Sculpture Journal

The temporality of sculptural viewing in Hemsterhuis’s Lettre sur la sculpture

Sculpture Journal (2018), 27, (2), 225–250.

Abstract

This article addresses some of the central critical and interpretative issues raised by Frans Hemsterhuis’s Lettre sur la sculpture (1769), both as the text was read in the eighteenth century and in relation to contemporary scholarship. Although the essay appears to conform to many of the standard conventions of neoclassical aesthetics, it contains a highly original account of the temporality of sculptural viewing. On the reading offered here, the real achievement of the Lettre sur la sculpture lies in Hemsterhuis’s elucidation of the temporally extended empirical and psychological processes that are involved in the apprehension of a multiplicity of parts as a coherent whole or unity. Suitably adapted, this provides an alternative means of approaching the long-standing question as to whether there are distinctive characteristics that distinguish sculptural from pictorial viewing.

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Author details

Gaiger, Jason