Ernst Gombrich (1909–2001) was an Austrian art historian. Born in Vienna, Gombrich studied at the Theresianum and then at the University of Vienna under Julius von Schlosser. After graduating, he worked as a Research Assistant and collaborator with the museum curator and Freudian analyst Ernst Kris. He joined the Warburg Institute in London as a Research Assistant in 1936 and was named Director in 1959. His major works include The Story of Art, Art and Illusion: A Study in the Psychology of Pictorial Representation, Aby Warburg: An Intellectual Biography, The Sense of Order: A Study in the Psychology of Decorative Art.

Portrait of the Artist as a Paradox

Under the title Rembrandt by Himself, the National Gallery of London (sponsored by Thames and Hudson) last summer mounted an exhibition—later moved to The Hague—of painted and etched self-portraits by the Dutch master extending from his early years in Leiden to the last years of his life. There can have …

In the Giving Vein

The cover of this sumptuous publication is graced with the enlarged reproduction of a ravishing drawing by Correggio, representing the naked Eve holding an apple in her left hand, and apparently looking seductively at the beholder. We are entitled to assume that the image was chosen to illustrate Largesse—the ostensible …

The Miracle at Chauvet

Magnum miraculum est homo (man is a great miracle). These opening words of an esoteric text much beloved of Renaissance philosophers came to my mind when turning the pages of the two spectacular books under review, pages that illustrate the works of men, some of whom lived about 30,000 years …

Icon

“Expulsion into Paradise” was Erwin Panofsky’s characteristic remark in the spring of 1933, when he received the letter that deprived him of his chair in art history at Hamburg University because of his “race.” He had been so fortunate as to enjoy the foretaste of Paradise before, having divided his …

Keeping Up with Leonardo

The arresting title of Richard Turner’s interesting reflections on the vicissitudes of Leonardo’s fame is derived from the essay by Paul Valéry of 1895, “Introduction to the Method of Leonardo da Vinci,” in which the French poet confesses that “knowing very little” about him, he had “invented a Leonardo of …

What Art Tells Us

With his splendidly written and beautifully produced book Francis Haskell has broken entirely new ground. There are libraries full of books on the history and method of historiography dealing with the development of historical criticism, the use of charters and documents, and (more recently) with the statistical evaluation of personal …

Getting the Picture

A few years ago I visited the Accademia in Venice in the company of a friend, an excellent painter and highly successful teacher at one of our leading art schools. As we were standing in front of Titian’s Presentation of the Virgin, which covers a large wall, I happened to …

The Edge of Delusion

This learned and heavy volume should be placed on the shelves of every art historical library. It makes accessible, for the first time within the covers of one book, a large range of miscellaneous lore about the role of images in cult, folklore, and culture. As a classical scholar and …

Distinguished Dissident

“There are some 20,000 psychologists in this country alone [in 1966], nearly all of whom seem to be busily applying psychology to problems of life and personality. They seem to feel, many of them, that all we need to do is consolidate our scientific gains. Their self-confidence astonishes me. For …

Back from Oblivion

There must be almost as many varieties of art history as there are art historians. Some are concerned with style, others with subject matter, with social conditions, or with intellectual history. Every one of these specialists will find something to read with profit and interest in Francis Haskell’s splendid new …

Scenes in a Golden Age

In what is called the “art world” of today exhibition catalogs have acquired an almost ritualistic function. Too heavy to carry around, too detailed to be read in their entirety, they serve to reassure the public of the care and thought that have gone into the arrangement of the show.

Mysteries of Dutch Painting

More than two decades ago Svetlana Alpers placed us all in her debt by publishing a strikingly new analysis of Vasari’s famous Lives of the…Painters (1550). She taught us (or in any case me) that we misread and therefore undervalue that foundation charter of art-historical studies if we fail to …

On Frances Yates

Frances Yates died on September 29, 1981, at the age of eighty-one. The following was given at the memorial meeting at the Warburg Institute last January. It is a comfort to me to think that the majority of those here assembled to pay tribute to the memory of Dame Frances …

The Art of Collecting Art

For this learned but lively tome, based on his Mellon Lectures of 1978, Mr. Joseph Alsop has devised a title page which is anything but self-explanatory. “The Rare Art Traditions” are so named by him because they are the exception rather than the rule in man’s attitude to the visual …

The Life-giving Touch

Arriving at the Antwerp railway station last September, during the fourth centenary of the birth of Rubens, the visitor was greeted by a large display with the words RUBENS’S HOME TOWN WELCOMES YOU. If he turned to a restaurant recommended by the tourist agency he was offered a “Rubens Menu,” …

Talking of Michelangelo

When the International Historical Congress met in Rome in 1955, members assembled in the Vatican to listen to an address in Latin by the Pope, after which they were accorded the rare privilege of entering the Paoline Chapel with the frescoes which are the subject of Professor Steinberg’s book. I …

Dream Houses

The title of these architectural meditations is attractive. It is pleasant to think of Adam, the perfect man, living in a perfect house in Paradise. Not a primitive hut to be sure, but a well-appointed residence with plenty of labor-saving devices for Eve. Alas, like so many other pleasant fantasies …

Zebra Crossings

Since the days when Jean Jacques Rousseau shook the self-confidence of Western man, the mentality and the art of simpler societies have been a potential object of nostalgic admiration. We are just celebrating the second centenary of Goethe’s first publication, his passionate manifesto in favor of Strasbourg’s Gothic minster. The …

Rembrandt Now

There are any number of good reasons for remembering Rembrandt, but certainly one which is rather irrelevant—the fact that we have ten fingers on our hands and therefore regard centenaries as round numbers. Since Rembrandt died at the age of sixty-three, an undischarged bankrupt, on October 4, 1669, the calender …

Art Transplant

Birnam Wood has come to Dunsinane. What was rooted in Florence, what was bound to the walls of churches and town halls, has been freed by newly refined techniques…. Professor Millard Meiss’s dramatic opening words of the Introduction to this catalogue reflect the sense of wonder and surprise which all …

In Search of Leonardo

The 1964 volume of Isis, the official quarterly of the History of Science Society, opens with a tribute to Vassilii Pavlovich Zubov who had posthumously been awarded the Society’s George Sarton Medal for 1963 for his outstanding contributions to the history of science. Born in 1899 in the vicinity of …

Waiting for Cézanne

Sixty-six years ago the German art historian Carl Justi, author of masterly monographs on Winckelmann, Velazquez, and Michelangelo gave a lecture in Bonn under the title, Der Amophismus in der modernen Kunst (Amorphism in Modern Art). He denounced the lack of form in the paintings produced by the younger generation, …

How Do You Know It’s Any Good?

A good race horse, one supposes, is one that wins races, a good chess player one who can beat his opponents; we can tell a good watchmaker by his skill in making or repairing watches which accurately show the time, and a good linguist by his testable mastery of foreign …

Calling for “The Doctor”

“When praising the French artist and sneering at the English painter, we neglect to put ourselves in the place of each.” These revealing words were written ninety years ago by the American sea painter and free-lance journalist, S.W.G. Benjamin, who collected his reports on the European art scene for Harper’s …

Bosch of Hertogenbosch

An age which has witnessed a vogue for the “theater of cruelty” must be responsive to the art of Jerome Bosch. Not that this great painter was in need of rediscovery; but the presentation of his oeuvre in a book weighing nine pounds and costing nearly fifty dollars clearly relies, …