CG Assignment 2: Part 1 – Photography Past and Present


Read the chapter ‘Photography and the Art of the Past’ in Hope Kingsley, ‘Seduced by Art: Photography Past and Present’ (2012), to read about comparisons between historical art and practitioners using photography to offer differing challenges or explorations of art from the past. Make reflective bullet point summaries on your reading and the comparisons that are being drawn in this chapter.

Seduced by Art: Photography Past and Present

The book ‘Seduced by Art’ accompanies the 2012 National Gallery exhibition linking four centuries of fine art, the first 30 years of photography and contemporary photographic image-making. It makes the case that there is a linear, chronological influence between these three categories.

Historicism, the antithesis of modernism, is the adaption of the past to inspire the present.

Thomas Struth. ‘National Gallery 1’. (1989)

A picture within a picture featuring Giovanni Battista Cima da Conegliano’s ‘The Incredulity of Saint Thomas’.

Doubting Thomas…

Does Struth doubt the truthfulness of the photographic image?

The following quotation encapsulates the struggles of early photography to gain credibility within the art community.

… early photographers did not contravene the values of fine art; there was too large a gap between photography’s aspirations, and its place in the art world (2).

Perhaps the credibility of early photography wasn’t helped by the extent to which they pictured famous works.

But In the 70s and 80s, contemporary female photographers Chadwick, Barbara Kruger and Martha Rosler did have the confidence to challenge the dominance of male artists.

Helen Chadwick. ‘One Flesh’. 1985

Bartolomeo Schedoni. ‘The Holy Family with the Virgin Teaching the Child to Read. 1613-1615

Rather than produce facsimile copies of old masters, the Finnish artist Jorma Puranen photographs the original painting with light reflections obscuring the image. It adds a ghostly feel to the portrait, almost as though it were an apparition.

Jorma Puranen. ‘Shadows and Reflections (after Goya)’. 2011

Francisco de Goya. ‘The Duke of Wellington’. 1812-1814

Luc Delahaye denys the influence of old masters in his image-making. Although the obvious similarities between the two images below are unmistakable.

Luc Delahaye. ‘US Bombing on Taliban Positions’. 2001

Emile-Jean-Horace. ‘Battle of Jemappes’. 1821

Hope Kingsley concludes the chapter with these words:

… in finding a point of convergence between the painter’s and the photographer’s responses to reality, Delahaye offers us the possibility that pictures, whether painted or photographed, might share something fundamental and inspiring in representing our experience of the world (2).


(1) Kingsley, H. and Riopelle, C. (2012) in Seduced by art: Photography past and present published on the occasion of the exhibition held at the National Gallery, London, 31 October 2012-20 January 2013 ; Caixaforum Barcelona, 21 February – 19 May 2013 ; Caixaforum Madrid, 19 June – 15 September 2013. London: National Gallery, p. 31, 53, 24.

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