Book Description: This is a documentary study of a recurring phenomenon in the history of changing taste in the visual arts, namely the feeling that older and less sophisticated or "primitive" works are somehow morally and aesthetically superior to later works that have become refined, soft and decadent. Gombrich traces the existence of such feelings right back to classical antiquity, and links them with a crucial psychological observation made by Cicero to the effect that over-indulgence of the senses leads to a feeling of disgust. He also demonstrates the importance of the profoundly influential metaphor, first articulated in antiquity and taken over by Vasari, that compares the history of art to the growth of an organism: like a living organism, art is born and grown to maturity (and therefore perfection), then decays and finally dies. Successive generations of artists and critics, believing the art of their own time to be past maturity, have interpreted the smooth refinement and sensual appeal of contemporary works as symptoms of decline and corruption, and have come to admire earlier works, despite their "immaturity", as possessing superior qualities of sincerity, innocence and rugged strength. With the advent of modernism at the turn of the 20th century this admiration took a radically regressive new twist as artists turned their backs on tradition altogether and found inspiration in the art of exotic cultures and in the works of children and the insane. This book presents a closely argued narrative that documents the role of authors, critics and artists in shaping and changing opinion. After reviewing the classical authors whose writings largely set the terms of the debate, Gombrich then charts its progress from its revival in the 18th century, documenting the often subtle shifts of taste and judgement that frequently focus on the pivotal role of Raphael as a touchstone in the history of taste. In the final chapters he turns to the revolutinary primitivism of the 20th century, to much of which he has himself been an eyewitness.