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A Wealth of Thought: Franz Boas on Native American Art

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Although Franz Boas--one of the most influential anthropologists of the twentieth century--is best known for his voluminous writings on cultural, physical, and linguistic anthropology, he is also recognized for breaking new ground in the study of so-called primitive art. His writings on art have major historical value because they embody a profound change in art history.

Nineteenth-century scholars assumed that all art lay on a continuum from primitive to advanced: artworks of ...

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Overview

Although Franz Boas--one of the most influential anthropologists of the twentieth century--is best known for his voluminous writings on cultural, physical, and linguistic anthropology, he is also recognized for breaking new ground in the study of so-called primitive art. His writings on art have major historical value because they embody a profound change in art history.

Nineteenth-century scholars assumed that all art lay on a continuum from primitive to advanced: artworks of all nonliterate peoples were therefore examples of early stages of development. But Boas’s case studies from his own fieldwork in the Pacific Northwest demonstrated different tenets: the variety of history, the influence of diffusion, the symbolic and stylistic variation in art styles found among groups and sometimes within one group, and the role of imagination and creativity on the part of the artist.

This volume presents Boas’s most significant writings on art (dated 1889-1916), many originally published in obscure sources now difficult to locate. The original illustrations and an extensive, combined bibliography are included.

Aldona Jonaitis’s careful compilation of articles and the thorough historical and theoretical framework in which she casts them in her introductory and concluding essays make this volume a valuable reference for students of art history and Northwest anthropology, and a special delight for admirers of Boas.

University of Washington Press

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Editorial Reviews

Booknews
Essays on the development of Boas' theories on primitive art and his legacy in Northwest Coast art studies offer a theoretical framework for this collection of 14 articles written between 1889 and 1916 by the art historian and anthropologist. The articles, in which he disputes Eurocentric art theories in his analysis of artworks by Northwest Coast Indians, reveal his development as an art historian. The original b&w drawings are lovely. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780295973845
  • Publisher: University of Washington Press
  • Publication date: 12/1/1994
  • Pages: 352
  • Product dimensions: 6.06 (w) x 9.01 (h) x 1.01 (d)

Table of Contents

Preface
Introduction: The Development of Franz Boas's Theories on Primitive Art 3
1 Tattooing of the Haida 38
2 The Use of Masks and Head Ornaments on the Northwest Coast of America 40
3 The Decorative Art of the Indians of the North Pacific Coast 55
4 The Decorative Art of the Indians of the North Pacific Coast 58
5 Facial Paintings of the Indians of Northern British Columbia 107
6 Art of the Thompson Indians 127
7 The Decorative Art of the North American Indians 155
8 Primitive Art 174
9 Notes on the Blanket Designs 188
10 Decorative Designs of Alaskan Needlecases: A Study in the History of Conventional Designs, Based on Materials in the U.S. National Museum 248
11 Clubs Made of Bone of Whale 279
12 Representative Art of Primitive Peoples 289
13 Introduction to Primitive Art 294
14 Conclusion to Primitive Art 300
The Boasian Legacy in Northwest Coast Art Studies 306
Bibliography 337
Index 357
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