The approach of “word and image” has changed the central task of art history that entailed study of visual images to relation of visual images and language. Word and image involve representations of visual images in terms of symbols that can be seen and read. It involves showing and telling based on the visual images. The approach is related to words on page that are composed of verbal signs that can be read aloud, translated into other languages as well as interpreted. This is the same case with art history. It is made of visual symbols that use the sense of hearing and seeing.
The approach establishes that visual images such as pictures should be interpreted or described in terms of what they represent. In the process of interpretation, language must be used that is referred to as “visual language”. There is always an interplay between word and images during the perception process of visual image. As a result, the approach integrates visual arts with literary theory. In this case, art history is deemed as a process through which visual images are explained, described as well as evaluated using the right words.
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Notably, an image is s visual representation of a given object. Thus, the vivid difference between word and image is that one uses a sense of hearing while the other uses sense of seeing or depicting. To interpret an image, different signs must be coordinated in the senses resulting in the use of language.
The major criticism is that literature has developed a tendency to overlay and colonize art history. There has been a lot of invasion of literary theories in the field of visual arts. This has made art history less significant. Despite the fact that there is an intimate relationship between word and image, a sort of defensiveness has been raised to ensure that the field of art history is independent. On the contrary, there has been a notion that word and visual images are always reduced to language in order to be more meaningful. This posses a major criticism as visual images are representative on their own. Words are just used to interpret or describe them. For example, painting can stand on its own. However, painting and poetry have their own dominion although they are close to each other. On the other hand, relationship between word and image results in a linguistic understanding for most scholars. However, the two fields have a boundary that makes them distinct. Thus, a borderline must be created to distinguish language and visual representation.