A book full of flashes of insight rooted in material history. Early in the book he describes growing up in Vienna - 'people could not find jobs. It is one of the reasons they became learned.'Gombrich offers a keen sense of artistic progress rooted in overcoming what went before, and in the philosophy, beliefs and materiality of an age. For example: 'people were afraid of magic, the idea of transforming someone's image was literally 'no joke'. So caricature could not come into being until magic had disappeared.'or when discussing the 'reformation killing art in England' and the need to import artists as 'if the young find no chance of earning a living by becoming artists they will turn to other professions.' He refreshingly attempts 'to find out what the repertory of the period' is. But he also talks about how the difficulty of range and complexity of techniques available in our times are leading to a higher proportion of bad art. My favourite quote: 'It is precisely because I do not believe in the ideology of the avant garde that I am convinced that there are many good artists working in many different idioms who form a kind of 'underground' of art, making a modest living without attracting the attention of the media.'