Approach vs. Facts.
(Folia Historiae Artium, Seria Nowa, vol.
On Some Interpretations of Rodakowski’s
and Mehoffer’s paintings
published 2006, p. 161-171. ISSN 0071-6723)
The author, referring to
methodological discussions conducted by historians of literature,
the problem of unverifiable theories and overinterpretations in the
contemporary study of art. As an illustration, he lists Michael
publications (fashionable in Poland), which contain extended analyses
that - as
a rule - take no account of the artist's intention or of the work's
background, sometimes ignoring even the chronological sequence of
author considers Brötje's assumptions as too arbitrary: they
are impossible to
corroborate and impervious to falsification (in the Popperian sense).
unclear which facts could eventually contradict them. Similar phenomena
recently occurred in Polish publications. The proposals contained in
true only in a ‘consensual’ way: they are
positively evaluated in certain
milieus of specialists, even though they happen to contradict the
sources and general knowledge. In the author's opinion, the formulation
radically new (though not necessarily reasonable) interpretations is
boost by the battle for recognition among scholars. In Polish research
the strategy of overinterpretation sometimes results in local success,
the lack of scholarly debate reinforces this situation.
The author points to dangers of
overinterpretation through the example of studies by two art historians
the Poznań circle devoted to Polish painting in the 2nd
half of the 19th
century. He claims that their concentration on certain arbitrarily
visual aspects of the discussed paintings results in exaggerated
in their arguments. The rules and stages of source analysis are
what concerns not only the work of art itself, but also the related
The written sources which could prove helpful e.g. in the
reconstruction of the
circumstances in which pictures originated are often overlooked, and so
painting analysed out of the historical and artistic context falls prey
interpreter's unbridled activity. Instead of historical thinking about
of art, the authors present their deepened impressions, which cannot be
accepted as scholarly statements.