The Preference for the Primitive: Episodes in the History of Western Taste and Art by Leonie Gombrich, Ernst H. Gombrich (Hardback, 2002)
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- DescriptionThis monumental book - the last to be completed by the author - is a study of a recurring phemen in the history of changing taste in the visual arts: the feeling that older and less sophisticated (i.e. 'primitive') works are somehow morally and aesthetically superior to later works that are perceived as comparatively soft and decadent. In his first narrative work for over two decades, Professor Gombrich traces this fundamental idea back to Classical Antiquity, where he links it both with Cicero's observation that over-indulgence of the senses leads to a feeling of disgust, and with the profoundly influential metaphor comparing the development of art to that of a living organism. Like an organism, art grows to maturity then decays and dies: successive generations of artists and critics have preferred the strength, bility and sincerity of earlier styles to the more refined later styles with their corrupting and meretricious appeal to the senses. After reviewing the Classical authors whose writings largely set the terms of the debate, Gombrich then charts its progress since its revival in the eighteenth century, documenting the often subtle shifts of taste and judgement that frequently focus on the pivotal role of Raphael. In the final chapters, he turns to the truly revolutionary primitivism of the twentieth century, analysing the momentous shifts of taste before which he was himself an eyewitness. Assimilating more than 40 years of study and reflection on this theme, the book presents a vividly argued narrative, supported by extensive quotations that document with acute precision the role of authors, critics and artists in shaping and changing opinion. Principal and pioneering both as a personal testament and as a documentary anthology, this long-anticipated book provides a deep and revealing insight into the history and psychology of taste.
- Author BiographySir Ernst Gombrich was one of the greatest and least conventional art historians of his age, achieving fame and distinction in three separate spheres: as a scholar, as a popularizer of art, and as a pioneer of the application of the psychology of perception to the study of art. His best-known book, The Story of Art - first published 50 years ago and now in its sixteenth edition - is one of the most influential books ever written about art. His books further include The Sense of Order and Art & Illusion, as well as a total of 11 volumes of collected essays and reviews. Gombrich was born in Vienna in 1909 and died in London in November 2001. He came to London in 1936 to work at the Warburg Institute, where he eventually became Director from 1959 until his retirement in 1976. He won numerous international honours, including a knighthood, the Order of Merit and the Goethe, Hegel and Erasmus prizes. Gifted with a powerful mind and prodigious memory, he was also an outstanding communicator, with a clear and forceful prose style. His works are models of good art-historical writing, and reflect his humanism and his deep and abiding concern with the standards and values of our cultural heritage.
- Author(s)Ernst H. Gombrich,Leonie Gombrich
- PublisherPhaidon Press Ltd
- Date of Publication01/08/2002
- SubjectThe Arts: General & Reference
- Place of PublicationLondon
- Country of PublicationUnited Kingdom
- ImprintPhaidon Press Ltd
- Content Note12 colour and 230 b&w illustrations, notes, index
- Weight1170 g
- Width172 mm
- Height245 mm
- Spine35 mm
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