Cover: Icon and Idea: The Function of Art in the Development of Human Consciousness, from Harvard University PressCover: Icon and Idea in E-DITION

Icon and Idea

The Function of Art in the Development of Human Consciousness

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$65.00 • €48.00

ISBN 9780674435308

Publication Date: 01/01/1955

161 pages

101 halftones

The Charles Eliot Norton Lectures


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Hitherto art has been regarded as a desirable but not essential means of communicating emotions, ideas, and aspirations. In this ground-breaking book the author maintains on the contrary that the aesthetic activity is fundamental rather than peripheral.

Sir Herbert Read describes decisive stages in man’s aesthetic approach to reality. These stages correspond to certain decisive epochs in the history of art—beginning in the Stone Age and continuing to our own time. Each epoch represents a conquest by human consciousness of progressive spheres of existence. In each era the author shows how a new sense of reality is expressed in characteristic works of art.

By approaching universal history from a completely different point of view Sir Herbert has made a significant contribution which in provocative character and scope may well be compared with those of Spengler and Toynbee.