Week 4, Michael Baxandall, "Patterns of Intention"

Baxandall discusses the complexities of describing a picture through language. Because of the linear nature of language and the simultaneous nature of sight, an incompatibility arises when trying to describe a picture using words. He recognizes this rift, and considers the influence of our own memories, experiences, and thoughts in constructing a visual image from a written description.

Baxandall asserts that, “a description of a picture is less a representation of the picture… than a representation of thinking about having seen the picture” (p.61). Baxandall here refers to Kenneth Clark’s description of Piero della Francesca’s, Baptism of Christ which reflects Clark’s awareness of a ‘geometric framework’ which may or may not be obvious to other onlookers.

Baxandall goes on to suggest that we explain a picture by describing it with certain words that reflect the effect the picture has on us, for example, blots become ‘excited’. The words we choose are indirect and gain their meaning through their relationship with the picture. For example, the description will have a different intention and effect depending on if the work being described is present or known, just as when speaking of a ‘big’ dog, the intention and effect will shift depending if the dog is present. Through this, the meanings that arise will point to certain interests we hold in the picture.


At 9:41 PM, Blogger Elizabeth said...

this is a great blog! Best, Elizabeth Legge


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