Modern Theories of Art, 2: From Impressionism to Kandinsky

By Moshe Barasch | Go to book overview

7
Introduction
An Empathy Tradition
in the Theory of Art

In these crucial four decades from the end of the nineteenth century to the beginning of the twentieth, a further trend emerged in the theoretical reflection on art that became increasingly dominant in earlytwentieth-century thought. Strange as it may seem, this trend is difficult to define precisely in a single word or short phrase; no simple label fits it exactly, it does not go under any “ism.” The cluster of ideas and conceptual endeavors of which it is constituted is far more diverse than those making up other contemporary trends in art criticism. These difficulties of labeling are confusing. One surely cannot speak of a “doctrine” here. One cannot even envisage the pertinent statements as parts of a common tradition. It is often not clear whether the same trend of thought is being referred to in the different attempts to understand the emotional life and art that are to be considered here.

Ye t no serious student following the stages of the movement we shall present, would doubt its intrinsic unity and coherence. What the different attempts, seemingly worlds apart, have in common is, first of all, a dominant theme, and even some specific ramifications following from the overall subject. Closer investigation may further reveal some common attitudes. In the following discussion we shall call this theme “empathy,” and will speak of an empathy tradition in the theory of art. The term “empathy” should not be understood as an indication of a tightly closed conceptual framework defining the theme of our discussion. Rather, it should be understood as the designation of the main core, of the mere center, of these variegated attempts to solve the riddle of art.

The history of what we here call the empathy trend is complex and intricate. Before we begin our story, it may therefore be useful to indicate

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Modern Theories of Art, 2: From Impressionism to Kandinsky
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Preface ix
  • Introduction 1
  • Part I - Impressionism 9
  • 1: Introduction the Crisis of Realism 11
  • 2: Aesthetic Culture in the Literature of the Time 13
  • 3: Impressionism and the Philosophical Culture of the Time 24
  • 4: Science and Painting 34
  • 5: Impressionism Reflections on Style 45
  • 6: The Fragment as Art Form 69
  • Part II - Empathy 79
  • 7: Introduction an Empathy Tradition in the Theory of Art 81
  • 8: Gustav Fechner 84
  • 9: Charles Darwin the Science of Expression 93
  • 10: Robert Vischer 99
  • 11: Empathy Toward a Definition 109
  • 12: Wilhelm Dilthey 116
  • 13: Conrad Fiedler 122
  • 14: Adolf Hildebrand 133
  • 15: Alois Riegl 143
  • 16: Wilhelm Worringer Abstraction and Empathy 171
  • Part III - Discovering the Primitive 189
  • 17: Introduction Conditions of Modern Primitivism 191
  • 18: The Beginnings of Scholarly Study Gottfried Semper 199
  • 19: Discovering Prehistoric Art Early Questions and Explanations 210
  • 20: Understanding Distant Cultures the Case of Egypt 243
  • 21: Gauguin 262
  • 22: African Art 272
  • Part IV - Abstract Art 291
  • 23: Abstract Art Origins and Sources 293
  • 24: The Subject Matte of Abstract Painting 309
  • 25: Color 320
  • 26: Line 341
  • 27: Composition and Harmony 352
  • Bibliographical Essay 371
  • Name Index 383
  • Subject Index 386
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