was particularly interested in whether there was an inherently Italian and an inherently German style. This last interest was most fully articulated in his monograph on the German artist Albrecht Dürer.He used a comparison contrast type of analysis, and believed that both Renaissance and Baroque architecture spoke the same language that of classical Greek and Rome though with different dialects.Wölfflin taught at the universities of Berlin, Basel, Munich, and Zurich. A number of students went on to distinguished careers in art history, including Jakob Rosenberg and Frida Schottmuller.
Main article Vienna School of Art HistoryContemporaneous with Wölfflins career, a major school of arthistorical thought developed at the University of Vienna. The first generation of the Vienna School was dominated by Alois Riegl and Franz Wickhoff, both students of Moritz Thausing, and was characterized by a tendency to reassess neglected or disparaged periods in the history of art. Riegl and Wickhoff both wrote extensively on the art of late antiquity, which before them had been considered as a period of decline from the classical ideal. Riegl also contributed to the revaluation of the Baroque.The next generation of professors at Vienna included Max Dvorák, Julius von Schlosser, Hans Tietze, Karl Maria Swoboda, and Josef Strzygowski. A number of the most important twentiethcentury art historians, including Ernst Gombrich, received their degrees at Vienna at this time.However, the term Second Vienna School or New Vienna School is usually reserved for the following generation of Viennese scholars, including Hans Sedlmayr, Otto Pächt, and Guido Kaschnitz von Weinberg. These scholars began in the s to return to the work of the first generation, particularly to Riegl and his concept of Kunstwollen, and attempted to develop it into a fullblown arthistorical methodology. Sedlmayr, in particular, rejected the minute study of iconography, patronage, and other approaches grounded in historical context, preferring instead to concentrate on the aesthetic qualities of a work of art. As a result, the Second Vienna School gained a reputation for unrestrained and irresponsible formalism, and was furthermore colored by Sedlmayrs overt racism and membership in the Nazi party. This latter tendency was, however, by no means shared by all members of the school Pächt, for example, was himself Jewish, and was forced to leave Vienna in the s.edit Panofsky and iconographyhotographer unknown, Aby Warburg c. Photographer unknown, Aby Warburg c. The opposite tendency, focusing more, although not exclusively, on iconography, was developed by a loose group of scholars who gathered in Hamburg in the s. The most prominent among them were Erwin Panofsky, Aby Warburg, and Fritz Saxl. Panofsky, in his early work, also developed the theories of Riegl, but became eventually more preoccupied with iconography, and in particular with the transmission of themes related to classical antiquity in the Middle Ages and Renaissance. In this respect his interests coincided with those of Warburg, the son of a wealthy family who had assembled an impressive library in Hamburg devoted to the study of the classical tradition in postclassical art and culture. Under Saxls auspices, this library was developed into a research institute, affiliated with the University of Hamburg, where Panofsky taught.
Warburg died in , and in the s Saxl and Panofsky, both Jewish, were forced to leave Hamburg. Saxl settled in London, bringing Warburgs library with him and establishing the Warburg Institute. Panofsky settled in Princeton at the Institute for Advanced Study. In this respect they were part of an extraordinary influx of German art historians into the Englishspeaking academy in the s the socalled emigré scholars, which also included Ernst Kitzinger, Richard Krautheimer, Otto Brendel, and Rudolf Wittkower. These scholars were largely responsible for establishing art history as a legitimate field of study in the Englishspeaking world, and the influence of Panofskys methodology, in particular, determined he course of American art history for at least a generation.dit Psychoanalytic art historyHeinrich Wölfflin was not the only scholar to invoke psychological theories in the study of art. Psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud wrote a book on the artist Leonardo da Vinci, in which Freud used Leonardos paintings to interrogate the artists psyche and sexual orientation. Freud inferred from his analysis that Leonardo was probably homosexual.roup photo in front of Clark University. Front row Sigmund Freud, Granville Stanley Hall, Carl Jung back row Abraham A. Brill, Ernest Jones, Sandor FerencziGroup photo in front of Clark University. Front row Sigmund Freud, Granville Stanley Hall, Carl Jung back row Abraham A. Brill, Ernest Jones, Sandor FerencziThe use of posthumous material to perform psychoanalysis is controversial furthermore, the sexual mores of Leonardos time and Freuds are different.Another important and famous exponent of psychoanalytic theory as applied to artists and their works is Carl Jung. His ideas about the collective unconscious and archetypal imagery in particular were popular especially among the American Abstract expressionists in the s and s. The surrealist concept of drawing imagery from dreams, and the unconscious, stream of consciousness in writing and painting defined the practice of many th century artists. C.G. Jung was a Swiss psychiatrist, an influential thinker, and founder of analytical psychology.Jungs approach to psychology emphasized understanding the psyche through exploring the worlds of dreams, art, mythology, world religion and philosophy. Much of his lifes work was spent exploring Eastern and Western philosophy, alchemy, astrology, sociology, as well as literature and the arts. His most notable contributions include his concept of the psychological archetype, the collective unconscious, and his theory of synchronicity. Jung believed that many experiences perceived as coincidence were not merely due to chance but, instead, suggested the manifestation of parallel events or circumstances reflecting this governing dynamic.
Jung emphasized the importance of balance and harmony. He cautioned that modern humans rely too heavily on science and logic and would benefit from integrating spirituality and appreciation of the unconscious realm. Jackson Pollock famously created a series of drawings to accompany his psychoanalytic sessions with his Jungian psychoanalyst, Dr. Joseph Henderson. Henderson who later published the drawings in a text devoted to Pollocks sessions realized how powerful the drawings were as a therapeutic tool.After Freud and Jung, several other scholars have applied psychoanalytic theory to art. Jacques Lacans The Four Fundamental Concepts of Psychoanalysis is one of the most influential text concerning the unconscious gaze. Another wellknown scholar is Laurie Schnieder Adams, who wrote a popular textbook called Art Across Time. The prominent feminist art historian Griselda Pollock is drawing upon psychoanalysis both in her reading into contemporary art and in her rereading of modernist art. With Griselda Pollocks reading of French feminist psychoanalysis and in particular the writings of Julia Kristeva and Bracha L. Ettinger, as with Rosalind Krauss readings of Jacques Lacan and JeanFrançois Lyotard and Catherine de Zeghers curatorial rereading of art, Feminist theory written in the fields of French feminism and Psychoanalysis has strongly informed the reframing of both men and women artists in art history.dit Prominent critical art historiansSince Heinrich Wolfflins time, art history has embraced social history by using critical approaches. The goal of these approaches is to show how art interacts with power structures in society. The first critical approach that art historians used was Marxism. Marxist art history attempted to show how art was tied to specific classes, how images contain information about the economy, and how images can make the status quo seem natural ideology. Clement Greenberg came to prominence during the late s with his essay AvantGarde and Kitsch, first published in the journal Partisan Review in . In the essay Greenberg claimed that the avantgarde arose in order to defend aesthetic standards from the decline of taste involved in consumer society, and seeing kitsch and art as opposites. Greenberg further claimed that avantgarde and Modernist art was a means to resist the leveling of culture produced by capitalist propaganda. Greenberg appropriated the German word kitsch to describe this consumerism, though its connotations have since changed to a more affirmative notion of leftover materials of capitalist culture. Greenberg was often referred to as a Marxist art critic art historian. While Greenberg is primarily thought of as a formalist art critic many of his most important essays are crucial to the understanding of Modern art history, and the history of Modernism.Marxism has figured in the interpretation of art. Meyer Schapiro was the first postWar art historian prominent in the Academy at large to suggest that Marxism had important contributions to make to art historical method and thought. While he wrote about numerous time periods and themes in art, he is best remembered for his commentary on sculpture from the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance, at which time he saw evidence of capitalism emerging and feudalism declining. Arnold Hauser wrote the first Marxist survey of Western Art, titled The Social History of Art. In this book he attempted to show how class consciousness was reflected in major art periods. His book was very controversial when it was published during the s because it makes gross generalizations about entire eras. However, it remains in print as a classic art historical text.
Influential Modernist art historians and art critics Barbara Rose and Michael Fried were instrumental in furthering the understanding and popularity of important American Contemporary art in the s and s. Both Rosalind E. Krauss and Lucy Lippard were also crucial influences in the same period. The introduction of postminimalist theory and radical art criticism of the s and s was characterized by art historianart critics Krauss, Lippard and Griselda Pollock through their writing. T.J. Clark was the first art historian writing from a Marxist perspective to abandon vulgar Marxism per se. He wrote Marxist art histories of several impressionist and realist artists, including Gustave Courbet and Édouard Manet. These books focused closely on the political and economic climates in which the art was created.Linda Nochlin and Griselda Pollock are prominent art historians writing from a feminist perspective since the s.edit Semiotic Art HistorySemiotic art history is an approach to art historical analysis that borrows from the established theories of semiology. It seeks to uncover the codified meaning or meanings in an aesthetic object by examining its connectedness to a collective consciousness. Applying a languagebased philosophy to visual media is inherently problematic and for that reason, art historians typically supplement its application with other methodologies that allow for political and historical considerations. Art historians use semiotics in order to subvert the myth of art as an immediate and unmitigated vision of the world, a window through which the object can be viewed without external mediation. In a tradition that assumes that visual meaning can be intuitively uncovered, the complexity of imagery can only be adequately addressed in reading images as text. Standards of styalization and form replace words as signifiers of meaning. Just as dictionaries are inadequate in supplying true meaning to words, nature is insufficient as the ultimate reference for visual signs if the notion of the Platonic ideal is dismissed.As opposed to iconography which seeks to identify meaning, semiotics is concerned with how meaning is created. Roland Barthes’s connoted and denoted meanings are paramount to this examination. In any particular work of art, an interpretation depends on the identification of denoted meaning—the recognition of a visual sign, and the connoted meaning—the instant cultural associations that come with recognition. The main concern of the semiotic art historian is to come up with ways to navigate and interpret connoted meaning.Art historians do not commonly commit to any one particular brand of semiotics but rather construct an amalgamated version which they incorporate into their collection of analytical tools. For example, Meyer Shapiro borrowed Saussure’s differential meaning in effort to read signs as they exist within a system. According to Schapiro, to understand the meaning of frontality in a specific pictorial context, it must be differentiated from, or viewed in relation to, alternate possibilities such as a profile, or a threequarter view. Schapiro combined this method with the work of Charles Sanders Peirce whose object, sign, and interpretant provided a structure for his approach. Alex Potts demonstrates the application of Peirce’s concepts to visual representation by examining them in relation to the Mona Lisa. By seeing the Mona Lisa, for example, as something beyond its materiality is to identify it as a sign. It is then recognized as referring to an object outside of itself, a woman, or Mona Lisa. The image does not seem to denote religious meaning and can therefore be assumed to be a portrait. This interpretation leads to a chain of possible interpretations who was the sitter in relation to Leonardo? What significance did she have to him? Or, maybe she is an icon for all of womankind. This chain of interpretation, or “unlimited semiosis” is endless the art historian’s job is to place boundaries on possible interpretations as much as it is to reveal new possibilities.