Ernst Hans Josef Gombrich - Biography and Works

Ernst Hans Josef Gombrich, was born on March 30, 1909, Vienna, is one of the most leading art historians of the twentieth century. He introduced art to a greater number of audiences through his best known book, The Story of Art (1950). His father was a lawyer and mother was a pianist. When Austria was in a great threat after the First World War, he was sent to Sweden by the Save the Children Fund.

Sir. Ernst Hans Joseph Gombrich

After a favorable situation, he came back and joined the Theresianum, a school that focused on classical subjects. From 1928 to 1935, he joined the University of Vienna, taking courses in art history, classical archaeology, psychology, and philosophy. He published a successful world history book for the children when he was just 26 years old. The book was published in four languages.

In 1936, he was offered to become a research assistant in the Warburg Institute in London which he accepted. He became a British citizen in 1947. From 1959 to 1976 he worked as the director of the Warburg Institute. During that phase, he published many books, received many prestigious awards and remained visiting professor in Oxford, London, and Cambridge universities, as well as at Harvard and Cornell universities in the United States.

 The Story of Art is a work that fascinated to both youth and adults. Gombrich mainly focused on iconography and innovations in technique, taste, and form as revealed in specific works of individual artists. The Story of Art was an international best seller, which was translated into more than 20 languages. It was published in 1950 by Phaidon. The book was composed in an unusual way: Gombrich dictated it to a secretary. "There really is no such thing as art," the text famously began. "There are only artists." For him, any art is the result of the artist to solve some specific problems at a given time frame. He did not treat art as the eternal piece of beauty. He focused on the particular situation in which the art was created. Art and Illusion is considered as a great classic piece of work where there is the meeting ground between science and humanities. It explores the history and psychology of graphic representation. He looks for the reasons for the changing styles of art.

His other famous and notable works are Meditations on a Hobby Horse, and Other Essays on the Theory of Art (1963), The Sense of Order (1979), and The Image and the Eye (1981), Meditation on a Hobby Horse, and Other Essays on the Theory of Art (1963), The Image and the Eye: Further Studies in the Psychology of Pictorial Representation (1981), and Topics of Our Times: Issues in Learning and Art (1991). He received numerous honors; Gombrich was elected a fellow of the British Academy in 1960. He later was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (1966), knighted (1972), and appointed a member of the Order of Merit (1988). He peacefully died on 3 November, 2001 at the age of 92.

Gombrich Study Center

Art and Illusion

Mimetic Theory: Introduction