The Literate Eye: Victorian Art Writing and Modernist Aesthetics

By Rachel Teukolsky | Go to book overview

Conclusion
Art Writing after the Victorians

If art writing was a luminous and influential body of literature in the nineteenth century, that prominence receded in the later twentieth century. Contemporary writing about visual arts, whether in the academy or in the press, is a professionalized kind of criticism defined in opposition to qualities we would deem “literary.”1 Few courses on post-war British or American literature would include art essays in their literary canon. Professional art writing takes a more objective tone, avoids poetic effusions, and speaks within the specialized world of its educated readers. The relative importance of art writing in culture has also changed directly in proportion to the role played by the visual arts in everyday life. Although the art world today in Britain and America is infinitely more accessible to viewers than it was in the nineteenth century, the visual arts have lost their central position as a topic necessary to assure middle-class respectability. While Victorian spectators needed a knowledge of art to cement their class status, the visual arts in the twentieth century are coded as the canons of a cultural elite, existing beyond the sphere of daily life. Today art writing works less to educate ignorant eyes than to commune with a select few already possessing a knowledge of art. This development follows out of shifts in the art world we have observed in this book, as collectors and connoisseurs—especially wealthy turn-of-the century American collectors and British connoisseurs—helped to create visual art as the ultimate commodity, signifying above all its own exquisite essence. Any close look at contemporary art writing must acknowledge its intimate link to the art market and commodity culture, perhaps more so than other kinds of academic or professional criticisms.

The trajectory of this book will suggest one way that more avant-garde or oppositional Victorian art writing participated, ironically enough, in the diminishment of its own literary role. We have seen how many art writers elevated visual form above other kinds of artistic judgment as the crowning height of aesthetic sensibility. Their efforts ensured that “the image” became the model, in modernism, for formalism in all of the arts. Although Pater and Greenberg named music the most perfectly formalist art, in fact twentieth-century artists and writers showed comparatively little interest in the innovations of modern music. Instead, modernist writers avidly followed experiments in visual arts, and used metaphors from the visual arts to frame an aesthetic of literary form. The

-234-

Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this book

This book has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this book

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this page

Cited page

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
The Literate Eye: Victorian Art Writing and Modernist Aesthetics
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen
/ 316

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.