Academic journal article Journal of Art Historiography

Lecture Two: 'The History of Art' 1

Academic journal article Journal of Art Historiography

Lecture Two: 'The History of Art' 1

Article excerpt

What I undertake here is approximately the opposite of Erich Rothacker in his Einleitung in die Geisteswissenschaften, Tübingen: Mohr [Introduction to the Humanities] of 1920. He set out to summarize the methods brought forth in the various subjects during the nineteenth century, but I by contrast, proceed from personal experience in a single field, and hope on this basis to discover what is lacking in this area, and presumably in others as well. Since Rothacker also included 'the history of art' ('Kunstgeschichte') among his considerations (p. 151), I might start with his conclusions. This outsider seems to consider 'the history of art' rather marginal in comparison to the other disciplines, 'without a stabile centre leading to further ideas, and held together by something like a simple gap in the system of the sciences which might possibly yield a flow of new approaches but hardly an original development.' 'Energies streamed into the history of art no less randomly (than the history of literature) from aesthetics, connoisseurship, architecture, philology, archaeology, history and criticism; although the core of a scholarly tradition had formed here already earlier. We can reasonably answer the question of whether Karl Schnaase, Franz Kugler, Jacob Burckhardt, Anton Springer, Carl Justi or finally Franz Wickhoffand Alois Riegl were the first scholarly protagonists of their subject by saying that it was Schnaase. It is still essential today for art to be shown within the overall culture of a nation. Kugler is said to have been the first to introduce exclusively artistic aspects into the history of art. We would like to believe that Riegl was superior to Springer in historical meticulousness but without denying the achievements of the latter. The profound differences being disputed between the trends, directed more to cultural history and to history of styles, have long ago become internal processes within a single discipline with ambitions to be considered the vanguard of the humanities.' If the judgments of Rothacker in other fields are determined by the same randomness of impressions as here with the visual arts, then I can understand why his well-meaning essay has no purpose. Would the history of art have been the least independent if the goal had been to present the individual subjects in an overall picture, all of them more or less according to the same pattern? Does philosophy actually believe that it can provide a remedy in this way? What actually matters is for these subjects to be disengaged from the context of linguistic and historical studies and to make progress delving into the particular character of each and to learn to work with values and energies rather than incidents.

Except for those making comparative studies, philologists are limited to their language. They tend to see their subject as self-contained and to view it more in the direction of its own influence than as a part of a grand and living whole, as necessarily required of specialists. When they bind themselves to philology and history, we can see the result in the excellent personality of Riegl who was completely limited to the Latin regions and admitted only the Mediterranean without the east, although at the end of his life he countenanced Greek-eastern Rome.2 A specialist cannot treat scholarly subjects without a knowledge of all linguistic areas. It is completely impossible for them to know all of the languages that might become relevant. Of course, they need to have a good knowledge of certain languages in order to assess facts in a given field relying on verifications from philologists, or to pursue such facts independently and properly assess them on the basis of experience. Yet to take it up with philologists while neglecting his own field would be to indulge in the same mistake of the philologists themselves in the desire to know and be capable of everything, while also neglecting the living elements above the dead in which they are rooted. …

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