8632 - The Legacy of Henri Focillon and George Kubler

While it may be difficult, if not impossible, to adequately cover in a brief pre-sentation the vast horizons that Henri Focillon and George Kubler opened for


the discipline of art history (and other disciplines as well) through their seminal theoretical works, Vie des formes (1934) and The Shape of Time (1962), respectively, this paper reexamines some of their main contributions that formed and shaped a tradition of research and exploration that remains valid to this day.


Foremost in the minds of Focillon, the teacher, and Kubler, his student, was the


concept of style and the representation of historical time. Indeed, just as the career


of Kubler emerged from the instruction and inspiration of Focillon, so too, his book


The Shape of Time emerged as a response to questions raised in his mentor’s writing. Without a doubt, both were trailblazing efforts, surveying a new world


of endeavor which opened new frontiers for exploration. Focillon’s work began


the path giving it direction and goals; Kubler, in turn, expanded, refined and


advanced to new vantage points. With sharper focus and greater lucidity,


Kubler was able to do this by addressing several critical issues in opposition


to entrenched practices in art history, such as the need to bring together again


the history of science and the history of art; the unnecessary severing of meaning


from form in the conflict between iconologists and morphologists; and the static


nature of the concept of style as a means of classification. To be sure, neither


Focillon nor Kubler pretended to have completed the map they were charting,


but they both opened new horizons for future generations of fellow explorers.

Keywords: Historiography of art history, History and theory of art and architecture

Author: Rodríguez-Camilloni, Humberto (Other / Andere)


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