“Mimesis: Reality in Renaissance Art,” with Véronique Plesch (Art, Colby)

September 22 at 7:00 in Lovejoy 100

Durer Painting

Albrecht Dürer, Large Piece of Turf, 1503. Watercolor, pen and ink. Vienna: Albertina

The period we call the Renaissance is traditionally conceived of as a rebirth of Ancient ideas and ideals; but it could be argued that Renaissance artists were fundamentally concerned with the creation of a convincing depiction of reality. This lecture will explore the means at the service of such agenda (for instance linear perspective and oil painting), the motivations for such an interest and the functions it fulfilled, while also considering the differences between Italian and Northern Renaissance Art in this quest for mimetic illusionism. Given this year’s Humanities theme, special attention will be paid to depictions of nature.

Born in Argentina and raised in Switzerland, Professor of Art Véronique Plesch holds advanced degrees from the University of Geneva in Art History and Medieval French Literature and from Princeton University, where she received her Ph.D. in Art History in 1994, the year she joined Colby faculty. Plesch is the author and editor of eight books and has published over forty articles in Europe and the U.S. in English, French, and Italian on subjects ranging from late medieval and Renaissance iconography to Alpine art, and from Passion plays to early modern graffiti, with forays into contemporary art. Plesch has curated several exhibitions, for instance on medieval liturgical objects and on Grand Tour souvenirs and is the current President of the International Association of Word and Image Studies.

Student Discussions

  • Representation of the Real World–More than just the mechanics of painting October 27, 2015 Kay ShigemoriMimesis–the mimicry or imitation of the real world in art (a representation of our planet/nature)–was a topic that interested me. As a hobby, I like painting and drawing during my ...
  • Mimesis October 19, 2015 Jay ArrMimesis is in essence mimicry. In the lecture, the speaker mentioned the use of Mimesis in Art, as a specialized field. However, I would have to disagree with the idea ...
  • Illusion/Reality October 4, 2015 Kathryn ChowVeronique Plesch’s speech on Mimesis altered the way in which I typically think about art. Mimesis, in art, is imitation — reimagining the physical, external world to reflect different perspectives. Though its scope ...
  • Modern Mimesis and Photorealism September 29, 2015 Rachel BirdThis week’s lecture was particularly interesting to me, given my background as a studio art major. I have learned about the Italian Renaissance from an art history perspective, but I ...
  • Artistic Choice in Religious Painting September 29, 2015 eroakleyOne function of mimesis, realism in Renaissance art, was to make paintings more emotionally resonant.  Instead of the flat faces of people in many earlier paintings, the people shown in ...
  • Art September 29, 2015 Jessica TregidgoMany different things come together to form a piece of art. The definition of art has changed throughout the years. Throughout time, people have questioned what makes art; is art ...
  • Mimesis September 29, 2015 Sophie SuechtingMimesis in Greek means imitation. In Renaissance art it was the act of reproducing reality in sculpture, paintings, and theater arts. In her talk, Professor Plesch used a couple of ...
  • Nature and Art September 29, 2015 Grant LowensohnThis week’s lecture was centered on the representation of nature in art, specifically in the Renaissance period. The part of the lecture that I found most interesting was the section ...
  • Artwork as a window to the past September 29, 2015 Hallie JesterI thought it was interesting to think that paintings and artwork can be a glimpse into past. They can reveal how people of that time thought of the world. While ...
  • The Art of Nature September 29, 2015 mekoppAlbrecht Dürer, a German Renaissance artist drew the “Great Piece of Turf” in 1503. Nowadays, the small watercolor painting might not seem that unusual because we are used to photographs ...