Chapter 7: Pictorial Representation and the Visual Arts


1.       What are pictorial representations?

          a.       A representation is something that stands for something else;

                              (1)     Word “Ned” stands for Ned

                              (2)     Painting of Ned stands for Ned

          b.       Not all pictures (=paintings, photos) are representations

                    i.        Some abstract paintings are not representational

                              (1)     Don’t represent or stand for anything

          c.       Not all pictorial rep are artworks:

                    i.        Sketches of police suspects, political cartoons, drawn advertisements (typically) are not

          d.       Question 7.2



          a.       By illusion? No.

                    i.        Paintings aren’t mistaken for their subject

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

                              (1)     Subject might even disappears if get too close

                              (2)     So don’t represent by getting us to think the painting is identical with the subject

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

          b.       By seeing as? No

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

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

                    iii.      Problems:

                              (1)     In realistic painting, effort to see as is not needed

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


3.       Does pictorial rep work by resemblance?

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

          b.       Some rep 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 Byzanine paintings indicates their religious rank and not their height

          c.       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?


4.       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 a sGoodman argues)

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

                    i.        Children, folks from other cultures can readily recognizing subjects of realistic pictures

          c.       Language as representation is more difficult.



6.       How distinguish pictorial rep that are artworks from those have no pretension to be artworks?

          a.       Non-art pictures: Newspaper’s sketch of a scene in courtroom, furniture ads in terms of line drawings, drawn map of the city to show you how to get someplace

7.       Can’t say that art is less realistic than non-art, because it is less concerned with conveying information about what is represented

          a.       Non-art like political caricatures and comic strips and women with impossibly long legs are not realistic

          b.       For 500 years western art painting was obsessed with naturalist realism and intended to report religious stories and imp events.


8.       Main difference is use of style

          a.       Artists are typically as concerned with style-- manner in which they rep their subjects--as with the subjects themselves

          b.       Not true of non-art


          c.       Artistic style is often original

          d.       While non art representations employ standard and stereotypical styles that don’t attract attention away form pictured subjects


9.       Rejects Danto’s view that difference is that non-art does not possess style

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

          a.       Dif is not the absence of style, but the function (and importance ) of the style

          b.       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

          c.       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


11.     Details about styles

          a.       Can use particular themes/subjects, techniques/methods, media/colors/design

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

          c.       Style and content not separate but interactive

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

          a.       (Night café in Arles) Plate in book

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

          c.       Here color plays more of an expressive role than representational one

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


13.     Style can affect what is represented (content)

          a.       Contrast Henry Moore rotund sculptures and Alberto Giacometti’s“rake-like vertically elongated style”

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

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


14.     How artists invite us to consider their style?

          a.       Roy Lichtenstein does so by rep another style;

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

                    ii.       Comics have same style, but the do not rep or refer to that style as they use it and this is what Lich does

          b.       Picasso attracts attention by juxtaposing dif 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 rep

                    ii.       Exemplifies crises confronting an artist of tem when centuries of commitment to pictorial naturalism was collapsing


15.     App of style is central to our under of art pictures, for works don’t only convey something about subjects appearance but also attitude and moods they express toward the subject.

16.     Van Gogh example

          a.       If color blind novice painter paints something looks like van Gogh’s night café, 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

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

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

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



          a.       See question 7.3

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

19.     Indirect seeing:

          a.       Direct seeing: with bare eyes

          b.       Seeing through glasses?

          c.       Like binoculars where we see the object itself, and not a rep of it

          d.       Like seeing someone in a mirror

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

20.     Spectrum of cases

          a.       Direct perception in presence of object

          b.       Mediated perceptions (indirect seeing)

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

21.     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

22.     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

23.     Reason Davies does not think photos are indirect seeings, but representations (don’t change with changing subject)

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

          b.       With photos, although the 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


24.     Is photography artistically inferior to painting? (Yes: Roger Scruton)

          a.       7.5 question

          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 not is limit to what exists (as is the photographer

          d.       Unlike painting, photos are interesting only for what they depict, 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

25.     Davies reply:

          a.       Above claims all false if considering art photography (not mechanical snap shots)

          b.       Photographer controls all sorts of detail of the photography:

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

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

          c.       Such photos are not transparent images

          d.       Come close to eliminating difference between photographer and painter

          e.       But except painter requires physical skill/technique

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


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

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

27.     Is there some unique value in photography that does not manipulate the result (no filters, no dark room alterations)

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

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