David Summers

David Summers: Nothing but Light
29 August – 5 October 2020

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David Summers: Out of the Light, Into the Light
1 September – 7 October 2018

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Felt Light
David Summers
16 April – 29 May 2016

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SelectionsPam Black, Kris Iden, Peyton Hurt Millikan, Ann Lyne, David Summers, Theo van Groll, Sanjay Vora
6 February – 8 March 2015

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Picasso, Lydia and Friends (Vol. 3)
26 August – 25 September 2016

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Picasso, Lydia, and Friends (Vol. 2)
5 September – 5 October 2014

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David Summers
5 May – 9 June 2013

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Picasso, Lydia and Friends (Vol. 1)
31 August – 30 September 2012

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Lydia Gasman & David Summers: Philosophers and Painters                                                                                  

22 January – 7 March 2010

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Passing Through the Light
David Summers
2 April – 7 May 2000


David Summers taught at Bryn Mawr College and the University of Pittsburgh before accepting an appointment to the Center for Advanced Studies at the University of Virginia in 1981. In 1984, David Summers was appointed William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of the History of Art. David Summers is the author of Michelangelo and the Language of Art (1981), The Judgment of Sense: Renaissance Naturalism and the Rise of Aesthetics (1987); Real Spaces. World Art History and the Rise of Western Modernism (2003); and Vision, Reflection and Imagination in Western Painting in addition to countless reviews and articles, including the Manifesto for the Louvre Abu Dhabi. David Summers was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1996, and paints whenever he can.

Born 1941, Sandpoint, ID

1969 Ph.D., Yale University
1965 MA, Yale University
1963 BA, Brown University

Fellowships & Prizes
1966 Kress Foundation Grant to attend the Mesa Redonda on Teotihuacan in Mexico City
1966-67 Yale University Fellowship for Study Abroad in Florence, Itality
1974 Arthur Kinglsey Porter Prize for the article “Michelangelo on Architecture,” College Art Association
1973-74 Younger Humanist Fellowship, National Endowment for the Humanities
1978 Emmy nomination for the opening sequence of “Mozart as a Keyboard Prodigy,” produced by WGED-TV (Pittsburgh), National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, Los Angeles
1978-79 National Endowment for the Humanities Fellow, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, NJ
1979 Arthur Kingsley Porter Prize for the article “Contrapposto: Style and Meaning in Renaissance Art,” 1979
1981-82 Guggenheim Fellowship
1987 Morris D. Forkasch Prize for “The Judgment of Sense: Renaissance Naturalism and the Rise of Aesthetics,” Journal of the History of Ideas
1993 Plenary Session Speaker, Erwin Panofsky Centenary Symposium, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, NJ
1996 Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
1998 Getty Scholar, The Getty Research Institute for the History of Art and the Humanities

1984-Present William R. Kenan, Jr. Professor of the History of Art, McIntire Department of Art, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
1996-97 Center for Advanced Study, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
1995-96 Visitor, School of Historical Studies, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, NJ
1995 Visiting Scholar, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO
1987 Core Course faculty, National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Institute on Theory and Interpretation in the Visual Arts, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Geneva, NY
1987 Visiting Scholar, University of Washington, Seattle, WA
1981-84 Professor of Art, Center for Advanced Study, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
1979 Promotion to Full Professor, University of Pittsburgh
1973 Tenure and promotion to Associate Professor, University of Pittsburgh
1970-73 Assistant Professor, University of Pittsburgh
1969 Visiting Professor, Swarthmore College
1968-70 Lecturer with rank of Assistant Professor, Bryn Mawr College, Bryn Mawr, PA
1964-65 Graduate teaching assistant, Yale University, New Haven, CT

Major University Service
2000-01 Dean’s Tenure and Promotion Committee
1990-95 President’s Council for the Arts
1990-95 Departmental Chair
1981-90 Bayly Museum Acquisitions Committee
1983-86 Chair, Old Master Print Committee
1984-86 Chair, University Museum Committee
1984-86 Dean’s Tenure and Promotion Committee
1983-84 Ad hoc Bayly Museum Committee

Selected Professional Activity
Advisory Board, World Art Studies Program, University of East Anglia
1998 Chair, session on “Discourse,” Art/History, Getty Research Institute Inaugural Conference, Los Angeles, CA
1995 Representative of the CAA to the MLA Conference on Advocacy in Teaching, Pittsburgh, PA
1995 Symposium on “Analyzing Disciplinary Disagreements,” National Academy of Arts and Sciences and the Commonwealth Center for Literary and Cultural Change, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
1993- Editorial Board, Journal of the History of Ideas
1993 Editorial Board, Art Bulletin
1993 Chair, session entitled “Art/Language/Vision,” CAA Meeting, Seattle, WA
1983-84 Chair, Symposium on Intention and Interpretation, CAA Meeting, Los Angeles, CA
1983-84 Fellowship Jury, American Academy in Rome
1982 Panelist, session on art theory, CAA Meeting, New York, NY
1981 Panelist, session on semiotics and the history of art, CAA Meeting, San Francisco, CA

2016 Felt Light, Les Yeux du Monde Gallery, Charlottesville, VA
2013 Light, Les Yeux du Monde Gallery, Charlottesville, VA
2005 Recent Paintings, Les Yeux du Monde Gallery, Charlottesville, VA
2000 Passing through the Light, Les Yeux du Monde Gallery, Charlottesville, VA
1998 Getty Reflections, Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, CA
1991 Distinguished Visiting Artist, West Virginia University, Charleston, WV
1986-2001 University of Virginia Department of Art Faculty Exhibitions
1983 Fayerweather Gallery, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA
1980 Solo exhibition, Pittsburgh Plan for Art, Pittsburgh, PA
1980 Studies of Light, University of Pittsburgh Art Gallery, Pittsburgh, PA
1978 Recent Paintings, University of Pittsburgh Art Gallery, Pittsburgh, PA
1977 Three Western Pennsylvania Realists, Seaton Hill College and Pennsylvania State University
1977 Paintings by David Summers, University of Pittsburgh Art Gallery, Pittsburgh, PA

“Marks and virtual space on a surface are reciprocal, and infinite apparent things may arise from a first mark, just as infinite virtual spaces must arise to accommodate them. If marks are “things” in space, they also show us surfaces of those things, virtual color and light, which again may be articulated in infinite ways.

Brushstrokes make their own kind of endlessly unique spaces, which, rather than letting run their course, I make describe what I have chosen to paint. For me, painting is trying to make the marks of painting like the things, space and light I see, weaving pictorial space and light into an acknowledgment of whoever or whatever I am facing. Once I have decided what to paint, I try to feel the rightness of every touch of the brush, at the same time that what I see can’t be anything but the endless occasion for invention. A painting is done when a particular subject assumes something like its own presence and distance in the equally particular space of the painting.

I usually don’t let the painted surface touch the edge, so that the marks will float, not borrow architecture from the edges. The paintings compose themselves from the inside out. While I paint, I feel I am trying my best to draw with light; this is impossible, of course, because paint is paint and because light continually changes. But the simple and impossible disrelation of painting and light to me is itself endlessly fascinating, always promises meaning, and any persuasive analogy I find to the play of light, even how a few shadows lie together, is a gain. Light touches our retinas a first time, leaves our eyes just as suddenly and silently, and in an instant knits up the place we were. In the meantime, it is the great place and time in which we share our lives.

The paintings are mostly arranged according to the thoughtless habit and permutationality of a life. They are paintings of familiar people and things, things I see out of the corner of my eye, gifts I have been given, things that strike my fancy (as we say), objects no longer meaningful once used. I try to make them as beautiful with light as they are, or were, or seem to try to persist to be. Painting light is a kind of homage to what is and was for me, much as it is and was for you, and it is inescapably both lyric and elegiac.”

Selected Publications
“The Sculptural Program of the Cappella di San Luca in the Santissima Annunziata,” Mitteilungen des Kunsthistorischen Institutes in Florenz, 14, 1969, p. 67-90
“The Chronology of Vincenzio Danti’s first works in Florence,” Mitteilungen des Kunsthistorischen Institutes in Florenz, 16, 1972, p. 185-198
“Michelangelo on Architecture,” Art Bulletin, 54, 1972, p. 145-157
“Maniera and Movement: the ‘Figura serpentinata’,” Art Quarterly, 35, 1972, p. 269-301
“Contrapposto: Style and Meaning in Renaissance Art,” Art Bulletin, 59, 1977, p. 336-361
“Figure come fratelli: a Transformation of Symmetry in Italian Renaissance Painting,” Art Quarterly, 40, 1977, p. 59-88
“David’s Scowl,” in Collaboration in Italian Renaissance Art, ed. W. S. Sheard and J. T. Paoletti, New Haven and London, 1978, p. 113-120
The Sculpture of Vincenzo Danti, New York and London, 1979
Michelangelo and the Language of Art, Princeton, 1981
“Conventions in the History of Art,” New Literary History, 13, 1981, p. 103-126
“Cubism as a Comic Style,” The Massachusetts Review, 22, 1982, p. 641-659
“The ‘Visual Arts’ and the Problem of Art Historical Description,” Art Journal, 42, 1982, p. 301-310
“Intentions in the History of Art,” New Literary History, 17, 1985-86, p. 305-21
The Judgment of Sense: Renaissance Naturalism and the Rise of Aesthetics, Cambridge University Press, 1987; Spanish translation, El juicio de la sensibilidad. Renacimento naturalismo y emergencia de la Estetica, trans. Jose Miguel Esteban Cloquell, Madrid, 1993
“This is not a sign. Some Remarks on Art and Semiotics,” Art Criticism, 3, 1986, p. 30-45
“The Stylistics of Color,” Color and Technique in Renaissance Painting. Italy and the North, ed. M. B. Hall, Locust Valley, 1987, p. 205-20
“‘Form,’ Nineteenth-century Metaphysics and the Problem of Art Historical Description,” Critical Inquiry, 15, 1989, p. 372-406; this essay has been anthologized in The Art of Art History: A Critical Anthology, ed. D. Preziosi, Oxford University Press, 1998, 127-142.
“Visual Images,” International Encyclopedia of Communications, s. v.
“Real Metaphor: Towards a Redefinition of the ‘Conceptual’ Image,” Visual Theory. Painting and Interpretation, ed. N. Bryson, M. A. Holly and K. Moxey, New York, 1991, p. 231-259
“Conditions and Conventions: On the Disanalogy of Art and Language,” The Language of Art History, ed. I. Gaskill and S. Kemal, Cambridge, 1991, p. 181-212.
“Aria II: the Union of Image and Artist as an Aesthetic Ideal in Renaissance Art,” Artibus et Historiae, 20, 1989, p. 15-32
“Form and Gender,” New Literary History, 24, 1993, p. 243-271; slightly variant in Visual Culture. Images and Interpretations, ed. N. Bryson, M. A. Holly and K. Moxey, Hanover and London, 1994, p. 384-411
“Why did Kant call Taste a Common Sense?” Eighteenth-Century Aesthetics and the Reconstruction of Art, ed. P. Mattick, Jr., Cambridge, 1993, p. 120-151
“Representation,” in Critical Terms for Art History, ed. R. S. Nelson and R. Schiff, Chicago and London, 1996, p. 3-16.
“On the Histories of Artifacts,” in the series A Range of Critical Perspectives. The Subject in/of Art History, Art Bulletin, 77, 1994, p. 590-92
“Meaning in the Visual Arts as a Humanistic Discipline,” Meaning in the Visual Arts: Views from the Outside. A Centennial Commemoration of Erwin Panofksy (1892-1968), ed. I. Lavin, Princeton, 1995, p. 9-24.
“Metaphor in Art History,” and “History of Aisthesis,” The Encyclopedia of Aesthetics, ed. M. Kelly, New York-Oxford, 1998, 3, p. 219-221 and p. 428-432.
“Pandora’s Crown: on Wonder, Imitation, and Mechanism in Western Art,” in Wonders, Marvels and Monsters in Early Modern Culture, ed. P. Platt, Newark and London, 1999, p. 45-75.
“E. H. Gombrich and the Tradition of Hegel,” in A Companion to Art Theory, ed. Paul Smith and Carolyn Wilde, London, 2002. p. 139-149
“Cogito Embodied: Force and Counterforce in Rene Descartes’s Les Passions de l’ame”, in Representing the Passions: Histories, Bodies, Visions, ed. R. Meyer, Los Angeles, 2003, p. 13-36.
“The Stan Winston Studio and the Tradition of Wonder,” exhibition catalogue for the University of Virginia Museum in conjunction with the Virginia Film Festival, October, 1999.
“The Heritage of Agatharcus: On Illusionism and Theatre in European Painting,” in The Beholder: The Experience of Art in Early Modern Europe, ed. T. Frangenberg and R. Williams. Aldershot, 2006, p. 9-33.
“The Archaeology of the Modern Grotesque,” Modern Art and the Grotesque, ed. F. S. Connelly, Cambridge, 2003, p. 20-46.
Real Spaces: World Art History and the Rise of Western Modernism, London, Phaidon, 2003.
“What is a Renaissance?” Bill Reid and Beyond: Expanding on Modern Native Art, ed. K. Duffek and C. Townsend-Gault, Vancouver-Seattle, 2004, p. 133-154.
“Arbitrariness and Authority: How Art Makes Cultures”, in Time and Place. The Geohistory of Art, ed. T. Kaufmann and E. Piliod, Aldershot, 2005, p. 203-216
Vision, Reflection, and Desire in Western Painting, Chapel Hill, UNC Press, 2007.
“World Art History and the Rise of Western Modernism, or Goodbye to the Visual Arts,” in Compression vs. Expression, Containing and Explaining the World’s Art, ed. J. Onians, New Haven and London, 2006, p. 215-234.
“Horizons,” Festschrift for Karsten Harries, 2007.
“Michelangelo’s Battle of Cascina, Pomponius Gauricus, and the Invention of a gran maniera in Italian Painting,” Artibus et Historiae, 56, 2007, p. 165-176.
“How is the Past in the Present?,” Art Bulletin, 89, 2007, p. 493-5.
“Horyu-ji as Real Space”, in Horyu-ji Reconsidered, ed. D. Wong, Newcastle, 2008, p. 289-300.
“Aesthetics,” The Classical Tradition, eds. A. Grafton, G. W. Most, and S. Settis, Cambridge, Mass.-London, 2010, p. 11-18.
“Iconoclasm and Real Space,” in Idol Anxiety, eds. J. Ellenbogen and A. Tugendhaft, Stanford, 1911, p. 97-116.
“The Archaeology of Appearance as Paradox,” in Paradoxes of Appearing: Essays on Art, Architecture and Philosophy, ed. M. A. Andersen and H. Oxvig, Baden, 2009, p. 25-55.
“Heinrich Woelfflin. Kunstgeschichtliche Grundbegriffe: Das Problem der Stilentwicklung in der neueren Kunst,” in The Books that Shaped Art History. From Gombrich and Greenberg to Alpers and Krauss, ed. R. Shone and J.-P. Stonard, London, 2013, p. 42-53.
“Regarding Art and Art History,” Art Bulletin, 95, 3, September, 2013, p. 355-356.
“Chiaroscuro, or the Rhetoric of Realism,” in Leonardo and Optics, eds. F. Fiorani and A. Nova, Venice, 2013, p. 29-54.
“Emphasis: On Light, Dark and Color”
“To a Museum of World Art,” introduction to the first section of a volume to be published in December 2016 by the Louvre Abu Dhabi.

The Judgment of Sense has been translated into Spanish; that book, as well as the three others, including Real Spaces, are being translated into Chinese.

K. Clark, The Art of Humanism, The Times Literary Supplement, April, 1982
L. Steinberg, The Sexuality of Christ in Renaissance Art and in Modern Oblivion, TLS, November, 1984
C. Ginzburg, The Enigma of Piero, TLS, May, 1986
M. Hirst, Michelangelo and his Drawings, TLS, 1989
M. Kemp, The Science of Art. Optical Themes in Western Art from Brunelleschi to Seurat, Art Bulletin, 73, 1991, p. 496-499
M. Warnke, The Court Artist, American Historical Review, June, 1995, p. 893.
Reply to J. Elkins, “Close Reading,” Current Anthropology, April, 1996
J. Crary, Suspensions of Perception. Attention, Spectacle and Modern Culture, Art Bulletin, 83, 2001, p. 157-161.
T. Crow, The Intelligence of Art, Art Bulletin, 84, 2002, p. 373-379.

Selected Papers
“A New Teotihuacan Place Glyph,” Frick Symposium, New York University, Institute of Fine Arts, 1966
“The Figura Serpentinata,” University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1970
“Contrapposto: Style and Meaning in the First Maniera,” Brown University, March, 1973
“Difficolta,” Symposium “The Virtue of Art,” Temple University, 1975
“Michelangelo’s Teacher,” Bryn Mawr College, 1975
“Donatello architetto,” Symposium on the 500th anniversary of Michelangelo’s birth, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, 1975
“Ornaments of Creation: the Ignudi of the Sistine Chapel Ceiling,” Allegheny College; University of Pittsburgh
Four Lectures on Michelangelo, Carnegie Institute, Pittsburgh, fall, 1976
“Michelangelo’s Proportion Drawings: Observations on Theory and Practice in Renaissance Art,” CAA Meeting, Washington, 1979
“Quello che non e sia: the Renaissance view of Renaissance painting,” Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, 1979
“Brunelleschi’s First Perspective Demonstration,” Harvard University, fall, 1979
“Ornament and Invention,” Brown University, spring, 1980
“The Stylistics of Color,” Symposium on Color in Renaissance Painting, Temple University, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, fall, 1980
“Michelangelo and the Tradition of Fantasy,” National Gallery of Art, Washington, D. C., University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia, 1980
“Anatomy in Art from the late Middle Ages to Rembrandt,” Johns Hopkins University, Colloquium on Medicine and the Humanities, 1982
“Vernacular Theory,” CAA Meeting, San Francisco, 1981
“Two Michelangelo Portraits,” Frick Museum, New York; University of Virginia; Johns Hopkins University, 1982
“Brunelleschi and Minerva’s Owl,” Johns Hopkins University and Yale University, 1981, 1983
“Federico Zuccaro’s Idea: Aristotle and the Teaching of Art”, Brown University, 1984
“The Light of the Piazza: Art and Audience in Renaissance Italy,” University of Delaware; University of Virginia; University of Illinois; Stanford University, 1984
“Art History and Contemporary Art,” Yale University School of Art, 1985
“Leonardo’s Common Sense,” Johns Hopkins University, 1985
“Michelangelo’s Drawings and Modelli for il Menighella,” CAA Meeting, Boston, February, 1987
“Minerva’s Owl and the History of Art,” University of Wisconsin Conference on the Theory of History of Quentin Skinner, 1990
“Difference and Deference: More on the Disanalogy of Art and Language,” Society of Fellows in the Humanities, Columbia Universtiy, October, 1991
“Real Space and the Orientation of Architecture and Images,” West Virginia University, October, 1991; Emory University, Atlanta, November, 1991
“Renaissance Psychology, Ancient and Modern,” Plenary Session Paper, Renaissance Society of America, National Conference, Duke University, 1991
“Making Hierarchy,” Cornell University, Fall, 1992
“Meaning in the Visual Arts as a Humanistic Discipline,” plenary session address, Erwin Panofsky Centenary Symposium, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, 1993
“Orientation as a Cultural Choice,” University of Colorado, Boulder, April, 1995; University of Virginia Graduate Symposium, April, 1995
“Pandora’s Crown: On Wonder, Imitation and Mechanism in Western Art”, Wonders, Marvels, Monsters, The Fifteenth Medieval and Renaissance Conference, Barnard College, December 7, 1996.
“The Heritage of Agatharcus. On Theatre and Perspective in Western Painting”, and “Brunelleschi’s First Perspective Demonstration” and one-week seminar, The Power of Sight, University of Pennsylvania, March 24-29, 1997.
“The Defect of Distance: Principles of a World Art History”, Duke University, Getty Research Institute, 1998-99.
“Chiaroscuro”, Calvin College, Duke University, 1999.
“World Art History and the Rise of Western Modernism, or Goodbye to the Visual Arts”, Clark Institute Conference Compression vs. Expression: Containing and Explaining the World’s Art, The Clark Institute, Williamstown, April 6-8, 2000
“Arbitrariness and Authority. How Art Makes Cultures”, International Congress of the History of Art, London, September, 2000, in a session entitled “The Geohistory of Art”
“Must Identity be Dialectical?”, The Clark Institute/Getty Research Institute Conferences on Art History and Identity, November, 2000-June, 2001.
Bette Allison Rand Lectures in the History of Art, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, October, 2003.
“George Kubler, Then and Now”, Getty Research Institute, Spring, 2005.
“Is Art History Global?”, University of Cork, University of East Anglia, March, 2005.
“Horizons”, Ohio State University, April, 2005
Seminar on Real Spaces, University of Pittsburgh, November, 2005.
“The Battle of Cascina and the Invention of a Grand Manner in Italian Renaissance Painting”, University of Pennsylvania, (April, 2005)
Seminar on Real Spaces, University of Pennsylvania. April, 2005.
Seminar on Real Spaces, Reed College, October, 2005.
Seminar on Real Spaces, Yale University, April, 2007.
“The Loftiest Possible Interpretation of the Sistine Chapel Ceiling”, Yale University, April, 2007; West Virginia University, April, 2008.
“Three Renaissance Texts on the Paradox of Appearance”, Paradoxes of Appearance, Research Symposium, The Danish Doctoral Schools of Architecture and Design, Copenhagen, June 9-11, 2008.
“Chiaroscuro, or the Rhetoric of Realism”, inaugural lecture, International Conference, “Leonardo da Vinci and Optics”, Florence, Kunsthistorisches Institut, May 26, 2011.
“Is Future Cultural History Possible?”, keynote lecture, Facing Forward Lecture Series, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, January 13, 2012.
Respondent, Room for another View: China’s Art in Disciplinary Perspective, Department of Art History, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, February 10-12, 2012.
“More on the Metaphor of Perspective”, paper and seminar for the research project “Making sense of Aisthesis. The Return to Sensibility”, Soedertoern University, Stockholm, June 4-5, 2012.
“Emphasis”, Perspective as Practice, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin, October 12-13, 2012.
The Great Sabbath. Michelangelo, Pico, and the Sistine Chapel Ceiling”, Giornata internazionale di studi dedicata alla Cappella Sistina, Musei Vaticani, October 6, 2015.
Keynote, “The History of Art Worlded?”, Worlding the Disciplines, 18th Annual Comparative Literature Conference University of South Carolina
Keynote, “The Art of Nations”, Global Studies and the Humanities, Global Institute for Advanced Study, New York University, April 14-15, 2016.
“Emphasis. On Light, Dark, and Distance”, Ellen J. Beer Lecture in Chiaroscuro als aesthetisches Prinzip, Institut fuer Kunstgeschichte, Universitaet, Bern, April 28-29, 2016.