Approaching Aby Warburg and Digital Art History

Thinking Through Images

Authored by: Amanda Du Preez

The Routledge Companion to Digital Humanities and Art History

Print publication date:  May  2020
Online publication date:  April  2020

Print ISBN: 9781138585584
eBook ISBN: 9780429505188
Adobe ISBN:


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What does Aby Warburg (1866–1929) offer digital humanities and digital art history? In what follows, I aim to plot selected methods and strategies utilized by Warburg onto digital humanities. My underlying assumption is that Warburg’s Bilderatlas Mnemosyne (1924–1929) allows for thinking though images using digital humanities (DH) methods. The Bilderatlas in its final constellation (1929) consisted of sixty-three portables frames (panels) stretched with black cloth onto which black and white photographs (971) of paintings, sculptures, coins, stamps, popular images and tarot cards, were pinned. It would not be too optimistic to state that Warburg’s Bilderatlas anticipated DH strategies. Griselda Pollock identifies Warburg’s contribution “not as an archive but, instead, [as a] psychologically aware historical study of the image, as a thinking machine for confronting contemporary Art History.” 1 I would add: Warburg initiated a thinking machine for DH and stratagems for thinking through images.

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