Picture Titles: How and Why Western Paintings Acquired Their Names by Ruth Bernard YeazellPicture Titles: How and Why Western Paintings Acquired Their Names by Ruth Bernard Yeazell

Picture Titles: How and Why Western Paintings Acquired Their Names

byRuth Bernard Yeazell

Hardcover | September 29, 2015

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A picture's title is often our first guide to understanding the image. Yet paintings didn't always have titles, and many canvases acquired their names from curators, dealers, and printmakers-not the artists. Taking an original, historical look at how Western paintings were named, Picture Titles shows how the practice developed in response to the conditions of the modern art world and how titles have shaped the reception of artwork from the time of Bruegel and Rembrandt to the present.

Ruth Bernard Yeazell begins the story with the decline of patronage and the rise of the art market in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, as the increasing circulation of pictures and the democratization of the viewing public generated the need for a shorthand by which to identify works at a far remove from their creation. The spread of literacy both encouraged the practice of titling pictures and aroused new anxieties about relations between word and image, including fears that reading was taking the place of looking. Yeazell demonstrates that most titles composed before the nineteenth century were the work of middlemen, and even today many artists rely on others to name their pictures. A painter who wants a title to stick, Yeazell argues, must engage in an act of aggressive authorship. She investigates prominent cases, such as David's Oath of the Horatii and works by Turner, Courbet, Whistler, Magritte, and Jasper Johns.

Examining Western painting from the Renaissance to the present day, Picture Titles sheds new light on the ways that we interpret and appreciate visual art.

Ruth Bernard Yeazell is the Chace Family Professor of English and director of the Lewis Walpole Library at Yale University. Her books include Harems of the Mind: Passages of Western Art and Literature and Art of the Everyday: Dutch Painting and the Realist Novel (Princeton).
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Title:Picture Titles: How and Why Western Paintings Acquired Their NamesFormat:HardcoverDimensions:352 pages, 9.25 × 6 × 0.98 inPublished:September 29, 2015Publisher:Princeton University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0691165270

ISBN - 13:9780691165271

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations ix

Prologue (This is not a title) 1

I Naming and Circulating: Middlemen

1 Before Titles 19

2 Dealers and Notaries 25

3 Early Cataloguers 31

4 Academies 39

5 Printmakers 52

6 Curators, Critics, Friends-and More Dealers 66

II Reading and Interpreting: Viewers

7 Reading by the Title 81

8 The Power of a Name 97

9 Many Can Read Print 110

10 Reading against the Title 124

III Authoring as well as Painting: Artists

11 The Force of David's Oath 143

12 Turner's Poetic Fallacies 166

13 Courbet's Studio as Manifesto 183

14 Whistler's Symphonies and Other Instructive Arrangements 204

15 Magritte and The Use of Words 225

16 Johns's No and the Painted Word 243

Acknowledgments 265

Notes 267

Index 315

Editorial Reviews

'In the past few years, there has been a vogue in art history for projects, conference sessions, and publications that deal with connections between art and text. For anyone intending to enter this arena, Ruth Bernard Yeazell's Picture Titles has positioned itself as a must read. . . . The author has made excellent use of primary and interdisciplinary historical resources from around the globe. . . . All of this meticulous research has been delivered with a large dosage of common sense, which is very refreshing."--Colleen Truax Yarger, Art Inquiries