THE SOCIAL HISTORY OF ART- 2 vols. by Arnold Hauser


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While following the traditional artistic periods from prehistoric cave paintings to the film industry of the 20th century, Hauser has slanted his material from the viewpoint of social determinism, -religious, political, economic. He sees art as governed by the collective activities of men, rather than the reverse. To illustrate:- the difference between the earlier and freer cave paintings and the later more stylized ones was caused by the evolution from a purely practical utilitarian life to a productive economy with emotional factors. First, the deed was accomplished by the projection of the drawing; later, man stopped and thought before and after he acted. To take a later period, the 19th century, Hauser says that French Bohemianism was more prevalent on the continent than in England, because the British middle class overpowered the Bohemian when he raised his cocky head....Despite the sometimes contrived exposition, the book is an excellent text and reference, the style (in a good translation by Stanley Godman) distinguished for its clarity and organization, the scholarship evident. The method is inductive, with material chosen to prove his points, and a logical progression that has its certain fascination. His admiration for the creative instinct comes out in his admonitions to the film industry, but essentially he is concerned with art forms as social manifestations, whether in painting, sculpture, architecture, literature.

Publisher: Knopf