03529 - Arts Criticism Methodology

Academic Year 2021/2022

  • Docente: Sandra Costa
  • Credits: 12
  • SSD: L-ART/04
  • Language: Italian

Learning outcomes

At the end of the course the student: - knows the most relevant aspects of the history and methodology of art criticism from the medieval age to the contemporary age; - knows the historical and sociological contexts in which artistic historiography and methods of art analysis have developed; - is able to contextualize the main the main historical-critical themes related to the visual arts; - has the basic skills to develop an autonomous critical judgement using texts and documentary sources.

Course contents

The course aims to present the main aspects of artistic historiography and art criticism from the fourteenth to the twentieth century, focusing on Italian events and contextualizing the different methodological approaches of art works. The principal figures of modern historiography and the methodology of twentieth-century criticism will be explained during the lessons. Through significant examples, the class will examine the contributions offered by the development of European art criticism. Furthermore, the students will analyse the birth and the evolution of the critical vocabulary.

The seminar part of the course is dedicated to the deepening of transversal themes such as, for example, the role of Italian art in the development of art criticism in Europe or the evolution of the critical attention offered to the public and to the notion of taste.


Basic knowledge

Students enrolling in this course should preferably have previous basic knowledge in the field of visual arts; otherwise, they are kindly requested to acquire support knowledge of the main artistic styles of the 15th and 16th centuries. This can be done by carefully reading one of the main textbooks about history of art used in Italian high schools.


For the final exam:

  • students are required to read all texts from Section I.
  • ·- 1 text of Section II; or other bibliographical material agreed with the Lecturer for students who actively participate in the seminar part with the presentation of a specific topic.
  • ·- Students NOT attending and not actively participating in the seminar must complete their preparation with a text of section III.

Students who do not attend the course could complete their preparation with the reading of one text from Section III.

Section I

Orietta Rossi Pinelli (a cura di), La storia delle storie dell'Arte, Torino, Einaudi, 2014.

Gianni C. Sciolla, La critica d'arte del Novecento, Torino, Utet, 1995.

Section II

Anne d'Alleva, Méthodes et théories de l'histoire de l'art, Paris, Thalia, 2005.

Germain Bazin, Histoire de l'Histoire de l'art: de Vasari à nos jours, Paris, Albin Michel, 1986.

Claudia Cieri Via, Nei dettagli nascosto. Per una storia del pensiero iconologico, Roma, Carocci, 2009.

Luigi Grassi, Teorici e storia della critica d’arte, Roma, 1970.

George Kubler, La forma del tempo, la storia dell'arte e la storia delle cose, Torino, Einaudi, 1976 [titolo or. The Shape of Time, 1972].

Francis Haskell, Le metamorfosi del gusto. Studi su arte e pubblico nel XVIII e XIX secolo, Torino, Bollati Boringhieri, 1989.

Alessandro Masi (dir.), L'occhio del critico. Storia dell'arte in Italia tra Otto e Navecento, Firenze, Vallecchi, 2009.

Giorgio Patrizi, “Lettura ed interpretazione dell'arte italiana” in Storia dell'arte italiana, Torino, Einaudi, 1981, III, pp. 199-276.

Carlo Ludovico Ragghianti, Profilo della critica d'arte in Italia, Firenze, UIA, 1990 [1 ed. 1948].

Luigi Russo (a cura di), Storia di una idea estetica, Palermo, Aesthetica, 2000.

Gianni C. Sciolla, Studiare l'arte. Metodo, analisi e interpretazione delle opere e degli artisti, Torino, Utet, 2001.

Lionello Venturi, Storia della critica d'arte, 1945 [1 ed. in lingua inglese 1936].

Henri Zerner, Écrire l'Histoire de l'Art. Figures d'une discipline, Paris, Gallimard, 1997.

Vera L. Zolberg, Sociologia dell'arte, Bologna, il Mulino, 1994 [titolo or. Constructing a Sociology of the Arts, 1990].

“L'histoire de l'histoire de l'Art”, Revue de l'Art, n. 146, 2004.

Section III

Julius von Schlosser, La letteratura artistica: manuale delle fonti della storia dell'arte moderna; ed. aggiornata da Otto Kurz, Firenze, La nuova Italia, 1996 [titolo or. Die Kunstliteratur. Ein Handbuch zur Quellenkunde der neueren Kunstgeschichte, 1924].

Lionello Venturi, Storia della critica d’arte, 1945 e edizioni successive es. Torino, Einaudi, 1964.

Teaching methods

The course aims to provide students with a complete overview of history art criticism methods and with an historical and methodological knowledge of theoretical aspects of artworks analysis. By the end of the course, students will have a good knowledge of critical studies tradition from XV to XX Century. They will have basic methodological skills to analyse an artwork from a formal, iconographic, and technical point of view. Moreover, they will be able to understand the relations between artworks and their historical, social, and cultural background, linking creation and reception of the artworks themselves.

Assessment methods

  • Assessment for this course is by oral exam, testing the effective acquisition of required knowledge. The oral exam aims to assess critical abilities gained by students during the course. They will have to demonstrate an appropriate knowledge of selected readings and of issues discussed during the course.
  • alternatively the verification of the learning takes place through the presentation of a topic agreed with the teacher for the seminar part completed by an oral examination to verify the real knowledge to the institutional part.

1. Those students who show developed analytical skills of selected readings and their correct contextualization within a complete vision of the issues discussed during lectures will be given a mark of excellence. Mastering of field-specific language and good expression during the examination will also be required.

2. Those students who show mnemonic knowledge of the subject and a superficial analysis of selected readings, as well as a correct but not always appropriate mastering of the field-specific language will be given a satisfactory mark.

3. Those students who will show vague knowledge and superficial understanding of selected readings, limited analytical skills and a not always appropriate expression will be given a ‘pass’ mark roughly.

4. Those students who show gaps in their knowledge and lack of familiarity with selected readings will not be given a ‘pass’ mark

Teaching tools

Frontal lectures, workshop, with PowerPoint projections and videos.

Office hours

See the website of Sandra Costa


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