The subject is not explored in the book What is an Image?: I mention it here because it seems to me that it is logically implied by talk about theories of images and theories starting from images. It is an open door in both art history and visual studies.

I hope the forthcoming book What is an Image? will be a contribution to the current state of thinking, in all its indecisions and messiness and compelling energy, and its promise of foundational rethinking.


James Elkins got a graduate degree in painting and then went on to do the PhD in Art History in 1989 since then he has been teaching at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Currently he is E.C. Chadbourne Chair in the Department of Art History, Theory, and Criticism.

His writing focuses on the history and theory of images in art, science, and nature. Some of his books are exclusively on fine art (What Painting Is, Why Are Our Pictures Puzzles?). Others include scientific and non-art images, writing systems, and archaeology (The Domain of Images, On Pictures and the Words That Fail Them), and some are about natural history (How to Use Your Eyes). Current projects include a series called the Stone Summer Theory Institutes, a book called The Project of Painting: 1900-2000, a series called Theories of Modernism and Postmodernism in the Visual Art, and a book written against Camera Lucida called What Photography Is.

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