cover image Here I Stand: Perspectives from Another Point of View

Here I Stand: Perspectives from Another Point of View

Norris Kelly Smith. Columbia University Press, $60 (191pp) ISBN 978-0-231-08426-0

In a scholarly study of interest primarily to art historians, Smith argues that the development of perspective in the Renaissance and its subsequent use must be understood in a social context. Filippo Brunelleschi's picture of a Florentine piazza uses perspective to evoke a ``level playing field'' for public-spirited citizens; and for the next five centuries, as Smith demonstrates, perspective was bound up with the idea of ``public man'': the Christian citizen as a responsible participant in the life of the community. However, as people's sense of the legitimizing function of civil, domestic and religious institutions declined, so did perspective, contends Smith, professor emeritus at Washington University. With Picasso, any effort at defining an emotional bond that might link the painted figures and the observer in a perspectival context was abandoned, as modern art largely jettisoned themes of character and community. Smith develops his sweeping thesis through a close, analytical scrutiny of 90 reproductions of works from Masaccio to Le Corbusier. (Oct.)