The state of art history today

April 11 2012

A learned reader hits the nail on the head:

Although the 1980s literary studies revolution in the history of art has unlocked lots of excellent new approaches to the study of British painting, I often think also about the detrimental effects. So much core archival research has been left undone in the decades since then, as it was unfashionable and unlikely to attract funding. So many generations of students have grown up not caring much about sources. I think it is interesting to contrast British art studies with, say, the history of the early modern state, where scholars are deeply rooted in their materials. Even fashionable ones, such as Steve Pincus. We art historians don't have even the most basic of research tools, such as biographical dictionaries and catalogue raisonnes, to work with. I think it is quite embarrassing, actually, that the field of study takes itself so seriously, yet much of it is essentially floundering around in the dark.

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