Painting And Experience In The Fifteen Century Italy By Michael Baxandall Term Paper


¶ … Painting and Experience in Fifteenth Century Italy by Michael Baxandall. The paper presents the thesis of the book, evidence of the arguments put forward by the author to support his thesis, details of the structure of the book, and a critical analysis of the thesis put forward by Baxandall. Baxandall's book is a classic of art history, which gives both an introduction to fifteenth century Italian painting, and also a discourse on how to interpret social history from the paintings of a particular era. The main thesis of the book is that the style of paintings in any particular era reflects the social life of the time. He argues that life is lent to the paintings by the assimilation of contemporary daily habits and fashions by their creators.

He argues, for example, that Renaissance painting became so vibrant at that time due to the expansion of other branches of the arts around at the time: for example, dance, literature, theatre, opera etc. This expansion in the arts gave inspiration to painters to take their art further, by introducing new techniques, and new ways of representing life in art, through developments in the use of perspective, relief etc.

He argues that artists were...


This led to the greatest movement art has known: the Renaissance.
A further argument he develops is that we, from our day and age, with our own set of perceptions, historical experience, and social circumstances, cannot truly understand or comprehend these fifteenth century paintings, as we no longer have ready conceptual access to them.

He argues that we bring our own experiences and concepts to the viewing, analysis and appreciation of these paintings, such that we fail to see their true colours, their true historical messages. By using our own conceptual framework to look at these fifteenth century masterpieces, we fail to appreciate the paintings as a contemporary would have done: we fail to see their social context, and as such, we miss a great deal of information held within the painting that could be useful for an even better, greater, understanding of the works. The book is a cry to heed this argument, and to view painting with a more encompassing eye.

He uses examples of certain artists to reinforce his arguments, and to reach his end point, which is to attempt to re-establish a contemporaries sense of social situation when viewing a fifteenth century painting. He argues that only through this pathway to viewing fifteenth century art, indeed any art, can that art be truly appreciated, as it is only then placed in its correct historical, and cultural…

Sources Used in Documents:

Bibliography, incorporating copies of many original documents, allows the reader to continue to follow Baxandall on his exploration of these ideas.

How important is the book for art history? Baxandall's book gives us a new, more involved and complete, way of looking at art. The manner in which Baxandall presents his argument is logical, forceful, and ultimately persuasive. His new method of viewing art lends more depth to the study of art history, and to art appreciation in general. His argument is presented in clear, and stark terms, which leaves the argument difficult to avoid or to refute.

Baxandall has given a gift to us all: that of having empathy with the artist, to truly understand where they are painting from, in terms of their motivation, and how they are painting, in terms of their surroundings, supporters and methodologies. This is an invaluable lesson that Baxandall offers, to be well-heeded by students of art history, and lovers of art, in all its many and varied forms.

Never before has such a thought-provoking book been written on the subject of interpreting paintings, particularly fifteenth century Italian paintings, and one's view of art is changed after reading, digesting, and assimilating, Baxandall's arguments. This book, and its core arguments, are central to a thorough understanding and appreciation of art in general.

Baxandall has done students of art history, and art lovers, a great favor in writing this book. Cultural and historical empathy are the way forward for the analysis of art.

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