Anyone involved in the study of Latin American art history knows George Kubler as the premier historian in the field. His seminal studies. Art and Architecture in Spain and Portugal and their American Dominions: 1500—1800, written with Martin Storia (1959), and Art and Architecture of Ancient America (1962), both in the Pelican series, are not only pioneer contributions but exist as benchmarks for subsequent developments in Latin American art scholarship.
Many may not realize that Kubler’s innovative and substantive scholarship, documented in 16 books, ranges from a wide variety of contributions on pre-Columbian art in Mexico and Peru and American colonial art to esthetics and archaeology. This important volume, however, is composed of 52 essays by Kubler, and, according to its editor, is an attempt to restore “the wholeness of his [Kubler’s] contributions to the history of art.”
The essays are organized under four major headings: Colonial Art (14 essays); Spain, Portugal, and Europe (12 essays); Ancient America (17 essays); and Method and Theory (9 essays).
These four categories contain rich offerings, but the last category is the most revealing because in it Kubler pays homage to his mentor at Yale, the distinguished French historian and teacher, Henri Focillon. There he also goes on to discuss, in retrospect, his own key book. Shape of Time (1962). Kubler recalls bow Focillon’s broad approach wandered far from the traditional paths of European art history to “include all visual art, from cities and landscapes to industrial and decorative art, from the fine arts to the material culture of anthropology.” It was undoubtedly this creative learning experience which directed Kubler into his innovative studies and prepared him in the 1930s to originate a completely new area of scholarship in pre-Columbian art.
This gathering of essays constitutes a major event in the dissemination of Promethean scholarship on the arts of ancient and colonial America. It deserves to find its way into the bookshelves and minds of not only Latin American art historians but all humanists.