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Critical Analysis of Art 

The critical analysis of art investigates images from perspectives that differ from the approach pursued by the traditional study of art. Conventionally, the academic discipline of Art History attempts to explain images by looking for their root causes within either the mind of the artist who created them or the broader historical context from which they are thought to arise. The critical analysis of art, however, does not regard images as something that need to be explained in this way; rather it considers them to be themselves explaining, or reflecting on, or proposing a theory about whatever subject they are engaged with. One of the goals of this analysis is therefore to understand the analysis that the art itself is doing.


In approaching images from this perspective, we base ourselves on one primary axiom: Images are not words. Although it is usual to think that we think only in verbal terms, the critical analysis of art considers that another, parallel mode of conceptualization exists, one that is conducted in visual terms. It is this visual, optical modality that art, in the first instance, always addresses – indeed, we might even say that art is the logos of visuality; whatever narrative content art is concerned with, it is also always reflecting on or proposing a theory about what visuality is and what it can do.

The interweaving of these two lines of inquiry, the narrative content of the image with its speculations on the nature of visuality, form the starting point for our explorations in the always provisional world art. 


Rico Franses

Chair/Professor, Critical Analysis of Art, BICAR

About the Professor

Rico Franses was for many years Founding Director of the University Art Galleries at the American University of Beirut. He has also held teaching positions at The Australian National University (Canberra), Pratt Institute (New York), and a fellowship at Harvard University. He has a BA in Philosophy (McGill University, Montreal), an MA in Art History (McGill) and a PhD in Art History (Courtauld Institute of Art, London). Among his publications are a book, Donor Portraits in Byzantine Art. On the Vicissitudes of Contact between Human and Divine (Cambridge University Press, 2018), and several articles including 'Lacan and Byzantium. In the Beginning was the Image', 'The Deleuzian Spatiality of Byzantine Art', and 'Untime in the Unconscious.  On the Dislocations of Time in Freud, Lacan, Laurie Anderson and Walid Sadek'.



The Artist in his Studio. Jan Vermeer, 17th Century

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