Hickok Hall


From Icon to Virtual Space: Shifting Understandings of Pictorial Beauty From the Ancients to the Renaissance

Jeffrey Hoover, Howard Hall Professor of Philosophy
November 1, 8, 15, 29

Jeffrey Hoover

Over the course of this four-week forum series, Howard Hall Professor of Philosophy Jeffrey Hoover will guide participants through traditions of pictorial art from Ancient Greece to Renaissance Europe and what they tell us about shifting aesthetic philosophies and varying ideas of beauty. By examining the development of image-making and philosophical accounts of beauty, a fascinating story of the search for transcendence and resistance to representationalism in western art emerges. The series begins in Ancient Greece with Plato and Pythagoras, who located beauty in ideal form; naturalistic art fell short of the true standard of beauty in their time.

We then trace the history, use and philosophical ideas behind the production of religious icons, starting with the early Christian suspicion of religious iconography and moving to its subsequent embrace, especially in the Byzantine tradition. The third session will examine aspects of the religious art of late medieval Italy, a time well before the “renaissance” in Europe. It will explore how Italian artists recovered the use of pathos and movement by incorporating aspects of Byzantine iconography and revived the religious pictorial tradition. The story concludes in week four with the turn toward depictions of natural spaces and the lifelike tableaus apparent in the works of Renaissance figures like Brunelleschi, Alberti and Leonardo.