International Journal of Art & Design Education

Interpreting Art through Metaphors

Volume 29.3   2010



This article argues that much of the meaning of artworks comes through metaphors, though we do not always recognise them as such. The argument draws on the work of Lakoff & Johnson, who assert a similar claim about metaphors in general (especially in language). It analyses the notion of a visual metaphor, gives a number of illustrations and claims that, contrary to linguistic metaphors, there can usefully be more than one visual metaphor (‘mixed metaphors’) active in a visual image and that visual metaphors can be interpreted in both directions. Verticality is presented as one basic metaphor in visual images.