The History of Art: Its Methods and Their Limits

Diogenes 32 (128):17-41 (1984)
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Tracing the broad outline of European art history means presenting the different methods considered essential to the formation of this discipline. Historiographical research arrives quite naturally at a criticism of the methods themselves and at a search for a broader horizon.To the extent that the historian is involved with the thinking and the problems of his age, his methods reveal personal and conjunctural concepts and ideas which will guide the reflections of his successors ; these successors will modify and correct the concepts received in order to adapt them to new experiences and questions. Or they will add others which are more apt to supply the answers sought. The means of analysing art history today are the fruit of four centuries of discussion during which certain normative criteria, traditional theories and underlying concepts were called into question while at the same time, though being sometimes exported to other areas of the world, they have demonstrated a tenacious degree of longevity. But perhaps a brief recapitulation might be helpful here.



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