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3: Iconology / Analyzing Artistic Content

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Mia Jankowicz

on 9 February 2015

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Transcript of 3: Iconology / Analyzing Artistic Content

ARTV/DSGN/FILM 2113 - Intro to Visual Cultures
Session 3: Iconology / Analyzing Artistic Content

Key terms:
Iconology
Genre
Disguised symbolism

Recap
John Everett Millais, "Ophelia," 1851-2, oil on canvas. [Collection Tate Britain].
Who is this?
How do you know?

1) Type or genre?

2) Subject matter: Who or what is shown?

3) Location of the scene?

4) General period in history?

5) Season or climate?

6) Time of day portrayed?

7) Is a particular historical instant captured?

Iconological checklist of questions about the content of your visual text:

1) Genre

2) Subject matter: who or what is shown?

3) Location of the scene?

4) General period in history being shown?

5) Season or climate?

6) Time of day portrayed?

7) Is a particular historical instant captured?

This is the 'pre-iconographic' (first stage) part of your iconological enquiry.
The European painting academy brought most of these genres to the fore.

John Constable, The Haywain, 1821, oil on canvas. [Collection of the National Gallery, London].

This is a method that involves three stages:

Stage 1: Ordered looking for “what you see is what you get.” Relating to the image through a presumption of mimesis.

Stage 2: Figuring out its hidden conventional meaning through looking at the meanings of objects for the viewers of the time, including disguised symbolism.

Stage 3: Figuring out its cultural meaning as a product of historical systems of representation.
Jan van Eyck, The Arnolfini Wedding Portrait, 1434, oil on panel. [Collection National Gallery London].

Just a man lying in his bathrobe?

Our method of “what-you-see-is-what-you-get” becomes inadequate if we want to understand all meanings of a text, even in the case of a mimetic text like this one.
Francisco Goya, "The Third of May 1808 (Execution of the Defenders of Madrid)," 1814, oil on canvas. [Collection of Museo del Prado, Madrid].
1) Type or genre?

2) Subject matter: Who or what is shown?

3) Location of the scene?

4) General period in history?

5) Season or climate?

6) Time of day portrayed?

7) Is a particular historical instant captured?

GENRE PAINTING
David Teniers II, "The Old Man and the Maidservant," 1650, oil on wood. [Collection of Museo del Prado, Madrid].
George Stubbs, "The Prince of Wales’s Phaeton," 1793, oil painting.

PORTRAIT
John Singer Sargent, "Lady of Lochnaw," 1892,
oil on canvas. [Collection National Galleries Scotland].

Abu Subhi al-Tinnawi, "Muhammad Ali fi al-Sham,"1926, painting on glass.
[Private collection].

Abdul Qadir al-Rassam, River Scene on the Banks of the Tigris, 1920, oil on canvas. [Collection of Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art].

Stage 1 Ordered looking.

So, you want to read a visual text as if it is mimetic. How do you proceed?

Begin with content. Does the painting have a
genre
? If so, which is it?

Landscape?
Portrait?
Still life?
A representation of a pipe is not a pipe…

René Magritte (Belgian, 1898 - 1967), "The Treachery of Images (This is Not a Pipe)", 1929, Oil on canvas.

Pieter Claesz.(Dutch, about 1597–1660), "Still Life with Stoneware Jug, Wine Glass, Herring, and Bread," 1642, oil on panel. [Collection MFA Boston].
There are two general approaches to reading the above visual text:
* As if it were a reflection
(mimesis)
* As a cultural representation
(social constructionist)

Zulfa al-Saadi, Omar al-Mukhtar, ~1933, oil on canvas. [Collection of Darat al-Funun].
Pieter Claesz, "Still Life with a Skull and a Writing Quill," 1628, oil on panel. [Collection Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC].

Nicholas Poussin, Death of Germanicus, 1627, oil on canvas.
[Collection Minneapolis Institute of the Arts].

HISTORY PAINTING
Thomas Cole, The Oxbow, 1836, oil on canvas. [Collection of Metropolitan Museum of Art].

Iconology
Panofsky &
iconology

LANDSCAPE
Genre
* 'Genre' is a word to describe a typical category of artwork. In visual art, there are genres like landscape, portrait, history painting, etc.

* Genres are usually based around a set of conventions, eg a landscape will always be focused on the lay of the land; a horror movie will always involve inducing fear.

* Genres are not a 'natural' category; they have evolved in social contexts. But they often appear 'natural' because we are so used to seeing them.
PORTRAIT (ANIMAL PAINTING)
(not to be confused with 'genre' as a general term)
Daoud Corm, "Melons," 1899. Oil on canvas [Collection Mathaf Museum of Modern Art]
Disguised symbolism
Howells & Negreiros Visual Cultures textbook p21-30
Erwin Panofsky
Panofsky was a German academic who did most of his work in the USA. His 'Studies in Iconology' is the best-known work on the topic.
Optional reading: "Studies in Iconology" introduction. The link is on blackboard.
1) Type or genre?

2) Subject matter: Who or what is shown?

3) Location of the scene?

4) General period in history?

5) Season or climate?

6) Time of day portrayed?

7) Is a particular historical instant captured?
1. Ordered
looking

2. Hidden
conventional
meaning

Objects imbued with hidden meanings, which the “reader” of the visual text must decode.
Reading
3. To be
continued ...

Optional: Introduction to Panofsky's
"Studies in Iconology."
Both texts will be on Blackboard.
Abdul Qadir al-Rassam,
... (1924)
Oil on canvas.
(Collection of Mathaf Museum, Qatar)
Georges Sabbagh,
Maloya
(1929)
oil on canvas. Collection of Mathaf Museum, Qatar
Paul Cezanne, ... with apples (c. 1890) oil on canvas
Paul Delaroche,
The Execution of Lady Jane Grey
(1833) oil on canvas. Collection of the National Gallery, UK
Faisal Laibi,
Relationship
(1989). Oil on canvas, collection of Mathaf Museum, Qatar.
We discussed:
* What culture is/can be, and the need always to have a broad conception of culture.
* What visual culture is: a field of study concerned with cultural processes that rely on
visual images, imagery, and practices of looking
* The differences between looking and seeing
From Guy Fawkes to Vendetta to Anonymous: shifting representations
A term used in semiotic analysis, it describes the object itself as opposed to its representation.
Referent
* The act of portraying, depicting, symbolizing, or presenting the likeness of something in the world (hence the word re-presentation). As we “make use” of things in the world by saying things, thinking things, and feeling things about them, we are representing them.
* Or as we found in our reading: "...the use of language and images to create meaning about the world around us." (Sturken & Cartwright p12)
Representation
Diagram of types of images from the 1984 article “What is an Image?” by leading theorist of visual culture WJT Mitchell
Mimesis = A classical definition of representation that argues that representations work by mirroring reality, or imitate the appearance of real things.
Mimesis and social construction
Social construction = A theory about representation proposing a different model of representation than mimesis. Social constructionists argue that the meaning of things is not fixed and cannot simply be “reflected.” Rather, the meaning of things is constructed in a social setting by means of systems of representation.
1) Type or genre?

2) Subject matter: Who or what is shown?

3) Location of the scene?

4) General period in history?

5) Season or climate?

6) Time of day portrayed?

7) Is a particular historical instant captured?

1) Type or genre?

2) Subject matter: Who or what is shown?

3) Location of the scene?

4) General period in history?

5) Season or climate?

6) Time of day portrayed?

7) Is a particular historical instant captured?
Full transcript