“I maintain that modern mechanical achievements such as color photography, the motion-picture camera, the profusion of more or less popular novels, the popularization of the theaters have effectively replaced and henceforth rendered superfluous the development of visual, sentimental, representational, and popular subject matter in pictorial art.”

Fernand Léger’s words from 1913 show that it is not only today that painting has to contend with other, seemingly more modern media, although this, as he also states, does not automatically make it superfluous. Painting is currently enjoying a spirited existence within the field of tension that encompasses photography, television, advertising, computer technology and the cinema. Painters today make images from the media the subject of their world or use the computer as a kind of sketchbook to create their own image of the world, as they have done for centuries. By the same token, artists who use photography or video can be seen to cite the pictorial narratives and gestures of painting, or to work with painting and film at the same time. It was the art historian Heinrich Wölfflin, a contemporary of Léger, who in his 1915 publication Kunstgeschichtliche Grundbegriffe (Principles of Art History) released the quality of painterliness from the artistic genre of painting, defining it instead as a general stylistic category. Since then it has been clear that painterly thinking is not carried out exclusively in oil on canvas.


The use of the term painterly photography nowadays can refer to two different facets of the medium; one relating to technical aspects, the other to the choice of subject matter. Both of these play a part in suppressing the representational and documentary aspects of the photographic medium. Given the possibilities of computer-aided image processing, photographers have a new tool with which they can rework their photographs in a painterly manner, for example in order to dissolve form through the blurring of the image. In recent years a contemporary form of pictorials has emerged in which the photographic image is brought close to painting. In Painting Pictures, on the other hand, we are dealing only with photography that is resolutely photography, but which by incorporating motifs and certain compositional principles of painting also makes specific reference to painting.

The panoramic beach images of Massimo Vitali are descended from George Seurat’s A Sunday on La Grande Jatte – 1884 and relate to tit like the beginning and end fo a tourist occupation of (local) recreation sites. While the Post.Impressionist Seurat aspired to a scientifically objectifiable form of painting, Vitali, specifically by means of his analog, not digitally processed photographs, achieves an impressionist effect.

Annelie Lütgens, “On the Pleasure of Depicting the Present” in Painting Pictures. Painting and media in the digital age, exhibition catalog, Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, 2003, pp. 10 - 19.

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