History of Art and Architecture

Terry Smith Colloquium

Wednesday, January 23, 2019 - 12:00pm

Frick Fine Arts Building, Room 202


In his Confessions, dictated in 379 AD, St. Augustine offered a famous definition of the human experience of temporality:

It might be correct to say that there are three times: a present of past things, a present of present things, and a present of future things. For these three do somehow exist in the soul, and otherwise I see them not: the present of past things is memory [memoria]; the present of present things is seeing (direct perception [contuitus, later attentio]); the present of future things is expectation, or anticipation [anticipatio].

At some point between 1454 and 1469 Piero della Francesca painted a full-length figure of St Augustine as a panel within altarpiece for the church of Sant’Agostino in Sansepolcro, the artist’s hometown. A 2013 exhibition at the Frick Collection, New York, proposed a reconstruction of that altarpiece, and a 2014 exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art highlighted the theme of “personal encounters” in Piero’s art. Together, these exhibitions provoked reflection on the variety of ways in which Piero—often characterized as an artist of restrained consistency—tackled the challenges of representing the various kinds of time that his subjects, and his own times, required. 

This paper is offered as a contribution to a series of events aimed at activating the Temporalities Constellation within the Department and its circles of interest. It is related to my Contemporary Art-Special Topics seminar that will be open to anyone interested on the evening of January 23, 5:30 to 7pm, when chapter 11 of St Augustine’s Confessionsand two essays by Erwin Panofsky on time in art will be discussed. (Email tes2@pitt.edufor pdfs.) The same topic will be further pursued the following week, during the visit of Keith Moxey, professor emeritus from Columbia University and author of Visual Time(2013). Several events are planned, the details of which will appear in a separate announcement. 

TERRY SMITH is Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Contemporary Art History and Theory in the Department of the History of Art and Architecture at the University of Pittsburgh, and Professor in the Division of Philosophy, Art, and Critical Thought at the European Graduate School. In 2010, he became Australia Council Visual Arts Laureate and the received the Franklin Jewett Mather Award from the College Art Association. Recent books include What is Contemporary Art? (2009), Contemporary Art: World Currents (2011), Thinking Contemporary Curating (2012), Talking Contemporary Curating (2015), The Contemporary Composition (2016) and One and Five Ideas: On Conceptual Art and Conceptualism (2107). See www.terryesmith.net/web