David Robbins

American Fine Arts

Theorists of art during the Italian Renaissance, the historical crux that still preconditions the study of art in the West, consistently propounded the Horatian ideal of ut pictura poesis—“pictures like poetry”—as a model for serious painting. The theoretical and historical import of this concept lay in its capacity to legitimize images by their relation to previous significant texts. While the pictorial tradition of the Italian Renaissance has withered in the era of Modernism, the Horatian ideal persists in various covert, often repressed, ways. Formalist and minimalist theories explicitly advocated art as a purely optical or materialist phenomenon, while at least implicitly reserving the role of hermeneutic legitimation for themselves. Other recent conceptualist movements have fore-grounded textual paradigms—whether analytic philosophy, Freudo-Marxism, or post-structuralism—as the very

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