Origins, Imitation, Conventions: Representation in the Visual Arts

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MIT Press, 2002 - Architecture - 328 pages
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Twelve studies by eminent art historian James S. Ackerman.

This collection contains studies written by art historian James Ackerman over the past decade. Whereas Ackerman's earlier work assumed a development of the arts as they responded to social, economic, political, and cultural change, his recent work reflects the poststructural critique of the presumption of progress that characterized Renaissance and modernist history and criticism. In this book he explores the tension between the authority of the past--which may act not only as a restraint but as a challenge and stimulus--and the potentially liberating gift of invention. He examines the ways in which artists and writers on art have related to ancestors and to established modes of representation, as well as to contemporary experiences.The "origins" studied here include the earliest art history and criticism; the beginnings of architectural drawing in the Middle Ages and Renaissance; Leonardo Da Vinci's sketches for churches, the first in the Renaissance to propose supporting domes on sculpted walls and piers; and the first architectural photographs. "Imitation" refers to artistic achievements that in part depended on the imitation of forms established in practices outside the fine arts, such as ancient Roman rhetoric and print media. "Conventions," like language, facilitate communication between the artist and viewer, but are both more universal (understood across cultures) and more fixed (resisting variation that might diminish their clarity). The three categories are closely linked throughout the book, as most acts of representation partake to some degree of all three.

 

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Contents

I
xv
II
27
III
67
IV
95
V
125
VI
143
VII
175
VIII
185
IX
217
X
235
XI
263
XII
293
Copyright

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About the author (2002)

James Sloss Ackerman was born in San Francisco, California on November 8, 1919. He received a bachelor's degree from Yale University in 1941. He was drafted into the Army in 1942 and served with the Intelligence Corps, translating German command messages in Italy. While waiting for a transfer back to the United States after the war, he volunteered to work for the Monuments and Fine Arts Commission in Milan. He retrieved archives that had been stored for safety in Pavia. Once back in the United States, he received a master's degree in 1947 and a doctorate in 1952 from the Institute of Fine Arts in New York. He joined the art department at Harvard University in 1960 and remained there until retiring in 1990. He wrote several books during his lifetime including The Cortile del Belvedere, The Villa: Form and Ideology of Country Houses, Distance Points: Studies in Theory and Renaissance Art and Architecture, and Origins, Imitation, Conventions. The Architecture of Michelangelo received the Hitchcock Award from the Society of Architectural Historians in 1962. He died on December 31, 2016 at the age of 97.

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