Sir Ernst Gombrich

(1909—2001) art historian

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(b Vienna, 30 Mar. 1909; d London, 3 Nov. 2001).

Austrian-born British art historian. He settled in England in 1936 and began a long association with the Warburg Institute in the University of London, where he was director and professor of the history of the classical tradition from 1959 to 1976. He was also Slade professor at both Oxford and Cambridge. His scholarly work, which shows a remarkable ability to combine great breadth of learning with lucidity and wit, was devoted largely to the theory of art, the psychology of pictorial representation, and Renaissance symbolism, and won him a position of the highest esteem in his profession. His writings bore witness to his interest in scientific method and helped to promote interchange between art history and other disciplines. Gombrich's best-known book, however, is a popular work, The Story of Art, which was first published in 1950 and has ever since held its place as the most congenial introduction to the history of art. It reached its sixteenth English edition in 1995 and has been translated into more than twenty languages. Among his other books the best known is probably Art and Illusion (1960 and subsequent editions). This highly influential work deals with conventions of representation and examines how styles change and develop, challenging many orthodox views and received opinions about visual perception. In Thinkers of the Twentieth Century (ed. Elizabeth Devine et al., 1983) J. M. Massing wrote: ‘For his scholarly method, his theoretical approach and his defence of cultural values, Gombrich will be remembered as one of the leading art historians of this century. Through his study of the psychology of perception, he is also one of the very few to have widened our understanding of the visible world.’

Subjects: Art.

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Works by Sir Ernst Gombrich

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