Art Between Culture and Nature


24 x 17 cm
490 pp. 274 illus
Publication: June 2006
ISBN 1 899828 95 8
ISBN-13 978 1 899828 95 1

Book Description

For thirty years John Onians has been trying to expand and deepen the discipline of art history. His books, Art and Thought in the Hellenistic Age (1979), Bearers of Meaning. The Classical Orders in Antiquity, the Middle Ages and the Renaissance (1988) and Classical Art and the Cultures of Greece and Rome (1999), sought to extend the understanding of art as an aspect of culture, while his current project, A Natural History of Art, is designed to show how that understanding can be further enhanced by the recognition that art, like all of culture, is based in human neurobiology, and so in nature. He has also been active as a founding editor of the journal Art History in 1978, in setting up the World Art Research Programme at the University of East Anglia in 1994 and becoming the first Director of Research and Academic Programs at the Clark Art Institute in 1997.

The present volume gathers together a selection of the editorials, articles, conference papers and essays, though which he has furthered his own attempts to renew art history and participated in those of others. They reflect the influence of many personal contacts built up during three decades of teaching and lecturing in many countries in Europe, America, Asia and Australia.


  • Theory. Art history, Kunstgeschichte and historia
  • Art and ritual. The biological connection
  • Architecture, metaphor and the mind
  • I wonder. . . A short history of amazement
  • World Art Studies and the need for a new natural history of art; Architecture and painting: the biological connection
  • Inside the brain: looking for the roots of art history
  • Gombrich and the biological explanation of art
  • Prehistory. The origins of art
  • The biological and geographical bases of cultural borders: the case of the earliest Palaeolithic art
  • Ancient world. From the double crown to the double pediment
  • Tabernacle and Temple and the Cosmos of the Jews
  • War, mathematics and art in Classical Greece
  • Idea and product: potter and philosopher in Classical Athens
  • The Greek temple and the Greek brain
  • Quintilian and the idea of Roman art
  • Abstraction and imagination in Late Antiquity
  • Renaissance. Alberti and Filarete
  • Brunelleschi: humanist or nationalist
  • Leon Battista Alberti: the problem of personal and urban identity
  • How to listen to Renaissance art
  • The biological basis of Renaissance aesthetics
  • Alberti and the neuropsychology of style
  • China. Chinese painting in the Twentieth Century and in the context of World Art Studies
  • The Nature of art in Lin Fengmian’s China: a neuropsychological perspective
  • Additional Notes
  • Index

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