The Methodologies of Art

An Introduction

Laurie Schneider Adams

Second Edition • December 1, 2009 • 312 pages

Print ISBN: 9780813344508 • $44.00 USD$53.99 CAN


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Since the nineteenth century, when art history became an established academic discipline, works of art have been “read” in a variety of ways. These different ways of describing and interpreting art are the methodologies of artistic analysis, the divining rods of meaning. Regardless of a work’s perceived difficulty, an art object is, in theory, complex. Every work of art is an expression of its culture (time and place) and its maker (the artist) and is dependent on its media (what it’s made of). The methodologies discussed here—formal analysis, iconology and iconography, Marxism, feminism, biography and autobiography, psychoanalysis, structuralism, race and gender—reflect the multiplicity of meanings in an artistic image. The second edition includes nineteen new images, new sections on race, gender, orientalism and colonialism, along with a new epilogue that approaches a single painting to illustrate the different methodological viewpoints.

Laurie Schneider Adams received her Ph.D. from Columbia University and is professor of art history at John Jay College, CUNY. Her books include A History of Western Art and Italian Renaissance Art.

1. What Is Art?
2. Formalism and Style
3. Iconography
4. Contextual Approaches I: Marxism, Orientalism, Colonialism, and Racial Iconography
5. Contextual Approaches II: Feminism and Gender
6. Biography and Autobiography
7. Semiotics I: Structuralism and Post-Structuralism
8. Semiotics II: Deconstruction
9. Psychoanalysis I: Freud
10. Psychoanalysis II: Winnicott and Lacan
11. Aesthetics and Psychoanalysis: Roger Fry and Roland Barthes

“Right now when art historians, much concerned with theory, are rethinking the political implications of their research, there is no more useful, better-natured introduction to these pressing concerns than Laurie Schneider Adams’s now classic volume. Effortlessly erudite, determinedly generous, her book provides a lucid introduction to formalism, iconography, Marxism, feminism, psychoanalysis, and structuralism and post-structuralism with new sections on race, gender, orientalism, and colonialism. Her fast-moving, well-balanced commentary provides an ideal introduction to what will, inevitably, be a productive ongoing debate.”
—David Carrier, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland Institute of Art

“A teacher’s dream. … A far-ranging, generously sympathetic, well-illustrated, and very clear survey of contemporary concerns with theory. … Adams’s clear, accurate introduction will be a godsend.”
Art Journal

“Good, clear introduction for students who don’t know their Derridas from their derrières.”
—ARLIS News Sheet

“Because works of art can be interpreted in a variety of ways, this book surveys ‘methodologies,’ diverse approaches to artistic analysis used by art historians, philosophers, and critics.… A good choice for introductory college art history courses.”
Library Journal

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