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Art History and the Cold War by Grant Pooke, Ben Thomas


Art History and the Cold War by Grant Pooke, Ben Thomas

In 1952, at the height of the Cold War, Erwin Panofsky wrote a paper surveying Three Decades of Art History in the United States - an essay pervaded by an acute sense of how the development of the discipline of art history, and the lives of individual art historians, had been shaped by the momentous political events of the 1930s and 40s. In a specific reference to McCarthyism, Panofsky noted how 'nationalism and intolerance' remained a terrifying threat to academic freedom and that 'even when dealing with the remote past, the historian cannot be entirely objective'. The problem of objectivity was particularly pressing in the analysis of artistic style during the Cold War when abstraction and realism acquired strong political connotations. These Cold War interrogations of style were restating a fundamental problem of art history: how to relate the work of art to the society that produced it. Art History and the Cold War explores how the ideological context of the Cold War framed different approaches to art history, and how its conditions and constraints shaped the professional careers and influenced the writings and ideas of scholars and cultural theorists. It analyses the practice of art history at particular geographical fault lines in the Cold War, the global reach of Cold War ideology, and explores a post-colonial context for the development of art history that looks beyond the monumental rivalries of East and West.

About the Author

Grant Pooke is Senior Lecturer & Head of Section, History & Philosophy of Art, University of Kent, UK. Ben Thomas is Lecturer in History & Philosophy of Art, University of Kent, UK.

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Book Info

Publication date

15th July 2017


Grant Pooke, Ben Thomas

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Routledge an imprint of Taylor & Francis Ltd


222 pages


Theory of art
Art & design styles: from c 1960
The Cold War



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