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L'histoire sociale de l'art [Un bilan provisoire]

Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales
Publication Date
DOI: 10.3406/arss.1976.3484
  • Political Science


The Socia History of Art : A Provisional Summing Up. Attempts to explain the production and transformation of forms and styles by means of external causes have ahvays run the risk of seeming abusively reductionist. Witness the reserved welcome given in the 1950s to the founders of contemporary social history of art, whose works were inspired by a global view of the relationship of art and social structure. Efforts in this vein, such as the grand syntheses of Arnold Hauser or the studies of Frederick Antal on the "strategy of images" and of Francis D. Klingender on art and the industrial revolution, were followed by a neo-posilivist current which stresses micro-sociological research. Proponents of the latter approach currently occupy the key positions in the leading Anglo-Saxon universities. Except for certain currents existing outside the discipline of art history properly so called -and which are evident in the work of Erwin Panofsky and in the writings on art of the Frankfurt School- it was not until the end of the 1960s that a change in orientation occurred. This coincided with changes in the political climate and with the growing importance accorded to a critique of the dominant culture and ideology. The most recent studies sometimes take up again and reexamine traditional themes, for example that ol the commissioning and of investment in works of art and that of the relationship of the artist to the power structure. They treat newer subjects, as well, like the history of museum and gallery-going publics and of the changing ways of perceiving art objects. Studies have also been done of moments of crisis and iconoclastic episodes, of the institutions responsible for the consecration and distribution of art works (academies, museums), and, more generally, of the relationships between the field of the producers and the market for artistic goods.

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