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‘The History of Art as a Humanistic Discipline’. Erwin Panofsky (1955). History of Art as a Humanistic Discipline. I. The history of the concept (‘ Humanitas’ - Humanism - Humanities) II. The object of study & steps (humanities / natural sciences)

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history of art as a humanistic discipline
History of Art as a Humanistic Discipline

I. The history of the concept (‘Humanitas’ - Humanism - Humanities)

II. The object of study & steps (humanities / natural sciences)

III. The material of study (natural phenomena / works of art)

IV. Methods of interpretation / explanation(humanities / natural sciences)

V. Why humanities?

history of art as a humanistic discipline i
History of Art as a Humanistic Discipline (I)

I. The history of the concept

‘Humanitas’ - Humanism - Humanities

‘humanitas’ has had two clearly distinguishable meanings:

1. Man and what is less than man (animality)

2. Man and what is more than man (divinity)

‘humanism’: ambivalence bw rationality / freedom and fallibility / frailty results in the humanistic postulate of responsibility and tolerance as human values

history of art as a humanistic discipline ii
History of Art as a Humanistic Discipline (II)

II. The object of study and steps

“Man’s signs and structures are records because, or rather in so far as, they express ideas separated from, yet realized by, the processes of signaling and building. These records have therefore the quality of emerging from the streams of time, and it is precisely in this respect that they are studied by the humanist. He is, fundamentally, an historian.”

history of art as a humanistic discipline ii1
History of Art as a Humanistic Discipline (II)

II. The object of study and steps

humanities

tradition, records of the past, historical facts (documents, structures)

examination of records

“the cosmos of culture”

history of art as a humanistic discipline ii2
History of Art as a Humanistic Discipline (II)

II. The object of study and steps

sciences

naturally found objects, phenomena, laws of nature

“the cosmos of nature”

history of art as a humanistic discipline ii3
History of Art as a Humanistic Discipline (II)

II. The object of study and steps

  • Relationship bw monuments, documents and a general historical concept in the humanities
  • Relationship between phenomena, instruments and theory in the natural sciences
history of art as a humanistic discipline iii
History of Art as a Humanistic Discipline (III)

III. The material of study (What is a work of art?)

  • Issue of artistic / authorial ‘intention’ and its rootedness in a particular historical period (objects are conditioned by the standards of their period and environment)
  • Our interpretation of intentions are biased by our own attitude which is based on our own individual experiences and historical situation
history of art as a humanistic discipline iv
History of Art as a Humanistic Discipline (IV)

IV. Methods of interpretation / explanation

humanities / natural sciences

  • Scientists deal with natural phenomena (explanation in terms of objective, repeatable examination of physical reality)
  • Humanists deal with human actions and creations (explanation is intuitive aesthetic re-creation + reconstruction; mentally needs to re-enact the actions and re-create the creations )
history of art as a humanistic discipline iv1
History of Art as a Humanistic Discipline (IV)

IV. Methods of interpretation / explanation

humanities / natural sciences

Humanist method(“organic situation,” re-constructive terminology)

to study the formal principles that control the rendering of the visible world (familiarizes himself with the social, religious and philosophical attitudes of other periods and countries, continually checking own experiences against archaeological research)

Paradox: How, then, is it possible to build up art history as a respectable scholarly discipline, if its very objects come into being by an irrational and subjective process?

history of art as a humanistic discipline iv2
History of Art as a Humanistic Discipline (IV)

IV. Methods of interpretation

Appreciationism (naïve observers)

Connoisseurship (clinical examination in terms of provenance and authorship, evaluation in terms of quality and condition)

Art history (observers using established terminology that expresses broader structures: stylistic distinctions, rhetoric of expression)

Art theory (access to structures, formal elements of art)

history of art as a humanistic discipline v
History of Art as a Humanistic Discipline (V)

V. Why humanities?

  • If humanities are not practical, because they concern themselves with the past, why should we engage in such impractical investigations, and why should we be interested in the past?
  • Because: It is impossible to conceive of our world in terms of action alone: reality involves interpretation of reality the moment one thinks it; contemplation of reality not at the surface
history of art as a humanistic discipline v1
History of Art as a Humanistic Discipline (V)

V. Why humanities? Reality is understood as inter-penetration of world in terms of thought and in terms of action.

“When I said that the man who is run over by an

automobile is run over by mathematics, physics and

chemistry, I could just as well have said that he is run

over by Euclid, Archimedes and Lavoisier”

(Panofsky 1975, 23)