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The Preference for the Primitive: Episodes in the History of Western Taste and Art

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The Preference for the Primitive: Episodes in the History of Western Taste and Art Cover

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

This book, the last to be completed by the author, is a study of a recurring phenomenon in the history of changing taste in the visual arts, namely the feeling that older and less sophisticated (i.e. 'primitive') works are somehow morally and aesthetically superior to later works that have become soft and decadent. In his first narrative work for over twenty years, Gombrich traces this idea back to classical antiquity and 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, and successive generations of artists and critics have preferred the strength, nobility and sincerity of earlier styles to the more refined later styles with their corrupting and meretricious appeal to the senses.

Summing up more than forty years of study and reflection on this theme, the book presents a closely argued narrative supported by extensive quotations that document with precision the role of authors, critics and artists in shaping and changing opinion. After reviewing the classical authors whose writings largely set the terms of the debate, Gombrich then charts its progress from 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 history of taste. In the final chapters he turns to the truly revolutionary primitivism of the twentieth century, analysing the momentous shifts of taste of which he was himself an eyewitness.

Important both as a personal testament and as a documentary anthology, this long-awaited book fittingly provides a deep and revealing insight into the history and psychology of taste.

Review:

"Perhaps no scholar in any field has ever enjoyed a wider readership than Ernst Gombrich. The latest catalogue of books from Electa, the international art publisher based in Milan, is organized by categories, such as "Painting in Italy," "Painting in Europe," "Dictionaries of Art," "Modern Architects," and so on; but embedded among all the general rubrics is the name "Ernst H. Gombrich," a category in his own right. The Story of Art, which appeared in 1950, a book written for teenagers but read mostly by adults, has been translated into twenty-nine languages. Gombrich had a gift for plain prose and lucid exposition ? a dangerous gift, for he tended to oversimplify. But he was much more than a popular writer. He published many dozens of books and articles on Italian Renaissance painting, and the history of aesthetics and art theory, and art and the psychology of perception ? many of them seminal texts that set the course for future research. 'Professor Gombrich has paid his dues!,' a teacher of mine, chaperoning Gombrich into an art museum, gallantly protested when an official tried to extract the admission fee from the great scholar." Christopher S. Wood, The New Republic (read the entire New Republic review)

Synopsis:

This is a study of the recurring phenomenon in Western art - the feeling that older and less sophisticated or "primitive" works of art are somehow superior to later and more refined ones. Gombrich traces the history of debate on this subject from classical antiquity to radical primitivism.

Synopsis:

This long-awaited book is a study of a recurring phenomenon in the history of Western art, namely the feeling that older and less sophisticated (i.e. 'primitive') works of art are somehow superior to later and more refined ones. In a closely argued and richly documented narrative Professor Gombrich traces the history of the debates on this subject from classical antiquity to the radical primitivism of modern times, attempting at the same time to provide a psychological explanation of the phenomenon.

This book is a documentary study of a recurring phenomenon in the history of changing taste in the visual arts, namely the feeling that older and less sophisticated (i.e. 'primitive') works are somehow morally and aesthetically superior to later works that have become refined, soft and decadent. Gombrich traces the existence of such feelings right back to classical antiquity, and he links them with a crucial psychological observation made by Cicero to the effect that over-indulgence of the senses leads to a feeling of disgust. He also demonstrates the importance of the profoundly influential metaphor, first articulated in antiquity and taken over by Vasari, that compares the history of art to the growth of an organism: like a living organism, art is born and grows to maturity (and therefore perfection), then decays and finally dies. Successive generations of artists and critics, believing the art of their own time to be past maturity, have interpreted the smooth refinement and sensual appeal of contemporary works as symptoms of decline and corruption, and have come to admire earlier works, despite their 'immaturity', as possessing superior qualities of sincerity, innocence and ruggedstrength. With the advent of modernism at the turn of the twentieth century this admiration took a radically regressive new twist as artists turned their backs on tradition altogether and found inspiration in the art of exotic cultures and in the works of children and the insane.

Summing up more than forty years of study and reflection, the book presents a closely argued narrative supported by extensive quotation of key passages that document with precision the role of authors, critics and artists in shaping and changing opinion. After reviewing the classical authors whose writings largely set the terms of the debate, Gombrich then charts its progress from its revival in the eighteenth century, documenting the often subtle shifts of taste and judgement that frequently focus on the pivotal role of Raphael as a touchstone in the history of taste. In the final chapters he turns to the truly revolutionary primitivism of the twentieth century, to much of which he has himself been an eyewitness.

Important both as a personal testament and as a documentary anthology, this long-awaited new book from one of the world's most distinguished art historians provides a deep and revealing insight into the history and psychology of taste.

Product Details

ISBN:
9780714841540
Author:
Gombrich, E. H.
Publisher:
Phaidon Press
Location:
London
Subject:
Philosophy
Subject:
Art
Subject:
Criticism
Subject:
Fine Arts
Subject:
Primitive
Subject:
Primitivism in art
Subject:
Criticism - General
Subject:
History - Prehistoric & Primitive
Subject:
Criticism -- Theory.
Subject:
Art -- Philosophy.
Subject:
Art history
Subject:
Art-Theory and Criticism
Edition Description:
Includes bibliographical references and index.
Series Volume:
1
Publication Date:
20020831
Binding:
Paperback
Grade Level:
from 8 up to 17
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Yes
Pages:
324
Dimensions:
10 x 7.25 x 1.25 in 2.56 lb
Age Level:
from 13 up to 99

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Related Subjects

Arts and Entertainment » Art » Europe General
Arts and Entertainment » Art » General
Arts and Entertainment » Art » History and Criticism
Arts and Entertainment » Art » Reference
Arts and Entertainment » Art » Theory and Criticism
Arts and Entertainment » Photography » Photographers

The Preference for the Primitive: Episodes in the History of Western Taste and Art New Hardcover
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$53.95 Backorder
Product details 324 pages Phaidon Press - English 9780714841540 Reviews:
"Review" by , "Perhaps no scholar in any field has ever enjoyed a wider readership than Ernst Gombrich. The latest catalogue of books from Electa, the international art publisher based in Milan, is organized by categories, such as "Painting in Italy," "Painting in Europe," "Dictionaries of Art," "Modern Architects," and so on; but embedded among all the general rubrics is the name "Ernst H. Gombrich," a category in his own right. The Story of Art, which appeared in 1950, a book written for teenagers but read mostly by adults, has been translated into twenty-nine languages. Gombrich had a gift for plain prose and lucid exposition ? a dangerous gift, for he tended to oversimplify. But he was much more than a popular writer. He published many dozens of books and articles on Italian Renaissance painting, and the history of aesthetics and art theory, and art and the psychology of perception ? many of them seminal texts that set the course for future research. 'Professor Gombrich has paid his dues!,' a teacher of mine, chaperoning Gombrich into an art museum, gallantly protested when an official tried to extract the admission fee from the great scholar." (read the entire New Republic review)
"Synopsis" by , This is a study of the recurring phenomenon in Western art - the feeling that older and less sophisticated or "primitive" works of art are somehow superior to later and more refined ones. Gombrich traces the history of debate on this subject from classical antiquity to radical primitivism.
"Synopsis" by , This long-awaited book is a study of a recurring phenomenon in the history of Western art, namely the feeling that older and less sophisticated (i.e. 'primitive') works of art are somehow superior to later and more refined ones. In a closely argued and richly documented narrative Professor Gombrich traces the history of the debates on this subject from classical antiquity to the radical primitivism of modern times, attempting at the same time to provide a psychological explanation of the phenomenon.

This book is a documentary study of a recurring phenomenon in the history of changing taste in the visual arts, namely the feeling that older and less sophisticated (i.e. 'primitive') works are somehow morally and aesthetically superior to later works that have become refined, soft and decadent. Gombrich traces the existence of such feelings right back to classical antiquity, and he links them with a crucial psychological observation made by Cicero to the effect that over-indulgence of the senses leads to a feeling of disgust. He also demonstrates the importance of the profoundly influential metaphor, first articulated in antiquity and taken over by Vasari, that compares the history of art to the growth of an organism: like a living organism, art is born and grows to maturity (and therefore perfection), then decays and finally dies. Successive generations of artists and critics, believing the art of their own time to be past maturity, have interpreted the smooth refinement and sensual appeal of contemporary works as symptoms of decline and corruption, and have come to admire earlier works, despite their 'immaturity', as possessing superior qualities of sincerity, innocence and ruggedstrength. With the advent of modernism at the turn of the twentieth century this admiration took a radically regressive new twist as artists turned their backs on tradition altogether and found inspiration in the art of exotic cultures and in the works of children and the insane.

Summing up more than forty years of study and reflection, the book presents a closely argued narrative supported by extensive quotation of key passages that document with precision the role of authors, critics and artists in shaping and changing opinion. After reviewing the classical authors whose writings largely set the terms of the debate, Gombrich then charts its progress from its revival in the eighteenth century, documenting the often subtle shifts of taste and judgement that frequently focus on the pivotal role of Raphael as a touchstone in the history of taste. In the final chapters he turns to the truly revolutionary primitivism of the twentieth century, to much of which he has himself been an eyewitness.

Important both as a personal testament and as a documentary anthology, this long-awaited new book from one of the world's most distinguished art historians provides a deep and revealing insight into the history and psychology of taste.

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