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234 × 156 × 18 mm
264 pages
110 illustrations
01 Apr 1997
Essays in Art and Culture
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A Short History of the Shadow Victor I. Stoichita

In this investigative tour de force, Victor I. Stoichita untangles the history of one of the most enduring technical and symbolic challenges to beset Western artists - the depiction and meanings of shadows. The representation of shadow, and especially of cast shadow, is as old as art itself, for according to classical writers art was born when the outline of a human shadow thrown onto a wall was first traced out in order to capture it in the form of a silhouette.

But the history of the shadow is properly the history of light versus dark, for in addition to indicating relief and volume or the times of day, shadows can intimate subtler interior realities - from states of mind to the state of the soul. According to J. C. Lavater in the 18th century, for example, it was the shadow of the face, not the face itself, that was the soul's reflection. More recently Andy Warhol, in his Shadows canvases, and Joseph Beuys have in turn explored the idea of the shadow as the hyper-realized revelation of utter human emptiness and as the self's awesomely powerful Doppelgänger.

Stoichita’s compelling account of the shadow and Western art, which draws on texts by Renaissance artist-authors like Vasari and Cennini, folk tales, fairy tales and classical myths, works by van Eyck, Poussin, Malevich, De Chirico, Picasso and other masters, German Expressionist cinema, photography and child psychology, is a wholly original incursion into a subject that for centuries has challenged the very meaning of art as representation.

‘Victor I. Stoichita is an art historian with a tremendous range, and has brewed together optics and metaphysics, phantasmagoria and propaganda, Plato and Warhol to conjure meaning out of shadows in his engagingly original study.’ — Marina Warner, International Books of the Year,TLS

‘discriminating, inspired interrogation . . . dazzling analysis’ — Tate Magazine

‘Ambitious and a pleasure to read . . . a thoroughly worthwhile book.’ — Times Higher Education Supplement

‘The author chronicles the changing connotations that shadow have had in Western history . . . [He] shows how shadows are deftly used, among other purposes, to suggest the ambiguity of the human psyche.’ — Lee Adair Lawrence, Washington Times

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Victor I. Stoichita is Professor of Modern Art History at the University of Fribourg, Switzerland. He is the author of Visionary Experience in the Golden Age of Spanish Art (1997) and A Short History of the Shadow (1997, 2019), and co-author with Anna-Maria Coderch of Goya: The Last Carnival (1999), all published by Reaktion Books.

1. The Shadow Stage
2. The Shadow of the Flesh
3. A Shadow on the Painting
4. Around 'The Uncanny'
5. Man and his Doubles
6. Of Shadow and its Reproducibility during the Photographic Era
7. In the Shadow of the Eternal Return
List of Illustrations