Modern Theories of Art, 2: From Impressionism to Kandinsky

By Moshe Barasch | Go to book overview

2
Aesthetic Culture in the Literature
of the Time

In the second half of the nineteenth century both philosophy and science contributed, and, as we have seen, formed a comprehensive background to, what might be called the crisis of Realism. The solid world, made of a tangible material substance, seemed to crumble, to slip away, or simply to disintegrate. What remained, it seemed to writers and artists, were only appearances, sensations, something which you could look at for a fleeting moment, but which you could not grasp, hold, or rely on. How did the arts, or culture as a whole, reflect this state of affairs, or this intellectual trend? Philosophy, one could say, has some inherent links to the abstraction of science. How did the arts linked to real life approach a world in which there were only appearances? To answer these questions, we turn first to literature and to the literary criticism of the time.

In 1868, the year in which impressionistic painting was crystallizing, Walter Pater composed the “Conclusions” to what became his best-known work, The Renaissance: Studies in Art and Poetry. In the few pages of the “Conclusions” Pater gave concise expression to an important intellectual and artistic trend of his time. “To regard all things and principles of things as inconstant modes or fashions has more and more become the tendency of modern thought.”1 Walter Pater, as we know, was the principal representative of the movement we call Aestheticism. To this movement we shall return in another part of this volume. Here I shall mention only one of its characteristics, the concern with a contemplative attitude.

“At first sight,” Pater said in the Conclusions, “experience seems to bury us under a flood of external objects, pressing upon us with a sharp and importunate reality….” But, he continued, “when reflexion begins to play upon these objects they are dissipated under its influence: the cohesive force seems suspended like some trick of magic: each object is loosed into a group of impressions—color, odor, texture—in the mind of the ob-

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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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