Dissertation, Università Degli Studi di Padova (2011)

Elisa Caldarola
University of Padua
This work is an investigation into the analytical debate on pictorial representation and the theory of pictorial art. My main concern are a critical exposition of the questions raised by the idea that it is resemblance to depicted objects that explains pictorial representation and the investigation of the phenomenon of abstract painting from an analytical point of view in relation to the debate on depiction. The first part is dedicated to a survey of the analytical debate on depiction, with special attention to the fortunes and misfortunes of the resemblance theory of depiction. In the first chapter I give an outline of the main contemporary theories on offer, contextualised within an historical background that stretches from Plato to Descartes. I have decided to focus on the theory of resemblance more than on other approaches on depiction, because much of my research is dedicated to an analysis and implementation of one of the theories that have recently sought to re-discover the resemblance paradigm, although with certain important modifications. Namely, the second chapter is dedicated to the exposition of John Hyman’s basic resemblance theory of depiction, to the elucidation of its presuppositions and to the discussion of some criticisms and objections that the theory has raised. The third and the fourth chapter are dedicated to the implementation of Hyman’s theory in relation to the phenomenon of abstract painting. There are two peculiarities about Hyman’s theory: first, it is in counter-tendency in comparison with all the other accounts of depiction on offer, in that it does not need to conceive of pictorial representation as of representation of particulars or kinds of objects that we can easily identify. Second, it is a theory that gives art a prominent role: Hyman illustrates his claims with many examples taken from the history of figurative art. The second part of my work is inspired by the idea that the basic resemblance theory can be applied to abstract paintings as well. Developing an analysis of abstract painting from an analytical point of view is a task that very few authors have tried to accomplish so far – as far as I am aware. However, it is evident that the task abstract painters have set themselves is interestingly akin to the task philosophers try to accomplish when arguing about depiction. It is widely agreed that one of the main topics of contemporary art is art itself and that one of the main topics of abstract painting is the art of painting itself, the art of producing pictures, the exploration of its limits and its conventions. With these considerations in mind, I have sought to sketch my proposal for a basic resemblance theory of abstract painting, critically engaging with philosophers such as Richard Wollheim, Kendall Walton, Lambert Wiesing and with art-critics and historians such as Clement Greenberg and Ernst Gombrich
Keywords Depiction  resemblance theory of depiction  abstract pictures
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References found in this work BETA

The Varieties of Reference.Gareth Evans - 1982 - Oxford University Press.
The Varieties of Reference.Louise M. Antony - 1987 - Philosophical Review 96 (2):275.
The Visible and the Invisible.Maurice Merleau-Ponty - 1968 - Northwestern University Press.
Mimesis as Make-Believe.Kendall L. Walton - 1996 - Synthese 109 (3):413-434.

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