week 2: arts of looking at art–part 2

Monday 8 July
Post #3

Read Westermann, A Worldy Art: The Dutch Republic:

  • 2: “Texts & Images,” 47-70.
  • 3: “Virtual Realities,” 71-98.
  • 6: “Artistic Authority,” 157-181.

Post to Blackboard,new thread.

  • Here Westermann is moving more into artistic techniques and formal analysis—attending to the painters’ choices in composition, framing, painterly style, and uses of color, light, and shadow. Do you think this is more or less important than the elements of historical context discussed last week? Pick one example, either from Westermann or from the Rijksmuseum, to show how you think this is true. If you could only use one form of analysis—formal or historical—to find “meaning” (how do you define that?), which would it be?

Tuesday 9 July
Comments #3

  • Respond to 2 peers, as before. Bring in a new example you think deserves more attention to illustrate the points you are making in response to their specific ideas. The more specific and the more engaged your response, the better. What kind of critical yet supportive response would you like from your peers? Model that for them.

Wednesday 10 July
Post #4


  • Celeste Brusati, “Perspectives in Flux: Viewing Dutch Pictures in Real Time,” Art History 5 (2012): 909-933.
  • Justina Spencer, “Illusion as Ingenuity: Dutch Perspective Boxes in the Royal Danish Kunstkammer’s ‘Perspective Chamber,’” Journal of the History of Collections 30.2 (2018): 187-201.

Post to Blackboard, new thread:

  • 100 words: Summarize Brusati’s argument, then contrast it with Spencer’s. Where specifically might they agree or disagree?
  • 200 words: Go back to the Rijksmuseum website and search for landscape and interior paintings. Find one example (give us its author, title, date, medium, and size) where you think you could apply Brusati and/or Spencer’s interpretative framework. You may not be able to identify whether single- vs. multi-point perspective is used, but (how) do their ideas shape the way you might view this painting?

Thursday 11 July
Comments #4

Respond to 2 peers:

  • Read the Essay 1 assignment below.
  • Based on your peer’s posts, what do you think they should focus on in the paper? What kind of interpretation of claim are you most drawn to in their posts? What would you like to see them develop? What examples would help them do this?
  • What counter-examples or counter-claims will they have to deal with?

Saturday 12 July

Paper 1 due:

On WordPress course blog (not Blackboard):  1200-1500 word essay. Create this as a new post. It will show up on the main blog page.

Choose one or two works of art that seem to you to require more than one mode of analysis to discover meaning and which has/have not been fully explored by scholars you’ve read. To analyze it/them, draw explicitly on the ideas of at least two of the articles you’ve read so far (Berger, Grootenboer, Brusati, and Spencer), plus anything from Westermann that is useful. Highlight the uses and limitations of these scholars’  approaches or frameworks–as you see them--in looking at the art you’ve chosen. (Remember–you’ve chosen the art because it is open to or even “needs” these multiple modes of analysis. Frame your essay around that need). Feel free to revise any ideas (and even some specific phrases, if useful) from your posts, using peers’ responses and mine to help guide you.

Tone and audience: In general, your tone here is public intellectual art criticism, along the lines of Roger Lewis’s essays on architecture in The Washington Post. Your audience is the public: people like yourself and your peers who like to think about how to look at art.

Give it a good title. Pick a relevant image to add your post (so the blog will look pretty!).

Citation: Modified MLA style: Acknowledge authors in your own prose (e.g., “Brusati suggests a framework that . . .”) with parenthetical page citations. Refer to art by artist and title; its usually helpful to give the year. List all sources, including the art, in a list below your essay, headed “References” (not counted in word count).

Learning objectives & writing tips:

  1. You’ll synthesize two distinctive modes of scholarly art analysis (or at least two approaches by two different scholars, if their analytical modes overlap to some degree). To “synthesize” means to understand their claims in their specifics, and to take their ideas into your own knowledge. You want to accurately give us both the specifics of their frameworks of analysis (how they analyze) and their specific claims (what they actually argue by using those frameworks–this part can be brief to demonstrate how their framework works). You should re-capitulate all this in your own language as much as possible, quoting only when most necessary (e.g., when they’ve coined a unique turn of phrase, or when you need their specific terms to expand or push back on later). But cite whenever you draw on or refer to their ideas (see citation above).
  2. To use critical discrimination in selecting art to analyze with these frameworks, and to demonstrate the need for this analysis by your detailed description of relevant features of the art. Make sure we see why you’ve chosen these pieces, that they’re not chosen as if at random. Your language should reflect this by naming the element of the painting that seem to require multiple modes of analysis. For example, don’t say “I chose to analyze Rembrandt’s Night Watch.” Instead, say something like: “Rembrandt’s Night Watch comprises an assemblage of individual portraits whose meanings can be explained only partially by their historical context–who the subjects were and how they were connected to each other. Instead, their scale, their composition within the frame and the aesthetic qualities of their arrangement–in particular the ways their gestures and glances connect to each other–call for a formal analysis as well.”  See how that works? Okay, this is a little bit clunky–it may take a few more sentences to set up why you need to do the analysis. But make sure we get the need. Also: I’d avoid analyzing Night Watch unless you really think you can go well beyond what Westermann and Berger have already done.
  3. Apply the two analytical frameworks to the art, revealing something not immediately obvious, showing us something about the art that we probably would not have noticed on our own. In your prose, once you’ve summarized and established the scholarly methods, you can simply move forward to apply them; the scholar’s name may drop out of your prose at this point as you adopt their terms and apply their ideas. You may, however, decide you need to reference the scholars by name or by their terms as you analyze the art; it’s up to you and your analytical needs.
  4. Applying the two distinctive modes will also reveal something new about the methods themselves that may not have been obvious to us, how each highlights the  limitations of the other, perhaps, or how they might be used to compliment or build on each other. You want to handle them explicitly at this point,
  5. Organize your essay in some logical fashion. The four points above do not represent the order in which you might do things! Follow your instincts about that. You do not need to state your claim up front, but we do need to know your central question or the problem you are posing (or that the art is posing for you).
  6. Proof-read carefully before posting. Excessive numbers of typos, sloppy prose, or inaccurate citations can start to create annoyance and (worse) distrust in your reader.
  7. Finally, have fun! Feel free to impose your own public intellectual voice on this piece. Your main audience is comprised of the students in this course, and perhaps the other students who will be joining us in Amsterdam.