Some speculations concerning Gombrich’s reflections, Or History of Art as a poor relative of the Science of Art




Keywords: Ernst Hombrich, Art History, Science of Art, Artist, Aesthetic Subject, Work of Art.


Our essay was inspired by the lecture by the German art historian Ernst Gombrich (1909–2001) «Reflections on teaching art history in art schools paper given, 4th January, 1966». If no one denies the necessity of giving such a course to artists – the provocative question of how modern art history coincides with modern art science (allgemeine Kunstwissenschaft) or with art theory – makes one wonder not only what kind of specialty students acquire, specializing in history of art, but also over the relationship between different disciplines «within» the science of art. Drawing on a number of specific examples, the article attempts to show the difference between the  material an art historian and an art researcher work with. It suggests that the history of art is related to the science of art in the same way as paint is related to colour or as the voice is related to singing, or the past is related to the present. It is shown that an attempt by an art historian to turn this history into modernity harms both the history of art and the modern science of art, which is looking for new motives, methods and techniques and the new style of writing. If when the European science of art just began to take its shape as «the theory and history of art», it was the history of art that was the core around which theoretical generalizations arose like iconography or iconology, now the history of art remains the necessary basis for the professional training of an art researcher – a person who is able to independently consider works of art not in the history of art, but in the history of culture, more precisely, in the very whirlpool of culture, which will become history only tomorrow. The science of art becomes an important element of the general science of culture, where history of art occupies its proper place – knowledge about how humanity produces a valuable, expressive surface of being. However, different means serve different goals. I consider an art researcher a person who resorts to theorizing and increment of artistic meanings, or an art historian, and then resorts to the reproduction of knowledge, and not its increment.






Special Issue

How to Cite

Some speculations concerning Gombrich’s reflections, Or History of Art as a poor relative of the Science of Art. (2023). Text and Image: Essential Problems in Art History, 2(14), 18-30.