Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow-Up as Abstract Art Theory

Takayuki Ijuin


As is well known, Blow-Up (1966) directed by Michelangelo Antonioni is based on Julio Cortázar’s short story; “Las babas del diablo” (1959). In literary terms, it is very difficult to find similarities between both works, except in their outlines. Many critics, therefore, thought Blow-Up was Antonioni’s own film with no special connection with “Las babas del diablo”. But we should focus on the common outlines of the two. Both deal with ‘vision’. The change of seeing through a viewfinder to seeing through a photographic print gives the protagonists a daydream-like experience.

Cortázar was not only a writer but also an amateur photographer, and Antonioni a film director. If both auteurs reveal their interest in ‘vison’ in their works, we can say that Antonioni follows Cortázar regarding this theme and further develops it through his use of abstract paintings. Antonioni was concerned with differences between the vision of the naked eye and photographic vision, and with similarities between the photographic vision and abstract painting. So, what is Antonioni’s understanding of vision?

I think there is a key to resolve this question in Blow-Up itself. One can focus on not only the change of the protagonist’s behavior in following the story’s development, but also on photographs, abstract paintings, and landscape paintings that appear in the film. Then we would find the possibility that Antonioni thinks photographs and pointillist paintings are based on the same principle; the retinal mesh-like structure.


Article received: April 10, 2019; Article accepted: June 5, 2019; Published online: September 15, 2019; Original scholarly paper

How to cite this article: Ijuin, Takayuki. "Michelangelo Antonioni’s Blow-Up as Abstract Art Theory." Art and Media Studies 19 (2019): 59-68. doi: 10.25038/am.v0i19.307


Michelangelo Antonioni; Blow-Up; abstract painting; photograph; perspective painting; theory of vision

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.25038/am.v0i19.307


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