JAIC 1996, Volume 35, Number 3, Article 3 (pp. 197 to 218)
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Journal of the American Institute for Conservation
JAIC 1996, Volume 35, Number 3, Article 3 (pp. 197 to 218)

THE ARTIST'S INTENTIONS AND THE INTENTIONAL FALLACY IN FINE ARTS CONSERVATION

STEVEN W. DYKSTRA


ABSTRACT—A formal claim was made in the mid-20th century that the goal of art conservation is to present the artwork as the artist intended it to be seen. Dispute over this claim among conservators and art historians involved differences of perspective on the relative roles of science and art history in the interpretation of artist's intent. A separate but concurrent debate among philosophers, art critics, and literary critics was sparked by publication of “The Intentional Fallacy,” a scholarly article discrediting appeals to the intentions of artists and authors in art and literary criticism. In this separate debate, difficulty in the evaluation and application of artist's intent was traced to ambiguity of the term “intent.” The author discusses 11 variations of its meaning and puts the issues surrounding artist's intent together in the contexts of art conservation. He also presents more recent viewpoints in the social sciences that associate issues of artist's intent with the role of the artist in the continued existence of the artwork. The writings of contemporary philosophers contribute useful perspectives on the essential nature of art and the autonomy of artworks from their creators. The author finds that the interpretation and application of artist's intent is an interdisciplinary task and that its evaluation in conservation contexts is limited to consideration of distinctive stylistic characteristics that demonstrate the correlated individuality of artists and their work.
[Spanish Abstract] [French Abstract]

Article Sections:

1. INTRODUCTION
2. MATERIAL MORTALITY: THE UNDERLYING PROBLEM
3. POSITIVISM AND THE ARTIST'S INTENTIONS
4. THE INTENTIONAL FALLACY: INTENTIONALISM VS. ANTI-INTENTIONALISM
5. VARIATIONS OF MEANING OF ARTISTIC INTENT
6. THE ROLE OF THE ARTIST
7. CONCLUSIONS: THE APPLICATION OF ARTIST'S INTENTIONS IN CONSERVATION WORK
a: References , Author Information
Entire Article

Copyright 1996 American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works