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Discussion of ‘Style’ from Max Loehr and the Study of Chinese Bronzes, Style and Classification in the History of Art,

Bagley, Robert (2010) Discussion of ‘Style’ from Max Loehr and the Study of Chinese Bronzes, Style and Classification in the History of Art,. Journal of Art Historiography (2). ISSN 2042-4752

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URL of Published Version: https://arthistoriography.wordpress.com/number-2-june-2010/

Identification Number/DOI: 10.48352/uobxjah.00004190


This essay is the concluding chapter of a study of the work of Max Loehr (1903-1988), an art historian whose visual analysis of unprovenanced Chinese bronzes famously anticipated the discoveries of archaeologists. It argues that Loehr’s strictly pragmatic understanding of style is implicit in the daily practice of most art historians, but that most of our explicit uses of the word, including such everyday expressions as ‘Romanesque style’ and ‘style of Raphael’, presume the existence of a mysterious, indefinable entity that is both a property of the object and a disembodied agent evolving independently of artists and objects. Not surprisingly, no procedure for ascertaining the style of an object has ever been described. The failure to recognize that style is not a physical property but only a shorthand for talking about comparisons is responsible for many classic confusions in art history. Finding the causes of a style or explaining its evolution (‘the origin of the Gothic style’, ‘the evolution from Renaissance to Baroque’), relating styles to times or cultures or nations, relating them across media (‘Baroque painting’ and ‘Baroque music’)—these are fictitious problems, artefacts of a mistaken belief in a thing called ‘style’.

Type of Work:Article
School/Faculty:Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
Department:Department of Art History, Curating and Visual Studies
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This article is archived in ePapers for preservation purposes

Date:June 2010
Subjects:N Fine Arts > NX Arts in general
Copyright Status:Copyright for articles published in this journal is retained by the authors, with first publication rights granted to the journal. Authors may subsequently archive and publish the pdfs as produced by the journal. By virtue of their appearance in this open access journal, articles are free to use, with proper attribution, in educational and other non-commercial settings. Copyright restrictions apply to the use of any images contained within the articles. This work is licensed under a CC BY-NC 4.0 International License https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/
ID Code:4190
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