George Kubler

American art historian (1912-1996)

George Alexander Kubler (26 July 1912 - 3 October 1996) was an American art historian and among the foremost scholars on the art of Pre-Columbian America and Ibero-American Art.

Quotes edit

  • The seventeenth-century academic separation between fine and useful arts first fell out of fashion nearly a century ago.
    • George Kubler (1961), cited in: Guido Guerzoni (2011). Apollo and Vulcan: The Art Markets in Italy, 1400-1700. p. 27
  • I was surprised, while preparing this lecture, to notice how, among my friends who had read the book, a division into two groups appeared. Both groups are equally discerning and educated, and as far as I can tell, equal in numbers. One group is eager to say that they don't understand a word of it, and there are artists and historians among them. Those of the other group claim that they understood it all on first reading, without difficulty. Of course I believe them both, without understanding the combination that separates them so sharply. Perhaps distinctive and contrasting features in the comprehension of works of art are responsible. What I say speaks to some, but not to others. Some are ready, and others are not. But when both someday find that they agree in understanding it, that day may be its last as a book alive in the dissension over its intelligibility.
    • George Kubler (1982)"The Shape of Time, Reconsidered," in: Perspecta (Volume 19, MIT Press)
  • The notion of style has long been the art historian's principal mode of classifying works of art. By style he selects and shapes the history of art.
    • George Kubler summarizing the view of Meyer Schapiro (with whom he disagrees), quoted by Alpers in Lang, Berel (ed.), The Concept of Style, 1987, Ithaca: Cornell University Press, ISBN 0801494397

The Shape of Time, 1962 edit

George Kubler, The Shape of Time: Remarks on the History of Things (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1962), 18.

  • 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 urgent to devise better ways 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 as our point of departure, then useful objects are properly seen as things we value more or less dearly.
    • p. 1
  • Purpose has no place in biology, but history has no meaning without it.
    • p. 8
  • We always may be sure that every man-made thing arises from a problem as a purposeful solution.
    • p. 8.
  • The historian's special contribution is the discovery of the manifold shapes of time. The aim of the historian, regardless of his specialty in erudition, is to portray time. He is committed to the detection and description of the shape of time.
    • p. 12
  • Unless he is an annalist or a chronicler, the historian communicates a pattern which was invisible to his subjects when they lived it, and unknown to his contemporaries before he detected it.
    • p. 13
  • The cultural clock runs mainly upon ruined fragments of matter. No matter to what hazardous lengths we let out our line they still withdraw again, and further, into the depths. ... however, runs mainly upon ruined fragments of matter recovered from refuse heaps and graveyards, from abandoned cities and buried villages. Only the arts of material nature have survived; of music and dance, of talk and ritual, of all the arts of temporal expression practically nothing is known elsewhere than in the Mediterranean world, save through traditional survivals among remote groups.
    • p. 14.
  • The universe has a finite velocity which limits not only the spread of its events, but also the speed of our perceptions. The moment of actuality slips too fast by the slow, coarse net of our senses.
    • p. 18; as cited in Lee (2001, p. 47)
  • Although inanimate things remain our most tangible evidence that the old human past really existed, the conventional metaphors used to describe this visible past are mainly biological.
    • p. 33; as cited in Lee (2001, p. 58)
  • The history of art... resembles a broken but much-repaired chain made of string and wire to connect the occasional jeweled links surviving as physical evidences of the invisible original sequence of prime objects.
    • p. 40; as cited in Lee (2001, p. 55)
  • Instead of an idea of style, which embraces too many associations, [I] have outlined the idea of a linked succession of prime works with replications, all being distributed in time as recognizably early and late versions of the same kind of action.
    • p. 130
  • Actuality is when the lighthouse is dark between flashes: it is the instant between the ticks of the watch: it is a void interval slipping forever through time: the rupture between past and future: the gap at the poles of the revolving magnetic field, infinitesimally small but ultimately real. It is the interchronic pause when nothing is happening. It is the void between events.
    • cited in: Artscribe. Nr. 7; 13; 17-18 (1977). p. 36

Quotes about George Kubler edit

  • Kubler was the foremost scholar of Pre-Columbian and Post-Columbian art of his generation and brought the area into consideration of the discipline of art history (Willey). The Shape of Time remains fundamental for the concept of art history as "material culture." Kubler argued in it that art "can be expanded to embrace the whole range of [hu]man-made things." But Kubler also controversially asserted in Shape of Time that "art stands outside culture" and warned about a linear-historical perspective that would interpret objects through historical precedent. History, Kubler contended, is a process that continually transforms human sensorial capacities and knowledge through ongoing discovery.

External links edit

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