The Work of Art I: The Visual Analysis 1/12/2012 3:03:00 PM
Historical insight regarding initial attempts to establish “scientific” criteria for
the scrutiny of pictures by means of visual analysis.
Scientific - the emerging discipline of art history had to compete with other
academic fields such as history and „natural sciences‟
Jacob Burckhardt (1818-1897)
1848 taught at Pdagogium in Basel and in 1855 at the Polytechnic
Institute in Zurich. 1858 to 1893 he held the chair of history and art
history at the University of Basel.
Between 1846 – 1856 he made several long trips to Italy, partly to
escape his feeling of oppression and loneliness.
Emphasized the individual person as the starting point of a historical
Distrust of historical progress was not in tune with the generally optimistic
cultural-historical writing of the time.
Accepted the concept of a universal spirit expressed in culture. He
believed that the process of growth and decay follow laws which are
basically beyond human understanding.
At this time the discipline of art was very much connected to history. It
was not compartmentalized existing in itself only.
Approach to art and history, a cultural-historical approach, was very
important in its time, and for Wolfflin.
Is known to posterity as the father of cultural history. (Aby Warburg
will expand on this)
Earlier historians concentrated on political and military history, he
discussed the complex life of the people, including religion, art and
He wrote: “And all things are sources – not only books, but the whole of
life and every kind of spiritual manifestation.”
Heinrich Wolfflin (June 21 1864 – July 19 1945)
Famous Swiss art historian whose classifying principles (“painterly” vs
“linear”, etc..) were influential in the development of formal analysis
in the History of art during the later 20 century.
Taught in Basel, Berlin and Munich in the generation that raised German
art history to pre-eminence. 3 great books: Renaissance und Barock (1888), Die Klassische Kunst
(1898, “Classical Art”) and Kunstgeschichtliche Grundbegriffe (1915,
translated as “Principles of Art History”)
Wolfflin‟s family in Winterthur, Switzerland, was wealthy and culture. His
father (Eduard Wolfflin) was a classicist, who helped found and organize
the Thesaurus Linguae Latinae. Wolfflin studied art history and philosophy
under Jakob Burkhart.
Offered the perspective of a value-free culturally unbiased, objective,
more-or-less scientific apolitical access to works of art **(within the
constraints of his time, of course, because today this would not fly)
“Because the awareness of each age differes from preceding and
succeeding ages, artists are beholden to their periods and cannot freely
choose to paint”
“Every artist finds certain visual possibilities before him, to which he is
bound. Not everything is possible at all times. Vision itself has its history
and the revelation of these visual strata must be regarded as the primary
task of art history.” – romanticized view of things.
Textbook: Wolfflin trying to make art history something more profound
than the rhapsodizing of connoisseurs and the fact-finding of
biographers…believes art can have firmer foundation…to make art history
scientific…by introducing method
Birthplace of the history of art and of the filed as a university institution
lies in Germany.
Art history was taught by Wolfflin using slides which was a novelty. Two
projectors side by side to compare to monuments.
Development of Slides:
1. Using a Biunial or double lens Magic Lantern
Made in England in 1878 by Tyler & Stackemann
2. The German company Agfa invented an irregular-screen process that
competed with the auto-chrome, but for political reasons it was not
available outside Germany until the 1920s. This early English example
was taken by the Oxford physicist T. C. Keeley. - slides were hand coloured and then projected. Cumbersome process.
3. Kodachrome film for still photography was introduced in 1936, it was
returned form processing as a film strip. Less cumbersome, but after lots
of use, colours become pink.
Wolfflin created formalist approach to style. Style to him depends on
factors such as: persons, schools, country, race, period and the elusive spirit
of the age, THE ZEITGEIST.
He said: Can history be raised to a science in which, following the model of
natural sciences, one extracts from the profusion of facts the great laws of
the spiritual development in the human race? Hoping to discover principles
upon which cultural sciences could be founded. Necessary to know the
laws which rule social, intellectual and moral phenomena. This knowledge of
laws is the source of all power of man even where mental phenomena are
History is not a monolithic truth; it changes with our perceptions.
a. Linear – Painterly (made up word, translated from German “malerisch”)
Elements on the canvas are primarily described by lines figures are
distinct from one another, the painting is more or less a coloured drawing.
The painterly painting relies on color to express form. Pain is usually
loosely handled, form is not defined with discrete lines and the edges of
froms are not defined.
b. Plane – Recession
Objects in a planar painting are usually laid out parallel to the picture
plain we tend to see the flat sides more. Recession the planes disappear.
c. Closed – Open
Does the space in the painting seem closed of f by something at the edge
of the canvas? Are the limits of the scene defined by objects within it? Or
does the painted space appear to stretch on infinitely beyond the limits of
d. Unity – Multiplicity The multiple painting feels like a collection of individual elements grouped
together in the picture space. You feel you could pluck one object right
out of the painting. IN the unified painting one senses the objects not as
individual elements, but as coherent parts of a general scene.
e. Absolute Clarity – Relative Clarity
Are objects desxribed as objects or as paint? In the painting with absolute
clarity objects tend to be placed in strong, clear light so their edges are
crisp and the viewer has an immediate understanding of the form of the
object. Objects are, as it were, re-created in paint. Relative clairity, on
the other hand, has to do with the optical sensation of objects. Bjects are
suggested in paint, not re-created. They generally tend to be darker and
more loosely focused. Painted objects are not easily visually separable
from the general painted field.
There is more than what meets your eyes! OR
We only see what we are looking for?
Organization of forms and colours within the work of art
Traditional sculpture - the arrangement of masses and planes.
Representation painting – the grouping of forms on a 2D plane in depth
Abstract painting – forms are generally composed on planes parallel to
the picture surface
Illusionistic works with advanced perspective - forms are arranged in
accord with the laws of depth perception.
Michael Baxandall Painting and Experience in Fifteenth Century Italy (1972)
Assembling symbolic series of clours was a late medival game still played in
the Renaissance. St. Anthoninus and others expounded a theological code:
Black – Humility
Shape and Proportion
Centre of Interest or emphasis (focal point(s)) Balance between the elements
Harmony, or consistency among the elements
The orientation of elements
The path or direction followed by the viewer‟s eye when they observe
Colour contrast: the value or degree of lightness darkness, used within
Geometry: for example, use of the golden mean
Illumination or lighting
Composition is intrinsically interwoven with ART.
The end of ART means the end of COMPOSTION?
YES to a certain extent. The Work of Art II: ARCHITECTURE 1/12/2012 3:03:00 PM
History of Architecture distinct from the history of art. Architecture is
different from painting and sculpture, because you can walk INTO
architecture (unlike a picture). Architecture develops into space and time.
You walk through, you can live in architecture – it thoroughly affects you.
Architecture is meaningful. Symbolizes political, ecclesiastical or cultural
power, superiority an triumph. For ex. Triumphal arches of Roman
architecture. Transfer of meaning between different arches, all harkening
back to the arches of antiquity from days of Roman glory.
Retrospect styles carry meaning (i.e. Neoclassical, Neoromanesque,
Neogothic). Historical architectural building styles were often revitalized,
quoting the original aura of power for a different presence.
Architecture normally is functional, although formal distinguishing features
change through time and become blurred in our times. Paradigms change.
Domestic – square box apartments, offices
Cult/Ecclesiastical – churches, mosques
The term “architect(us)” goes back to twelfth century and is immediately
bound to Gothic architecture and treaties of Saint Augustine. Then, and
today, architecture is a sophisticated amalgam of ideas and engineering.
Today, engineering often takes precedence over ideas. Architecture in the
past was influenced by the bible, divine ideas, etc..
Architect was rarely used in the medieval ages and describes clerics
responsible for the building or just simple masons. A revival of that term
took places in the twelfth century; it coincided exactly with an important
sociological shift that transformed the humble master mason into the
architect of the thirteenth century, no longer being considered as a mere
craftsmen, but as a scientist, or theorecticus of his art.
Cross Section – a vertical cut through the building Floor Plan or Ground plan w/ cross section – horizontal cross section of
a building as the building would look at ground level. A ground plan shows
the basic outlined shape of a building and, usually, the outlines of other
interior and exterior features.
Axonometric View – to measure along the axis. Viewed from a skew
direction in order to reveal more than one side in the same picture.
Isometric view – form of graphical projection. Axonometirci orthographic
projection. Method of visually representing 3D objects in 2D in which the
three axes of space appear equally foreshortened. There are eight different
orientations to obtain an isometric view, depending into which octant the
Many buildings and monuments have to be reconstructed by archeologists
not only by found debris, but also by mentions and records of it in literature
and so forth.
Vitruvius – The Ten Books on Architecture (De Architectura)
This is the first and most famous text in the history of western landscape
architecture, architecture, engineering and town planning. IN Roman times
the architect was, from the word‟s greek etymology, a „chief technician.‟ The
Ten Books‟ contents list reveals that most aspects of engineering, including
harbours, site planning, clocks aqueducts, pumps,
The Greek Orders (from left from rit to right: Doric, Ionic, and Coritihian) These orders do not consist of accidental assemblies of elements, but are
coordinated structures according to certain ratios and proportions.
Doric are closest to the ground, in Roman Architecture.
The Temple of Athena was not “straight” for optical and structural reasons
certain architectural elements were leaning.
Rome – Caput Mundi (head of the world)
The original Pantheon was built in 27 BC – 25 BC, during third consulship of
Marcus Agrippa (his name is inscribed on the portico of the building). The
inscription reads M AGRIPPA LF COS TERTIUM FECIT “Marcus Agrippa son of
Lucius during his third consulate built this” Originally built with adjoining
baths and water gardens. Agrippa‟s pantheon was destroyed along with two
other buildings in a fire in 80. And the current building dates from about
125. During the reign of the Emperor Hadrian as date-stamps on the bricks
reveal. It was totally reconstructed , with the text of the original inscription
added to the new façade a common practice in Hadrian‟s rebuilding projects
all over Rome.
Pantheon influenced many other circular buildings. For example, le Pantheon
(1758-1789)m a church dedicated to St. Genevieve. Early example of
Neoclassicism. Coffered celling in the Pantheon is also seen in many other
The emergence of the basilica.
The appropriation of the official, Roman congregational architectural
structure (basilica) for Christian purposes under Constantine the Great
But there were also building with a central plan layout. The emphasis was
not on the apse, but focused on the vertical aspect: the dome.
When constant moved his capital from Rome to Constantinople, he had one
of the most remarkable church structures built, the church of the Holy
Apostles. Unfortunately nothing is left of it except literary evidence. Romanesque Period
After the first millennium, new architectural inspirations emerge
Modern Medieval Architecture – Gothic Style
Chartres Cathedral (1194-1230)
Notre-Dames, Amiens (High Gothic)
Cathedral – Bishop‟s church
The Five Fundamental Principles of Architecture
Architecture depends on:
1. Order gives due measure to the members of a work considered
separately, and symmetrical agreement to the proportions of the whole.
It is an adjustment according to quantity. Arrangement includes putting
of things in proper laces and elegance of effect which is due to
adjsutments of appropriate character of the work. Forms of expression
include: ground plan (proper successive use of compasses/rule),
elevation (picture of front of building in proportion) and perspective
(method of sketching front with sides in background). All three come of
reflexion (laborious thought) and invention (solving intricate problems
with discovery of new principles). – Arrangement
2. Eurhythmy is beauty and fitness in adjustments of memebers. Found
when members of work are of a hieight suited to their breadth, breathy
suited to length and they all correspond symmetrically.
3. Symmetry is proper agreement between members and relation between
different parts in accordance with certain part selected as standard. Ex.
the human body there is kind of symmetrical harmony between the body
parts. Symmetry in a temple must be between columns, etc. 4. Propriety is the perfection of style, which comes in a work when it is
authoritatively constructed on approved principles; arises from:
a. Prescription: in case of hypaethral (roofless) edifices, open to sky,
are honoring different gods. Or temples of Minerva, Mars and
Hercles will be Doric to represent virile strength ofthese gods.
Temples of Venus, Flora, Proserpine, Spring Water and Nymphs, will
use Corinthian because of thes