LuxAeterna

The Aesthetic Qualifier

67 posts in this topic

Well, all I can say is that it is a good thing that Norman Rockwell did not follow your lead. Notice any similarities between these two?

Rockwell's Rosie the Riveter

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Sistine Chapel - Isaiah

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The Sistine Chapel was a source of inspiration to Rockwell.

Well I see that Norman Rockwell heard my cry, and has done a little tinkering, enough to make me smile. :excl: I hope I haven't given the impression that I'm against all religious art, it is the bleak, dark bleeding heart stuff I can't credit as great art. Is there that much of a gap between your extended explanation of the essence of art, and my referring to 'technique'?. I have acknowledged that great masters have done work as religious painters. Rockwell learned from them, and it seems to me, is having fun with contrasts.

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I hope I haven't given the impression that I'm against all religious art, it is the bleak, dark bleeding heart stuff I can't credit as great art. Is there that much of a gap between your extended explanation of  the essence of art, and my referring to 'technique'?.

Yes, there is a gap and it is illustrated in your first sentence. You do not fully separate the esthetic standards by which we judge art per se, from your particular response to that art. You grudgingly give some points for what you call "technique" and then subtract points because of the particular sense of life that is communicated. This latter is fine as far as your personal enjoyment is concerned, but your own sense of life preferences are totally irrelevant to the judgment of how well the artist was able to communicate the sense of life that he chose, and this last is the only proper standard for judging art as art.

I wonder: Are you able to grant the status of GREAT to a soccer player for the team you do not root for?

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Thus if I see a JC on the cross, painted by a Vermeer quality artist, I say: Nice technique, yucky subject. I don't like it, but that is judging the subject only.

This make me curious to ask: What about a painting of a heroic figure (say, Prometheus for example...or Howard Roark!) done by an artist of mediocre skill?

I have frequently heard dicussions of good technique & bad subject or value choice. But what about the reverse?

For me it cannot be great art, otherwise I would want it on my wall.

I understand you qualify that statement with "For me", but, it leans uncomfortably close to some kind of subjectivism.

Anyway, I can personally think of all kinds of great art I have seen but wouldn't want on my wall. Not to mention the trouble I would get into with my wife because I have no fashion sense whatsoever & anything I would pick would wind up clashing with the theme/style of the room that wall was in.

I can see how the Vatican would consider it great art, but then again, I don't think much of the Vatican.

I'm not trying to be annoying here...I was raised in a Catholic family - meaning I don't think much of the Vatican either! LOL.

But you seem to have a problem with "religious themed" paintings in general. Or that an erroneous assumption on my part?

Some of my favorite paintings are heavily religiously themed: just about anything by Peter Paul Rubens, Dali's "Christopher Columbus in the New World" (exact title???). In spite of the religious theme some works can convey a quite heroic, exalted sense of life.

& what about Michelangelo's "David" or "Pieta". That's beautiful stuff!

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Notice any similarities between these two?

Rockwell's Rosie the Riveter

Sistine Chapel - Isaiah

Stephen,

You continue to amaze me! That you could pull these two paintings out of your back pocket apropos an almost random example by Arnold to dramatically concretize your point is really impressive. A real "tah-dah" moment. And, I agree fully with what you are saying.

I wouldn't like that example on my wall, so that is one opinion. However, if asked about the technique, it may be by a master. So my answer is that I judge by two parameters at least (I may yet learn of more). The first is the subject; does it make me feel expressed? Is this how I see life?

The second is technique, which is judged by different standards. Thus if I see a JC on the cross, painted by a Vermeer quality artist, I say: Nice technique, yucky subject. I don't like it, but that is judging the subject only. For me it cannot be great art, otherwise I would want it on my wall.

Arnold,

I understand your point, but disagree with your "on my wall" standard of greatness. There are many paintings about which I would say, in your phrasing, "Nice technique, yucky subject, great art, nice in a museum, but not for my wall." A personal hit parade of favorites with subject as the primary screening criterion is not the equivalent of an objective esthetic assessment of merit.

Dr. Peikoff addresses "subject" as a criterion of esthetic evaluation in OPAR. In part, there are some ideas he quotes from Miss Rand which concur with some of what you are saying. In particular, he notes that in The Goal of My Writing Miss Rand wrote:

"Misery, disease, disaster, evil, all the negatives of human existence, are proper objects of study in life, for the purpose of understanding and correcting them - but are not proper objects of contemplation for contemplation's sake."

He does, however, place this idea in the full context of objective esthetic assessment concluding that a good artwork "does not have to depict the good."

"Depending on his sense of life, he may depict heroes or average men or even 'crawling specimens of depravity.'  He may do it and still create good art - so long as, within his own context, he adheres to all the principle of good art, including the principle of selectivity in regard to subject."

If we were to apply your "on my wall" standard to your (or my) bookcase, would that mean that we would have to delete Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Chekhov, Dante, Shakespeare, Byron, Ibsen, Shaw, etc. from the roll of the "greats" because their subjects were "yucky?"

Anyway, thanks for pursuing this point so doggedly. Your comments inspired me to go back and reread these sections in OPAR and RM and it's been good to go over all this again.

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This make me curious to ask:  What about a painting of a heroic figure (say, Prometheus for example...or Howard Roark!) done by an artist of mediocre skill?

I have frequently heard dicussions of good technique & bad subject or value choice.  But what about the reverse?

Christopher,

I just read your comments after submitting my post. Good question!! I had just a few minutes ago been reviewing what Miss Rand had to say about just this point in Romantic Manifesto:

"In most esthetic theories, however, the end - the subject - is omitted from consideration, and only the means are regarded as esthetically relevant.  Such theories set up a false dichotomy and claim that a slob portrayed by the technical means of a genius is preferable to a goddess portrayed by the technique of an amateur.  I hold that both are esthetically offensive; but while the second is merely esthetic incompetence, the first is an esthetic crime."

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Stephen,

You continue to amaze me!  That you could pull these two paintings out of your back pocket apropos an almost random example by Arnold to dramatically concretize your point is really impressive.  A real "tah-dah" moment.  And, I agree fully with what you are saying.

Thanks, but I cannot take credit for the actual identification. I read about it somewhere, and as I recall when the Rockwell painting first came out several art enthusiasts made the connection. So when Arnold juxtaposed Rockwell and the Vatican, it was a perfect example to come to mind.

Ironically, I love them both (Rockwell and the Sistine Chapel), but what I get from a Rockwell pales in comparison to what Michelangelo created. I was extrremely fortunate that when I visited the Sistine Chapel I was the only one there (except for the guard). And, though I had the place to myself, I had to leave after a few hours because I was just emotionally exhausted. One is supposed to feel reverance in a religious place, but the reverance that I felt that day was towards a different God; Michelangelo.

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I was extremely fortunate that when I visited the Sistine Chapel I was the only one there (except for the guard). And, though I had the place to myself, I had to leave after a few hours because I was just emotionally exhausted. One is supposed to feel reverance in a religious place, but the reverance that I felt that day was towards a different God; Michelangelo.

Lucky you! After studying Michelangelo's works for 40 years, in the spring of 2003 I finally got to see one of his sculptures firsthand--when the "Apollo-David" was on display at the Detroit Institute of Art (as part of the Magnificenza exhibit). As far as I can recall, it was the first time a statue of Michelangelo's was shown in the United States since the Pieta at the New York World's Fair.

I spent about 4 hours with that one statue, enjoying it from every distance and every angle I could--studying, sometimes just looking, and once in a while laughing helplessly. It's similar to walking through a Frank Lloyd Wright house: you can't fully appreciate a great work of art from photographs!

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Lucky you!  After studying Michelangelo's works for 40 years, in the spring of 2003 I finally got to see one of his sculptures firsthand--when the "Apollo-David" was on display at the Detroit Institute of Art (as part of the Magnificenza exhibit).  As far as I can recall, it was the first time a statue of Michelangelo's was shown in the United States since the Pieta at the New York World's Fair.

I spent about 4 hours with that one statue, enjoying it from every distance and every angle I could--studying, sometimes just looking, and once in a while laughing helplessly.

I can just imagine how much time you would have spent with that statue if he had finsihed it! :excl:

But, I'm curious. Could you explain the "laughing helplessly?"

It's similar to walking through a Frank Lloyd Wright house: you can't fully appreciate a great work of art from photographs!

Yes, especially good sculpture and architecture, which was meant to be seen from every angle. Last year the Getty here in Los Angeles had an exhibit of the magnificent Jean-Antoine Houdon. I had only seen slides and book photos before, and walking all around these great works was a totally different experience. A shame, though, that the statues could not be touched.

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I wonder: Are you able to grant the status of GREAT to a soccer player for the team you  do not root for?

I admit my judgment can be affected by the artistic subject. Depending on it's execution, the subject may be mitigated by how it is expressed. However, I'm surprised you think your question above comes anywhere near clarifying this problem. The team the player is on, has absolutely no impact on my appraisal of his greatness. In fact I often have cheered foreign countries engaged in competition with my own. There is no conflict with my standards, as the choice is over who has the best technique , a point not at odds with my judgment of art.

I suppose we will have to leave it there for the time being, until such time as I can appreciate your position more fully. If need be, I will accept that I'm not fully objective in this regard, but at the moment cannot agree with you.

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This make me curious to ask:  What about a painting of a heroic figure (say, Prometheus for example...or Howard Roark!) done by an artist of mediocre skill?

I have frequently heard dicussions of good technique & bad subject or value choice.  But what about the reverse?

I understand you qualify that statement with "For me", but, it leans uncomfortably close to some kind of subjectivism.

I'm not trying to be annoying here...I was raised in a Catholic family - meaning I don't think much of the Vatican either! LOL.

But you seem to have a problem with "religious themed" paintings in general.  Or that an erroneous assumption on my part?

Some of my favorite paintings are heavily religiously themed:  just about anything by Peter Paul Rubens, Dali's "Christopher Columbus in the New World" (exact title???).  In spite of the religious theme some works can convey a quite heroic, exalted sense of life.

& what about Michelangelo's "David" or "Pieta".  That's beautiful stuff!

My problem isn't with art that happens to be religious. Some religious stuff is not offensive, twisted and inhuman. As for David, I had almost forgotton he was THE David of the bible. Subjects involving biblical scenes like The Last Supper are neutral for me in general, and I love statues like David, done in the Greek style.

I'm not some fancy art critic who can fathom every nuance of the art he sees and studies. I speak and judge from a layman's point of view. One doesn't have to be told that the experts get it wrong too. I'm sorry though, the "dark" stuff will not pass muster with me.

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I suppose we will have to leave it there for the time being, until such time as I can appreciate your position more fully.

That's fine, Arnold. This was not the first, and it will not be the last time we disagree. The nice thing is, however, all the other things that we do agree on.

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I can just imagine how much time you would have spent with that statue if he had finished it!  ...

But, I'm curious. Could you explain the "laughing helplessly?"

Laughing from happiness, of course! (I'll add no Smilie here, for none is profound enough.)

Actually, I prefer some of Michelangelo's unfinished works to some of his finished ones (e.g. the so-called "Atlas" to the Risen Christ, which was apparently over-polished by a tasteless assistant). I hope to use the so-called "Atlas" for the cover art, when one of my novels is published, some day.

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Actually, I prefer some of Michelangelo's unfinished works to some of his finished ones (e.g. the so-called "Atlas" ...

I suppose you mean the Slave Atlas that was meant for the tomb. If so, do you also prefer this over, say, the Dying Slave, or Moses? To me the figure is so little defined as compared to these magnificent others. I'm curious, because you seem to really like the unfinished work, so much so as to adorn your book.

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Yes of course we experience the world through our senses, as well as on the perceptual and conceptual levels. How we feel about it is emotional. The desire to live comes from our nature; it is inbuilt. I meant to say that one cannot deduce a reason to live from morality, because morality assumes the desire.

About communicating the ideal man, in your case I think she did arouse in you the emotions she had about him. I don't remember implying that every person would respond the same way. Nevertheless I believe an artist tries to strike a resonating emotional response in those who encounter his work. They use different means to achieve this. By the way, I have done sketches myself, in order to put into concrete form my emotions, thus both express and experience them via that means.

This will be my last response on this subject for the time being while I fill in the spots that this discussion has aroused.

But let me say that I have been called a compulsive hair-splitter...

I am going to assume that you meant based on the perceptual level we form concepts and then make value-judgements that then are the basis of our emotions,

I do not know what you mean by saying that our desire to live is inbuilt. What about those that do not desire it? Is that just, also, inbuilt? The choice (preceding the desire mind you) to live does precede morality, but that does not mean it precedes man, or is innate as your post suggests.

Now, after this, I have to say that I agree. Although this is not what was stated in your earlier posts. I certainly agree that an artist does (and should) try to strike a resonating emotional response in those that encounter their work. That is how we will experience the value-judgements presented in the work of art (whether we experience those as in harmony with the artist or in opposition).

The whole point I was trying to make was of a deeper Aristotilian nature. Only concretes exist, and it is only with concretes that an artist can convey. But, the special gift of the artist is the concrete from a certain perspective, from a selective recreation. It is this slant that presents the value-judgement with which the perceiver may react according to his own fundamental philosophy.

I only want the object to be a concrete without which we cannot even talk about values, value-judgements (a valuer), and therefore nothing to direct these emotions towards. This, as in all things in reality, must be the primary.

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I do not know what you mean by saying that our desire to live is inbuilt. What about those that do not desire it? Is that just, also, inbuilt? The choice (preceding the desire mind you) to live does precede morality, but that does not mean it precedes man, or is innate as your post suggests.

I will give a quick response to sew this up before it drifts off topic. (As in all my posts, the ideas and choices of words are mine alone; I speak for myself only, and don't claim to represent any more than that.) Evolution determines what we are. It endows all creatures with a drive to survive, (to eat, hide from predators, seek shelter etc.). Logic indicates that the alternative would lead to mass extinction (assuming you had a mass to start with.) This is inbuilt, and doesn't involve a conceptual choice, except for man, once he survives long enough to have the capability of making such a choice.

Your idea of choice preceding desire, is only possible at the later stages of conceptual development, for the simple reason that choice requires volition.

You ask about those who don't desire to live. It is not uncommon for them to look for a bridge to jump off. And no, at that stage the loss of a desire to live can have more causes than I can imagine, but it is not naturally inbuilt.

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I suppose you mean the Slave Atlas that was meant for the tomb. If so, do you also prefer this over, say, the Dying Slave, or Moses? To me the figure is so little defined as compared to these magnificent others. I'm curious, because you seem to really like the unfinished work, so much so as to adorn your book.

Yes, one of the 4 unfinished figures for the tomb of Pope Julius II, later kept in the Boboli Gardens, and now displayed in the hallway of the Academia in Florence, leading up to the David. I dislike referring to any of the statues as "slaves." Michelangelo spoke of them as "captives;" in Italian I think they're usually called prigonieri, or prisoners.

There are copies for sale at

http://www.statue.com/searchresult.asp?Car...ST-MYHB159&tpc=

--not perfectly accurate, but better than most such reproductions. (Am I the only one pained that there is not one accurate reproduction for sale of either the David or the Pieta? NOT ONE! A very, very few of them are almost acceptable; but most are so misproportioned, in the case of the David, or simplified, in the case of the Pieta, as to be nothing short of grotesque!)

I've never liked the Dying Captive--an image of defeat--but always loved the Rebellious Captive--an image of, well, rebellion:

The Moses is a great work, of course, but reminds me too much of an angry father about to beat his children. One art critic said he looks like a pugilist!

It's true that the Atlas

is not fully defined. To me that's a problem only with the head, which merges with the stone above--some think Michelangelo may have been inspired by Dante's Inferno, where some of the damned are condemned to carry heavy stones on their heads. I hope to use a photo from an angle where the absence of head is not so apparent. The head is, after all, the most important body part--though there are many Catholics who will disagree!

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