OPEN LECTURE | James Elkins

Forms of Art Historical Writing Worldwide

James Elkins | School of the Art Institute of Chicago

6 de Junho, 16h00

Auditório 1, Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas

Entrada Livre

Manuscrito da tese de Erwin Panofsky (1892-1968) sobre Miguel Ângelo roubado pelo seu aluno Ludwig H. Heydenreich

This lecture is not concerned with global art, but with the global writing of art history. Current initiatives in the international practice of art history, such as the Clark Art Institute’s Mellon Grant projects, are aimed at the exchange of information and the facilitation of travel and study; inevitably they promote a more homogenized practice. The discipline tends to imagine there are practices of art history different from internationally acknowledged ones, but I will suggest such practices do not exist as art history (they may appear as art criticism, or as source documents). The real diversity in art historical practices, I think, is the commonplace incremental variations in quality of research, argument, and choice of topic that determine whether a text, or a scholar, is accepted in international venues. This talk surveys that problem with special attention to the unnoticed dissemination of European and North American models of art historical writing (including the symposium and seminars formats, the institution of departments of art history, and the de facto definitions of the discipline) and the global use of principally western European theoretical models (i.e., virtually no current work in art history draws on non-Western theoretical sources).


James Elkins grew up in Ithaca, New York, separated from Cornell University by a quarter-mile of woods once owned by the naturalist Laurence Palmer.

He stayed on in Ithaca long enough to get the BA degree (in English and Art History), with summer hitchhiking trips to Alaska, Mexico, Guatemala, the Caribbean, and Columbia. For the last twenty-five years he has lived in Chicago; he got a graduate degree in painting, and then switched to Art History, got another graduate degree, and went on to do the PhD in Art History, which he finished in 1989. (All from the University of Chicago.) Since then he has been teaching in the Department of Art History, Theory, and Criticism, at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Jim’s interests include microscopy (with a Zeiss Nomarski differential interference microscope and Anoptral phase contrast), stereo photography (with a Realist camera), playing piano (contemporary “classical” music), and (whenever possible) winter ocean diving.

His writing focuses on the history and theory of images in art, science, and nature. Some of his books are exclusively on fine art (What Painting Is, Why Are Our Pictures Puzzles?). Others include scientific and non-art images, writing systems, and archaeology (The Domain of Images, On Pictures and the Words That Fail Them), and some are about natural history (How to Use Your Eyes). Recent books include What Photography Is, written against Roland Barthes’s Camera Lucida; Artists with PhDs, second edition; and Art Critiques: A Guide, third edition.

IHA – Grupo Art Theory, Historiography and Criticism
IHC – Grupo Culture, Identities and Power