Chapter 7: Pictorial Representation and the Visual Arts



2.      A representation is something that stands for something else

         a.      Word `Obama’ stands for Obama

         b.      Painting of Obama stands for Obama

         c.      The second–but not the first--is a “pictorial representation

3.      Not all pictures (e.g., paintings, photos) are representations

         a.      Abstract paintings are not representational

                   i.       Don’t represent or stand for anything

                   ii.      Though they can express emotions

         b.      Are photos always representations?

4.      Not all representations are pictures (pictorial)

         a.      Language represents, but is not pictorial



6.      By illusion? (No)

         a.      Paintings aren’t mistaken for their subject

         b.      Many paintings, like impressionist works, have marks that do the representing, but are clearly different from the subject

                   i.       Subject might even disappears if get too close

                   ii.      So don’t represent by getting us to think the painting is identical with the subject

         c.      In painting, viewer is aware of marked surface (representation), work’s subject (what is represented) and their connection

7.      By seeing as? (No)

         a.      Seeing JJs as a face is an example of seeing as

         b.      Duck/rabbit example

         c.      So on this view, paintings represent by viewer seeing marked surface of paintings as what the painting pictures

         d.      Problems:

                   i.       In realistic painting, effort to see as is not needed

                            (1)    Unlike in seeing as, the viewer is simultaneously aware of the picture’s subject and marked surface.

8.      Does pictorial representation work by resemblance?

         a.      Yes, sometimes, but how this works is also problematic

         b.      Some representational conventions don’t rely on resemblance

                   i.       Car might be trailed by speed lines to show it is moving quickly

                   ii.      Size of characters in Byzantine paintings indicates their religious rank and not their height

                   iii.     If language can represent w/o resembling, why can’t some pictorial representations?

                            (1)    Peace sign

9.      Biological/natural basis for resemblance? (7.1)

         a.      Davies argues that there is a biological basis for recognizing resemblances and that they are to a large extent natural and universal (and not solely culturally constructed as Goodman argues)

                   i.       Human representational systems are shaped by cultural factors as well

         b.      Representation via resemblances is easier to recognize than other more conventional means of representation

                   i.       Children, people from other cultures can readily recognizing subjects of realistic pictures (because they resemble the subject)

         c.      Language as representation is more difficult (as conventional)



11.    Not all pictorial representations are artworks

         a.      Non-art representational pictures include

                   i.       Newspaper’s sketch of a scene in courtroom, sketches of police suspects

                   ii.      Drawn advertisements (typically) are not: E.g., furniture ads in terms of line drawings,

                   iii.     Drawn map of the city to show you how to get someplace

12.    How distinguish pictorial representations that are artworks from those have no pretension to be artworks?

13.    Can’t say that pictorial art is less realistic than pictorial non-art (as if art is necessarily less concerned with conveying information about what is represented)

         a.      Some non-art pictures are unrealistic: Non-art items such as political caricatures and comic strips and women with impossibly long legs are not realistic

         b.      Some art pictures are realistic: For 500 years western art painting was obsessed with naturalist realism and intended to report religious stories and important events

                   i.       Or consider Richard Estes (photo-realistic style painting)

14.    Main difference is use (not existence) of style

         a.      Style: Manner in which subjects are represented

15.    Artists are typically as concerned with style of representation as with the subjects of their representations

         a.      Not true of non-art where focus is on subject of representation

         b.      Artistic style is often original

         c.      Non-art representations employ standard and stereotypical styles that don’t attract attention away pictured subjects

16.    Rejects Danto’s view that difference is that non-art pictures do not possess style

         a.      Commercial designers aware of style they use in ads and some highly stylized

         b.      Difference is not the absence of style, but the function (and importance) of the style

17.    With art, style is as central as content and one is always expected to take note of style and how this affects what work communicates

         a.      If style is used in non-art, its aim is to highlight the content or make audience more receptive to it

                   i.       E.g., Believe the subject is classy



         a.      Styles can be individual (van Gogh) or belong to schools (impressionism/cubism)

19.    Style and content not separate but interactive

20.    Van Gogh’s style uses vivid, unrealistic colors

         a.      Weatfield with Crows

         b.      Often painters use colors to exemplify the colors of work’s subject

         c.      In Van Gogh, color plays more of an expressive role than representational one

                   i.       Painting’s colors not colors of their subjects, but rather indicate mood or psychological attitude toward what is represented

21.    Style can affect what is represented (content)

         a.      Contrast Henry Moore rotund sculptures with

         b.      Alberto Giacometti’s “rake-like vertically elongated style”

         c.      If Moore made a sculpture of starving child it would have been objectively fatter than a Giacometti’s sculpture of an obese child

         d.      But given the style Moore’s subject is genuinely emaciated and Giacometti’s is fat

22.    How artists invite us to consider their style?

         a.      Roy Lichtenstein does so by representing another style

                   i.       His works represent themselves as having the style of frames in comics

                   ii.      Comics have same style, but they do not represent or refer to that style as they use it (which is what Lichtenstein is doing) and while that is what Lichtenstein does

         b.      Picasso attracts attention by juxtaposing different styles in a single work

                   i.       Les Desmoiselles d’Avignon has primitive and proto cubist distortions of the faces and bodies alongside more normal modes of representation

23.    Appreciation of style is central to our understanding of art pictures

         a.      For works don’t only convey something about subject’s appearance but also attitude and moods they express toward the subject

                   i.       And style captures this

24.    Color blind, novice painter reproduces a Van Gogh example

         a.      If color blind, novice painter paints something that looks like van Gogh’s Night café in Arles (also see plate in textbook)

         b.      The distorted perspectives, naive technique for showing the irradiation of light from lamps and unnaturally vivid colors might all be signs that work is poor

         c.      But with Van Gogh, they are stylistic devices for expressing artist’s view of scene

         d.      Show both what is seen and way of seeing it

         e.      Café as it appears when filtered through the prism of an emotionally fraught mind



         a.      See question 7.3: Can you see President Kennedy be shot?

26.    Are photographs representations of their subjects (like paintings), or are they a kind of indirect seeing?

27.    Indirect seeing

         a.      Direct seeing: With bare eyes the local high school football game last Friday night

         b.      Indirect seeing

                   i.       Seeing through glasses?

                   ii.      Seeing via binoculars (we see the object itself, and not a representation of it)

                   iii.     Seeing someone in a mirror

                   iv.     Seeing the president speak if watch a live broadcast, even though picture is coded for transmission and decoded by the TV

28.    Spectrum of cases

         a.      Direct perception in presence of object

         b.      Mediated perceptions (indirect seeing)

         c.      Cases where what is perceived is plainly not the object, but rather signs left in wake by its passing

                   i.       Like footprints in the sand

29.    Argument for photographs being indirect seeing:

         a.      Transparency (counterfactual mirroring): If subject had looked different, the photo would have looked different in corresponding ways

         b.      This is like other cases of indirect seeing

30.    Argument for photos as representation (they are like traces)

         a.      What we see in photo is not person photographed but a trace she has left

         b.      Like when see footprint, we don’t see the foot

         c.      So when see photo, don’t see the object of the photo

         d.      On this view photos are representations of their sources

31.    Reason Davies does not think photos are indirect seeings, but representations: They don’t change with changing subject

         a.      With indirect seeing, ongoing changes in the subject are displayed

         b.      With photos, although they are transparent to subject at a moment in time, don’t continue to change as the object changes.

         c.      This indicates separateness of photo and photo’s subject

                   i.       Separateness an indication of representation

         d.      What about non-live video? Ongoing changes are displayed (of the past).

                   i.       With indirect seeing does the seeing have to be contemporaneous with what is seen? How close in time?



33.    Is photography artistically inferior to painting?

         a.      7.5 question

34.    Yes, photography is inferior says Roger Scruton

         a.      For Scruton’s article on this click here

         b.      Painting has style and photography does not

                   i.       Thus only painter can express his views on the subject

         c.      Painter can use her imagination and is not limit to what exists (as is the photographer)

         d.      Unlike painting, photos are interesting only for what they depict and solely for the visual information they convey

         e.      Photographers lack control over the details of what they depict

                   i.       Painters are totally in control of the detail

35.    Davies reply:

         a.      All claims above are false if considering art photography (rather than mechanical snap shots)

         b.      Photographer controls all sorts of detail of the photography

                   i.       Amount of light, aperture, magnification and perspective, depth of field, focus, use of filters, black/white or color film, speed of film (graininess), decides what to film and how frame it, can organize the setting

                   ii.      After picture taken she can control the image in many ways using editing options

         c.      Such photos are not transparent images

         d.      Come close to eliminating difference between photographer and painter

         e.      Except painter requires physical skill with hands and great photographer can have clumsy hands....

         f.       Photographer can also have individual style and expresses attitudes and ideas about subject represented

                   i.       Examples?

                            (1)    Chris Jordan’s Midway photography or Running the Numbers

                            (2)    Withers “I am a man”

                            (3)    Ansel Adams

36.    Response to objection that photographers (unlike painters) can only represent what exists.

         a.      Not if they can manipulate image, or dress someone up like Caesar and title the photo Caesar

37.    Is there some unique value in photography that does not manipulate the result (no filters, no photo-shop alterations)

         a.       Capturing what a place or object looked like at some point in time

         b.      If we don’t put limits on the manipulations by the photographer, then how is photography different from creating images on a computer?

38.    Staged wildlife photograph: Consider whether or not there is anything wrong with staged wildlife photography

         a.      “Picture Perfect” Audubon Magazine


Davies, Ch 7: Pictorial Representation and the Visual Arts

1.         Give an example of picture that is not representational. Now give an example of a pictorial representation that is not an artwork.

2.         Explain how Davies uses the concept of style to distinguish between pictorial representations that are art from those that are not art.

3.         Does Davies accept the idea that only pictorial representations that are art have style and that non-art pictorial representations lack style?

4.         How might style affect content? (E.g., Moore vs. Giacometti)

5.         Using examples, explain the difference between indirectly seeing something and seeing a representation of something

6.         According to Davies, are photographs representations of their subjects (like paintings) or are they more like a kind of indirect seeing (like looking through binoculars or seeing a live broadcast of a President’s speech on T.V.)? What are the considerations on either side of this issue?

7.         Explain Roger Scruton’s reasons for thinking photography is inferior to painting. What are Davies’ responses to these claims? Can photography have style?







         a.      Resemblance might not explain representation, because we might not notice resemblances until we first recognize subject (what picture represents)

                   i.       Recognize the hook of the J as a chin because it resembled a face or hook resemble a chin only after on recognized the face?