RELATED TERMS: Visual Arts; Photography

Painting is the central, canonical medium of art history.

The Truth in Painting is a saying of Cezanne’s. Cezanne wrote to Emile Bernard in 1905 that, “I owe you the truth in painting and I will tell it to you”.

The power ascribed to painting, Derrida argues, is the power of direct reproduction or restitution, adequation or transparency. The truth in painting could be taken to mean truth itself restored, in person, without mediation, makeup, mask, or veil. In other words, the true truth or the truth of the truth, restituted in its power of restitution, truth looking sufficiently like itself to escape any misprision, any illusion; and even any representation, yet sufficiently divided already to resemble, produce, or engender itself twice over, in accordance with the two genitives: truth of truth (the true truth) and the truth of the truth.


Derrida, J. (1987) The Truth in painting. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.