Ernst Hans Josef Gombrich 1909–2001

Michael Podro

in Proceedings of the British Academy, Volume 120, Biographical Memoirs of Fellows, II

Published by British Academy

Published in print December 2003 | ISBN: 9780197263020
Published online February 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780191734199 | DOI:

Series: Proceedings of the British Academy

Ernst Hans Josef Gombrich 1909–2001

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Ernst Gombrich was a prominent art historian in the UK and probably its best known humanist scholar during the last forty years of the 20th century. The status derived from two apparently unrelated features of his work: he wrote deliberately for a wide audience, most obviously in his highly successful Story of Art first published in 1950, while his standing in the academic world, both within and beyond the field of art history, was established by Art and Illusion published in 1960; here he reconstructed some of the basic concepts in which the development of the visual arts could be discussed, introducing into the literature of art history a greatly enriched understanding of perceptual psychology. The two factors — his address to a general audience and his conceptual innovations in Art and Illusion — were intimately related because his use of experiments from the perceptual psychologists, appealing to effects which his readers and lecture audiences could test on themselves, lessened the sense that art was an arcane activity isolated from our everyday world.

Keywords: art historians; humanist scholars; Story of Art; Art and Illusion; visual arts; perceptual psychology

Chapter.  9904 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Theory, Methods, and Historiography

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