Modern Theories of Art, 2: From Impressionism to Kandinsky

By Moshe Barasch | Go to book overview

5
Impressionism
Reflections on Style

In the preceding chapters of this part I have attempted to trace some of the central intellectual developments—philosophical, scientific, and literary—that form the broad background to what we call impressionism in painting. We now come closer to the painters themselves. Here the question arises: can we speak of a theory of impressionistic painting in a narrow sense, that is, a theory that deals with the specific problems of impressionistic painting and sculpture? Artistic movements at earlier stages of history, from the fifteenth-century Renaissance to nineteenth-century Classicism and Realism, developed doctrines that were intended to help artists solve the problems that were prominent or new in the art of their own time and world. Renaissance perspective is one famous example that immediately comes to mind, while the Baroque study of how to express passions in face and gesture (and the models of such solutions) is another. Often these doctrines were developed by artists, were primarily addressed to artists, and were meant to guide and assist artists in their work. Such theories therefore dealt with problems that painters and sculptors were actually encountering. Did impressionism formulate a doctrine that would parallel the theories of art in former ages? Is there a theory of impressionistic painting?

The question is not easily answered. Impressionist painting, it need scarcely be said, has a very distinct physiognomy that could hardly have come about without thought and reflection. The very fact that the subject matter of impressionistic painting is so consistent—giving pride of place to landscape and to certain specific segments of modern urban life, such as the café and the spectator in a theater box—would indicate some reflection. The treatment of color and the brushwork that remains visible in the paintings, are based at least in part, as we shall shortly discuss in some detail, on theoretical considerations. They diverge too strongly and abruptly from established and accepted models of art to have come about without the artists

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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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