Aesthetics: Lectures on Fine Art - Vol. 1

Aesthetics: Lectures on Fine Art - Vol. 1

Aesthetics: Lectures on Fine Art - Vol. 1

Aesthetics: Lectures on Fine Art - Vol. 1

Synopsis

In his Aesthetics Hegel gives full expression to his seminal theory of art. He surveys the history of art from ancient India, Egypt, and Greece through to the Romantic movement of his own time, criticizes major works, and probes their meaning and significance; his rich array of examples givesbroad scope for his judgement and makes vivid his exposition of his theory. The substantial Introduction is Hegel's best exposition of his general philosophy of art, and provides the ideal way into his Aesthetics. In Part I he considers the general nature of art: he distinguishes art, as a spiritual experience, from religion and philosophy; he discusses the beauty of artand differentiates it from the beauty of nature; and he examines artistic genius and originality. Part II provides a sort of history of art, divded into three periods called Symbolic (India, Persia, Egypt), Classical (Greece), and Romantic (medieval and post-medieval up to the end of the eighteenthcentury). Part III deals individually with architecture, sculpture, painting, music, and literature.

Excerpt

Hegel's lectures on Aesthetics have long been regarded as the most attractive of all the lectures which were published after his death, mainly from transcripts made by members of his audience. Their great strength and interest lies not in their main philosophical and historical thesis, but in what constitutes the bulk of these two volumes, namely the examples and illustrations drawn from India, Persia, Egypt, Greece, and the modern world, and in Hegel's comments on this detail. These comments on art, perhaps especially on painting and literature, must be fascinating to a student of art, however much he may wish to dissent from them. Consequently, although Hegel professes to be lecturing on the philosophy of Fine Art, and although the lectures have a philosophical background (explicitly expressed here and there, and especially in Part I), it is lovers of art and historians of art whom primarily they ought to interest. (Professional philosophers already have the dry bones of Hegel's philosophy of art in §§ 556-63 of his Encyclopaedia of the Philosophical Sciences--Eng. tr. by W. Wallace in Hegel's Philosophy of Mind.) If a reader finds points laboured with tedious prolixity, and if he is annoyed by repetitions, he must remember that he has in front of him something composed mainly from transcripts of lectures, and not something which Hegel had himself prepared for publication.

Apart from their philosophical background, the lectures have a historical framework (Symbolic, Classical, and Romantic Art) which may be disputable, especially because Hegel says himself that elements of the later forms appear in the earlier and vice versa. But what is still more difficult is Hegel's main thesis that not only has art a meaning but that we can now state in plain prose what that meaning is. That art has a meaning and that it reveals something transcending our everyday experience may be granted. But what that meaning and revelation is cannot be expressed otherwise than by the work of art itself. By professing to extract the meaning, Hegel is bound to conclude that art in the last resort is superfluous. If, as he thinks, Romantic art has the doctrines of the Christian religion as its content, then these are known . . .

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