Abstract: ‘Reckless inaccuracies abounding’: André Malraux and the birth of a myth

After an initial period of popularity in the 1960s and 1970s, André Malraux’s works on the theory of art, The Voices of Silence and The Metamorphosis of the Gods, lapsed into relative obscurity.  A major factor in this fall from grace was the frosty reception given to these works by a number of leading art historians, including E.H. Gombrich, who accused Malraux of an irresponsible approach to art history and of ‘reckless inaccuracies’.

This essay examines a sample of the art historians' arguments and contends that they reveal serious misreadings of Malraux’s texts and a recurring tendency to confuse matters of interpretation with matters of fact.

The article suggests that the myth of Malraux as guilty of ‘reckless inaccuracies’ needs to be debunked, and that the charge of irresponsibility might be better levelled at the critics themselves.

The images below are used in the article - unfortunately only in black and white. These are colour versions.

Background - Mona Lisa
(c. 1503-1506)

Background - Filppo Lippi,
Madonna and Child with Angels (1455)

Section of the Odyssey frieze (Rome, c. 50 B.C.)