Described by Kenneth Clark as 'one of the most brilliant books of art criticism that I have ever read', Art and Illusion is a classic study of image-making. It seeks to answer a simple question: why is there such a thing as style? The question may be simple but there is no easy answer, and Professor Gombrich's brilliant and wide-ranging exploration of the history and psychology of pictorial representation leads him into countless crucial areas. Gombrich examines, questions and re-evaluates old and new ideas on such matters as the imitation of nature, the function of tradition, the problem of abstraction, the validity of perspective and the interpretation of expression: all of which reveal that pictorial representation is far from being a straightforward matter. First published more than 40 years ago, Art and Illusion has lost none of its vitality and importance. In applying the findings of experimental science to a nuanced understanding of art and in tackling complex ideas and theoretical issues, Gombrich is rigorous.
Yet he always retains a sense of wonder at the inexhaustible capacity of the human brain, and at the subtlety of the relationships involved in seeing the world and in making and seeing art. With profound knowledge and his exceptional gift for clear exposition, he advances each argument as an hypothesis to be tested. The problems of representation are forever fundamental to the history of art: Art and Illusion remains an essential text for anyone interested in understanding the complexities of art. For the sixth edition Professor Gombrich has written an entirely new 12-page preface, in which he makes use of the distinction between an image and a sign, so as to clarify his intentions in writing the book in the first place.