Speaker Series | Philip Sohm "Vicarious painting and ludic visual projection"


Arts Building W-215, 853 rue Sherbrooke Ouest, Montreal, QC, H3A 0G5, CA

(University of Toronto)

With generous funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation

Vicarious painting and ludic visual projection
How can an amateur mentally transform pigments on a palette into a finished painting and then return them to their original state as pigment on a palette? Anton Francesco Doni posed this unlikely question in I Marmi (Venice, 1552).  In doing so, he invented a new kind of creative viewing where vicarious painters collaborate with and reconfigure paintings. As amateurs became more curious about the secrets of painters' studios -- the materials, tools and techniques that 'miraculously' turned pigment into flesh -- a new type of art manual was invented to teach amateurs to draw.  Concurrently painters began to represent palettes and paintings in the studio on their easels in ways that would prompt viewers to imagine using palettes and brushes to complete unfinished paintings. The consequences in the later 16th- and 17th-centuries of this new role of viewer as painter is the subject of this lecture. Various types of psychologized visuality will be introduced, including visual agnosia and the projective phenomenon of pareidolia, as a means to interpret early-modern self-portraits, allegories of painting, and scenes of painters' studio. Concluding remarks on indeterminacy and the heuristics of confusion will be offered.