Term used in an art context in several ways: in general for processes of imagemaking in which only some of the visual elements usually ascribed to ‘the natural world’ are extracted (i.e. ‘to abstract’), and also for the description of certain works that fall only partially, if at all, into what is commonly understood to be representational. Differing ideas and manifestations of abstraction appeared in artists’ works in the successive modern movements of the 20th century (see Abstract art). As the notion of abstraction in the second sense is always dependent on what the parameters of representation are thought to be, the two terms can be contiguous in definition, raising interesting points for the general theory of reference. For instance, an abstract work is often defined as one that does not represent anything, but not every work that does not represent anything is necessarily abstract. A painting that has a fictitious subject, for example a painting of Don Quixote or Camelot, does not represent anything (for there is no such person or place) but is not therefore abstract. A Zeus-picture or a Paradise-picture is no more abstract than a Napoleon-picture or a Paris-picture. An abstract work neither represents anything nor is representational....
(b Milston, Wilts, May 1, 1672; d London, June 17, 1719).
English writer and politician. He was educated at Charterhouse School and Queen’s College, Oxford, receiving his MA in 1693. Between 1699 and 1703 he travelled on the Continent; in his Remarks upon Several Parts of Italy (1705) he noted that Italy was ‘the great school of Musick and Painting’, and a primary purpose of his tour was ‘to compare the natural face of the country with the Landskips the [classical] Poets have given us of it’. His Remarks became a vade-mecum on artistic matters for 18th-century British travellers.
Although he was active as a politician (he was appointed Under-Secretary of State in 1706 and was an MP, 1708–19), Addison’s greatest influence was as an educator and popularizer of ideas on taste and culture, which he achieved through the periodical essay. He contributed to The Tatler, a thrice-weekly half-sheet founded by his friend Richard Steele (1672–1729), which ran from ...
Kendall L. Walton, Martha C. Nussbaum, John Marenbon, François Quiviger, and Jenefer Robinson
Branch of Western philosophy concerned primarily with the arts, especially the fine arts, although it often treats the concepts of natural beauty and appreciation of nature as well. The notion of fine art and that of a corresponding branch of philosophy are of relatively recent origin, dating from the 18th century, although historical antecedents of many of the particular issues now recognized as belonging to aesthetics go back to antiquity. The present usage of the term stems from its adoption in 1735 by Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten, who employed the Greek aisthesis (perception) to distinguish the study of sensory, perceptual concerns, such as beauty, from logic, the study of reason and intellect.
The primary subject-matter of aesthetics is the complex cultural institution in which works of art are embedded, including artistic creation, performance, appreciation, interpretation, criticism, judgement, and the various roles the arts play in people’s lives and in society. The aesthetician steps back from this institution and examines it from the outside (although the line between participating in the institution and studying it is somewhat arbitrary). In the 20th century the term has come to embrace an enormously diverse collection of particular issues, with no very definite central core. However, several frequently occurring themes can be identified....
Paul Davies and David Hemsoll
(b Genoa, Feb 14, 1404; d Rome, April 1472).
Italian architect, sculptor, painter, theorist and writer. The arts of painting, sculpture and architecture were, for Alberti, only three of an exceptionally broad range of interests, for he made his mark in fields as diverse as family ethics, philology and cryptography. It is for his contribution to the visual arts, however, that he is chiefly remembered. Alberti single-handedly established a theoretical foundation for the whole of Renaissance art with three revolutionary treatises, on painting, sculpture and architecture, which were the first works of their kind since Classical antiquity. Moreover, as a practitioner of the arts, he was no less innovative. In sculpture he seems to have been instrumental in popularizing, if not inventing, the portrait medal, but it was in architecture that he found his métier. Building on the achievements of his immediate predecessors, Filippo Brunelleschi and Michelozzo di Bartolomeo, he reinterpreted anew the architecture of antiquity and introduced compositional formulae that have remained central to classical design ever since....
The concept that a thing (person, object, type of behaviour, etc.) is what it seems, or is said, or believed to be. Implicit in the very notion of authenticity is the possibility of misrepresentation. In essence, to be authentic is to be the opposite of fake or phony. Authenticity is judged by performing tests to verify that external appearance and substantial reality actually match. An artwork can be deemed ‘authentic’ as a work of art (as opposed to a mere product without artistic value); as the product of a particular artist (a Monet, rather than a work by another artist in his style); as an artefact of a specific time (a 14th-century sculpture, as opposed to a Gothic Revival imitation); or as an object composed of a particular material (a bronze sculpture, versus one made of plaster with a bronze-like patina).
Each judgement of authenticity is based on a different set of criteria. To conclude that someone is authentic as a person is to say that his or her way of behaving is in accordance with their inner self, personal values, social background, and life choices; this is a moral judgement that cannot be reduced to assessing the presence or absence of objective features. Similarly, pronouncing an object a genuine artwork denotes that it is the result of real artistic talent and sincere commitment. This assessment relies on an element of subjectivity and is always dependent on a specific cultural context that will define which class of objects can be elevated to the status of art. It also carries moral overtones as it amounts to a declaration of whether the object in question was made by a true artist acting as such, that is, by someone faithful to the essential and somehow transcendent demands of art....
(b Cherbourg, Nov 12, 1915; d Paris, March 20, 1980).
French critic. His work is closely identified with the methods of Structuralism and Semiotics. By the 1970s he was one of the most internationally celebrated French critics and, although his main contribution was to the analysis of literature and other linguistic modes, his influence on the criticism of the visual arts was also substantial.
In two articles written during the early 1960s for the sociological journal Communications (‘Le Message photographique’, 1961, and ‘Rhétorique de l’image’, 1964; see L’Obvie et l’obtus), Barthes pioneered the study of photographs in their social and cultural context, paying particular attention to a colourful advertisement for pasta by the Panzani company. His detailed analysis of the way in which the photographic medium helps to endorse and authenticate the message of the advertiser looks back to the earlier, more impressionistic study of mass communications carried out in his Mythologies. But it is strengthened by Barthes’s determination to probe the philosophical implications of photography’s relation to the object depicted and its status as a ‘message without a code’. The fact that photography, alone among the different modes of visual communication, offered itself as a ‘mechanical analogue of the real’ implied that it needed more sophisticated modes of interpretation than the traditional arts, if it were to be considered semiotically. Barthes’s last published work ...
(b Paris, April 9, 1821; d Paris, Aug 31, 1867).
French writer and critic. He was brought up to love painting and from a young age was interested in aesthetics and art criticism. This aspect of his work remained little known for years, but its quality and its importance for the development of his poetry and for the development of modernism were later recognized.
Baudelaire’s first piece of criticism, the somewhat timid Salon de 1845, was succeeded by the Salon de 1846 and articles on the Exposition Universelle of 1855 (Le Pays, Le Portefeuille). After he had achieved notoriety with the publication of his most important volume of poetry, Les Fleurs du mal (Paris, 1857), he continued to write occasional pieces on the visual arts, for example on the ‘Salon de 1859’ (Revue française), and ‘Le Peintre de la vie moderne’ (a series in Figaro), which was a study of Constantin Guys, as well as articles on Delacroix, the painter who dominated all of Baudelaire’s writing on art. Initially these articles were not widely published....
(b Berlin, June 17, 1714; d Frankfurt an der Oder, May 26, 1762).
German philosopher. He was educated at Halle University where he taught philosophy between 1735 and 1740; he then moved to the University of Frankfurt an der Oder, where he taught until his death. He is remembered for the invention of philosophical aesthetics (he introduced the term ‘aesthetics’), based initially on Cartesian principles. His writings also include works in logic, metaphysics, ethics and political philosophy. With the development of a philosophical aesthetics in the Meditationes philosophicae de nonnullis ad poema pertinentibus (Reflections on Poetry; 1735) and the incomplete Aesthetica (1750–58), Baumgarten revolutionized both the dominant early Enlightenment philosophy of Christian Wolff (1679–1754) and the philosophy of art. In contrast to Joachim Christoph Gottsched’s reduction of the judgement and creation of works of art to the Wolffian notion of reason, Baumgarten extended the bounds of reason to include the experience of art. He did so by identifying beauty with sensible perfection, defining this as an aesthetic perfection that differs from the rational perfection of logic but is no less valid....
(b East Shefford, Berks, Sept 16, 1881; d London, Sept 17, 1964).
English writer. He studied history at Trinity College, Cambridge (1901–2), where he came under the influence of the writer G. E. Moore (1873–1958) and met Thoby Stephen (1880–1906). On leaving Cambridge he spent time in Paris, and on his return to London he began to frequent the ‘Thursday evenings’ held at 46 Gordon Square, home of Thoby Stephen, his brother, Adrian, and his sisters, Vanessa (later Vanessa Bell) and Virginia (later Virginia Woolf). It was from these gatherings that the Bloomsbury Group emerged, Bell becoming a central figure of it largely due to his marriage to Vanessa Stephen in 1907.
In 1910 Bell met Roger Fry, who shared his interest in modern French art. Bell assisted with the organization of the Second Post-Impressionist Exhibition in 1912 and contributed to the current debates about art and aesthetics. His book, Art (London, 1914), popularized the notion of ‘significant form’: it stated that form, independent of content, was the most important element in a work of art. In this and other writings he simplified many of Fry’s ideas. ...
(b Berlin, July 15, 1892; d Port Bou, Spain, Sept 25, 1940).
German writer. He was born into a cultivated, assimilated German Jewish family and was compelled to leave Nazi Germany in 1933, first for Denmark and then France. Although the exiled Frankfurt Institute of Social Research in New York (later famous as the Frankfurt School) provided some support, his existence as an unaffiliated intellectual without university or party ties grew increasingly desperate. Finally driven to leave Paris in 1940, he was stopped for trivial bureaucratic reasons at the Spanish border and in a moment of despair took his own life. Only with the posthumous publication of a selection of his works in 1955, edited by Theodor W. Adorno and Gretel Adorno, did he emerge into the public eye, soon gaining an international reputation as possibly the most brilliant and original cultural critic of his era. Like many in his generation, Benjamin came under the spell of a politically ambiguous, romantic anti-capitalism during the waning years of the German empire under William II. An early fascination with messianic and redemptive religious themes, nurtured by his friendship with the great scholar of the Jewish cabbala, Gershom Scholem, remained a potent element in all his subsequent thought. Even when Benjamin turned to Marxism in the 1920s, in part because of friendships with the poet and dramatist Bertolt Brecht and the philosophers Ernst Bloch and Theodor W. Adorno, and a love affair with the Latvian Communist Asja Lacis, his theological preoccupations never dwindled. They remained perhaps most apparent in his linguistic philosophy, which revealed his hope in the restoration of a prelapsarian ...
Margaret Moore Booker
(b Butrimonys, Alytus County, Lithuania, June 26, 1865; d Settignano, Italy, Oct 6, 1959).
American art historian, critic, and connoisseur. Berenson was perhaps the single most influential art historian in the USA for much of the 20th century. As the leading scholar and authority on Italian Renaissance art, his opinion greatly influenced American art museums and collectors, whom he guided in the purchase of many important works of art. His pupils and disciples became the curators of many of the world’s great museums. His dealings with art galleries also made him a highly controversial figure.
Born to Albert and Julia Valvrojenski in Lithuania, Berenson immigrated to Boston, MA, with his family in 1875, at which time his surname was changed to Berenson. Later called ‘BB’ by friends and family, he dropped the ‘h’ from his first name around 1915. Jewish by birth, he converted to Christianity and was baptized in 1885. He attended Boston Latin School, Boston University, and finally Harvard University, where he studied under Charles Eliot Norton and received a BA in ...
The Black Arts Movement spans the period from the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s. Inherently and overtly political in content, it was an artistic, cultural and literary movement in America promoted to advance African American “social engagement.” In a 1968 essay titled “The Black Arts Movement,” African American scholar Larry Neal (1937–81) proclaimed it as the “artistic and spiritual sister of the Black Power concept.” The use of the term “Black Power” originated in 1966 with Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) civil rights workers Stokely Carmichael and Willie Ricks. Quickly adopted in the North, Black Power was associated with a militant advocacy of armed self-defense, separation from “racist American domination” and pride in and assertion of the goodness and beauty of “Blackness.”
In addition to “Black Power,” the slogan “Black is Beautiful” also became part of the Black Arts Movement and the Black Cultural Movement (also known as Black Aesthetics). The aim of these maxims was to counter and dispel the widespread notion throughout Western cultures that black people’s natural features, such as skin color, facial characteristics and hair, were inherently ugly. The central purpose was to subvert decades of anti-black rhetoric and “to make African Americans totally and irreversibly proud of their racial and cultural heritage.” Black Arts Movement cultural theorists and artists reasoned that promotion of a black aesthetic was mandatory to help the African American community perceive itself as not only beautiful, but also as proud of the legacy of African American achievement, self-determinacy and self-identification with all black peoples throughout the African diaspora. The tone was militant and separatist, not conciliatory and assimilationist, and resulted in a call for a revolutionary art that spoke to a definable black aesthetic. In ...
(b Paris, Nov 1, 1636; d Paris, March 13, 1711).
French writer. His influence on art was indirect: although he made no claim to knowledge of art, he unwittingly played a part in the development of historical painting during the second part of Louis XIV’s reign and particularly in the development of the theory of art in the 18th century. At the beginning of the personal reign of Louis XIV he was at first excluded from the distribution of pensions awarded through the mediation of the Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres, the particular function of which was to lay down the iconography to be used in works that the King had commissioned; through Charles Perrault, it to some degree dominated the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture. In 1683, after Boileau had finally obtained admission to the Académie des Inscriptions, it ceased to deal with iconography, and from then on artists working for the King enjoyed greater freedom.
However, Boileau’s main influence on French art was through his didactic poem ...
Michael J. Lewis
(b Nordhausen, May 29, 1806; d Berlin, June 19, 1889).
German architect, theorist, teacher and writer. He entered the Berlin Bauakademie in 1827 and soon became a leading figure in the new Architekten-Verein zu Berlin (see Berlin §II 3.). Like many of his generation, he was much influenced by Karl Friedrich Schinkel and had a youthful fascination with the Gothic. His first book was a study of medieval timber architecture. He was particularly concerned with the relationship between style and construction and he soon began to apply this analysis to Greek architecture. The result was his monumental Die Tektonik der Hellenen (1843–51). The Rundbogenstil architect Heinrich Hübsch had already suggested that the forms of ancient Greek architecture were based on stone construction and not derived from timber antecedents. Bötticher expanded this insight into a vast system that explained all of Greek architecture in structural terms. For him, Greek architecture was rational building, its forms corresponding absolutely to the requirements of the stone used in its post and lintel construction. This constituted a major upheaval in the interpretation of Classical architecture, insisting that its elements were sanctioned neither by their historical pedigree nor by Platonic perfection of form, but rather by immutable physical and material laws. Bötticher briefly considered synthesizing Greek and Gothic structural principles to form a new style, but he quickly abandoned the idea, arguing that it would be superficial. In a prophetic ...
(b Tinchebray, Feb 19, 1896; d Paris, Sept 28, 1966).
French writer. While still an adolescent he came under the influence of Paul Valéry and Gustave Moreau, who for a long period were to influence his perception of beauty. From that time on, his poetic creation interrelated with his reflections on art, which like Gide’s were conditioned by a moral code. He considered that it is not possible to write for a living, but only from interior necessity; in the same way, painting must always derive from an irrepressible need for self-expression. These criteria guided Breton both in his dealings with the Surrealist group (of which he was the uncontested leader) and in his articles on painting, collected in editions of Le Surréalisme et la peinture (first published in 1928).
Breton’s family were of modest means. He was educated in the modern section of a lycée, without any Latin or Greek, and had embarked on a study of medicine when he was called up to serve in World War I. During this period he was drawn to poetry by his fascination with Arthur Rimbaud. His meeting with the aesthete Jacques Vaché temporarily dulled his interest in Rimbaud, and instead he turned to Guillaume Apollinaire, whose advice and friendship were a significant influence on him. Through Apollinaire he came into contact with Marie Laurencin, Derain, De Chirico and Picasso, and became friendly with the French poet and novelist Philippe Soupault. The review ...
Control of expression that is regarded as outside of and a threat to the religious, political, and social orthodoxy of the time. Throughout history, when governments and other powerful institutions of society have been fearful of the power of art to challenge the established order, they have sought to suppress the works of literature and art that appear decadent, disruptive, indecent, or immoral. Manifestations of the control of artistic expression are historically and culturally specific. Nevertheless, close consideration reveals recurring themes and issues. Awareness of the power of art has meant that censorship accompanies art’s practice and exhibition. According to Plato, ‘because art has the power to intensify and not just purge emotions, a “dramatic censor” must control the content and form of all artistic expression’. By extension, the artist is feared because of his or her ability to make revered things that, depending on the culture, may rival divine creation. Thus, censorship has been a two-edged sword that proscribes as well as prescribes. Long before the first official censors were established in ...
Term referring to a web of ideas, attitudes, and traditions derived from but not wholly dependent on a respect for and a close study of the literary and/or artistic activities of the ancient Greeks and Romans.
The aim of classicism, in all media, has been to construct an ideal vision and version of human experience that should inspire and instruct by its nobility, authority, rationality, and truth (of which beauty may be considered a visible manifestation), and to provide convincing models for imitation. The process started within the ancient Greek and Roman civilizations themselves (see §2 below), but the term ‘classicism’ refers to the activity of generations succeeding the Greeks and Romans, who admired and sometimes imitated or reused antique works—plays, statues, temples, vases, and other forms. These admirers of antiquity studied what the ancients wrote about their own art and literature and the purposes these should serve in society. Convinced that art is governed by reason, they sought to discover in the antique systems of measurement and proportion the means by which to attain beauty. Finally, later generations attempted to rebuild a complete image of the antique past from the evidence of surviving works that, of course, offered a far from complete picture of what the Greeks and Romans actually produced. As antique artworks and antique critical commentaries on them have only survived in part, there has been plenty of room for differing interpretations and ‘rebalancings’ of the material....
(b Cartmel Fell, nr Kendal, Feb 22, 1889; d Coniston, Jan 9, 1943).
English philosopher, son of W. G. Collingwood. His most important contribution to philosophical aesthetics is The Principles of Art (1938; a radical reworking of themes from his earlier Outlines of a Philosophy of Art, 1925), in which he defended the thesis, derived from Benedetto Croce, that art is expression in the sense that it is an imaginative activity whereby we become conscious of our emotions. In Collingwood’s idealist metaphysics, the primary level of experience is ‘feeling’, or sensations together with their (positive or negative) emotional ‘charge’. Examples of feeling would be when we sense colours, sounds, hot and cold etc as peaceful, terrifying, painful and so on. The objects of sensation (sensa), of which we are only dimly aware, are in perpetual flux, but a particular sensum can be brought to consciousness by the imagination after it has vanished from immediate experience. Once fixed in consciousness, it is ready to be interpreted by the intellect. Consciousness is thus the basis of all ‘higher’ intellectual activity....
Geoffrey Newman, Amy McNair, B. N. Goswamy, Jonathan M. Bloom, Sheila S. Blair, Moyo Okediji, and Claudia Brittenham
Term for the range of differences in light that the eye can register; it is most commonly used for those differences dependent on the wavelength of light within the electromagnetic spectrum (see Light). Besides such differences of ‘hue’, colour may also be described scientifically in terms of the amount of light perceived (‘brightness’, as opposed to dark) and in terms of the amount of a distinct hue (‘saturation’, as opposed to the colourlessness of white or black). This article surveys interpretations and schemes of colour in diverse cultures, beginning with the Western traditions of painting and writing alongside which the scientific definitions of colour have evolved. Further scientific aspects are treated in Colour interaction, Perception, Pigment and Dye, while the development of Western theory and pictorial rendition of natural colour (‘colour perspective’ or ‘aerial perspective’) is also examined in Science and art, §2, (iii), and Perspective, §III.
Term referring broadly to a study of information that implies a communicative act between two or more parties. The methodological and theoretical foundations of modern communication science lie in psychophysics as well as in information theory and are applied to linguistics as well as to visual studies. Art history and criticism—the foundations of which lie in aesthetics, hermeneutics and semiology—intersect with communication science through the analysis of such artefacts as paintings and sculptures. Of increasing interest to art theorists in the late 20th century, however, are such media as maps, ideographic writing, traffic marking systems or visual displays of technical data, traditionally dealt with by visual communication science but with implications for art theory arising from questions concerning technique, style, meaning and context.
That visual art is essentially or always communication has not been accepted by many philosophers of the arts. Certainly all art objects, like all other sorts of object, transmit information of many kinds to a perceiver able to pick it up, either innately or through learning. Nevertheless, art can be made in the absence of well-defined codes of communication or of any actual or possible audience for it; in such situations it can still possess a distinctive style or be expressive, figurative, decorative etc. Communication is based on transmissions of information (Cherry), but the information-bearing and communicative dimensions of art are not the same thing. Whereas bearing information is a universal ‘property’ of art objects, communication is a function of only some art objects in some contexts. Unfortunately, historical and critical analysis has often confused or elided these two dimensions....