Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2016

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors



First Advisor

Giulia Bernardini

Second Advisor

Graham Oddie

Third Advisor

Paul Gordon


The ability to reproduce art has been embedded in human culture for thousands of years. In its evolution, the method of reproducing art has become faster and more efficient and has therefore affected our perception of art. Walter Benjamin believed that the development of mechanical reproducibility of art at the beginning of the 20th century caused a loss of art’s aura. On the contrary, I argue that the ability to mass reproduce art can also cause a reverse effect on the original work. In many cases, the reproduced works of art inspires a return of the original’s aura. This is a phenomenon that artists Sherrie Levine, Ai Weiwei, and Thomas Struth capture in their work through the use of photography, spolia, and ekphrasis, respectively. I examine three specific works by each of these artists that either reproduce an original or use a reproduced image to reveal the return of the original’s aura. This return is not only seen in specific artworks, but also in the recent growth of interest in the traditional sense of the museum experience which I will touch upon at the end of my paper.