Part 1: The Limits of Likeness
In the introduction to Art and Illusion, Gombrich asks the question, ‘‘Why is it that different ages and different nations have represented the visible world in such different ways?’’ This is the question he attempts to answer in his book. First, however, he provides the reader with a critical account of the history of style and the psychology of representation. That accomplished, he turns to Chapter One, ‘‘From Light into Paint.’’ In this chapter, Gombrich notes that the English painter, John Constable said, ‘‘Painting is a science.’’ Like Constable, Gombrich believes that science is involved in both the creation and the appreciation of art. He explains the many ways that artists through the years have learned how to represent light in their paintings.
Chapter Two, ‘‘Truth and Stereotype,’’ begins with a discussion of how a picture can be neither true nor false. By contrast, the caption of the picture can be so judged. Further, when artists undertake to paint pictures, they start not with what they see, but rather with an idea or concept, what Gombrich calls a ‘‘schema.’’ The schema, Gombrich argues, is ‘‘the first approximate, loose category which is gradually tightened to fit the form it is to reproduce.’’ Thus, in portraying a person, animal, landscape, or thing in art, the artist must have a starting point, for, as Gombrich states, ‘‘you cannot...
(The entire section is 1459 words.)
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