The Biology of “realist” Art

imagesIf humans didn’t have binocular vision, how would Brunelleschi have come up with the principles of linear perspective? There would be no foundation for western “representative” painting. It would have been pointless. The Quattrocento as we know it would not have happened. And all the art after would be utterly different, as there would not have been the limitations of that boxed reality and it’s spurious claims to ‘realism’ to challenge. There would be nothing remarkable or revolutionary about Manet’s fife player… or Matisse, or Picasso.
One eye or two–different ways of fooling ourselves about the look of the physical world.

I highly recommend Hubert Damish’s A Theory of /Cloud/: Toward a History of Painting. First published in 1972, not translated till 2002, I so wish I had this book when I was taking courses in art history almost 50 years ago.

Dense reading… but if you keep ploughing ahead, understanding becomes cumulative as he returns again and again to the examples on which he builds his argument.

The advantage of reading it now (unless you are able to travel the world to see all the art he cites), is that reading in front of a computer, you can quickly Google images you are not familiar with, or remember only vaguely. Richly documented. THIS is what art history should aspire to.


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