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This article offers a historiographical analysis of Foucault's contribution to art theory by arguing that the philosopher used the medium of painting and its history since Alberti to explore the differences in the concept of realism between 1650 and his own day. I argue that in his four essays on painting written between 1966 and 1976 Foucault took up the relation of painting to knowledge (savoir), particularly the question of how painting means using an innovative approach that he termed historical. Like the phenomenologists who immediately preceded him, Foucault understood painting as related to our understanding of how knowledge is communicated or felt rather than of how it exists as philosophy. This article explores the consequences of Foucault's contribution to the history of painting for both art history and visual studies.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-8365.2009.00700.x

Affiliations: University of California

Publication date: September 1, 2009

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