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Subject Art, Literature

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631207535.1997.x


What is art? The working definition of art to be discussed here is that art is the subject of art historical writings, and specifically art is the subject of (i) Ernst G ombrich 's The Story of Art , 1950 ( 1995 ) and (ii) Mieke Bal's Reading “Rembrandt”: Beyond the Word-Image Opposition (1991). Gombrich's The Story of Art and Bal's Reading “Rembrandt” are used here because they occupy such distinct places along one spectrum of art historical W ritings . Gombrich's is certainly the most widely read and possibly the most generally acclaimed book associated with traditional art history, and Bal's is one of the most sharply focused and carefully reasoned books employing and developing ideas on what has been termed new art history. The books are also distinctive because they are directed at different levels of readership. Gombrich's is an introductory T ext intended for the reader new to the study of art, while Bal's requires a reader/viewer who has experience in the study of art. But here Bal's book will be viewed as another introduction – or more precisely, as another idea of what art is. Gombrich's The Story of Art and Bal's Reading “Rembrandt” are widely divergent in their views of art, but taken together (though the discussion of their writings here does not approach, much less combine, the clarity of Gombrich's thought and the subtlety of Bal's ideas, which is to be ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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