The Utility of the Digital Context in the Use of Artistic Literature: A Didactic Resource for Art History Teaching

The Utility of the Digital Context in the Use of Artistic Literature: A Didactic Resource for Art History Teaching

Alejandro Jaquero-Esparcia (Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha, Spain)
Copyright: © 2020 |Pages: 16
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-3379-6.ch016
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The chapter aims to reflect the skills of the digital context in the teaching of art history, specifically on the possibilities of applying the new advances around artistic literature. For this, it is essential to know the origins of this auxiliary study area and the first initiatives in the world wide web to make it accessible. These sources for the study of the history of art have always been linked to research, although progressively they have been integrated into the teaching plans. The use of technologies should help the practice in classrooms of educational activities in which this type of textual source can assume a new role.
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Literature and Fine Arts have followed parallel paths since their origins as related disciplines. In fact, the Visual Arts –or it would be better to say its critics, theorists, and thinkers– found in the textual context a way to build the vast ideology that forms the theoretical debate on the arts. For this reason, the texts related to Art History have been a constant since the Classical Antiquity, and it continues to be used to this day through essays, brochures, biographies, or manifestos who keep the flame of this ancient fraternity. Because of this, many literary corpus were created and most of this information was collected to further the study and research about this cultural heritage: from the beginning of the firsts Greco-Latin texts about painters and sculptors, medieval recipes, or the codex with the rules surrounding Christian iconography. This type of sources for Art History have made it possible to establish a language about artistic disciplines.

Although our aim is to consider about the “artistic literature” –catalogued with this name by Art historians– we think that it is necessary to approach the genre from the beginning, in order to analyze the term without its academic meanings. At first, the work of pundits and collectors in the collection and cataloguing of historical-artistic sources enabled the systematization of this literary practice, whose origins took place in most European countries influenced by the cultural currents of the Renaissance in Italy. In this manner, a good example of this is the labour of recompilation and cataloguing produced by Leopoldo Cicognara. The legacy of this Italian scholar is one of the most important collections about art writings and, furthermore, he developed a splendid catalogue where many of the publications on the arts published in Europe from the 16th to the 19th centuries appear (Di Chiara, 2013, pp. 45-51). Pursuing this methodology, we have Ernes Vinet who, in 1874, published a detailed bibliography, in encyclopaedic format, entitled Bibliographie méthodique et raisonnée des Beaux-Arts [Methodical and Reasoned Bibliography of Fine Arts]. In this work, the proposal initiated by Cicognara is extended and other unknown works of the European framework are cited by the Italian gentleman. However, these contributions don’t delve into the peculiarities of artistic literature, limiting themselves to generating large bibliographic classifications.

We will not have a specific and academic study proposal until the 20th century. Due to the publication of Julius von Schlosser’s Die Kunstliteratur [The Artistic Literature] in 1924, the definition of artistic literature was detailed in the European scientific context.1 Although the artistic writings have been used by theorists, chroniclers, and the early art historians, Schlosser’s work is a turning point about epistemology on this type of texts and his principal denomination. Likewise, this led to the establishment of new gnoseology bases for studies such as Venturi’s History of Art Criticism –also the arguments of Benedetto Croce–, published for the first time in the United States, translated into French and, finally, edited in Italian in 1948. The rewarding points of view of Schlosser and Venturi contributed to delimit the historical context differentiated by the critical context, judging the wide possibilities in the exegesis of artistic literature (Grassi, 1989-90, pp. 492-496). What is more, Roberto Longhi would defend the raison d'être of the historical-artistic writings of Italian culture as a legacy for the world of letters (1952, pp. 8-14).

Nevertheless, the configuration of artistic literature, letteratura artística, or kunstliteratur, can generate certain confusions. For Schlosser, artistic literature already appears in the first texts of Plyny the Elder and his fragments of the Naturalis Historia [Natural History] about the arts and the artists, or in Vitrubio’s architectural treatise; however, for Gianni Sciolla, the chronological order goes back from the Cinquecento to the Novecento publications associated with the avant-garde movements. Both authors agree on the reality of the genre and charting the different textual typologies that develop it.2 This historic resource must be differentiated from other types of primary sources such as notarial acts, work contracts related to artists, accounting books, inventaries, archives and court records, etc.3

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