Archive for July, 2011


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verbal description

Historically language has been used to describe artworks that the reader cannot visit.  in ancient Greece the practise of ekphrasis even describe imaginary artworks.  visual and verbal description is used to convey artworks to readers/listeners  imagination.  through careful structure and well chosen vocabularly, language guides the readers understanding of the artwork.

Another type of art historical text is formal analysis.  This is not meant to evoke the work in the readers mind but provide an exploration of the visual structure.  Before colour plate books, descriptive language was essential in discussing artwoks.

Arnheim developed the idea that visual perception is itself a kind of thought.  Seeing and understanding what has been seen are two different aspects of the same process.  Can therefore describing what is seen support understanding?  This technique is often used by art educators with young people, encouraging close looking and describing before beginning to interpret an artwork.  Arnheim also made a connection between composition and meaning, exposing difficulty with formal analysis devoid of interpretation.

Norman Land shows that purely literary descriptions of art in poetry and prose contain a response like that found inart critical ekphrasis.

Heffernan: “in recent years theres been lots of interest in studies between literature and visual arts, much of this is comparative…..it evokes the power of the silent image even as it subjects that power to the rival authority of language.”

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museum of words

from museum of words by James Hefernan

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