PICTURES VERSUS WORDS - brief references


" has come to our notice that you, brother, seeing certain worshipers of images, broke up and threw away these same images. We commend you indeed for your zeal lest anything made with human hands be worshipped : but we suggest that you should not have broken these images. For a picture is introduced into a church so that those who are ignorant of letters may at least read by looking at the walls what they cannot read in books. You brother therefore should have preserved the images and prohibited the people from worshipping them, so that those who are ignorant of letters might have the means of gathering a knowledge of past events and so that the people might in no way sin by worshipping a picture." Pope Gregory to the Bishop of Marseilles, c600AD.

"That such feigned images as ye know of in any of your cures to be so abused with pilgrimages or offerings of anything made thereunto, ye shall, for avoiding that most detestable sin of idolatory, forthwith take down and delay, and shall suffer from henceforth no candles, tapers or images of wax to be set afore any image or picture, but only the light that commonly goeth across the church by the rood loft, the light afore the sacrament of the altar, and the light about the sepulchre; which for the adorning of the church and divine service ye shall suffer to remain; still admonishing your parishioners that images serve for no other purpose but as to be books of unlearned men, that can no letters....." Thomas Cromwell, Injunction of 1538

"One of the best known incidents of destruction of imagery took place in the 1380's when a smith of Leicester, one William Smith, decided to put the sanctity of St.Catherine to the test. Would the painted wooden image of the saint, if vandalised show signs of life ? William together with an associate needed the wood as fuel to cook their cabbage. The head of St Catherine was cut off, and since there was no bleeding the image was burnt. The figure was shown to their satisfaction to be a sham." Denton below.
all quoted in exhib. catal. Age of Chivalry , edited Alexander and Binski, RA London 1987, essay by Jeffrey Denton, "Image and History "pp.22/3.

This talk will try to list the functions of the image and calculate the impact intended upon its audience. Our chief task should be to understand the implications of the single image as a communicator of narrative, and the further implications when extending into sequence; that the single image divorced from its context is almost an impossibility.The talk is linked with a later core lecture that extends the idea of sequence beyond mere image making.

1. The image as concealed programme; case 1 Botticelli and the Medicis. The programme of the Birth of Venus and the Mystic Nativity. Limited access by text and image, the elite and the select.

2. The image with conventional programme ; case 2, the Dutch still life. The emblematic tradition.

3. The fear of the image in the nineteenth century ; case 3, the Pre-Raphaelite group. Tractarian and High Church signals in the paintings 1848-1852, Christ in the House of his parents by J.E.Millais.

4. The national investment in imagery, history painting cycles ; case 4, the sad case of the decoration of the Houses of Parliament, and why England's Great Hope was reduced to speaking with a feigned French accent. Comparative chauvinistic impulses in Belgium France and Germany.

5. Can we apportion observations and thought in separate baskets, the writer artist in the twentieth century ?



There is an extensive booklist attached to the Course Document. Chris Mullen has a version divided up into various subjects. Last year's students preferred to concentrate on keeping an eye on the booklists provided with lectures and films. There is no book or body of texts devoted to the idea of seriality and the sequential in the Visual Arts (which is why we all intend to write one). Here are some books you might like to consult.

a) Michael Baxendall, Painting and Experience in Fifteenth Century Italy, Oxford University Press, London 1974.One of the most fascinating books ever written on imagery , its significance and social context.

b) G.J.Whitrow, Time in History, Views of Time from Pre-History to the Present Day, OUP Oxford 1988.Even though an historical survey, this will get you to think about the context in which you are describing sequence and in the pacing of your imagery.

c) Herschel B.Chipp, Theories of Modern Art, A Source Book by Artists and Critics, Univ.of California Press, Berkeley, 1968 etc. Letters, manifestoes, statements and speeches by interesting people, used by the Open University as their standard reader.

d) S.Sontag (ed), Barthes, Selected Writings , Fontana/Collins London 1983, and particularly "Introduction to the Structural Analyses of Narratives" (from Image Music Text), " The narratives of the world are numberless. Narrative is first and foremost a prodigious variety of genres, themselves distributed among different substances - as though any material were fit to receive men's stories...."

e) Miriam Allott, Novelists on the Novel, Routledge & Kegan Paul, London 1980 reprint; if only the equivalent was available of illustrators and designers talking about their craft; the chapter headings in the book are Structural Problems, Unity and Coherence, Plot and Story, The Time-Factor, Narrative Technique, Characterisation, Dialogue, Background, Style.

f) John L.Fell, Film and the Narrative Tradition, University of California Press, 1986, a good account of the relationship between illustration, photography and the early motion pictures, usefully broad in treatment.