The Power of Images, by David Freedberg
Freedberg, formerly the Pierre Matisse Professor of the History of Art at Columbia University, and since 2015 the director of the Warburg Institute, had, before turning his attention to the brain, published widely on Dutch, Flemish, French, and Italian seventeenth-century art (including painting, drawing, and print), iconoclasm, the intersection of art and science, and, to a lesser extent, contemporary art. Freedberg’s interest in the neurosciences relates directly to historical events he explored in his seminal The Power of Images.
Although beauty has been a central topic in aesthetics, the neuroaesthetics of beauty has brought us to the point of wondering if, in spite of its name, the new discipline is about aesthetics at all. With David Freedberg, we enter a different world—one that promises a more sophisticated treatment of art as well as smarter ways of linking neuroscientific knowledge and the aesthetic relation.
In that book, Freedberg (1989) wished, as Ernst Gombrich (1990) noted in a sharp review, “to lead the response to art back to our elementary reactions.”