The Native Tourist
reformed/biblical observations on Christianity and culture

Tuesday, July 17, 2007
Getting at the underlying motives (i.e. worldview) of art is what art history is all about:

The discourse [on Renaissanc art] exemplified by Beck, Hartt, and others like them employs a methodology of stylistic analysis for which a detached objectivity has been tacitly claimed. It has, however, also been driven by humanist assumptions about Renaissance art and culture. Admired as the fountainhead from which modernity springs, Renaissance art is seen as manifesting the best of human endeavor when first liberated from the grip of medieval religion. It is at once more rational and less mystical, because no longer corrupted by the hocus pocus of religious superstition. It is not difficult, therefore, to see how and why a Marxist critique has exposed the alleged objectivity of stylistic analysis masking ideological agendas. After all, who—other than privileged white males and their decadent offspring—has either the time or money to bother themselves with the study of form and the contemplation of beauty? Besides, it takes but a second look to realize that such art was inevitably determined in myriad ways by its context—social, economic, political and religious alike. Thus, over the last decades, revisionist art historians have been looking more closely at the context, function, and meaning of art—in process often downplaying formal analysis and matters of style, but ideally integrating these concerns with the newer ones.

--from a book review by John Walford that appeared in Books & Culture