Art and Illusion  

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"The caricatures Baldinucci had in mind were those of Bernini, the great sculptor who had mastered the skill of physiognomic reduction to perfection. But the locus classicus for this discovery of like is unlike is the Poire, the pear into which Daumier's employer, Philipon, transformed the head of the Roi Bourgeois, Louis Philippe. Poire means a 'fathead,' and when Philipon's satirical papers continuously pilloried the King as a poire, the editor was finally summoned and a heavy fine was imposed. The famour sequence, a kind of slow-motion analysis of the process of caricaturing, was published in his paper as his defense. It rests on the plea of equivalence. For which step, it asks, am I to be punished? Is it a crime to substitute this likeness for that? Or then the next? And if not that, why not the pear? And indeed we feel that despite the change of each individual feature, the whole remains remarkably similar. We accept it as a possible alternative mode of seeing the King's face. For this is the secret of a good caricature--it offers a visual interpretation of a physiognomy which we can never forget and which the victim will always seem to carry around with him like a man bewitched." --(Chapter X--The Experiment of Caricature)

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Art and Illusion, A Study in the Psychology of Pictorial Representation (1960) is a book of art theory and history by Ernst Gombrich, derived from the 1956 A. W. Mellon Lectures in the Fine Arts. The book had a wide impact in art history, but also in history (e.g. Carlo Ginzburg, who called it "splendid"), aesthetics (e.g. Nelson Goodman's Languages of Art), semiotics (Umberto Eco's Theory of Semiotics), and music psychology (Robert O. Gjerdingen's schema theory of Galant style music).

In Art and Illusion, Gombrich argues for the importance of "schemata" in analyzing works of art: he claims that artists can only learn to represent the external world by learning from previous artists, so representation is always done using stereotyped figures and methods.

Further reading

  • Woodfield, Richard. Gombrich on Art and Psychology. Manchester and New York: Manchester University Press, 1996. 271 pp. Template:ISBN.
  • Trapp, J.B. E.H. Gombrich: A Bibliography. London, Phaidon 2000. Template:ISBN
  • Gombrich, E.H.J. & Eribon, D. Conversations on Art and Science. New York: Abrams 1993 (also published as: A Lifelong Interest.)
  • Onians J. (ed.). Sight & Insight. Essays in honour of E.H. Gombrich. London: Phaidon 1994
  • McGrath, Elizabeth.‘E. H. Gombrich’, Burlington Magazine, 144 (2002), 111–12
  • Carlo Ginzburg, ‘From Aby Warburg to E.H. Gombrich: A Problem of Method’, Clues, Myths, and the Historical Method, John and Anne C. Tedeschi, trans, Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986, 17–59
  • Shone, Richard and Stonard, John-Paul, eds. The Books That Shaped Art History: From Gombrich and Greenberg to Alpers and Krauss. London: Thames & Hudson, 2013.





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