03529 - Arts Criticism Methodology

Course Unit Page

  • Teacher Sandra Costa

  • Credits 12

  • SSD L-ART/04

  • Teaching Mode Traditional lectures

  • Language Italian

  • Course Timetable from Sep 24, 2018 to Dec 21, 2018

Academic Year 2018/2019

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course, students:

- know the historical and sociological background in which artworks and artistic tendencies originate;

- know how to hermeneutically understand artistic phenomena once given historical, artistic, psychological and cultural guidelines;

- have basic skills to pursue a theoretical-practical activity halfway between history of art and art criticism.

Course contents

The course combines tightly connected reflections on the following main topics:

1. Theoretical-methodological elements: instruments

This part of the course focuses on the accurate description of theoretical and methodological bases of the 20th Century arts critical debate. The analysis of the different methodologies and interpretative approaches to artworks developed in the 20th Century allows the study of the main Italian and European art historians.

2. Historical-interpretative elements: examples

History of art and critical reviews of the 20th Century: itineraries and discussions. This part of the course focuses on significant examples of European art criticism contributions and on the subsequent dynamic analysis of different styles.

3. Elements of arts criticism specific language: terms

This part of the course focuses on some relevant issues of art criticism specific language, more precisely on origin, development and change of meaning of specific terms.

4. In academic year 2018/2019, the course will particularly focus on analysing and comparing different methods of “reading” visual arts, from inside and from outside.


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 and at least one text from Section II.

Section I

Ferdinando Bologna, I metodi di studio dell'arte italiana e il problema metodologico oggi, in Storia dell'arte italiana, Torino, Einaudi, 1979, I, pp. 165-282.

Arnold Hauser, Le teorie dell'arte, tendenze e metodi della critica moderna, Torino, Einaudi, 2001 [titolo or. Philosophie der Kunstgeschichte 1958].

Orietta Rossi Pinelli (a cura di), La storia delle storie dell'Arte, Torino, Einaudi, 2014, pp. 320-490.

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.

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.

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].

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.

Teaching methods

The course aims to provide students with a complete overview of art criticism methods and with a historical and methodological knowledge of theoretical aspects of artworks analysis. By the end of the course, students have a good knowledge of critical studies tradition of the 20th Century. More particularly, they have basic methodological skills to analyse an artwork from a formal, iconographic, and technical point of view. Moreover, they are 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.

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 with PowerPoint projections and videos.

Office hours

See the website of Sandra Costa