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Picturing Art History

The Rise of the Illustrated History of Art in the Eighteenth Century

Ingrid Vermeulen

360 pages
Amsterdam University Press
Books on art history are nearly always lavishly illustrated with quality colour reproductions of famous masterpieces. Yet this has not always been the case: it was only in the eighteenth century that art books came to be illustrated with beautiful images. Picturing Art History shows how the fundamentally new notion of the history of art as a visual history was responsible for this development. In the age before photography, paper collections of prints and drawings offered the only way to picture the artistic past. For the first time, illustrations became indispensable tools
as the new belief grew that art works rather than artists were the measure of the artistic past. Internationally renowned art scholars such as Bottari (1689-1775), Winckelmann (1717-1768) and d’Agincourt (1730-1814) collected reproductions in the form of prints and drawings, triggering discussions of the nature of illustrations as representations of art, classification of reproductions to demonstrate trends in art history, and the relationship between image and text in the art literature. With the help of illustrations, art history became an extraordinary visual experience, vital to the understanding of the history of art.
Author Bio
INGRID R. VERMEULEN is Associate Professor of Early-Modern Art History at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. Her research focuses on the early-modern history of art history grounded in art literature, collections, and museums. It generated the book Picturing Art History (2010) and the project The Artistic Taste of Nations (2015) funded by the Dutch Research Council (NWO). .