Gombrich, Ukraine and another Science of Art





art history, art studies, historiography, Ernst Gombrich


The essay discusses the state and the prospects of Ukrainian art history and its relationship with the so-called ‘Art studies’. It offers insights into the origins of the notion of art studies imposed by the Soviet authorities to replace the ‘bourgeois’ theory and history of art which flourished at the beginning of the 20th century in Ukrainian universities. The introduction of art studies meant the growth of the rift between Soviet scholarship and the rest of the world. This first shift was followed by acts aimed at provincializing Ukrainian scholars through censorship and limited access to publications and fellowships.

The long-awaited independence of Ukraine has changed much neither in approaches to teaching the history of art at art schools and academies nor in the methodology of scholars. The science of art in Ukraine remains to a large extent outdated, rooted in connoisseurship and formal analysis and sometimes even confused with art criticism. Ernst Gombrich’s lecture of 1966 pointed to the importance of tackling political, social and economic circumstances that impacted artistic development while teaching art history. His conclusions despite seeming obvious are still to be taken into account in Ukrainian realities as the attitude towards history in art academies remains rather superficial and condescending as to a ‘science of facts’, which completely ignores the last decades of methodological pursuits of historians and art historians.

Going back to the notion of theory and history of art as a discipline that should be taught and researched as well as tackling linguistic obstacles and re-inventing methodology might help to overcome the divide between Ukrainian scholarship and their foreign peers and make research conducted in Ukraine and/or by Ukrainian art historians visible to the European and global art community. It, too, will mean the beginning of another science of art in Ukraine.






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How to Cite

Gombrich, Ukraine and another Science of Art. (2023). Text and Image: Essential Problems in Art History, 2(14), 45-51. https://doi.org/10.17721/2519-4801.2022.2.05