The Shape of Time: Remarks on the History of Things

The Shape of Time: Remarks on the History of Things

George Kubler

Language: English

Pages: 144

ISBN: 0300100612

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub

When it was first released in 1962, The Shape of Time presented 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 Time is 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 Time ably states a significant position on one of the most complex questions of modern art historical scholarship."—Virginia Quarterly Review.


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engage in the study of meaning by the method of Strukturanalyse, or configurational analysis, in an effort to determine the premises underlying the literature and art of the same generation in one place, as for example, in the case of Homeric poetry and the coeval geometric vase painting of the eighth century B.C. Thus Struktuiforschung presupposes that d1e poets and artists of one place and time are d1e joint hearers of a central pattern of sensibility from which d1eir various efforts all flow

were only cities, and from thence to every cranny of the social structure, exempting only the most isolated communities, or those too poor to renew their churches, houses, and pictures. The invisible chain. An ancient tradition of representation shows us the poet inspired by the musc.14 His posture with lifted pen betrays the greater presence as he receives the message from another sphere of being. His whole body strains upward and the folds of his clothing flutter upon the breath of the spirit.

offered by paleolithic painting, with l04 SOMB KINDS OF DURA'riON two main regional variants in the Dordogne and the Cantabrian caves which vary in types and expression about as much as French and Spanish painting in the seventeenth century. Our question concerns duration. Although some scholars ascribe thirty or forty centuries of ice-age time to the artistic tradition of these paintings, it is on small evidence, and the possibility still exists that each group of paintings, exemplified at

stunted, 4.9. See also Classes, Series Serial position, 54-61, 64 Seriation, 7g, 8s Series, viii, 2, 6, 33, 4-5, 54, 64, n9; appreciation of, 45-47; as closed classes, 53; closed, ro6; extended, II2-II4; open, 45; rule of, 54-57, 75, 78, 125; simultaneous, II7-I2l; wandering, IIS-XI7. See also Classes, Sequences Sevilla, I 13 Signals, 17, 2o-2x, 62; adherent, 25; primary, 23; redundancy of, 23; secondary, 23 ; self-, 24, 2 s Simultaneity, 56, 120 Siqueiros, David Alfaro, 108 Socrates, 12

becomes an urgent requirement to devise beller ways of considering everything man has made. Arising from the study of art history, this book presents a radically new approach to the problem of historical change. George Kubler draws upon new insights in fields such as anthropology and lmguistics and replaces the notion of style with the idea of a linked succession of works distributed in time as recognizably early and late versions of the same action. The result is a view of histoncal sequence

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