George Didi-Huberman’s, ‘History of Art Within the Limits of Its Simple Practice’. to What Extent Are Hubermans Proposals for Change Contradictive to the ‘Prominent Modes of Art History’ He Criticises?

George Didi-Huberman’s, ‘History of art within the limits of its simple practice’.

To what extent are Hubermans proposals for change contradictive to the ‘prominent modes of art history’ he criticises?

“We cannot content ourselves with relying only to the authority of texts- or on the search for written ‘sources’- if we want to grasp something of the efficacy of images.” (Huberman, 2009, pg 20)

George Didi-Huberman (1953) is a prominent and influential art historian and philosopher currently working within the ‘École des hautes études en sciences sociales’, Paris. His 1990 publication ‘Confronting Images’ won international acclaim with its proposition for dramatically retracing steps within the practice of art history. Within which, Huberman provides a detailed critique of what he calls the ‘prominent modes’ within art history and offers an alternative methodology based upon values of considering the ‘visual’ and the ‘gaze’ with more depth and seriousness.
One chapter within Confronting images, ‘History of art within the limits of its simple practice’, provides us with a foundation by which we can understand exactly what Huberman it criticizing and what practical changes he proposes art history should adopt.

By focusing on this chapter alone, I hope to reveal more of Hubermans’ proposed changes and to ask; to what extent are his proposals for change contradictive to the ‘prominent modes of art history’ he criticises? Are they mutually exclusive, or can we adopt elements of both approaches within todays practice?

Hubermans proposition

Huberman most clearly illustrates his criticism of the ‘prominent modes of Art History’ by carrying out an analysis of a fresco by Fra Angelico, a Dominican Florentine monk born in approximately 1390. He does this through the eyes of the traditional art historian, being grounded within typically iconological values on which we come to expand upon further, and then by his own values based upon the ‘gaze’ and the...