In the domain of visual images, those of fine art form a tiny minority. This text calls upon art historians to look beyond their traditional subjects - painting, drawing, photography and printmaking - to the vast array of "non-art" images, including those from science, technology, commerce, medicine, music and archaeology. Such images, James Elkins asserts, can be as rich and expressive as any canonical painting. Using scores of illustrations as examples, he proposes a new way of thinking about visual analysis, one that relies on an object's own internal sense of organization. Elkins begins by demonstrating the arbitrariness of current criteria used by art historians for selecting images for study. He urges scholars to adopt, instead, the far broader criteria of the young field of image studies. After analyzing the philosophical underpinnings of this interdisciplinary field, he surveys the entire range of images, from calligraphy to mathematical graphs and abstract painting. Throughout, Elkins blends philosophical analysis with historical detail to produce a new sense of such basic terms as "pictures", "writing" and "notation".
James Elkins teaches in the Department of Art History, Theory, and Criticism at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. His books include The Object Stares Back, On the Nature of Seeing, What Painting Is; and, also from Cornell, The Poetics of Perspective.