Digital Humanities Confronts Cubism

Digital Humanities methods are increasingly used in humanities research, teaching, and presentation through a myriad of techniques.

Digital tools and methods offer possibilities of analyzing texts, images, objects, and artifacts in different ways and from multiple perspectives. Although these methods often draw on or duplicate “traditional” humanities methods, they sometimes create entirely new ways of investigating human culture and society.

The New York Times published an interactive art history website this week in order to assess the development of the Cubist artistic movement in Paris in the early twentieth century. In many ways, the analysis in this website simply reduplicates well-established methods of art history analysis, discussing collage techniques, composition, visual representations, sources, references, and interpretations.

The analysis focuses on Juan Gris’s Still Life: The Table (Philadelphia Museum of Art) and interprets it as presenting revolutionary in the development of Cubism.

Juan Gris, Still Life: The Table (Philadelphia Museum of Art)

The Digital Humanities techniques used to analyze Gris’s Still Life: The Table control the viewer’s gaze to zoom in on particular images within the painting.

Juan Gris, Still Life: The Table (detail)

The interactive website then zooms out to consider other paintings, drawings, magazines, and newspapers as sources and references.

Fantômas

The interactive site could have used additional Digital Humanities techniques to develop further historical and contextual analysis of the publishing industry, political culture, urban society, and café culture in early twentieth-century Paris.

The zooming effect and source analysis employed by the interactive website can be achieved in art history articles and books using numerous separate images in sequence, but the interactive website is more efficient and elegant in guiding the viewer’s eye through the painting’s composition and its sources.

This is a relatively simple application of Digital Humanities techniques to art history, but a good example of how the Digital Humanities methodologies have become so pervasive across the disciplines of art history, history, literary studies, philosophy, religious studies, music history, museum studies, manuscript studies, archival studies, and related fields.

The interactive website entitled “An Art Revolution, Made With Scissors and Glue,” appears on The New York Times website.

On Digital Humanities, see:

Burdick, Anne, et al. Digital Humanities. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 2012.

Crompton, Constance Louise Kathleen, Richard J. Lane, and Raymond George Siemens. Doing Digital Humanities: Practice, Training, Research. New York: Routledge, 2016.

Deegan, Marilyn, and Willard McCarty. Collaborative Research in the Digital Humanities. London: Routledge, 2016.

Drucker, Johanna. “Humanities Approaches to Graphical Display.” Digital Humanities Quarterly 5, no. 1 (2011).

Gold, Matthew K. Debates in the Digital Humanities. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012.

This entry was posted in Art History, Cultural History, Digital Humanities, European History, French History, History in the Media, Material Culture, Museums and Historical Memory, Paris History, Political Culture, Urban History. Bookmark the permalink.

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