When Arthur Danto wrote The Transfiguration of the Commonplace he was, as he himself would be the first to admit, "possessed with the history of art as a philosophical problem." The question, for him, was "why works of art form a a kind of history of themselves?"- quite apart from the fact that they were obviously made in some sort of temporal sequence, abstract expressionism in the 1950's, Pop art in the 60's, etc.

Of course, this is exactly what Gombrich sets out to do in Art and Illusion , to answer the question, put in almost Hegelian fashion: how is a history of art possible? And Gombrich (surprise, surprise) has an answer, but Gombrich's answer is not applicable to the whole sweep of the history of art. It's only good for a stretch of it, from the early Renaissance period through French Impressionism where the theory starts to break up or break down. Gombrich's answer is an answer to a limited version of that history. Art and Illusion answers the question: how is a history of representational art possible? This in itself is no small feat, but what are we to make of so much of modern art where the works are "made to exist as objects without depicting or resembling any other object?" To Harold Rosenberg the work of art in the twentieth century became more and more "a thing added to the world of things rather than a reflection of things that already exist."

Suzi Gablik sees "the creation of two separate works" as "the turning point in this crisis of symbol and object: Robert Rauschenberg's The Bed and Jasper Johns Flag '54 . . . unexpectedly contract aesthetic experience by eliminating the separation between the real object and that which represents it."

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