Spatial Art History in the Digital Realm

Susan Elizabeth Gagliardi, Joanna Gardner-Huggett


Art historians and other humanists are increasingly turning to geographic information systems (GIS) and other digital technologies to ask provocative questions, assess complex data, and publish fresh findings. The collection of essays gathered here focuses on art historians’ turn to making maps themselves. As geographers know well, maps represent makers’ decisions about perspective, scale, and representation of space. Art historians have long investigated the same characteristics of art as artists working at disparate moments in history and in far-flung places have explored perspective, scale, and spatial representation in their works. At times, such artists prompt viewers to consider how people represent space, to question what maps are, to think about how people make maps, and to wonder at the curious ways in which people engage with spatial renderings. Geographers ask similar questions about mapmakers and the images they make. But while the discipline of geography has long encompassed mapmaking in its practice, the discipline of art history has not historically encompassed the making of maps. This special issue examines what happens when art historians begin making maps. It features ongoing art-historical research projects that rely on the scholarly construction of maps to investigate data, refine understanding, and disseminate findings about the production, circulation, or reception of art. We assert that this turn to the production of maps in art-historical research is an endeavor separate from the art-historical study of maps as images. It actually constitutes a break with longstanding scholarly conventions in the discipline, especially with respect to the role of iteration in research and to the presentation of results.


spatial art history; digital humanities; digital art history

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