Nicola Suthor

Nicola Suthor

Robert Lehman Visiting Professor
Meta/Physics of Drawing: Trains of Thought and the Artist's Line
Nicola  Suthor


Nicola Suthor is Professor of Art History at Yale University. Before coming to Yale in 2015, she taught art history at the universities of Berlin (2012-14), Bern (2007-09), Hamburg (2011), Heidelberg (2009-11), and Stanford (2006). In 2011 she was visiting member of the Institute of Advanced Studies in Princeton. In 2012 she received the Jacob Burckhardt-Price of the Max Planck Institut in Florence.

Her research is an effort to understand how thinking about art comes to grips with thinking in art. In conjunction with an analysis of an array of painting practices, she has carried out a series of critical readings in the art-writing of the 17th and 18th centuries, a literature that shows an astounding—and to a certain extent forgotten—sensitivity for painterly phenomena. She has published her first book on Titian's painterly style ("Augenlust bei Tizian. Zur Konzeption sensueller Malerei in der Frühen Neuzeit, Munich 2004) and her second on virtuosity and boldness in Early Modern European Painting (Bravura: Virtuosität und Mutwilligkeit in der Malerei der Frühen Neuzeit, Fink: Munich 2010). The English translation of her study on  Rembrandt's rough style (Rembrandts Rauheit, Fink: Munich 2014) will appear with Princeton University Press in January 2018.

Project Summary

The designation of hurried sketching by theorists of art as a “first thought” indicates the sketch's status as revelatory medium – it assists in the realization of the artwork without ever actually being the work itself. The sketched lines have a double alignment and thus offer a dual perspective: they form physical traces while building up the pending image, an image that is put into concrete terms only in the imagination of the draftsman. The full picture is therefore never given in the sketch, and what makes the sketch such an appealing art form is its aspect of promise. But how close, in fact, to creative thinking, and thus to art’s origins, are rough sketches? Can creative thought actually be apprehended in an unmitigated way?