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The Problem of Historicism in Gombrich's Art Historical Studies : From Hegel, Beyond Hegel

  • The Journal of Aesthetics and Science of Art
  • Abbr : JASA
  • 2014, 40(), pp.215-248
  • Publisher : 한국미학예술학회
  • Research Area : Arts and Kinesiology > Other Arts and Kinesiology
  • Published : February 28, 2014

Chang, Won 1

1홍익대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

The purpose of this essay is to investigate Ernst Gombrich's historicism in relation with Hegel's philosophy. ‘Hegelian’ theories have been the focal point in modern academic disciplines, and many scholars agree that they are the most conspicuous and definite factors, not only in grounding art history as a scholarly discipline, but also in contemporary studies. The powerful impact of Hegel throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries can be observed in complex processes of rejection and retrieval of Hegel, including at least Marxism, Existentialism, Phenomenology, Positivism, and more recently Deconstruction. By naming Hegel as ‘The Father of Art History’ in a commemorative lecture in Stuttgart after winning Hegel Prize in 1977, Gombrich called himself ‘ein entlaufener Hegelianer(a run-away Hegelian)’ and elaborated upon the hazard and fallacy of Hegel's historical philosophy. He identifies himself as a student of Viennese school which succeeded Hegel's philosophy of history, and articulates that he had aimed to go beyond Hegel's system in his lifelong work. Gombrich's descriptions on Hegel's theories are assessed as the principal conceptions that have grounded cultural history and the entire art history. Gombrich enlists five factors among Hegel's concepts which are still influential in contemporary art historical researches: ‘aesthetic transcendentalism, historical collectivism, historical determinism, metaphysical optimism, relativism’. In order to resist against Hegelian teleological concept of history's development such as ‘Zeitgeist’, Gombrich adopts Popper's ‘logic of the situation’. Gombrich did not call his art historical study in a single way but cultural history or Kunstwissenschaft(science of art). This fact shows that Gombrich, despite his deep interest and discernment in history, excludes historicity so as to overcome the ‘general risk that art history would fall’, but transgresses the discipline's usual method by covering the art of all tribes as well as fine art and decorative art through cultural historical researches. Gombrich's strength as an art historian was that he combined his academic outcome from classic research and vast knowledge with cultural theories and values such as cognitive psychology, psychoanalysis, ethology, philosophy of science. In the introduction of Art and Illusion, Gombrich argues that the matter of art requires the combination and balance among cultural history, art history, perceptual psychology. Therefore, the way that Gombrich explained the relationships between culture and psychological process, society and individual, were to concentrate on the relationship between ‘schema’ and ‘correction’, ‘making’ and ‘correspondence’ in art history as well as language and perception. The most fundamental point in Gombrich's work is to provide us understandings on the view that art is the product of social and cognitive processes, in which Hegelian idea of the ‘Zeitgeist’ or the Jung's ‘collective unconsciousness’ must have been rejected for the social processes that influence on art. What Gombrich pursued beyond Hegel was to make art a part of a wider debate of life by comprehending that visual metaphors, values, and cultural products are closely related each other. Gombrich's great contribution in art history is, according to Nanyoung Kim's evaluation, that “he noticed the implications of the ubiquitous schematic styles in world cultures and the power of tradition even in realistic representation in the Western tradition, and developed a general theory to explain both of them”. Gombrich's work in art historical discipline is now expected to provide diversity to contemporary cultural studies and Bildwissenschaft, or image study in terms that he did neither limit himself in a specific area nor establish the order of priority but made it possible to approach to the holistic cultural history as well as visual art.

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