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Gombrich on Art Historical Explanations

David Carrier
Leonardo
Vol. 16, No. 2 (Spring, 1983), pp. 91-96
Published by: The MIT Press
DOI: 10.2307/1574792
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1574792
Page Count: 6
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Gombrich on Art Historical Explanations
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Abstract

This article outlines the major themes of Gombrich's account of art historical explanations, and contrasts his to several other well known contemporary approaches. An analysis of his concept of 'schemata' is used to explain his move in "Art and Illusion" from consideration of art telling stories to naturalistic art. Using his contrast between the meaning and significance of a picture, the difference between his approach and the historicist writings of Leo Steinberg and Clement Greenberg is presented. Gombrich is mistaken, it is argued, to imply--as he seems to do--that such historicist accounts necessarily lead to the total abandonment of objective standards of critical judgment. In fact, those accounts explicitly presuppose something like his notion of a canon, an ongoing tradition of art making. Finally, his critique of abstract art is interpreted in relation to the contemporary cultural conditions to which his work is one very important response.

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