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History of art, by Wilhelm Lübke

History of art by Wilhelm Lübke


THE INCREASED INTEREST shown in works of sculpture and painting during the last twenty years may be perceived by various favourable symptoms. This interest is not merely shown by delight in beauty of form, but it is combined with that deeper attraction towards historical knowledge which pervades our time. After Kugler, in his 'Handbook to Art History,' had for the first time traversed the whole grand field of art, and represented it in distinct outline, and Schnaase, in his 'History of the Plastic Arts,' had profoundly investigated and cleverly displayed the connection of artistic creations with the innermost life of nations and epochs, the desire for acquaintance with this historical progress of the arts was· awakened in cultivated circles, 'and at the same time the conviction gained ground that the enjoyment of a work of art was materially increased by the understanding of its historical existence.

In the meanwhile, inquiry extended over all branches and epochs of the history of art, and such an amount of facts were brought out of darkness and oblivion, that even those who took active interest in the matter were dazzled by the infinity of the material. The scientific works on art history necessarily increased in extent, as from year to year there appeared a growing accumulation of material. A comparison of the third edition of Kugler's 'Handbook,' with the first is at once an evidence of this. In the same measure, however, the cultivated classes who do not make such studies the vocation of their life, find their advance in this attractive pursuit impeded, owing to the bulky work through which they must wade.

For many years I had, therefore, cherished the idea of attempting a history of sculpture and painting, which should only aim at a simple delineation of the essential and grand features of the course of their development. I wished to write a book which should prepare for the study of the more comprehensive works of Kugler and Schnaase, and at the same time should offer to those who had not sufficient leisure for a deeper examination, the principal facts of the history of art in a condensed and yet attractive form. The result of this idea was the ' Outlines of the History of Art.'

My main object in the work was to help the cultivated reader to a deeper understanding of art and its productions, to afford him a survey of the whole course of development, and to give him an outline of the historical progress of art; but at the same time to lay the principal stress throughout on her unchangeable laws of beauty, and thus to place in full light the various points in the development of art, while the intermediate stages . of transition and preparation should be only generally alluded to. But my aim especially was to show the inner spiritual connection, in the artistic creations of the various epochs, from the·time of the Egyptian pyramids up to our own day, and to discover in them the grand ideas of the advance of the human race in civilisation. A lengthy residence in Italy afforded me the desired opportunity of completing my own studies, and furnished me with abundant additions to my work.

In subsequent editions, I have endeavoured to leave the text as far as possible untouched, but in every respect to make every desirable improvement. Whatever later investigations and my own continued studies have· proved to be erroneous or insufficient has been altered and improved. In many parts I have found occasion to make large additions. I may especial mention the recent discoveries in Assyrian as well as in Hebrew Phrenician art, the chapters on the monuments of Asia Minor and Indian architecture, as well as the observations on the art of the Japanese. The medireval epoch has received mw::h new light _from Street's excellent work on Spain, and Italian painting from Crowe and Cavalcaselle.

I may thus venture to indulge the hope that my object to ·spread ~ taste for art history, and a delight in works of art among ever-widening circles, may be realised I have aimed throughout my work at rendering intelligible the intellectual life of nations as it is reflected in the creations of the plastic arts. Who could doubt that this study is a necessary part of general history, and an important branch in the history of civilisation?

The Fourth Edition has been also carefully revised by me, and enriched with the results of my own recent investigations, and with those of others. I have altered nothing in the text, but have rather endeavoured to preserve that freshness which is alone to be obtained by the expression of personal observations. As my descriptions are based almost everywhere upon autopsy, I have not wished to efface the stamp of it, imparting, as it does, an independent value to such representations.

The additions to the new edition are nevertheless not inconsiderable. In the introduction I have added much upon the vessels and ornaments of the earliest epochs of culture, in which we can trace the germs of so many of the ornaments of later times. Classic art has a section rich in illustrations upon ancient artistic handicraft A clear view is thus obtained of the important influence of art upon life generally. The early Christian art of the East has been essentially remodelled from Count M. De Vogue's work upon Syria. Much has also been obtained with regard to Hans Holbein from A. Woltmann's recent able work.

Renaissance architecture, and especially the entire concluding chapter upon the art of the present day, have received considerable addition and extension. Among the numerous illustrations added-and which now exceed 400-I may mention the relief, from Eleusis, taken from a plaster cast ; the female figure from the Parthenon, and the Saytr after Praxiteles, both from photographs; the head of Roxana by Soddoma, and Holbein's Solothurnes Madonna.

With regard to the latter master, various pints of his life, especially the year of his birth and his residence at Augsburg, have formed the subject of controversy between A. Woltmann and H. Grimm. The latter has questioned the inscription on the altar-piece of the Augsburg Gallery, and I have also felt some hesitation on the subject. Having, however, a short time ago, investigated the inscription myself, and found it perfectly free from suspicion, I can no longer share Grimm's doubt, but must agree with Woltmann. The altar of St. Sebastian, also I can now only ascribe to the young Hans Holbein ; and though it must ever remain an evidence· of remarkably early proficiency, that a young man of twenty years of age should be able to produce such a work, we have only to call to mind Raphael's Sposalizio, and Correggio's Madonna, which testify similar precocity.


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