Reviewed: ‘Picturing Art History’

Posted in books, reviews by Editor on February 16, 2012

Recently added to caa.reviews:

Ingrid R. Vermeulen, Picturing Art History: The Rise of the Illustrated History of Art in the Eighteenth Century (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2011), 359 pages, ISBN: 9789089640314, $69.50.

Reviewed by Pamela J. Warner, University of Rhode Island; posted 9 February 2012.

Ingrid Vermeulen undertakes an important self-reflexive task in ‘Picturing Art History’: the examination of the transition from unillustrated to illustrated texts about art. Surprisingly, that transformation had little to do with technological changes. Using three specific publications as examples, she argues that eighteenth-century scholars increasingly came to conceive of the artistic past not as a series of biographies of artists, but rather as a seamless “chain” of artworks in which historical progress can, and indeed must, be seen to be fully understood. Vermeulen tracks her topic through four related questions: What types of images were considered appropriate to the study of art history? How should we understand the notion that drawing and reproductive print collections, along with illustrated art books, embody the artistic past? How did collecting traditions relate to art-historigraphic traditions? And to what extent did eighteenth-century scholars believe that works on paper were faithful representations of the artworks they studied? (12–13) She organizes her answers into three chapters dedicated to case studies of individual projects by Giovanni Bottari, Johann Joachim Winckelmann, and Jean-Baptiste Séroux d’Agincourt, each of whom mobilized a different type of visual resource, namely prints, drawings, and book illustrations. . . .

The full review is available here» (CAA membership required)

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