December 2010

Thinking of Gombrich

IS THERE AN ARTIST ANYWHERE who does not have Ernst Gombrich on the shelf? Art and Illusion, Meditations on a Hobby Horse, or—my favorite—The Sense of Order are perennial staples in the studio. If there is room for only one book, The Essential Gombrich fills the bill. His The Story of Art is a stock item in libraries across the country. Imagine my surprise, then, when I came across this footnote in Norman F. Cantor’s riveting Inventing the Middle Ages: The Lives, Works, and Ideas of the Great Medievalists of the Twentieth Century:
I have to admit that I must be almost alone in not learning anything of importance from the writings of (Aby) Warburg’s other famed student, Ernst H.
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Three Faiths, One Hymnal

THREE FAITHS: JUDAISM, CHRISTIANITY, ISLAM is two things at once. To the eye, it is a stunning exhibition of historic manuscripts, incunabula and printed texts of great rarity and beauty. On that level, it is nothing short of breathtaking. This is an uncommon opportunity to greet antiquities of incomparable scholarly and aesthetic value. Unhappily, the rarities on show, all from the New York Public Library’s permanent collection, are not displayed for their own sakes. Nor are they here to instruct us in the necessity for civilizational stewardship, the true purpose of a magnificent library. Continue Reading