University of Oxford

History of Art Department

The Apparatus of Art History (Professor Geraldine Johnson)

Please note: course not available 2014-15.

This course considers the visual historiography of the discipline of art history. Over the past few decades, there has been increasing interest in studying the history of art history, but this has tended to focus on the discipline's textual tradition. However, it can be equally rewarding to attend to the visual history of art history, that is, to the various visual practices and reproductive technologies (from prints and plaster casts to photographs and digital images) used in art historical research, teaching and publications. The course begins by exploring a branch of film studies known as apparatus theory. We start our consideration of the apparatus of art history by examining pre-photographic strategies for disseminating information about art objects, such as prints, drawings, casts and written descriptions. We then study how photography has been implicated in the reception and interpretation of works of art. Are photographs of artworks visual documents or works of art in their own right? How have notions of artistic authorship and originality been influenced by photographic reproductions of artworks? How have developments in camera, film and printing technology affected the types of images available to art historians, and what is the impact of new media such as video and digital images? Other topics include the design of art historical publications, how images are deployed in pedagogical settings, and the display practices of museums and other public and private spaces.