Is Art History? Selected Writings by Svetlana Alpers

  • Is Art History? Selected Writings by Svetlana Alpers


Is Art History? is a definitive volume of writings by one of the most renowned art historians of the past century. The book brings together Alpers’s contributions to the art historical discipline and her considerations of the continuing possibilities of painting as an art. Her writing spans over six decades beginning with seminal essays written in examination of the constraints of her chosen discipline, including a foundational essay on Vasari (1960), Is Art History? (1970), Style is What You Make IT (1979), and Art History and Its Exclusions (1982); two influential but never before published lectures and other unpublished public presentations; notable critical essays on art, and recent texts on contemporary artists including Alex Katz, Catherine Murphy and Shirley Jaffe and others. Is Art History? also includes new prefatory notes written by the author for this occasion, an unexpected introduction by her former student the esteemed scholar-critic Richard Meyer (Robert and Ruth Halperin Professor of Art History, Stanford University), and a revealing interview with the German author and critic Ulf Erdmann Ziegler. This extensive view of Alpers’s prolific and varied career appeals both to new readers in need of an introduction as well as to audiences familiar with her stimulating writing on the great European tradition of painting.

Svetlana Alpers (BA Radcliffe College, PhD. Harvard University) is the author of The Art of Describing, Rembrandt’s Enterprise, Tiepolo and the Pictorial Intelligence (with Michael Baxandall), The Making of Rubens, The Vexations of Art, Roof Life, and most recently Walker Evans: Starting from Scratch. Alpers taught at the University of California, Berkeley from 1962-94 and is the recipient of numerous awards and honors including being named a Fellow of the American Academy of Art and Sciences, The American Philosophical Society, an officier of the French l’Ordre des Art and Lettres, a corresponding member of the British Academy and of the Royal Academy of Art. Most recently she was the recipient of the 2023 Distinguished Lifetime Achievement Award for Writing on Art from the College Art Association and the 2024 Silvers-Dudley Prize for Arts Writing. Alpers co-founded the interdisciplinary journal Representations in 1983. She is Professor Emerita at University of California, Berkeley and a visiting scholar at the Department of Art History, New York University.