Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 1976

Source Publication


Source ISSN



In previous articles, the author proposed that paintings can have syntactic rules. In this article he develops his proposal further and shows that shapes act as syntactic elements in the languages of painting styles. He meets Nelson Goodman's objections to his proposal by showing that shapes meet the criterion of syntactic discreteness proposed by the latter to separate linguistic from other symbolic systems. His approach is to specify style as the domain of a language of painting, to show that style is syntactical and to argue that shapes are the primitive syntactic elements of style. His essay relates current research on the development of syntax for picture-reading machines to the question of syntax for paintings.


Published version. Leonardo, Vol. 9, No. 2 (Spring 1976): 111-118. DOI. © Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press (MIT Press) 1976. Used with permission.

Included in

Philosophy Commons