The Vienna school and Central European art history Review of

Jan Bakoš
2014 Journal of Art Historiography Number   unpublished
Discourses and strategies: the role of the Vienna School in shaping central European approaches to art history ‡ related discourses, Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2013. (Slovak Academy of Sciences, Series of the Slovak Academy of Sciences, 5.) Branko Mitrović Bakos 's latest book is a collection of eight essays that were presented at conferences or came out individually in journals. 1 Although they are published unchanged in this volume, the book is coherent and presents an erudite and
more » ... erudite and comprehensive picture of the trends within and the external impact of the Vienna School of art history. The particular value of the book is its engagement with Slavic-language sources, which are often neglected in English-speaking perspectives on central Europe, as well as the author's careful a alyses of the concealed political motivations that permeate much of the central European scholarship of the era and are often not obvious to a foreign observer. Bakoš is in fact careful to note that 'the zenith of research into the relationship between epistemology and ideology is almost over' (7)-but it is hard to imagine how the theoretical constructs that he is writing about, so profoundly marked by the political and ideological trends of their environments, can be separated from the context that motivated them. The opening essay '"Humanists" versus "Relativists": Methodological Visions and Revisions within the Vienna School' presents the historical line of the ideas articulated within the Vienna School as a series of intellectual reactions and interactions between its protagonists. The story ecessarily starts with Alois Riegl's approach based o the study of formal-artistic solutions, and Max Dvor k's replacement of this model with the understanding of art as an expression of ideas. Julius Schlosser established singular artworks and individual artists as the base of art history in opposition to theories of formal evolutio or collective worldviews. Ha s Sedlmayr's 1927 programme, as presented in his paper on the quintessence of Riegl's art historical method, revived the reduction of i dividuals' creativity to their membership of groups. In defining his approach, Sedlmayr relied on the sociological teachings of Alfred Vierkandt, but by the 1930s racially-based versions of collectivist explanations of human creativity became widespread, as one can witness in the works of Josef Strzygowski, Dagobert Frey and Karl Swoboda. Collectivist approaches were u der Er st Gombrich's attack from his very early publicatio s, while Otto Pächt made efforts to revive Riegl's a d Dvor k's legacy. In a separate essay Bakoš surveys Gombrich's repeated attacks on the collectivist position. (107-122) This essay is a valuable