beautiful meditation on the art-historical problem of style, Henri
Focillon (1881–1943) describes how art forms change over time.
Although he argues that the development of art is irreducible to
external political, social, or economic determinants, one of his
great achievements was to lodge a concept of autonomous formal mutation
within the shifting domain of materials and techniques. Focillon
emphasizes the presence of nonsynchronous tendencies within styles
that give artworks a manifold and stratified character.
The Life of Forms in Art remains one of the most brilliant
and important reflections on the morphology of art. It has been
superbly translated by Yale art historian George Kubler, whose book
The Shape of Time was influenced by Focillon. The book
also contains a critical introduction by Jean Molino.
“The Life of Forms in Art is a stimulating work,
a live form itself, created by a mind whose sense of form is alive
on every page.”
— Review of Metaphysics