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Klejn L.S. On art (Prospect-Abstract)

In print at Belveder, St. Petersburg, in Russian

By Leo S. Klejn


This book of medium size (ca. 400 pages) consists of 14 articles written at various times by the St. Petersburg archaeologist and philologist-classicist Prof. Leo S. Klejn on the subject of art. Archaeology, especially classical archaeology, is very close to the study of art and in earlier times the two composed a single discipline. Both were initially thought of as part of philology. Even now philology embraces a study of belles-lettres that is kindred to the study of art.


The author taught at St. Petersburg University and at the European University at St. Petersburg and delivered lecture courses at Free (West Berlin) and Vienna Universities as well as at a number of other universities in England, Denmark and Sweden, University of Washington a. o.


Many of the selected articles were originally published in specialist publications, sometimes in foreign languages, and as such are not easily accessible to the non-specialist. Some of the articles are published here for the first time.


The articles are divided into three sections. The first is devoted to general questions in theory of art. There are articles on the genesis of the arts as well as on the theory of style. The latter is a most difficult and controversial area: what is style? – even the best art students find this difficult to answer. However, in archaeology this question is addressed more strictly than in other disciplines related to art study, and the author makes use of this in order to draw some general solutions.


 The first section also includes the hot controversy, initiated by the author, upon the feasibility of a formalised psychological methodology for the study of fine art.


The second section focuses upon the history of classical archaeology as a discipline that was concentrated upon the arts of classical world. This section also includes the biographies of two significant persons: J. I. Winckelmann, the founder of both archaeology and art study; and N. P. Kondakov whose importance, not only in Russian but also in world scholarship, is usually underestimated.


The third section consists of articles on the cognition of primordial art. Also discussed is the question of whether modern art can offer clues to the comprehension of primordial art.


Following these three sections there is a concluding article on the evolution of depicting activities from the Palaeolthic to our own time. Three main anomalies of this evolution are discussed. These three anomalies represent in the author’s opinion the main turning points in the history of art. One of these anomalies is the paradox of the accomplishment of “primitive” (Palaeolithic) painting, the other is the urge of modern artists towards the distortion of reality, the third one is the partial return towards realism in the arts in totalitarian societies. Analysis of these phenomena includes suggestions as to their causes and consequences.


The volume opens with a preface by the well-known art student Ivan Dm. Chechot, and it closes with his extensive Afterword in which he (as a representative of the next generation) analyses the positions and ideas of L. S. Klejn in great detail.


This book will be of interest to all who are interested in art; especially to art students, psychologists, historians and archaeologists.

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Editorial Preface: Ivan Dm. Chechot. L.S.Klejn as viewed by an art student

Preface from the author

Part I. General questions in the theory of art

1.      Programming man (On the question of culture and art)

2.      Type and style. Fragments from Archaeological typology

3.      The way to a theory of style

4.      “Taste is beyond disputation”?

5.      Discussion: Artistic language or symbolic code? (in co-authorship with V. V. Esipov, K. L. Lidin and V. A. Lynsha)

Part II. Art in classical archaeology

6.      Death in Trieste: Winckelmann

7.      Scholarly trends and traditions in classical archaeology

8.      A Byzantine

Part III. Cognition of primordial arts

9.      Sarmatian tarandrus and the problem of Sarmatian origins

10.      Pre-Scythian art of the steppes

11.      Archaeology and fashion

12.      Figuring it out

13.       Stained classics

In place of a Conclusion

14. The depictive activity from an evolutionary perspective

Afterword: Iv. Dm. Chechot. Winckelmann’s heritage


Indices (subject and names)

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