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Conflict as Tool for Interpreting Style in Art Criticism: From Vasari to Longhi

piano b. 2017;2(1):149-181 DOI 10.6092/issn.2531-9876/7699


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Journal Title: piano b

ISSN: 2531-9876 (Online)

Publisher: University of Bologna

Society/Institution: University of Bologna – Dipartimento delle Arti

LCC Subject Category: Fine Arts: Visual arts

Country of publisher: Italy

Language of fulltext: English, Italian

Full-text formats available: PDF



Carmela Vargas (Università degli Studi Suor Orsola Benincasa di Napoli)


Double blind peer review

Editorial Board

Instructions for authors

Time From Submission to Publication: 24 weeks


Abstract | Full Text

In the History of Art Criticism, conflict has always been a conceptual tool for investigating artistic phenomena. Vasari, in many of his biographies, used it used to explain differences between artists,  contrasting one with another. Bellori construes a scale of evaluative norms by setting differing artistic styles in opposition in order to bring out what he considers quintessential. Winckelmann uses it in discussing the differences between Ancient and Modern artists.  These are open conflicts that find their resolution in certain paradigmatic artists capable of settling the contrast, such as Michelanelo for Vasari, Poussin and the classicists for Bellori, and for Winckelmann certain artists able to reconcile ideal models with nature. The hermeneutic category of conflict operates in 20th-century criticism as well. Longhi applies it in interpreting the work of Masolino and Masaccio and of Piero della Francesca and Van Eyck. Panofsky makes use of it in his well-known concept of Renaissance as opposed to renascences. Hauser and Antal see social and economic conflicts as a key to understanding long periods of history of art. In the second half of the 20th century, we note that Wickhoff, Riegl, and Wölfllin have used only conflict in dealing with the succession of periods in art history, replacing the concept of artistic decline with another idea: a kind of permanent, not generally acrimonious conflict, between ages, acting throughout art history as a normal aspect of its progression.