ERNST GOMBRICH: WHY ART HAS A HISTORY
A TOUR through any major museum or any text on the history of art reveals an extraordinary progression in graphic art over the past three millennia. When we observe flattened "paper cutout" Egyptian wall painting (see figure 7.1) or the stilted, wooden madonna and child of the medieval master Cimabue (figure 7.2), we confront artwork that strikes us as being schematic and unrealistic. Then, with the arrival of the Renaissance, we encounter a clear contrast, one exemplified by Giotto's madonna (figure 7.3). A march had begun toward increasing realism, a march that continued from the fifteenth to the nineteenth century. By the time the English artist John Constable painted "Wivenhoe Park" in the early nineteenth century (figure 7.4), audiences had begun to encounter landscapes and scenes that rivaled photographs in their degree of depicted realism.
This trend reached its apogee with the arrival of impressionism, that still-treasured style of painting which attempts to capture light, color, texture, and other surface appearances at a specific moment in time. But impressionism also signaled the denouement of the march toward realism, for in the subsequent postimpressionist, cubist, and expressionist periods there was the rapid and near total collapse of any effort at depicting the world as it appears to the naked eye. And with the abstract expressionism of the forties and fifties, the breakdown was