Method Questions

What is the purpose of style? Questions of method in art history

Author: Jan Blanc, Université de Genève


The history of style has always been the subject of intense debate within art history, ever since its birth as a scientific discipline at the end of the nineteenth century; and these debates have almost always revolved around problems of definition – what is a 'style'? is there a difference between 'manner' and 'style'? are there 'individual styles' and 'collective styles'? can we speak of 'artistic personality'? – and areas of application – how to apply this or that 'style' to this or that artist or group of artists or works, a given time and place? On the other hand, little thought has been given to the usefulness of this notion for the discipline and those who practice it, no doubt because, for a long time, specialists favoured an essentialist or realist approach, which rendered useless any discussion of the very relevance of these notions, too happy with its convenience to organise the collections of their museums or the chapters of their books. It seems to us that the fundamental question is whether it is possible, and under what conditions, to make practical use of the notion of "style" without sacrificing the precision of the discourse and falling into anachronism. At a time when certain digital tools promise to reopen the question of style as a means of classification and taxonomy in art history, it seems important to us to ask this question afresh, by addressing the most practical and concrete aspects possible.


Jan Blanc is Professor of Renaissance and Early Modern Art History at the University of Geneva and a specialist in Dutch, French and British art theory.

From column to facade: Morphological and stylistic characterization of architectural digitizations

Author: David Lo Buglio, Université Libre de Bruxelles


Beyond the measures, architectural survey could be defined as a practice that aims to analyze, to understand and to represent knowledge about built heritage. However, while for many years this discipline has seen a development in digitization methods and techniques, the purpose of the survey seems to mainly focus on the metric representations of building, and on the production of figurative images. Digital acquisitions bring in a quantity of data that are qualified as massive, but appears to be too often underlooked. We would like to consider work acquisition beyond the ambition of the acquisition of measurements and investigates new methodological approaches for morphological and stylistic characterization of architectural shapes according to different scales of observation.


Professor at the Faculty of Architecture of ULB (Brussels, Belgium). He teaches in the Master years « Theory of representation » and coordinates the studio « Graphic documentation of built heritage ». In addition, he supervises many research projects within the AlICe laboratory (ULB) and has been a member since 2010 of the UMR MAP (CNRS, France).


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