The Sense of Form in Art: A Comparative Psychological Study

By H. Wolfflin; Alice Muehsam et al. | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

IN THE YEAR 1928, commemorative celebrations arousing widespread and active interest were held in honor of Dürer. If there was one motif that ran through all the speeches and writings inspired by the quadricentennial of the master's death, it was the acknowledgment of Dürer as the greatest German artist. It is unnecessary to reiterate either the grounds on which this acknowledgment was based or the qualities responsible for the time-defying vitality of his art. However, one is bound to be astonished that the greatest German master sought out Italian teachings in the decisive years of his life and that an art as foreign to his nature as the Italian was able to put him, the leading German artist, so strongly under its spell. By virtue of this, an antithesis dangerous to the native tradition inevitably arose. It was this that lay like a shadow on those commemorative celebrations. Even though the bold conqueror of distant foreign lands was being applauded, this Romanism could not but appear a disturbance of the natural development. The well-meaning admonition not to take these things too seriously is of no help. Dürer himself contradicts it--he did take Italy seriously.

Furthermore, it is not a question of a single case. A very large part of sixteenth-century German art manifests, in this sense, a Romanist attitude. Next to Dürer, Vischer's "classicistic" foundry was at work; and next to Nuremberg, it was above all in Augsburg that the Italian taste took root, from Burgkmair and Adolf Daucher down to the young Holbein. Holbein, who already belonged to another generation, finally welded Italian and German concepts of form into a union that had European validity. In point of fact, this Romanism produced a kind of split in German art. It is with good reason that Grünewald is felt to be almost generically different from Dürer--more popular, more closely connected with the native tradition of form. The same holds true for Altdorfer and Wolf Huber

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The Sense of Form in Art: A Comparative Psychological Study
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 1
  • Preface 3
  • Contents 7
  • List of Illustrations 8
  • Introduction 13
  • I. Form and Contour 21
  • Ii. Regularity and Order 87
  • Iii. the Whole and Its Parts 119
  • Iv. Relaxed Tension 150
  • V. Grandeur and Simplicity 166
  • Vi. Types and Generality 180
  • Vii. the Relief Conception 190
  • Viii. Clarity and the Subject in Art 202
  • Conclusion 224
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