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The Shape of Time

The Shape of Time: Remarks on the History of Things

Copyright Date: 1962
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 144
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  • Book Info
    The Shape of Time
    Book Description:

    When it was first released in 1962,The Shape of Timepresented a radically new approach to the study of art history. Drawing upon new insights in fields such as anthropology and linguistics, George Kubler replaced the notion of style as the basis for histories of art with the concept of historical sequence and continuous change across time. Kubler's classic work is now made available in a freshly designed edition.

    "The Shape of Timeis as relevant now as it was in 1962. This book, a sober, deeply introspective, and quietly thrilling meditation on the flow of time and space and the place of objects within a larger continuum, adumbrates so many of the critical and theoretical concerns of the late twentieth and early twenty-first century. It is both appropriate and necessary that it re-appear in our consciousness at this time."-Edward J. Sullivan, New York University

    This book will be of interest to all students of art history and to those concerned with the nature and theory of history in general. In a study of formal and symbolic durations the author presents a radically new approach to the problem of historical change. Using new ideas in anthropology and linguistics, he pursues such questions as the nature of time, the nature of change, and the meaning of invention. The result is a view of historical sequence aligned on continuous change more than upon the static notion of style-the usual basis for conventional histories of art.

    "A carefully reasoned and brilliantly suggestive essay in defense of the view that the history of art can be the study of formal relationships, as against the view that it should concentrate on ideas of symbols or biography."-Harper's.

    "It is a most important achievement, and I am sure that it will be studies for many years in many fields. I hope the book upsets people and makes them reformulate."-James Ackerman.

    "In this brief and important essay, George Kubler questions the soundness of the stylistic basis of art historical studies. . . .The Shape of Timeably states a significant position on one of the most complex questions of modern art historical scholarship."-Virginia Quarterly Review.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-19637-5
    Subjects: Art & Art History, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    G. K.
  4. One. The History of Things
    (pp. 1-27)

    Let us suppose that the idea of art can be expanded to embrace the whole range of man-made things, including all tools and writing in addition to the useless, beautiful, and poetic things of the world. By this view the universe of man-made things simply coincides with the history of art. It then becomes an urgent requirement to devise better ways of considering everything men have made. This we may achieve sooner by proceeding from art rather than from use, for if we depart from use alone, all useless things are overlooked, but if we take the desirableness of things...

  5. Two. The Classing of Things
    (pp. 28-55)

    Only a few art historians have sought to discover valid ways to generalize upon the immense domain of the experience of art. These few have tried to establish principles for architecture, sculpture, and painting upon an intermediate ground partly in the objects and partly in our experience of them, by categorizing the types of organization we perceive in all works of art.

    One strategy requires enlarging the unit of historical happening. At the beginning of the century F. Wickhoff and A. Riegl moved in this direction when they replaced the earlier moralizing judgment of “degeneracy” that had been passed upon...

  6. Three. The Propagation of Things
    (pp. 56-75)

    It is a truism that the objects around us correspond to needs old and new. But this truism like others describes only a fragment of the situation. In addition to these correspondences between needs and things, other correspondences exist between things and things. It is as if things generated other things in their own images by human intermediaries captivated with those possibilities of sequence and progression we have just described. The sense of Henri Focillon’sVie des Formescaptures the illusion of reproductive powers appearing to reside in things, and André Malraux later amplified the perception upon a much larger...

  7. Four. Some Kinds of Duration
    (pp. 76-111)

    The modern professional humanist is an academic person who pretends to despise measurement because of its “scientific” nature. He regards his mandate as the explanation of human expressions in the language of normal discourse. Yet to explain something and to measure it are similar operations. Both are translations. The item being explained is turned into words, and when it is measured it is turned into numbers. Unfortunately the tissues of history today have only one dimension that is readily measured: it is calendrical time, which permits us to arrange events one after another. But that is all. The domain of...

  8. Conclusion
    (pp. 112-120)

    The historical study of art on systematic principles is about two thousand years old if we include Vitruvius and Pliny. This accumulated knowledge now far surpasses the ability of any individual to encompass its detail. It is unlikely that many major artists remain to be discovered. Each generation of course continues to revaluate those portions of the past which bear upon present concerns, but the process does not uncover towering new figures in the familiar categories so much as it reveals unfamiliar types of artistic effort, each with its own new biographical roster. The discovery of hitherto unknown painters of...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 121-128)
  10. Index
    (pp. 129-134)