"Whenever they talk about photography, the majority of [Jeff] Wall's commentators discuss the transparency and its light box installation, to make the point that this has been borrowed from the society of the spectacle and in a reflexive and critical manner turned back against it. Few commentators have veered from the scholarly, interpretive use of the artist's numerous allusions to classical compositions drawn from the history of painting, and have little to say about why the fact that he works in photography should allow him to maintain the same relation to his sources in Manet and Caillebotte as Manet did towards his sources in Watteau, Le Nain, or Velázquez. Admittedly, Wall's art prompts scholarly, iconological readings of this kind, which in turn yield a wealth of meanings, including and particularly social ones. This is what has attracted commentators with a background in the social history of art to his work; they find, in a contemporary artists, a mirror of their own attempts at a sophisticated reading, both scholarly and politically aware, of the 'painting of modern life' in the second half of the nineteenth century. This was very honestly confessed by Thomas Crow in an excellent article on Wall. The artist would confirm the revenge of the social history of art (and of Panofsky) over modernist-formalist history (and over Wölfflin) by producing the painting of modern life which history has not produced."
—Thierry de Duve, in Jeff Wall (London: Phaidon Press, 1996), p. 28.