Johannes Grave: Perceiving in Time: Thoughts on the Temporality and the So-Called ‘Agency’ of Pictures

Jules Dupré, Landscape with cows, oil on canvas, 24.5 x 32.3 cm, private collection.

It seems trivial that the perception of pictures unfolds in time and takes time. However, the temporality of picture perception would deserve our attention if we had reasons to suppose that it is of a specific nature and differs from other perceptual situations. This lecture will pursue this initial consideration. In a first step, an attempt will be made to distinguish layers of time, that is, to differentiate between various phenomena within the image and properties of the picture that have an effect on the temporality of pictorial perception. In a second step, it will outline to what extent the focus on the temporality of image perception can contribute to a better understanding of the so-called 'agency' of images. What we call the 'power' of images might be anchored neither in the viewer alone nor in the images themselves. It could lie at the level of what phenomenological aesthetics has called the 'aesthetic object'.

Johannes Grave is Professor of Art History at the Friedrich Schiller University of Jena. His research focuses on the early Italian Renaissance, French painting, and art around 1800 and in the early 19th century. In addition, he works on theoretical questions concerning pictorial perception and on practices of comparison. In 2020 he was awarded the Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz Prize of the German Research Foundation. His publications include: Giovanni Bellini. The Art of Contemplation (London/New York 2018), Architekturen des Sehens. Bauten in Bildern des Quattrocento (Munich 2015), and Caspar David Friedrich (2nd ed. London/New York 2017). The most recent publication on the topic of the lecture is "Werk und Wirkung – Bild und agency. Zur Aktualität der phänomenologischen Unterscheidung zwischen Kunstwerk und ästhetischem Objekt" in Zeitschrift für Ästhetik und allgemeine Kunstwissenschaft (2020).

This talk is part of the KHI 2021+ Lecture Series, organized by the doctoral and postdoctoral fellows, in collaboration with scientific staff and senior scholars of the Institute. It is envisioned as a forum to reflect on the futures of Art History through conversations with innovative voices in the discipline, working in different areas but sharing methodological concerns.


Questo evento viene documentato fotograficamente e/o attraverso riprese video. Qualora non dovesse essere d’accordo con l’utilizzo di immagini in cui potrebbe essere riconoscibile,  da parte del Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz a scopo di documentazione degli eventi e di pubbliche relazioni (p.e. social media) la preghiamo gentilmente di comunicarcelo.

16 febbraio 2021, ore 15:00

KHI 2021+ Lecture Series
The event takes place online.


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