Michael Baxandall, Vision and the Work of Words: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Michael Baxandall, Vision and the Work of Words

1st Edition

By Peter Mack, Robert Williams


204 pages

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pub: 2018-04-25
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'The most important art historian of his generation’ is how some scholars have described the late Michael Baxandall (1933-2007), Professor of the Classical Tradition at the Warburg Institute, University of London, and of the History of Art at the University of California, Berkeley. Baxandall’s work had a transformative effect on the study of European Renaissance and eighteenth-century art, and contributed to a complex transition in the aims and methods of art history in general during the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s. While influential, he was also an especially subtle and independent thinker - occasionally a controversial one - and many of the implications of his work have yet to be fully understood and assimilated. This collection of 10 essays endeavors to assess the nature of Baxandall’s achievement, and in particular to address the issue of the challenges it offers to the practice of art history today. This volume provides the most comprehensive assessment of Baxandall’s work to date, while drawing upon the archive of Baxandall papers recently deposited at the Cambridge University Library and the Warburg Institute.


'Adopting a range of approaches, the contributors to this volume make a compelling case for the ongoing importance of Baxandall's art historical writing. Revealing the succession of intellectual identities that constituted his extraordinary career, we re-discover the Leavis disciple and "Burkhardtian" Renaissance historian of the 1950s; the philological student of humanist writing on art that emerged in the following decade; the social historian of the 1970s; and the "inferential critic" of the 80s and 90s together with the late return to the Renaissance in Words for Pictures. Anyone who cares about the role of history and criticism in writing about art will want to read this book.' Stephen Campbell, Johns Hopkins University, USA

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction: Of tact and moral urgency; The visual conditions of pictorial meaning, Alex Potts; ‘To do a Leavis on visual art:’ the place of F.R. Leavis in Michael Baxandall’s intellectual formation, Jules Lubbock; Baxandall and Gramsci: pictorial intelligence and organic intellectuals, Alberto Frigo; Art history, re-enactment, and the idiographic stance, Whitney Davis; Inferential criticism and Kunstwissenschaft, Robert Williams; The presence of light, Paul Hills; Printing and experience in 18th-century Italy, Evelyn Lincoln; Pattern and individual: Limewood Sculptors and A Grasp Of Kaspar, Peter Mack; Michael Baxandall’s ‘stationing’, Elizabeth Cook; Index.

About the Authors

Peter Mack is Professor of English at the University of Warwick and a Fellow of the British Academy, UK. Robert Williams is Professor of the History of Art at the University of California, Santa Barbara, USA.

About the Series

Studies in Art Historiography

Studies in Art Historiography
The aim of this series is to support and promote the study of the history and practice of art historical writing focussing on its institutional and conceptual foundations, from the past to the present day in all areas and all periods. Besides addressing the major innovators of the past it also encourages re-thinking ways in which the subject may be written in the future. It ignores the disciplinary boundaries imposed by the Anglophone expression 'art history' and allows and encourages the full range of enquiry that encompasses the visual arts in its broadest sense as well as topics falling within archaeology, anthropology, ethnography and other specialist disciplines and approaches. It welcomes contributions from young and established scholars and is aimed at building an expanded audience for what has hitherto been a much specialised topic of investigation. It complements the work of the Journal of Art Historiography.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
ART / History / General
ART / History / Baroque & Rococo
ART / History / Modern (late 19th Century to 1945)