Perceiving Different Images at Different Scales of Research: The Case of Early Netherlandish Painting

By Jeanne Nuechterlein.

Published by The Humanities Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

As we divide into ever narrower and more detailed fields of study, our gains in depth and specificity of knowledge frequently come at the expense of broader understanding: we can hardly see any bigger picture that might emerge from our accumulation of particularized knowledge. In some areas it may be possible to achieve a close symbiosis between detail and whole, but our subjects of research often lead to a different experience, where the meaningful detail of the close-up view fades away at a greater distance. This does not mean that no larger picture exists: instead we might discover new patterns and contours only visible on the broader scale. How we interpret our research thus depends not only on our methodological approach but the scale of the context within which we place the subject. The example of early Netherlandish painting provides both a metaphorical image and a case study of this problem.

Keywords: Art History, Theory of Knowledge, Visual Culture

International Journal of the Humanities, Volume 6, Issue 8, pp.9-18. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 564.593KB).

Dr. Jeanne Nuechterlein

Lecturer, History of Art, University of York, York, UK

Jeanne Nuechterlein completed a Ph.D in History of Art at the University of California, Berkeley, out of which she has recently finished a book manuscript linking the innovative art of Hans Holbein the Younger with the intellectual debates surrounding Renaissance rhetoric and the Reformation. Since 2000 she has been a lecturer at the University of York, where her recent research and publications focus on the emergence of oil painting in the fifteenth-century Netherlands. Through comparison between the finely detailed technique of fifteenth-century painting with the large scale and loose brushwork of seventeenth-century painters, she has become interested in how artworks can generate radically different experiences depending on their scale and on the viewer’s distance, ideas which might be applied to other fields of knowledge.

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