Art and Illusion: A Study in the Psychology of Pictorial Representation Characters

E. H. Gombrich


(Nonfiction Classics for Students)

Gertrud Bing
Gertrud Bing was Fritz Saxl’s assistant and a close associate of Gombrich. She is noted for writing the introduction to the Italian translation of Aby Warburg’s papers.

Karl Bühler
Gombrich recalls in autobiographical writing that the work of Karl Bühler was an important influence on his own thinking, especially in Art and Illusion. Bühler was a professor of psychology in Vienna during the 1920s and 1930s. In addition, he was an early writer on the Gestalt theory of thinking, which worked its way into the theory of art through Rudolf Arnheim. Perhaps most important for Gombrich was Bühler’s model of communication and his theory of language.

John Constable
John Constable, an early nineteenth-century English landscape painter, was one of the first painters to consider science and observation in his understanding of painting. Gombrich devotes a chapter of Art and Illusion to Constable and his experiments with paint and light, noting that Constable remarked, ‘‘Painting is a science and should be pursued as in inquiry into the laws of nature. Why, then, may not landscape painting be considered as a branch of natural philosophy, of which pictures are but the experiments?’’ Constable’s ‘‘experiments’’ were an attempt to render paintings that ever more closely resembled the appearance of the scene in front of him. Gombrich suggests that it is only through experiments like Constable’s that a painter can make his or her ‘‘way out of the prison of style toward a greater truth.’’ Constable’s work provides for Gombrich an easily understood illustration of some of the theories he propounds in Art and Illusion.

Sigmund Freud
Sigmund Freud, the great Viennese psychologist and the founder of modern psychiatry, attempted to chart in a scientific manner the mysterious regions of the human psyche. Gombrich’s interest in psychology and perception necessarily led him to both intersect and interact with Freud’s theories. Gombrich specifically cites Freud’s study of the work of Leonardo da Vinci.

Roger Fry
Roger Fry was an English art critic and painter whose work became important for Gombrich as he wrote Art and Illusion. According to Gombrich, Fry hailed ‘‘impressionism as the final discovery of appearances.’’ For Fry, the difficulty in painting was in the ‘‘difficulty of finding out what things looked like to an unbiased eye.’’ Furthermore, the only way an artist can represent reality is through, ironically, the ‘‘suppression of conceptual knowledge.’’ An important theorist for the...

(The entire section is 1097 words.)