EXPRESSION *

Rudolf Arnheim

Every work of art must express something. This means, first of all, that the content of the work must go beyond the presentation of the individual objects of which it consists. But such a definition is too large for our purpose. It broadens the notion of "expression" to include any kind of communication. True, we commonly say, for example, that a man "expresses his opinion." Yet artistic expression seems to be something more specific. It requires that the communication of the data produce an "experience," the active presence of the forces that make up the perceived pattern. How is such an experience achieved?


INSIDE LINKED TO OUTSIDE

In a limited sense of the term, expression refers to features of a person's external appearance and behavior that permit us to find out what the person is feeling, thinking, striving for. Such information may be gathered from a man's face and gestures, the way he talks, dresses, keeps his room, handles a pen or a brush, as well as from the opinions he holds, the interpretation he gives to events. This is less and also more than what I mean here by expression: less, because expression must be considered even when no reference is made to a mind manifesting itself in appearance; more, because much importance cannot be attributed to what is merely inferred intellectually and indirectly from external clues. Nevertheless this more familiar meaning of the term must be discussed briefly here.

We look at a friend's face, and two things may happen: we understand what his mind is up to, and we find in ourselves a duplicate of his experiences. The traditional explanation of this accomplishment may be gathered from a playful review of Lavater's Physiognomic Fragments for the Advancement of the Knowledge and Love of Our Fellow Man written by the poet Matthias Claudius around 1775.

Physiognomics is a science of faces. Faces are concreta for they are related generaliter to natural reality and specialiter are firmly attached to people. Therefore the

____________________
*
[From Art and Visual Perception ( Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1957). Reprinted by permission of the publisher. The notes to this selection (Ch. x) may be found in the original edition.]

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