10616 - George Kubler: Last Thoughts

This paper will discuss The Shape of Time in terms of its own “position in a series” and as a “transfer point” in the creative endeavor that was Kubler’s scholarship. After 1960, Kubler often focused on “transfer points,” which might be best described as “relays” and defined as passages in the history of art when old configurations suffer fatigue and appetites for novelty lead to change and new directions. They stand at the ends of phases of insight and interest.

The first transfer point for Kubler came perhaps with the destruction of a novel that he worked on during his undergraduate years in New Haven and Germany, but abandoned after a year in Munich in 1932-33. The second came with the completion of The Shape of Time in 1959-60. It represented the summation of explorations that began in his senior year at Yale as his literary aspirations were redirected towards the history of art and l’art médiéval through his exposure to the work of Henri Focillon. The third transfer point, which saw the culmination of studies that produced detailed analyses of works of art located at critical junctures in time and space, is more elusive, but is best represented by “Towards a Reductive Theory of Visual Style,” published in 1979. The fourth project, begun in 1980, was incomplete at his death in 1996. It involved theoretical explorations of the scientific literature on evolution, the limbic origins of images, empirical studies in cognition, quantitative esthetics, and chaos theory.The Shape of Time lies at the center of my analysis both with respect to its genesis and to questions first raised there that Kubler spent a lifetime thinking about and expanding upon.

Keywords: Theory of Art History, Research Methodology, Art History

Author: Reese, Thomas (Tulane University, Ud States of Am / USA)


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