Art and Illusion: A Study in the Psychology of Pictorial Representation Critical Overview - Essay

E. H. Gombrich

Critical Overview

When Art and Illusion was published in 1960, it was immediately hailed as a masterpiece. In an obituary appearing in Art in American shortly after Gombrich’s death in 2001, critics Stephanie Cash and David Ebony provide a retrospective of Gombrich’s work. They hail Art and Illusion as Gombrich’s ‘‘most influential volume.’’ They also note that Gombrich ‘‘rejected the notion that artistic change was the result of a collective mind or ‘spirit of the age.’ Instead Gombrich preferred to focus on how individual artists dealt with specific technical problems.’’

The importance of a book can often be determined by the amount of critical response it generates over the years, and by this standard, Art and Illusion has demonstrated its ongoing influence from the time of its publication to the present day. Moreover, the intellectual heft of those scholars who respond to a book also increases a book’s prestige. In the case of Art and Illusion, some of the most respected philosophers of the era respond to and use Gombrich’s work.

For example, Nelson Goodman, an important theorist in the area of perception, refers to Gombrich in his classic Languages of Art (1968). Although Goodman and Gombrich had what has been described by Malcolm Bull as an ‘‘uneasy relationship,’’ Goodman nonetheless acknowledges Gombrich’s accomplishments in Art and Illusion: ‘‘Gombrich . . ....

(The entire section is 588 words.)