The International Consortium on Art History

International Springtime Academie

Arts and KnowledgeB>
Paris, may 14 - 18, 2012

⇒ Communications (PDF)
⇒ Program (PDF)

Call for applications

The 10th Spring-Academy organized by the International Consortium of Art History, will take place from the 14th to the 18th of May 2012 in Paris and focus on the theme of Arts and Kowledge. The School offers the possibility for doctoral and post-doctoral students from diverse perspectives and specializations to share their research, their approaches and their experiences in a forum working alongside established scholars. Programs of the previous Spring-Academies temps can be accessed on the site Participation in a Spring-Academy is a necessary prerequisite for obtaining the additional diploma in the international aspect of history of art. Both doctoral and post-doctoral candidates are encouraged to propose specific papers related to their subject of research in whatever period or field of art history they are concentrating, regardless of the format they wish to choose.

Presentation of the subject

Current research on the relationship between the Arts and Knowledge have led us to devote the tenth edition of the Ecole de Printemps of the Réseau International de Formation en Histoire de l'Art (International Network for Art-Historical Training) to this challenging theme. The topic has the advantage of encompassing the fields of arts and sciences and opening them to broader questions involving the relations between creation, art, and images on the one hand, and knowledge, cognition, thought patterns, learning paradigms, and know-how on the other. In other words, this project encourages consideration of the potential of the arts to fix, transmit, and translate -- in their specific visual and/or object related form -- knowledge of any nature (technical, practical, intellectual ...). At the same time (to break with the tendency to use one-way analogies) this theme promotes the study of imaginative and creative qualities in the sciences and the humanities, in terms of plasticity and form: from the canon of Polykletos to the films of Jean Rouch (the anthropologist and documentary film maker who inspired the New Wave), through the inventions of Leonardo da Vinci.

We thus understand the arts in their broadest sense, without any preferred geographical focus or particular chronological period, and in their confrontation with knowledge, that is with information, discoveries, experiments and lessons learned in the hard sciences, social sciences and humanities, without any exception. Moreover, and above all, we consider art as knowledge.

We would therefore like the young researchers who take part in these training days to be willing to examine both the material nature of their corpus -- that is to say, to raise issues related to the use and manipulation of the works studied – as well as their formal characteristics that art history has so often prioritized, in order to understand their cognitive aspect, both temporal and spatial. This could cover anything from Sapi-Portuguese ivories destined for the European luxury market to the production of graphic summaries or computational simulations devised by scientists in the presentation of their research results.

Furthermore, from this perspective it is useful to keep in mind the work of Bruno Latour in general, and one of his books in particular: We Have Never Been Modern (Harvard University Press, 1993), which postulates the interdependence of cultural, political, religious and scientific facts both today and in earlier ages. Modernist illusion of progress rests on the separation between intellectual activities; on the one hand, the humanities, including the arts, and on the other, those disconnected from the human: technology and hard sciences. Bruno Latour reconstitutes the network of these activities and productions and thus makes possible this project of working on arts and knowledge in a variety of contexts.

Papers may thus question elective affinities, but also phenomena of repulsion that govern relational dynamics between these two fields of invention, if indeed this register is one of those, or precisely the one, that the arts and knowledge have in common. Finally, as this subject poses a number of questions, it seems appropriate to propose several thematic headings for reflection.

I. Man, the standard for art and anatomy

Ever since the ancient explorations that aimed to define a system of human proportions to be transferred both to architecture and sculpture, a modeled or standardized form of the human body has served as a reference and a unit of measurement in the visual arts. The body serves either as a module -- like the ancient column --, as an end in itself -- especially in history painting, the highest genre in academic hierarchy -- or even as a matrix for avant-garde explorations which have broken away from an idealized human form. Parallel to these plastic explorations focused on the human body, artists have acquired scholarly tools for understanding this anatomical machine. For examples we can turn to the outstanding realizations of a Vaucansson or a Houdon, whose L'Ecorché in its various forms has been seen both as an artistic achievement, and as a return to the life sciences, as a theorem or a treatise.

Distortions of the human body, and most particularly the female body, by Ingres, in Picasso's Cubist dismemberments, or through Orlan’s transformation of her own body, speak to the persistent challenge and fascination that the human body represents -- its limitations, its strength, its energy and its aura -- for mimetic art as well as for art that has moved away from imitation. In this quest, artists and scholars have devised parallel challenges of comprehension and invention that have opened a growing interdisciplinary field of study of man. This exploration goes beyond man's physiological reality in order to observe and represent him in his dimension as a social being, that is to say both in his historical and civilizational singularity and in his permanence from an era to another and from one area to another.

In this context, a whole aspect of art history cannot be considered outside of naturalist, medical, anatomical and anthropological research and discoveries. It is thus interesting to revisit the visual arts from the viewpoint of the imitation and distortion of the human body and its direct corollary: man as a social being.

II. Between arts and knowledge: skills

A concept that is particularly useful in approaching these porous fields of the arts and knowledge is that of skill – adopted from the conceptual tools of sociology (see Lucie Tanguy and Françoise Ropp, Savoirs et compétences, 1994) -- because it pre-eminently allows us to translate the ability to implement theoretical knowledge that governs both creation and invention of scholarly or artistic forms. The concept of skill could serve as a litmus test for a man or woman claiming to be an artist or scholar. Furthermore, what intellectual, manual, technical, or practical skills should one acquire in order to make art or practice science? More than mere abstract knowledge or practical ability, skill is the alchemy of the two, and this is apparent both in scientific and artistic discourses. It would therefore be fruitful to observe its manifestations in the framework of this exploration of art and knowledge. Adopting very different perspectives, from Titian, Goethe, Delacroix, Chevreul all the way down to practitioners of Color field Painting in the United States, all applied themselves to the study of color and made use of diverse and complementary skills to enrich its use -- whether from an artistic or scientific standpoint. We can imagine areas other than color that would be particularly suited for investigating similarly hybrid objects -- optical devices (the magnifying glass, microscope, photographic lens, camera ...) or the tools of geometry (the compass, pencil, scale tool ...) or the sculptor or architect’s technical equipment – that would prompt a renewal of traditional vertical investigations of the artist or the work as a means of understanding the horizontal flow of interests, experiments and their results within the skills variously developed in the making of an object.

Similarly, we could revisit traditional skills used by the medieval illuminator dedicated to reinforcing workshop practices or those of the academic painter involved in making a painting intended for public exhibition: classical literary and historical culture, perspective, anatomy, and workshop practices for creating shadows or outlines. Furthermore, what skills do artists use when they leave visual or plastic production and venture into literature, whether in the form of pedagogically inspired texts, or political manifestos? In the twentieth century, do manual skills disappear with the advent of conceptual art, or when the execution of an artistic idea is delegated to a third party craftsman?

These are some of the many areas where the question of competence is involved in repositioning the relationship between the arts and knowledge of all types in the contribution that they make within a society to the production of symbolic objects that may be more or less artistic, more or less scientific.

III. Minor genres / major knowledge

Paradoxically, in the Western tradition, it seems that images that relate to naturalistic research were left to the artists considered minor. In other words, the hierarchy of genres that prevailed from the Renaissance to the Impressionists, meant that artists such as draughtsmen, sculptors and painters who specialized in painting flowers (from Brueghel to Redouté), in animal sculpture such as Barye or in the illustration of natural history, such as Jacques de Sève (Buffon's collaborator), were seen as minor figures, contributing to the accumulation of basic knowledge of fauna, flora and both local and global customs. Among their ranks were many who took part in scientific expeditions to unknown territories, and for a long time gave concrete form to representations of distant worlds that were soon to become colonies. One can think of Post and Eckhout for the Netherlands; Hodges -- Cook's travel companion to the South Seas -- or Régamey, sent to China and Japan by Guimet at the end of the nineteenth century. If we now look again at the work of Jacques Derrida (The Law of Genre in Parages. Cultural Memory in the Present, 2010.) in which he parallels literary genres (and the same would be true in the fine arts) and gender (that is to say, sexual identities), we find that there were many women who entered artistic careers through projects regarded as "secondary": Madeleine Basseporte, Anne Vallayer-Coster, Maria Sybilla Merian spring to mind.

This triangulation of naturalist knowledge, the visual arts and gender invites complex interpretations of the respective and interrelated status of women in the worlds of art and knowledge, and especially of these artists' success by working at the margin of a double science (be they women or not), in confronting the challenge of convincing their peers that they were artists and/or scholars. What was the strategy, if indeed it was one, which corresponded to the option of treating secondary subjects? Was it a first step in one of these two careers or, to take the French example, a reflection of training circumstances that excluded women from the canonical teaching offered at the Academy? Or, conversely, can we interpret this phenomenon as a pioneering attempt to elevate the world of plants, minerals and animals to the rank of man? These questions are formulated in different ways in different contexts, but give rise in France as in Germany, Holland, Italy or beyond to studies that may prove particularly rich.

IV. Places of the Arts and Knowledge

Museums of Fine Arts are indisputably places where the arts and knowledge come together, if only in their didactic ambition: the work and its label, or the proposed visit through regional or national schools. However, there are other institutions which, through their programs, are even more involved in this study of intellectual networks linking the arts and knowledge. We might mention the Museum of Hygiene in Dresden, which had its first public success in 1930 with the completion of Franz Tschakert’s Glass Man, a work that echoed contemporary Bauhaus ideals. And long before that time, we must consider the Kunstkammeret, the cabinets of curiosities, whose authors, through scholarship or intuition often bring together in convergent, but not systematically identical ways natural or man-made objects that have been bought or plundered, together with works of art, tools, monsters, exotica, etc. Installed in private homes and sometimes open to the public, these cabinets spread in modern Europe and preceded the museum as it developed in the second half of the eighteenth century. They were the product of individual curiosity and differed from collections of art, which were more often conceived with ostentation as a purpose.

Some unexpected spaces also fall in this category: for example, the Sagrestia Vecchia in the Basilica of San Lorenzo in Florence, where frescoes on the vault painted by Giuliano Pesello represent the astronomical sky as seen from an observatory or the Dauphin's chamber at Versailles of 1705, which featured an armillary sphere made by the astronomer Jean-Baptiste Delure and the mechanic Jean Pigeon, hinged on a Rococo support by and unknown hand. Installed in the very room of the future king, this object was clearly a product of the combined knowledge of a decorator and two scientists. How have these places been interpreted over the centuries? What issues did they reveal, given their private, public or semi-public character? At what scale can an institution have access to this double mission today? Such questions, among others, can enrich our work.

V. Art as knowledge, knowledge through the work

From Vasari to Courajod, by way of Strzygowski, artistic writing has been steeped in regionalist and then nationalist ideologies which often promoted the idea that the art of a given people is the most direct and accurate expression of its spirit. Tuscan, French, or German art forms supposedly convey the precise character and genius of their corresponding nation. Thus, in order to understand the soul of a people, it is sufficient to become familiar with the works of art it has produced. Equally, the promotion of certain forms of art by means of a proactive cultural policy, in the manner of a Colbert or a Mussolini, would guarantee national cohesion around a body of works, whose function is to safeguard shared know-how and common moral values. If the political appropriation of art as knowledge invites us to rethink the ambiguous will to promote this tenuous link between art and knowledge in different signifying contexts, it may also be of interest to investigate where subversion of this propagandist connection can occur. For certain artists’ self-creation as visionaries and holders of supernatural knowledge precisely escapes unifying cultural projects. Art as knowledge does not relate to a single source and can be deployed in divergent, even opposing, directions.

Conversely, and throughout history, technical and scientific innovations have spurred the creative invention of artists who, whether consciously or not, have recuperated such experiments for utilitarian ends, diverting them from their primary function and applying them to the field of art: knowledge forming the artwork. Denis Canguilhem and Clement Chéroux have demonstrated this in their book on scientific photography (Le merveilleux scientifique – Photographies du monde savant en France, 1839-1918, Paris, Gallimard, 2004).

Many other questions can be addressed, including that of the image that taps knowledge through its own resources, such as a frontispiece or an impresa, the purpose of which is to announce the contents a book or a thesis, or to condense a set of ideas that require a complex deciphering which relies on knowledge that is at work as much in the object’s making as in its reception.

These paths are indicative rather than proscriptive. We will consider all proposals that lend themselves to the study of the complex and challenging dynamics that enrich the relationship between the arts and knowledge.

Procedures and proposals

Students (doctoral and post-doctoral) wishing to participate in this encounter are asked to send a (single) paper proposal of 20 minutes maximum, and a brief CV listing languages used, to their respective national representatives (see the list at the end of this document) before 12th of January 2012. Proposals, with the candidate’s name, email address and institutional affiliation, should not exceed 1800 characters or 300 words. They can be written in English, French, German or Italian, and should be submitted as a Word document. If possible, the title of the section (or sections) in which they wish to be included should be indicated. The proposals will be gathered, examined and selected by country. National representatives will send the list of the accepted proposals by email ( on 1st of February 2012 to the organizing committee which, following consultation with the network’s scientific committee, will establish the definitive program of the Spring-Academy. The announcement of the selected participants will be published in the end of February 2012 on the websites of the network and of the INHA (NB: In the two weeks following the acceptance of their candidacy, participants will have to submit a correct translation of their proposal in another official language of the network.) Since everyone can give talks in their own language, a knowledge of other languages is required. Participants with native romance languages need to have at least a passive knowledge of either English or German. Participants from Anglophone or Germanophone countries need to have at least a passive knowledge of either French or Italian.

Proposals for those wishing to participate as respondents
Students who have participated twice or more in earlier Spring-Academies are asked to offer their candidacy solely as respondents. Furthermore, young scholars, post-doctoral and doctoral students whose research is well advanced can also participate in the Spring-Academy as respondents. The duties of the respondents involve leading the discussion at the end of each session by proposing a re-reading of the issues brought up by the participants. The respondents will summarize the session, ask new questions and pursue the debate along other lines, suggested to them by their own research. All candidates wishing to take part in the Spring-Academy as respondents are asked to send a copy of their CV and a brief statement of interest to their national representatives, underlining their specific qualifications for the chosen section before 12th of January 2012.

Call for papers (professors)
As with each session, the professors from the network can either propose a paper or preside over a session. Teachers wishing to intervene in the program are asked to make their intention known to the Organizing committee by email to this address: (


Organizing committee:
Claude Imbert (ENS Ulm, Paris)
Anne Lafont (INHA/Université Paris Est Marne-la-Vallée/EA 4120 LISAA)
Ségolène Le Men (Université Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense)
Pascale Ratovonony (INHA/Université Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne)
Elodie Voillot (INHA/Université Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense)

Academic Partnerships :
Catherine Bédard (Centre culturel canadien, Paris)
Andreas Beyer (Centre allemand d’histoire de l’art, Paris)
Veerle Thielemans (Terra Foundation for American Art, Paris)

National representatives
Todd Porterfield (Université de Montreal)

Nadeije Dagen (ENS, Paris)
Anne Lafont (INHA/Université Paris Est Marne-la-Vallée/EA 4120 LISAA)
Ségolène Le Men (Université Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense)

Thomas Kirchner (Goethe-Universität, Frankfurt-on-Main)
Michael Zimmermann (Katholische Universität Eichstätt )

Marco Collareta (Università di Pisa)
Maria Grazia Messina (Università di Firenze)

Atsushi Miura (Universität von Tokio)

Jan Blanc (Université de Génève)

United Kingdom:
David Peters Corbett (University of East Anglia, Norwich)
Richard Thomson (Edinburgh University)

United States:
Henri Zerner (Harvard University)