Tag Archives: art

The Partial Functions of Art

The citizen who, in everyday life has been reduced to a partial function (means-end activity) can be discovered in art as ‘human being’. Here one can unfold the abundance of one’s talents, though with the proviso that this sphere remain strictly separate from the praxis of life.

Burger, Peter. “The Theory of the Avant-Garde.” Theory of History and Literature. Vol. 4. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota, 1984. 47-54. Print.

I found this very interesting because although in the passage, the author is talking specifically about bourgeoisie art, I think it holds true for the other two types as well. Sacral art allows us to connect with religious images because they are represented as human. The artist tries to depict familiar relationships like that between Jesus and Mary or Jesus and his disciples at the last supper. It is difficult for people to imagine a divine figure as human because of everything He represents however art has made it easier. And so someone who is not exactly human in our minds becomes human through art. Likewise, courtly images help people imagine royalty as human-like because otherwise, they seem like distant historical figures to us and for the people of the time, distant rulers they have probably never seen. Art however helps them become familiar faces and ‘human’ rather than faceless people whose only physical attributes we can assign are being covered in jewels and rich cloth as we would perceive them to be. I think all art involving images of people, whether divine or royal or or just average helps us relate to them in that we can imagine them and perceive them as human.


Individual Reception of Art

“The reception of courtly art also remains collective, although the content of the collective performance has changed. As regard reception, it is only with bourgeois art that a decisive change sets in: its reception is on by isolated individuals. The novel is that literary genre in which the new mode of reception finds the form appropriate to it.”

Bürger, Peter. Theory of the Avant-garde. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota, 1984. Print.

The development for individual reception of art is so important for the novel as it is akin to the connection between the author’s thoughts and the reader’s mind. A one-to-one correspondence is needed for this to occur, and many other forms of art does not provide this, except for the novel.

“The Proper Stuff of Fiction”

“‘The proper stuff of fiction’ does not exist; everything is the proper stuff of fiction, every feeling, every thought; every quality of brain and spirit is drawn upon; no perception comes amiss.  And if we can imagine the art of fiction come alive and standing in our midst, she would undoubtedly bid us break her and bully her, as well as honour and love her, for so her youth is renewed and her sovereignty assured” (Woolf 154).

Woolf personifies fiction in this quotation from “Modern Fiction”; in doing so, she expresses the concept of encouraging writers to challenge fiction and incorporate their own ideas within it.  This contrasts from other thinkers who view writing from a formulaic perspective and discourage deviation and creativity in terms of style.

Woolf, Virginia. “Modern Fiction.” In The Common Reader, 154. San Diego, CA: Harcourt, 1925.

Art Imitates Life

“Personal experience is a most vicious and limited circle. All that I desire to point out is the general principle that Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life, and I feel sure that if you think seriously about it you will find that it is true. Life holds the mirror up to Art, and either reproduces some strange type imagined by painter or sculptor, or realizes in fact what has been dreamed in fiction. Scientifically speaking, the basis of life— the energy of life, as Aristotle would call it—is simply the desire for expression, and Art is always presenting various forms through which this expression can be attained. Life seizes on them and uses them, even if they be to her own hurt. Young men have committed suicide because Rolla did so, have died by their own hand because by his own hand Werther died. Think of what we owe to the imitation of Christ, of what we owe to the imitation of Cæsar.”

Wilde, Oscar. Intentions: The Decay of Lying. New York: Brentano’s, 1905. 39-40. eBook.

I thought this was so interesting because I never looked at it from the perspective of life imitating art. I always considered art to be a reflection of what was happening in the individual’s life and the world around them. I don’t necessarily fully agree with what he’s saying but after having looked at the topic from this perspective, I believe that they may influence each other rather than one controlling the other. I do believe that a fundamental basis of life is the desire for expression and so in that way, art if life. But I also think that it depends on the individual. Some people do believe that art if life as well as a reflection and influencer and so they may agree that art is life. However there are also people who do not believe that art has that big of an impact on their lives.

James’ Impressionism

“The only effectual way to lay it to rest is to emphasize the analogy to which I just alluded–to insist on the fact that as the picture is reality, so the novel is history. That is the only general description (which does is justice) that we may give the novel. But history is allowed to represent life; it is not, any more than painting, expected to apologize.”

James, Henry. “The Art of Fiction” in Partial Portraits. London; New York: MacMillan & Co. pg. 379

James’ analogy between pictorial art and fiction is a fascinating theme that has added so much to modern fiction. The mere process of using one’s art to comment on his own medium seems to be a common feature of modernism. James’ thoughts on writing the novel take me back to Picasso and Warhol, painters who, through their own work, asked, “What constitutes as art?” changing the purpose of painting thereafter. Since then, art has become much more self-indulgent, and the beauty of art is in the variety of impressions that different painters are able to display through their respective lenses of creativity. In the past, when painting had many more utilitarian purposes, art was meant to appease those who paid for it. For example, painters like Rembrandt who portrayed nobility still altered the reality of the portraits, but they did so in order to portray what the noblemen wished to look like. Likewise, when historians have portrayed reality in the past, they have also done so in order to appease those in power. James wishes to highlight that the novel, like modern painting, has the feature of freedom, and that is beautiful. The freedom to create a work that is solely from one’s imagination, one’s impression of reality, is the Art of Fiction.

Art before Nature

“Consider the matter from a scientific or a metaphysical point of view, and you will find that I am right. For what is Nature? Nature is no great mother who has borne us. She is our creation. It is in our brain that she quickens to life. Things are because we see them, and what we see, and how we see it, depends on the Arts that have influenced us. To look at a thing is very different from seeing a thing. One does not see anything until one sees its beauty. Then, and then only, does it come into existence.”

Wilde, Oscar. “The Decay of Lying.” In Intentions. New York: Brentano’s, 1905. page 40-41. Internet

This idea that nature is our creation, and not the other way around, really blew my mind. It makes complete sense on so many levels. I find it particularly relevant to my studies at the moment as I’m taking a class on Sensation and Perception, and have been spending a great deal of time contemplating how we perceive the world around us. How much of it is a construct of our mind, and how much, if any, is a universal reality? While I’d been thinking that one of the most important factors that push us to certain perceptions are our life experiences , I can see how Art appears to be a large, if not the largest, subset of those experiences. This was a fantastic reading!

Art Needs to be Liked

Nothing, of course, will ever take the place of the good old fashion of
“liking” a work of art or not liking it: the most improved criticism will
not abolish that primitive, that ultimate test. I mention this to guard myself
from the accusation of intimating that the idea, the subject, of a novel
or a picture, does not matter. It matters, to my sense, in the highest
degree, and if I might put up a prayer it would be that artists should
select none but the richest.

Henry James, Major Stories and Essays (New York:Literary Classics of the United States, 1999), 585.

As James argues of the novel’s perception as an art, he makes a digression to point
out that what will remain consistent, regardless on how novels should be viewed and written, is that the work needs be, at the very least, liked. He adds to this view by stating that he simply wishes the work of a writer, or any other artist, to be good and of value. Otherwise, the work will not be perceived with any regard, regardless of style or medium.

lying as an art form

One of the chief causes that can be assigned for the curiously commonplace character of most of the literature of our age is undoubtedly the decay of Lying as an art, a science, and a social pleasure” 

Vivian starts the discussion by expressing her feelings on how nature is flawed and mundane. She then leads into a discussion where she relates lies to works of art in that the observer can be captivated if done artfully. The “decay of lying” that she refers to in the quote can serve to say that she is seeing less originality and art in her time. Rather, things seem to be ordinary and mundane to Vivian. It is interesting for Vivian to refer to lying as a “social pleasure” because it reveals an uncommon viewpoint of the act of lying. Usually, people view lying as something horrible, but Vivian discusses lying as something that keeps variety in society adds interest as well as makes interesting people.

Imagination and Lying

“The moment Art surrenders it’s imaginative medium, it surrenders everything.  As a method Realism is a complete failure, and the two things that every artist should avoid are modern it of form and modernity of subjectmatter.  To us, who live in the nineteenth century, any century is a suitable subject for art except our own.  The only beautiful things are the things that do not concern us.”

Wilde, Oscar. “The Decay of Lying.” archive.org/stream/intentionsdecayo00wild. April 2008. September 2014.

This passage stuck out because, throughout much of this passage, I found Vivian annoying until the connection is made that imagination and lying are synonymous.  Art is a product of human imagination and it takes some truth bending to accomplish that.

Art vs. Nature

“If Nature had been comfortable, mankind would never have invented architecture, and I prefer houses to the open air. In a house we all feel of the proper proportions. Everything is subordinated to us, fashioned for our use and our pleasure.”

Oscar Wilde The Decay of Lying in Intentions. , London, Methuen & Co. (1913) page 2

The argument that art would not occur if humans were one with nature is pretty insightful. Art is an occurrence due to our dissatisfaction with nature and our ability to act upon that.