The Interpretation of Pictures

The Interpretation of Pictures

The Interpretation of Pictures

The Interpretation of Pictures

Synopsis

This volume examines the ways pictures are interpreted, discussing the practices of interpretation that inform the modern discipline of art history in contrast to those that prevailed in earlier periods. As an introductory text on the traditions and principles of interpretation, the book explores key methods and shows how the personalities and backgrounds of particular art historians have contributed to the character of their writings.

Excerpt

This book is a series of essays on the way that pictures are interpreted. It uses examples, from the Renaissance to the modern period, to bring out the principles and problems that govern the bringing into being of a considered text that, if generally accepted, causes the work of art that is its subject to be viewed in a certain light. Any such text has a specific focus: thematic, structural, or a hoped-for combination of the two. It has as its most basic function the highlighting of certain components of the work, in a way that enhances responsiveness to the roles that they play and so leads to a sense of perception gained as to why they are featured in that fashion. Together, the choice of focus and the highlighting function amount to a presentation of the work in words, contrived so that prevailing or emergent conventions of discourse about visual images impart the conviction of an appropriate and insightful fit between the two.

Do pictures need interpretation? Today, doing this represents a professional field of activity familiarly marked by the presence of conflicting viewpoints and rival ways of proceeding. Selected works are judged capable of being suggestively enriched, in their perceived character, by the projection of alternative meanings onto them. But with no prescribed form that discourse of this kind should take--but rather a plurality of approaches that aim to open the work to the understanding--interpreta-

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