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The Uses of Imagesby E. H. Gombrich
Synopses & Reviews
Eyewitnessing evaluates the place of images among other kinds of historical evidence. By reviewing the many varieties of images by region, period and medium, and looking at the pragmatic uses of images (e.g. the Bayeux Tapestry, an engraving of a printing press, a reconstruction of a building), Peter Burke sheds light on our assumption that these practical uses are 'reflections' of specific historical meanings and influences. He also shows how this assumption can be problematic.
Traditional art historians have depended on two types of analysis when dealing with visual imagery: iconography and iconology. Burke describes and evaluates these approaches, concluding that they are insufficient. Focusing instead on the medium as message and on the social contexts and uses of images, he discusses both religious images and political ones, also looking at images in advertising and as commodities.
Ultimately, Burke's purpose is to show how iconographic and post-iconographic methods - psychoanalysis, semiotics, viewer response, deconstruction - are both useful and problematic to contemporary historians.
Wide-ranging volume which focuses on the role of supply and demand in creation of images of all kinds. Gombrich develops many of the ideas and themes in the social history of art that have preoccupied him through a lifetime of research and reflection.
In this new volume — the tenth in the series of his collected essays — Professor Gombrich returns to themes that have long preoccupied him in his study of visual imagery of all kinds. Central to these essays is a consuming interest in the functions of images, and how these functions — and the images — change over time.<P>In wide-ranging studies of both 'high' and 'low' art, from fresco painting, altar painting, the International Gothic Style and outdoor sculpture to doodles, pictorial instructions, caricature and political propaganda, Gombrich discusses the role of supply and demand, competition and display, the 'ecology' of images and the idea of 'feedback' in the interplay of means and ends, as developing skills in turn stimulate new demands. He explores further aspects of the uses of images in his essays on the hanging of pictures and on the use (or misuse) of images as historical evidence.
Includes bibliographical references (p. 274-292) and index.
About the Author
Peter Burke is professor of cultural history at the University of Cambridge, UK. His books include What is Cultural History? and Popular Culture in Early Modern Europe.
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