Week 6.

Pamela Fletcher and Anne Helmreich discuss the impact of transportation, communication, and financial networks in the late 19th century on the art market in England, especially London. The growth of these networks worked in parallel with the mobility of goods, which led to a bolstered international art market. The authors use data sets and visualizations to consider the geography of the London art market and the sales data of different groups like Goupil & Cie/Boussod, Valadon & Cie, and other prominent art firms. 

The density of the London art market and the various pathways that  artworks, artists, and buyers interacted within changed over time and Fletcher and Helmreich discuss the implications of the change, but make a strong argument for why visualizing these changes results in a greater understanding of the art scene. The art market is dynamic to say the least, and the mercurial nature of which galleries are open is clearly reflected in the mapping capability.  

Fletcher and Helmreich also consider the evolution of the art market in the 19th century, with a major shift from state-sponsored patronage to private dealers and galleries. It mentions previous research on the British art market and the role of factors such as industrialization, Protestantism, and social circles in shaping it. I’m not sure if I see these more nuanced changes reflected in the digital map, but I think the authors addressing why things are changing so drastically provides a deeper and more nuanced look at the map. 

Basically, the text supports the map, and the map supports the text. This model best illustrates the way that art history can benefit from digital humanities. I’m not sure how else you could provide an analog way to achieve a similar goal. I’m not sure it would have the same effect, particularly with the interactivity of the map. I’m very impressed by what the authors could achieve with the map and how much stronger their argument looked. 

I began my reading responses with a consideration on how art historians consider ourselves to be vaguely “interdisciplinary” but when push comes to shove, we are disinterested in exploring other fields. I think Beatrice Joyeux-Prunel in “Digital Humanities for a Spatial, Global, and Social History of Art”, does a really good job of capturing this dilemma once again. Geography and mapping is, simply put, not art history. Yet, in many cases art historians look at and rely on maps. Fletcher and Helmreich make a strong case for showing the capabilities of mapping within “traditional” art history. She begins by mentioning how in the past, the notion of “school” and “academy” in art was heavily influenced by national criteria and was even used to justify political theories like nationalism. Some scholars used artistic geography to support land claims. In the 1990s, when European and North American art historians moved away from nationalism and were more interested in aesthetics and forms, they neglected to understand social and geographical aspects. However, there has been a recent interest in artistic geography, where some art historians are advocating for a more thoughtful and critical approach to maps.

Art geographers have emphasized the importance of rethinking traditional concepts like eurocentrism, lens, and financial capital in art history, particularly with a postcolonialist viewpoint. This shift has paralleled the “global turn” in art history and the study of artistic globalization.

Art geographers definitely borrowed concepts from geographers, they didn’t initially consider themselves “mappers”. However, the introduction of digital methodologies in art history has led to a burgeoning interest in mapping, especially among art historians who are interested in sociology, economics, and trend analysis. The digital geographical approach has created new questions for art historians, and encouraged us to, once again, step outside the fence of “Art History” and engage in a meaningful way with the rest of academia. Digital mapping has enabled researchers to complete tasks that fifteen years ago would seem impossible to analyze and visualize such information clearly.


My map shows the movement of the objects I chose for my Omeka Exhibit, Afterlives. I hope the map provides clarity to the way objects move around. I also included some famous museums to provide landmarks so viewers can orient themselves. Some famous art works are very close to famous museums, some are very far away. This is just a sampling of the way objects move, but I hope it provides insight.

In retrospect, I think I would have color coded each art work, rather than use the color coding to signify more of a temporal quality.

1 comment

  1. I agree with your perspective that the text and map within Fletcher and Helmreich’s project mutually enhance one another. I liked how you broadened this relationship to demonstrate how digital humanities and art history can be mutually beneficial. Additionally, it is really interesting to think about if this is possible in an analog format. I think agree with you – that this kind of interaction between digital humanities and art history is specific to the digital space.

    I think it is worthwhile to think about mapping within the discipline of art history which you have discussed here. I have never heard of Art geographers, but it makes sense there is a trend towards digital mapmaking within the art history discipline. As art history and digital art history begins to incorporate aspects of other disciplines it blurs the boundaries of what is and what is not art history. I think this “problem” or at least ambiguity will become increasingly blurry as art history becomes more interdisciplinary.

    I really enjoyed interacting with your map. It is very interesting to add a geographical component to your Omeka exhibit. It seems like geographical mapping of an artwork or objects movement is a great way to incorporate mapping into the field of art history.

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