Basic ideas In an artwork, the artist is expressing themselves, esp. emotion, though not always directly –Emotions expressed are not the same as emotions represented –But what is represented is relevant to what emotion is expressed
Bacon, Three Studies for Figures at the Based of a Crucifixion (c. 1944)
Emotion and abstraction We are emotionally moved in response to art (perhaps in a distinct, aesthetic way), even in response to abstract and non-representational art –Including music Our understanding of what the artist was trying to express, through looking at cultural context etc., deepens our response to the work
Tolstoys view Art is a human activity consisting in this, that one man consciously by means of certain external signs, hands onto others feelings he has lived through, and that others are infected by those feelings and also experience them. (What is Art?) Art establishes a bond between the psychological states of the artist and audience, and this in turn creates a bond among the audience.
Refining the theory The work of art is irreplaceable: nothing else expresses the emotion it does just as it does. The artist neednt feel the emotion to be aroused in the audience – but they need to be able to imagine it. A vision is communicated, not just a feeling. But the communication must be moving. Even if we dont come to share the emotion expressed, to understand the work, we need to see it from the perspective from which it was created.
Is all art expressive? Pleasant music that expresses nothing in particular –It expresses the composers idea of how pleasant music should sound. Two consequences –Expression is not always of emotion; the theory is widened to refer to intention of the artist –No sharp line between what is art and what is not – we all make this kind of aesthetic judgment. Art is just more difficult.
How does art express emotion? A painting cant literally be calm, content, intimate, sad… Nor is the emotion expressed the emotions represented (Steen) Nor does the work express the artists emotion, since that would limit an artist to what she or he actually feels Nor is it the same as saying the work evokes that emotion in the audience
Schedonis The Holy Family with the Virgin teaching the Child to Read (c. 1615)
Audience emotion A painting can arouse sadness without expressing sadness –E.g. someone might feel sad looking at Schedoni because it reminds them that they dont have an intimate family –This doesnt mean the painting is a sad painting - it isnt
Intention Better: a sad painting is one that the artist intends to evoke sadness in the audience A painting is experienced correctly when the audience feels or at least understands the emotion the artist intended to arouse We value art both for the work of the artist, but also for the imaginative work we must do to recover the meaning
Intention Intention here is broad, i.e. all psychological states that bring the artist to make the painting just as it is –The artist does not have to be conscious of their intention –Their intention may evolve with the artwork At some point, the artist accepts that the work is as it should be
The intentional fallacy We cannot refer to the artists intention or state of mind in interpreting the artwork –The state of mind is private - we cannot infer from the artwork –We should concentrate on the artwork, not the artists state of mind We can and should value the artwork on the basis of the artwork and its merits alone, not the psychological conditions of its creation
Reply Many psychological descriptions of the artwork refer also to the mind of the artist, e.g. mature, perceptive, pretentious, courageous –To say an artwork is pretentious is not to say that the artist is a pretentious person, but in this artwork, on this occasion, they have displayed pretention The distinction to observe is not between artwork and artists mind, but those psychological qualities expressed in the artwork and those qualities of the artist as a person generally. –An artist can be perceptive in their work, but a mess in their life.
Rembrandt, Self-portrait at the age of 63 (1669)
Conclusion The intentional fallacy is not a fallacy - we can respond to and value art for what the artist expresses through the artwork To interpret an artwork may require some understanding of the artists life, and the circumstances in which the artwork was created. –However, this should not absolutely limit or guide interpretation. The only evidence that the artist was, e.g perceptive, could be in their art.
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