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restricted access The Needs of the Mind: Ernst H. Gombrich on Art
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E d i t o r i a l Re s p o n s e The Needs of the Mind Ernst H. Gombrich on Art S y b i l l e M o s e r - E r nst I feel honored to have the opportunity to respond to David Carrier’s editorial on Ernst H. Gombrich—all the more so as my book Art and the Mind: Ernst H. Gombrich has been published in February 2018 [1]. The 2009 international conference devoted to Gombrich in Greifswald, Germany, for which I was able to attract the financial support of the Wissenschaftskolleg Alfried Krupp Stiftung, allowed me to spread my vision of engaging—as in a cycle of sowing and reaping—with certain concepts and insights of Gombrich in the context of image science. The subtitle of the book is in German: Mit dem Steckenpferd unterwegs, intended to evoke such reflections as “What could Gombrich’s hobby horse support best, or Where does it go next?” The “Steckenpferd ” (hobby horse) became a metaphor for the approach or lifelong interest of E.H. Gombrich, and recalls the fundamental questions he Gombrich posed in the volume Meditations on a Hobby Horse and other Essays on the Theory of Art [2]. I want to make clear that this book is not biographical and not an homage but offers firm ground for building upon. Among the international contributors to the book are some of the most influential figures in art history, original authorities in their own right; among them are former students of Gombrich. David Freedberg, who traveled far to work with Gombrich and Michael Baxandall, established an interdisciplinary postdoctoral program to bridge the epistemological gap between the humanities and the sciences for the benefit of understanding cultures and human behaviors, especially in the presence of images. For the last twenty years, John Onians has been using neuroscience to advance the study of the history of art. Gombrich anticipated the extent to which neuroscience could be of service to the art historian, but sadly he did not live long enough to hear his archenemy, Norman Bryson, join him in the “biological” camp, having abandoned his earlier theories as of purely “clerical” interest because of their emphasis on words in favor of an approach founded in neuroscience and rooted in lived experience, as Onians notes. Robert Kudielka (of the Academy of Fine Arts in Berlin) draws attention to another of Gombrich’s hobbyhorses , the conviction that cooperation with painters could be more productive than with art historians—a point of view he sustains with the observation that the phenomenon of color as a particular totality of all colors, irreducible to the single hues involved, long exploited by painters, has only recently found scientific explanation through the study of neurobiology. The special insights of a painter are illustrated by the well-known writer Julian Bell, who, in a generous but critical spirit worthy of Gombrich himself, explores the benefits and limitations of neuroarthistory. Hans Belting, having generated impulses toward a fundamental revision of the selfconception and methodology of the discipline of art history, became a leading voice in the fields of image research. Nadia J. Koch focuses on the interaction between classical rhetoric and the theory of art production. I asked her to share her new insights into the ancient techne, thereby reviving models of visual communication that are of contemporary interest. These are only some ideas from the book. Gombrich’s scholarly publications persuaded academic art historians to rethink many of the cozy assumptions on which their conservative field was built. They also brought renewal in areas of philosophy and psychology. Gombrich introduced students in many fields to the complexities of the artist’s mind and helped them to realize the power of their own eyes and intellects. These achievements were obscured in the last decades of his life by a wave of fashion, but this has now receded, leaving the rocks of his achievement standing out as landmarks in the history not just of art but of culture. It is true that there have been extensive debates about some of Gombrich’s claims, especially on perspective; many of the battles that he fought...