The Arts and Man

The Arts and Man

The Arts and Man

The Arts and Man


The scientist, dealing as he does with natural phenomena, can at once proceed to analyze them. The humanist, dealing as he does with human actions and creations, has to engage in a mental process of a synthetic and subjective character: he has mentally to re-enact the actions and to re-create the creations. . . .

Anyone confronted with a work of art, whether aesthetically re-creating or rationally investigating it, is affected by its three constituents: materialized form, idea (that is, in the plastic arts, subject matter) and contents. . . . It is the unity of those three elements which is realized in the aesthetic experience, and all of them enter into what is called aesthetic enjoyment of art.

The re-creative experience of a work of art depends, therefore, not only on the natural sensitivity and the visual training of the spectator, but also on his cultural equipment. There is no such thing as an entirely "naïve" beholder.

TO HELP create an informed and friendly understanding of art is the chief purpose of this book. Art has often been called the most direct language of the soul, the means by which man completely unifies his emotional and intellectual life so that his feelings as well as his thoughts can be transmitted to others. Yet art is more than communication. Through artistic creation and enjoyment -- whether in the field of literature, painting, sculpture, or music -- man becomes succinctly aware of his oneness with nature and his fellow man. Is this suggestion of a definition too ideal, too abstract for our practical age? Then turn at once to art itself.

Chief Values, Characteristics, and Nomenclature of Art

A Coin That "Talks" of Art.Plato once wrote that art was a language which all nations could understand -- a statement something like the one "money talks," which may be most easily demonstrated by the careful inspection of a penny. One side of the coin shows the head of Lincoln; the other, some lettering. It may be said that this piece of money speaks in at least three different ways.

1. As simply a token coin, it claims a certain use value, for it will buy such things as a postage stamp, a piece of chewing gum, or some chocolate. Curiously, in terms of copper, it would actually buy several times its own weight in that metal. That is why it is called a token. Every other work of art, like this penny, has a certain use, or worth, value. This consists of what it will buy in terms of human enjoyment, of instruction, or in some cases, of mystical religious inspiration. One thing to be remembered always is that every significant work of art has some use.

2. The penny, however, has much more than that -- its use value. Observe particularly the side bearing in low relief the portrait head. Here Lincoln's rugged, kindly features are a reminder of the highest ideal of a democratic man -- a leader of the people -- for the people -- elected by a free people as a whole. It seems fitting that beside this head should stand the word "Liberty," and above this head, a statement of belief: "In God we trust." Your penny, then, may be regarded as a work of art and . . .

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