Painting, History and Meaning (Book)

Sites of Time

Original and timely new study of contemporary painting’s relationship with history and historical material. Uses examples of traditional and conceptual painting and practice to draw together historical and contemporary practice. 20 col. illus.


This compelling new study considers contemporary painting’s relationship with time and with events, ideas and paintings from the past. Following French philosopher Jean-François Lyotard’s determination of painting as entailing a series of temporal sites, Painting, History and Meaning examines works that tendentiously engage with aspects and events derived from the past.

A unique examination of the relationship that contemporary painting has with history and historical material, Painting, History and Meaning is a timely response to, and discussion of, how contemporary painters and artists have addressed a significant area of concern for both practitioners and theorists in recent years.  

Craig Staff explores art that has encompassed strategies of excavation, anachronism and memorialization, examining key works by artists including Dana Schutz, Tomma Abts, Gerhard Richter, Marlene Dumas, Johannes Phokela and Taus Makhacheva. A scholarly examination of contemporary painting through an innovative interdisciplinary research methodology, this fascinating study illuminates the complex relationship between painting and history.

Primary readership will be the fine art academic community, art and painting practitioners, scholars and academics. Will appeal to second and third year undergraduate and postgraduate students of fine art and art  history. Of interest to students of cultural studies, history, curatorial studies and continental philosophy, and to those in the visual arts wanting to develop their understanding of contemporary art.




Craig Staff is Reader in Fine Art at the University of Northampton, UK. His previous books include Retroactivity and Contemporary Art, Bloomsbury, 2018; Monochrome: Darkness and Light in Contemporary Art, I.B.Tauris, 2015; After Modernist Painting: The History of a Contemporary Practice, I.B.Tauris, 2013 and Modernist Painting and Materiality, McFarland, 2011 as well as numerous articles


More Memory and More Future

Perpetuating Modernism

Of Absent Bodies

Painting Anachronistically

Re-siting Painting


'Painting, History and Meaning is an ambitious book that seeks to redress conventional understandings of temporality within the study of contemporary painting. [...] Staff seeks neither to replicate the arbitrary attitude to temporality apparent in some works of postmodern eclecticism nor to reduce painting to the linear history of progress inherent in modernism and modernist criticism. His approach is rather to construct an alternative that opens up the differences in time inherent in the object that is the painting. [...] As with many of the works discussed in Painting, History and Meaning, the reader is motivated to research further and get lost within the temporal layers opened by digital resources, which is testament to the importance of good storytelling.'

Kiff Bamford, CAA Reviews
Related Titles