Writing & Art

Writing can be the art itself, or it can accompany the art, assisting in its interpretation and narrative. Utilizing writing in art allows the informed audience to add a deeper layer of meaning to the piece. The Vienna Genesis (below) is an example of writing complementing the art in which the writing coincides with the vignette shown.


However, writing can also act as a barrier of separation, especially in the medieval period where very few knew how to read. Texts such as the Lindisfarne Gospels or Xu Bing’s A Book from Sky were not meant to be read like we think of books today. The text was specifically difficult and often highly stylized to make reading it difficult.


Sometimes writing physically is the only art on the page, such as with the Folio from a Qur’an. In which religious restriction against figural imagery forces the calligrapher to find another way of artistic expression.


Additionally, technology has changed the way we integrate art and text. Is printed text art? Is a sentence typed out on a computer art?

Read more: Art Through Time: A Global View


Here are some pieces from the AP Art History curriculum that demonstration the convergence of Writing & Art:

Content Area #2: Ancient Mediterranean

Content Area #3: Early Europe & Colonial Americas

  • Vienna Genesis
  • Lindisfarne Gospels
  • Pyxis of al-Mughira
  • Bayeux Tapestry
  • Bible moralisée
  • Allegory of Law and Grace
  • Frontispiece of the Codex Mendoza

Content Area #4: Later Europe & Americas

  • The Portuguese

Content Area #5: Indigenous Americas

  • Lintel 25, Structure 23, Yaxchilán

Content Area # 7: West & Central Asia

  • Folio from a Qur’an
  • Basin (Baptistère of Saint Louis)

Content Area #8: South, East, and Southeast Asia

  • Travelers among Mountains and Steams
  • Night Attack on the Sanjô Palace

Content Area #10: Global Contemporary

  • Vietnam Veterans Memorial
  • Horn Players
  • A Book from the Sky
  • Rebellious Silence, from the Women of Allah series


Would you add any others to the list?

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