The Native Tourist
reformed/biblical observations on Christianity and culture

Thursday, December 28, 2006
Real Art History

Here and there, I am sure, you would find art history pursued as outlined above: as an educational endeavor concerned with genuine scholarship, an adventure in seeing, a collaboration that aimed above all at facilitating the direct encounter with important works of art. I want to stress this disclaimer. I do not say “I am sure” in the deflationary sense, meaning “perhaps, but probably not.” I mean it rather in an affirmative, a declarative sense. I can instantly think of several art historians and curators who are deeply engaged with the aesthetic substance of art. I mention several such figures in the course of this book: critics and historians and connoisseurs who like art, who delight in looking, and who seek to communicate this passion and delight. But that’s the end of the good news. Because the dominant trend—the drift that receives the limelight, the prizes, the honors, the academic adulation—is decidedly elsewhere. Yes, there are dissenting voices. But the study of art history today is more and more about displacing art, subordinating it to “theory,” to politics, to the critic’s autobiography, to just about anything that allows one to dispense with the burden of experiencing art natively, on its own terms.

--from the introduction to The Rape of the Masters by Roger Kimball