the work of Pierre Francastel has long carried the label “sociology
of art,” it bears little resemblance to anything conventionally
sociological. For too long, Francastel has been unavailable to English-language
readers and hence known only through erroneous and second-hand characterizations.
The translation of Art and Technology should open the way
for a rediscovery and reconsideration of this brilliant, often misunderstood
thinker. Unlike the followers of the dominant schools of Anglo-American
and German art history, Francastel was never obsessed with establishing
a quasi-scientific methodology as the basis for his studies. But
as art history itself is being reconfigured amid the technological
culture of the twenty-first century, his nuanced meditations from
the 1950s on the intricate intersection of technology and art gain
heightened value. The concrete objects Francastel examines are for
the most part from the architecture and design of the late nineteenth
to mid-twentieth century. Through them, he engages his central problem:
the abrupt historical collision between traditional symbol activities
of human society and the appearance in the nineteenth century of
unprecedented technological and industrial capabilities and forms.
Francastel’s vision of the indeterminate, shifting relation
between the aesthetic and the technological will be of crucial importance
to anyone interested in the history of art, architecture, and design.