The Sense of Form in Art: A Comparative Psychological Study

By H. Wolfflin; Alice Muehsam et al. | Go to book overview

CONCLUSION

WHAT DOES the foregoing analysis of a very generally framed concept of form have to do with art history? Can we discuss art without starting out from its emotional and intellectual content? from the temperament revealed in a portrait? from the conception of humanity expressed in figure paintings and narratives? Are not the primary problems those that life sets for art, and can we understand these problems without grasping the position of art within a certain society? A highly abstract mode of thinking, such as we have employed in this book, inevitably seems to lead to a formalistic treatment of art.

Admittedly, it is an unavoidable disadvantage that our statements are not free of a schematic character. These observations have approximately the same relation to a history of art that describes reality as Dürer's abstract proportion figures have to living figures; and those puppets would even seem to be entitled to a higher status. However, it is not only useful but also necessary to attack the phenomenon of art closer to its foundations, and to attain a clear understanding of the structure of basic formal concepts. This does not mean that formal concepts are independent of the total historical situation; but all purely sociological explanations will remain merely peripheral as long as they do not penetrate the core, which is a nation's way of conceiving form and of seeing in accordance with its general nature. The danger of formalism is not very great, for a spiritual element is inherent in every form, even the most elementary. Even the manners of eating and sleeping can be expressive of an aesthetic attitude--whether people mix their foods into a mush or eat them separated, whether they sleep on soft pillows or on hard cushions, etc.

It is surely a more gratifying task to acquaint the public with

-224-

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The Sense of Form in Art: A Comparative Psychological Study
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 1
  • Preface 3
  • Contents 7
  • List of Illustrations 8
  • Introduction 13
  • I. Form and Contour 21
  • Ii. Regularity and Order 87
  • Iii. the Whole and Its Parts 119
  • Iv. Relaxed Tension 150
  • V. Grandeur and Simplicity 166
  • Vi. Types and Generality 180
  • Vii. the Relief Conception 190
  • Viii. Clarity and the Subject in Art 202
  • Conclusion 224
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