Attitudes toward the Past: What Is a History of Painting?

Three Conversations with Stephen Melville

  • Wednesday 11th January, 16.30518.30, CSM King’s Cross, Seminar Room D111
  • Wednesday 18th January , 16.30518.30, CSM King’s Cross, Seminar Room D107
  • Wednesday 25th January, 17.00519.00, CSM King’s Cross, Seminar Room D111

What do we mean what we talk about something we call “the history of painting?” Does the phrase just point to everything painted in the past—from, say, Lascaux to last week? Does it point some particular narrative built out of a particular selection of things from the past, and if so, on what basis? Is “the history of painting” in the end just one among many possible stories about painting, and what interest do we have in any of those stories? Are they things simply available to “reference?” Why should anyone—and particularly a painter—care about that? The object of these three conversations is to explore these and related questions across a range of different sites—as they have emerged in certain strands of philosophy, as they have entered into accounts of modernist painting, and as they have been taken up around certain moments in art history. How might the past matter to painting now?

Each session will begin with an introductory presentation, followed by general discussion.

Stephen Melville is a CSM Visiting Professor and Professor Emeritus at Ohio State University. He has published widely on contemporary art as well as on issues in contemporary theory and historiography. He has been resident faculty at the Getty Summer Institute in Visual and Cultural Studies, has given invited lectures at Cornell University (Ruth Woolsey Findley and William Nichols Findley Lecture), The Johns Hopkins University, and The Tate Modern in London. With Philip Armstrong and Laura Lisbon he curated As Painting: Division and Displacement, a seminal exhibition of contemporary painting at the Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, Ohio in May, 2001. The exhibition was accompanied by a substantial publication of the same name from The MIT Press. He has been on the editorial board for both the Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism and the Oxford Encyclopedia of Aesthetics. As a CSM Visiting Professor he has given a number of seminars and lectures most notably Thing of the Past: Hegelian Readings in Recent Art in 2014/15, a series of eight lectures the video documents of which can be accessed at:   In 2016 he participated in the CSM symposium 50 Years of Art and Objecthood: Traces, Impact, Critique.