Intentionality In Art History

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Should intentionality be considered within the analytical framework of art history? This is unquestionably a pertinent question for the discipline of art history, for the Intentional Fallacy has caused the study of intent to be questioned and, sometimes, avoided by scholars of art history. Of course, once the study of intent is questioned, the recognition of some of the more prevalent factors of intentionality must also be placed under scrutiny, too. This question is particularly pertinent in terms of Early Modern art history, for it is then that artists became more and more free agents to whom there were ever more opportunities and means of expression available. In the context of the history of the art of the Early Modern period, this question…show more content…
Certainly, the argument against searching for the inevitable – unattainable evidence of the true intention of the artist(s) involved – does have a more reasonable perspective on the issue at its foundation. Still, though there is practicality in acknowledging the mindset that accounts the Intentional Fallacy, its limitations ought also be acknowledged, for discounting any sort of intentionality on the part of an artist severely constricts not only any conceivable interpretations of works of art, but also Art History as a discipline. What, then, ought really to be considered? What would prove helpful in attempting to discern the motives of the artists in creating the works of art that, thought-provoking or not, are thoroughly open to…show more content…
One of the reasons that the investigation of intent becomes so necessary in Early Modern art history is that it was during this time that art history began to be based more upon substantiated data than assumption. This was made possible through the increase in availability of information about both artists and their work. With the increase of the accessibility of this information, and with such dominant figures as Vasari focusing on the lives of artists with newfound interest, art began to be investigated in new ways, sometimes based on some assumptions, one of which methods would be that of examining the artist’s intent. Before the Early Modern period, the lack of concrete data concerning the person, or persons, responsible for the creation of items now defined as works of art inevitably leaves much more room for interpretation of the teleology and meaning of such objects, a natural result of the unclear, or even non-existent, documentation of the circumstances. Without such material as the artist’s letters or diaries, or even an inventory of the owner, as applicable, there is no way to ascertain a reliable – though the word ‘reliable’ and its meaning cannot be used with surety in such a situation as
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