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Evolution of Ancient Art: Trends in the Style of Greek Vases and Egyptian Painting

Colin Martindale
Visual Arts Research
Vol. 16, No. 1 (Spring 1990), pp. 31-47
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20715715
Page Count: 17
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Evolution of Ancient Art: Trends in the Style of Greek Vases and Egyptian Painting
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Abstract

A psychological approach to art history patterned along the lines of Darwinian evolution is described. The main argument is that the basic trends in the history of art arise from artists' continual necessity to produce novel works to counter the effects of habituation. So long as an artistic tradition is not violently disrupted by external social forces, this pressure leads to monotonic increases in the arousal potential or impact value of artworks. It indirectly causes oscillations in content indicative of primordial cognition. These oscillations correspond to generally agreed oscillations in artistic style. Two studies of Athenian vase painting and of Egyptian painting suggest that the evolutionary theory is relevant to art other than that produced in modern Western societies

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