Archive for January, 2009

On Winckelmann

January 26, 2009

In reading Winckelmann’s “Essay on the Beautiful in Art,” I found it difficult to look past his sweeping opinions about certain works and artists and really focus on his theories about art and beauty in general.  Statements such as “The epitome of beauty in architecture is to be found in the most beautiful building in the world, and that is St. Peter’s,” really bothered me as I read through the essay.  I felt like his rants against certain artists and about their work took away from his ideas and his arguments.  With his discussion of the inner and outer senses, I feel like Winckelmann builds up a space in which he can make sweeping statements such as these, because of his assertions that his senses are so exquisite.  However, I could not come to terms with this tone.

With that said, I was surprised to find myself touched by the end of Winckelmann’s essay.  His admission that “not everything can be taught in writing” and his suggestion to “Go hither and look” felt more in tune with his general conception of art and beauty.  While his volley of opinions built up a pretentious air, this final moment of the essay placed some importance on the observations and opinions of the essay’s audience.

–Jessica Saltiel


On Kant

January 26, 2009

Kant differs strongly from the other philosophers in stating that there is a universal standard for beauty, but that each individual’s judgment of artwork is subjective. This idea is complicated because it creates an ongoing relationship between the individual’s perception of the work and the community’s perception of the work in order to judge the art. Neither component can be missing if beauty is to be defined. What is deemed beautiful relies on the collective experiences of the community. However, does this not mean that the standards shift depending on the audience? What if a group of more highly educated people were placed beside ones of less education – would both come to the similar conclusion of artwork X as beauty? And if two groups with equal numbers of educated and uneducated were asked to judge artwork X, should they not come to the exact same conclusion?

–Jessica Chu

Notes per Hegel’s “The Philosophy of Fine Art”

January 22, 2009

content of art = IDEA

Hegel states that one must mediate between these two in a “mode of free totality”
1. The first determinant: The content shall disclose an essential capacity for display/configuration
2. The second requirement: The content shall not be anything distract
3. The third consideration: The content must be clearly individual, entirely “concrete” and a self-enclosed unity

concreteness: the point in which both coalesce and fall in with one another

As it relates to sensuality…
“The work of art has no such naive and independent being.” […like the forest, for instance…]
“It is essentially a question, an address to the responding soul of man, an appeal to affections and intelligence.”

There is a significant amount of talk about the degree of intimacy and that union with which the IDEA and CONFIGURATION appear together in an elaborate fusion. I believe that these two components are at the crux of Hegel’s philosophy of art.

— Matthew Murray

The Power of the Perceiver

January 22, 2009

Johann Joachim Winckelmann says that beauty exists irrespectively of the perceiver and that people must receive training on that which is beautiful in order to correctly judge what the beautiful is. Immanuel Kant, on the other hand, suggests that the subjective (though universally agreed upon) judgment of a perceiver establishes that which is beautiful. Kant suggests, then, that beauty does not exist apart from the perceiver, but rather that it is created through the perceiver. From Winckelmann to Kant, the power of the perceiver shifts tremendously—from the perceiver as someone who must be schooled in how to judge beauty correctly to the perceiver as the determinant of beauty. Under Kant’s logic, the perceiver is more powerful than the object of beauty itself because the object of beauty does not exist without the perceiver. This suggests, then, that an artwork cannot be beautiful if its audience and critics do not perceive it to be so.

-Laura Biagi

Hello world!

January 10, 2009

This is the class blog for Northwestern University’s English 383: Topics in Theory course on aesthetics. We will be posting snippets from the critical journals that students in the class will be keeping throughout the quarter.