‘We do not explain pictures: We explain remarks about pictures.’ This pronouncement comes from Michael Baxandall, whose stimulating book, Patterns of Intention, deals with the complex and problematic relationship of text to image and image to text.1 Can any verbal description offer an adequate account or representation of a work of art? This question worries Baxandall and others, who realize that the nature of language makes the process of description (or ekphrasis, as the Greeks called it) an ‘untidy and lively affair.’2 By and large, such doubts about the insufficiency of language seldom troubled earlier writers who strove to render the visual experience oflooking at pictures, From antiquity to the Renaissance, the sister arts were assumed to be on close (and almost interchangeable) terms with each other. Proverbial wisdom thought of poetry as eloquent painting and painting as mute poetry - an assumption that went virtually unchallenged throughout the eighteenth century.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Language and Linguistics
- Visual Arts and Performing Arts
- Linguistics and Language
- Literature and Literary Theory