The Romantic Manifesto - Chapter 3: Art and Sense of Life

JulianP's picture
Submitted by JulianP on Wed, 2006-06-14 09:05

I read and re-read this chapter about five times, each time learning something new.

These are the main impressions I was left with:

Art flows from the artist's sense of life, expressing: "This is what life means to me." In particular, an artist decides what is important about reality, according to his sense of life (revealing his metaphysics), and distils that into his art in a style compatible with his sense of life (revealing his psycho-epistemology - his view of man's consciousness and its efficacy.)

For the observer, the process is reversed. It is a process of abstraction. Reaction to art is positive, if the abstractions are in tune with ones own sense of life, if one exults: "This is what life means to me!" As Ayn Rand writes: "Art is man's metaphysical mirror."

Even though sense of life is the fountain of art, -esthetic- merit can not be judged by using ones sense of life - ie. emotional reactions. Art is a philosophical composite. That's why it's possible to say: "That is a great work of art (esthetically), but I don't like it (based on deeper philosophical objections and/or a sense of life judgement.)"

Communication or didactics is not (should not be?) the primary purpose of art. Concretising his vision of man, and of reality, is the primary purpose of an artist.

Theme was briefly mentioned as the link between subject and style, but I would like to find out more about this.

Lastly, and in summary, I quote: "An artist reveals his naked soul in his work - and so, gentle reader, do you when you respond to it."

Please critique if I got something wrong, and share your own impressions of this wonderful chapter.


Having just looked through

Matt's picture

Having just looked through the last couple sections of Toilers, I'm going to retract what I said. I think the theme of Toilers is easily as profound as any of his other works.

You said you thought the theme was "it is heroic and good to fight for these values but that, in the end, it doesn't come to much. Life is a crapshoot. We can't control it." I disagree: I'd say the theme is something more like "It is heroic and good to fight for values even when, in the end, you don't achieve them."

If you don't have Toilers handy, go to http://www.online-literature.c... and reread the ending. Look at the descriptions. The day is "more beautiful than any that had been seen that year." Notice how Gilliatt is careful not to step on Deruchette's favorite flowers? Notice how he "strode on from block to block like a giant among mountains"?

Those are not descriptions of a day of desperation, nor of a broken man. Gilliatt may have lost the girl, but he lived a good life, and he ends it because he has nothing left to fight for.

Having thought about it more, I'm glad the book had this ending - though that doesn't make it any easier to read. If Gilliatt had married Deruchette, it *would* have been a beach novel: the theme would have been "values are worth fighting for", which is a fine sentiment, but a bit obvious.

More Toiling

Lanza Morio's picture

Matt, now I think what I said about the theme is wrong. Hugo didn't seem to have a theme in mind as he wrote this one. Not a moral theme, anyway. Toilers of the Sea is more of a thrill ride. A beach book.

There's nothing wrong with that.

Jon,

Banned User's picture

Listen, I’m guilty myself of careless reads and knee-jerk reactions myself.

Family Values (aside from this name would have you think) is not an “Anti-Establishment” painting—if you’re using the term in its 1960s manifestation and from which it came—and what the anti-establishment hippies were against was capitalism.
Family Values is making a statement against philosophical modern philosophical erosion, against the “establishment” philosophies for sure, but that word is too broad an indication to summarize the painting this way. If you take a “denotative approach” to the painting, and simply confine yourself to the concretes presented [see my post that analysis the painting] you’ll find that a logical inference for summing it up “anti-establishment” does not exist.
Of course, this does not mean that you should now “like it” [you never saw it; it was merely described] but only that your barb was off kilter.

That's all. No biggie.

Hello Victor, that is the

Jon Coster's picture

Hello Victor, that is the way I take it so don't be sorry mate. What are you talking about?

Jon wrote:

Banned User's picture

"Works like 'Family Values' just piss me off because they seem so obvious in trying to 'shock' you into some juvenile attitude; 'Anti-establishment?', 'anti-middle class?' get a real issue please."

It is a real issue--BUT the painting is not "ant-establishment." Sorry, you don't know what you're talking about.

I think that's in there;

Matt's picture

I think that's in there; like I said, the ending was hard to read. Very tragic. But, overwhelmingly, the message was less about the impossibility of achieving one's values and more about the virtue of perseverence.

I thought when you said it had a weaker theme you meant that the theme was less well-expressed, or perhaps less integrated into the story, than in his other works, rather than that the theme was simply unappealing. If you meant the latter, I agree with you - at least to the extent of disliking the ending, and what it meant - but not if you meant the former.

Toilers of the Sea

Lanza Morio's picture

Matt, I say that because his other novels are so very good rather than Toilers is bad. My sense is that Toilers was a quick work for him. It doesn't have the epic sense about it that Hugo's major novels have. It's big but it's not so big.

What would you say the theme is? I'd have to read it again to be sure but as I remember it the theme would be what Rand described as "Byronic" - the idea being that it is heroic and good to fight for these values but that, in the end, it doesn't come to much. Life is a crapshoot. We can't control it.

What do you think?

Lance, why do you say it has

Matt's picture

Lance, why do you say it has the weakest theme of his novels?

Those other chapters

Lanza Morio's picture

Hugo has chapters in each of his novels that are somewhat removed from the plot. They tend to be (incredibly interesting) historical accounts that serve as a background for the novel. The best historical chapter for me is the one on the Battle of Waterloo in Les Miz. Some of them do become exhausting like the account of the French revolutionaries in 93' and the bits about the royal lineage in The Man Who Laughs. It's fine to skip a bit. But I wouldn't skip too much because they are so well-written and usually tie into the plot.

Matt, I enjoyed Toilers of the Sea a lot but I believe it has the weakest theme of all his novels. My Les Miz is the silver/gray mass paperback edition and it reads very well. I believe Graham Robb translated my main copy of 93' and it's very good as well. I have an older 93' and it's a bit clunky in parts.

I can see why that'd be

Matt's picture

I can see why that'd be unclear. I don't remember how far I read into it, maybe five or six pages, before I started getting frustrated with the lack of momentum and started skimming for plot-relevant stuff: character names, etc. I may have given up at some point and skipped the rest, or I may have skimmed the whole thing - I'm not entirely sure. I do know I looked through a good deal of it and didn't see anything but a guided tour of Paris.

In any case, I'll grant that I may have missed something. But if I did, it was probably quite peripheral. I say this mostly on the grounds that I did read through the apparently irrelevant exposition in some of his other books, and found that it was often genuinely irrelevant. In The Man Who Laughs, the geneology and succession of aristocrats reached the level of Biblical "begats" - and I don't know anyone, except maybe Isaac Asimov, who actually read through that stuff without his eyes blurring out.

That's one reason that, so far, Toilers Of The Sea is my favorite Hugo book. (As I said, I also suspect that I read a better translation of that one than of the others.) Toilers is a much more focused novel.

The man has a point

Landon Erp's picture

Yeah you followed the plot and didn't get lost but do you know if you missed out on some enriching little details in the areas which did forward the plot.

---Landon

Inking is sexy.

http://www.angelfire.com/comics/wickedlakes

Elementary Logic

jriggenbach's picture

"Actually, I ended up skimming and skipping it, and suffered no loss."

Since "skipping" something means not reading it at all, how could you possibly know if what you skipped was "no loss"?

JR

Landon, That might just be

Matt's picture

Landon,

That might just be Hugo. I haven't read Les Mis, but I'm not surprised about the gratuitous exposition. In The Man Who Laughs, Hugo sometimes goes into very tedious discussions of the history of European aristocracy. In Hunchback, too, the entire third book is an architectural description of Paris - no plot development whatsoever, and it ain't short. (Actually, I ended up skimming and skipping it, and suffered no loss.)

Hi Fellas,

Olivia's picture

I recommend just delving straight to the heart of Hugo and reading Les Miserables. That book went a long way toward my ditching mysticism with a healthy, hefty fling! The humanity of Hugo's writing made clear to me that humanity is all we have. It's flesh and blood. Always, only ever flesh and blood. What an insight for me at the time.

Anyway. This chapter has been brilliant for me to consider again. A personal observation or two about style. I'm going to paraphrase here:

Style is (according to AR) an expression of the level of mental functioning on which the artist feels most at home. This is why art is so profoundly personal. It expresses (the artist) or confirms (the viewer) his own consciousness - which means his efficacy - which means his self-esteem (or pseudo self-esteem).

I have three major pieces of art in my home and I like them in this heirarchial order:
1 – Plato and Aristotle (a close up of the two in the School of Athens by Raphael). 2 – Madam X by John Singer Sargent. 3 – Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh.

They are three very different kinds of paintings and never before have I really been able to put my finger on exactly why I “feel comfortable” enough in their presence to have them hanging in my home. Obviously it’s all about me.

Plato and Aristotle (my favourite). The two men intentionally eye-balling eachother with such focused disagreement. I can see my self esteem feels saluted by their duel – my own lifelong quest to know the true from the false concretized.

Madam X (have gone off her) with her proud pose, burning, pink ear and fallen shoulder strap. My self-esteem was reinforced by her haughtiness – a cocky “I'm so gorgeous I couldn’t care less what they’re saying about me” pose. I had this painting also as the image on my calling-card that I used to use to get freelance work! To a certain degree her spirit conveyed my own, but what is interesting to me is that it doesn’t serve me now because I actually do care what they’re saying about me!

Starry Night (I hardly look at it anymore). I guess what I saw of myself here was a bright, swirling sky sweeping above the twinkly, sleepy earth. I thought it was like my mind – always billowing and flashing, even whilst I slept or day-dreamed. Funny that I don’t even notice this painting in my lounge now. Similarly, a billowing, rolling consciousness is of absolutely no use to my life unless it's harnessed by me.

So out of these three works, only School of Athens has held the test of time by continuing to reflect my growing consciousness.

Hugo

Landon Erp's picture

I wish I could remember the Press info on the version of Les Mis I'm reading now (and have been for the past couple of years).

It's a little ackward but if you have patience you can get through it. The main problems I have with it are as follows: Occaisionally the transalator just leaves a random word here or there untransalated for seemingly no reason. The other one is more tolerable, the transalator has to give a huge amount of background at the begining of a chapter so that he can liberally draw back into it later without having to explain each thing as he goes... I just get the feeling Hugo had to be better than that from what I saw.

Like he'll give the entire history of a particular building or character and then reference different things from it once the plot kicks back in (Like Valjean has to aviod this person but since the person has this afflicion and the house is structured this way he will be able to do so). I like it, but it just gets a little taxing waiting through all the up front exposition so I've only been able to read it for a month or so at a time and I'm now in section 3 or 4.

But overall definitly worth the effort. Though I will admit to cursing every day I spent slacking off in french class since the day I picked up the book. Worst part is I have no excuse... My french teacher turned me onto Hugo way before I'd even heard of "Ann" Rand.

---Landon

Inking is sexy.

http://www.angelfire.com/comics/wickedlakes

Landon, or others,

Matt's picture

Landon, or others,

I've liked almost all the Hugo I've read, but the only one that really sucked me in was Toilers Of The Sea. With all the others, I was too distracted by awkwardnesses in the style to be fully engrossed in the story, and I'm certain from Toilers that it wasn't Hugo's fault.

Any recommendations of good translations? If I can find my copy of Toilers, I'll post the ISBN & translator's name, though it will probably be a while before I come across it.

Free associating: about five years ago I was visiting some Objectivist friends in a city I'd never been to before, so of course I insisted on stopping in at a used book store. About ten minutes after arriving, one of them comes up to me with a copy of some Hugo work - Ninety-Three, maybe? - and asks me if I think it's likely to be a good translation. I almost swallowed my tongue when I looked at the introduction: it was a near-mint NBI Press edition. To this day, with total disregard for the entire science of statistics, I still scour the H's in every used bookstore I go to.

Hi Landon

Jon Coster's picture

I'm quite happy with English at the moment. Sounds like I better check him out all right,
Cheers

A word on Hugo

Landon Erp's picture

The man is god incarnate when it comes to literature... IF AT ALL POSSIBLE LEARN FRENCH!!! The translations can sometimes be confusing and awful, if you cannot handle the former, check up on the latter.

---Landon

Inking is sexy.

http://www.angelfire.com/comics/wickedlakes

Hi there Lance :)

Jon Coster's picture

I'll do that mate, haha I'm sure I won't be disappointed and won't need the extras thanks Smiling, cheers!

Jonathan

Lanza Morio's picture

Jonathan, welcome to SOLO. You said:

I also want to,have to, check out Victor Hugo though I'm terrified he's going to be crap.

There's virtually no chance of Hugo being anything but a positive force in your life. One bit of advice, read his shorter novels like The Hunchback of Notre-Dame or 93' before tackling Les Miz or The Man Who Laughs. You'll have a better sense of his style if you read it that way which will make Les Miz and The Man Who Laughs far more enjoyable.

And if that's not enough you have my money-back guarantee. If you find Hugo to be crap after all that I'll personally re-imburse you. Smiling

Tena Koe Linz

Jon Coster's picture

Smiling I'm certain there are others out there who have Maori heritage and are interested in Ayn Rand's philosophy though aren't desperate enough to come 'out' like I have. It's just one aspect of my identity, it matters and it also really doesn't matter if you know what I mean Smiling. My mum's Maori, my dad's of Pakeha/English heritage. I couldn't say I am an Objectivist yet either as I need to understand (and practice) it all a bit more. Onwards and Upwards!

Through the sheer weight of admirers I have started listening to Mario Lanza. I really love some of his music though I wouldn't know if they are popular choices. When I can truly listen to him, I imagine(!) I am singing the lines and feel tearful joy. He puts so much passion into his singing. I have nothing to really contrast it with as I have never liked Opera. I quite like Sonata for Cello & Piano Op 19 too.

I also want to,have to, check out Victor Hugo though I'm terrified he's going to be crap. I'm sure there are 'personal likes and dislikes in art, literature, and music' which Ayn Rand had that I would disagree with, just as I disagree with her views on sexual roles. I do believe there is something in this line "An artist reveals his naked soul in his work-and so, gentle reader, do you when you respond to it" which causes me some concern as perhaps 95% of my musical tastes would be suspect. There is always a definable reason behind human actions even if they are not aware of it, artists especially want to stimulate some feeling or reaction. Works like 'Family Values' just piss me off because they seem so obvious in trying to 'shock' you into some juvenile attitude; 'Anti-establishment?', 'anti-middle class?' get a real issue please. Nevermind Che Guevara T-shirts. I like the song though Eye

Regarding Nathaniel Branden, "The use of words like 'expose,' 'naked,' and 'gentle reader' could have no other purpose than to intimidate-to scare hell out of-her audience." Obviously scared him enough to 'expose' his 'naked' self into betraying his wife and Ayn Rand and now to profit from it. I've read some of his stuff and like it though would prefer he gave an interpretation of her view here rather than rehashing his victim story.

I know this is backtracking a little but there is a section in The Introduction which so intrigues me and I'd love to know exactly what she meant by this. It begins with 'As a child, I saw a glimpse of the pre-World War 1 world, the last afterglow of the most radiant cultural atmosphere in human history (achieved not by Russian, but by Western culture) ...' What/who is she talking about exactly? Images of the Industrial Revolution, Bismark, Tsars, European Empires, Art Nouveau (I love this style of art, is this in the right direction?), the film Birth of a Nation, Colonialism, Karl Marx, Nietzche, the Titanic, Zeppelins, horses, men in hats, women in kitchens spring to mind though that could show a bad sense of life?, I obviously don't know enough about this era. What is it she is referring to that I need to know, Can anyone please provide examples?
(edit: sorry, revisiting the chapter 1 thread I see you brought this up already Linz, though I'd still love some feedback on this please.)
(edit 2: oh gosh, are we talking Byron, Shelly and all that? Wagner? Mussorgsky? I think I should read more and keep quiet)
Cheers,
Jonathan (not such a young 'un)

Nathaniel Branden on Romantic Manifesto

JoeM's picture

Here is the quote from JUDGEMENT DAY in regard to THE ROMANTIC MANIFESTO:

" A tendency already in evidence when I first met [Rand] grew much more pronounced during the 1960's: regarding her personal likes and dislikes in art, literature, and music as being very close to laws of nature...she wrote an article...entitled 'Art and Sense of Life'...which she concluded with these ominous words: 'When one learns to translate the meaning of an art work into objective terms, one discovers that nothing is as potent as art in exposing the essence of a man's character. An artist reveals his naked soul in his work-and so, gentle reader, do you when you respond to it.' The use of words like 'expose,' 'naked,' and 'gentle reader' could have no other purpose than to intimidate-to scare hell out of-her audience. I can still see the angry, gleeful grin with which she read that paragraph to me."

Hi Jon!

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Welcome aboard. Do we have here the world's first Maori Objectivist? Smiling

Welcome! :)

JulianP's picture

Hi Jon,

Welcome! I like your attitude. Smiling It's great to have you onboard.

I also went looking for sculptures from the Middle Ages. I found a couple of links:

http://www.wga.hu/index1.html
(Click on ARTISTS, select 'Medieval' in the period list, and 'Get list of artists'.)

http://www.princetonol.com/groups/iad/lessons/middle/ageof.htm

Cheers
Julian

Thanks Jon

Marcus's picture

Deformed monstrosity?

I don't think so. More like bad workmanship. I am not convinced there was a concerted effort to make them appear deformed or ugly.

Hi Julian, Hey Linz, Hi All

Jon Coster's picture

Hi Julian, Hey Linz, Hi All Smiling, I've been lurking on the sidelines waiting for an opportune moment to join in the objectivist culture here. There are so many issues & concepts which I wish to flesh out though understanding objectivism. I shouldn't have waited. By a wonderful coincidence I borrowed a tattered copy of TRM from the Auckland public library right before this thread started. I feel this area is the best place to start & commit to learning. I'm currently a fulltime student of Video Game Development, specialising in Game Art i.e. 3d art, illustration, level design, character dev etc and wish to strengthen my resolve to fight for a true sense of life in my work and hopefully influence an employers or, perhaps one day, an investors choice of style, theme and subject. My SOL has changed for the better through my discovery of Objectivism, through it's consistency, transparency and honesty. Also through it's proponents. Anyway yadda, yadda that's me - I'm not too sure which way to go with this though I do have a lot of ideas I would like to bounce around here, especially regarding Sense of Life and Video Games.

Marcus, could she have meant this sort of stuff -
Christ in the House of Simon - Tilman Riemenschneider 'one of the greatest sculptors of the late Middle Ages' according to my crap Google search
Christ in the House of Simon

(edit: oh the shame, I can't get this to work)

Pious, sickly looking subhumans. What is she doing on the floor and is that Peter checking out her ass?

[Works now Smiling Edited by Ross]

Middle Age Sculptors?

Marcus's picture

As the main points have already been covered, I have a question concerning a detail.

In chapter three, Ayn Rand writes:

"An artist (as, for instance, the sculptors of the Middle Ages) who presents man as a deformed monstrosity is aware of the fact that there are men who are happy healthy and confident..."

What Middle Age Sculptor is she referring to? Gargoyles perhaps...but they are not depictions of men, but demons.
Sculptor of Jesus or Mary were made to look angelic and perfect. Happy, healthy and confident except during the crucifixion - but even then, definitely not deformed or monstrous - if anything stoic and heroic. (I am no fan of religion; I am just describing what I see.)

So what exactly is she referring to here?

Richard

Victor Pross's picture

That's an odd site---Nerdrum and Rand lumped together? Strange.

Nerdrum

Richard Andreassen's picture

Nerdrum actually defines his work as Kitsch.

You may find this site interesting:
http://www.kitschforum.com/

A fuller statement:

Victor Pross's picture

To assume that the artist does not uphold the opposite of that which is mocked is contrary to what satire is all about. It’s a viable—and legitimate--form to conveying a moral message. Satire is “outraged moral idealism”; it consists of presenting the opposite of that which it stands for in order to convey a moral message. And the opposite of stupidity is—intelligence. The opposite of evil—is goodness. All of satire rests on that principle. And yet you can’t see that! Indeed, you go further than that: you infer that the painting is now laced with “cynicism,” “skepticism,” and just “a little nihilism” [as opposed to ‘a lot’ of nihilism, I gather].

Well, this is just so much logic chopping from where I stand. I mean, are you sure you didn't leave anything out here? Why not toss in altruism? Why, if I had submitted a description of a happy and healthy family, would you infer that they do [or do not] believe in God or recycling?
You also overlook [or ignore] two salient points: Julian came to the conclusion as to the actual meaning of the painting—AND---the visual arts, such as painting and sculptor, are limited in what can be communicated, unlike a movie or novel. A painting is limited; it cannot present a plot whereby a clash of values is shown. But I have already explained that!

What’s more, we have now left the subject of what this thread is about.

I hear you.

Victor Pross's picture

But I don't agree. That's okay.

The Rediculous and its Answer

Marnee's picture

“As merely one example, Charlie Chaplin made a mockery of Nazi Germany in his film The Great Dictator. In this case, it was a POSITIVE film. I could cite dozens of other examples.”

Well, I’m sure you could Victor. And I’m sure that in every one of your examples there would have been more to it than the presentation and mockery of evil. There would have been the good, too -- gone unmocked. That is why I said there was nothing to compare it to. By it I meant the ridiculous creatures he created in 'Family Values.' There was no good to turn to, in the context of the painting, in answer to the ridiculous, evil and stupid. Nothing to turn to instead of bad values. I cannot assume that the artist holds the opposite values. He may hold none at all. And since he choose not to present an answer to bad ideas, I can only assume that he doesn’t have one. At least he couldnt be bothered with one. I don't think this is a trivial decision and speaks badly of the artist's sense of life and his mentality. So, what do I see? Cynicism, skepticism, and, well, a little nihilism. Gut reaction is in check with reality. I could be wrong about the artist, but I can only go by what I see.

Edit: deleted for futher thought....

And yup, Ayn Rand was right. Not overstated at all. Perhaps even understated.

Hi Victor, Sorry, I have not

JulianP's picture

Hi Victor,

Sorry, I have not had time to catch up with this thread again. I'm rather busy with other things, but will try today.

Would anybody else like to submit an analysis of a piece of art, possibly using the three mentioned criteria? It can be your favourite piece of art, or something which you really don't like, but which is good, aesthetically.

Cheers
Julian

CHAPTER 3

Victor Pross's picture

[Julian and others, I have fine-tuned my presentation in my humble attempt to make my position clear in understanding aspects of Chapter Three].

Here it is:

[1] FAMILY VALUES: suppose you saw two paintings side-by side. The first painting was a study of the macabre pathology of a generic family: father, mother, son and daughter stand frozen as if posing for a photograph. The parents are all smiles, but their dysfunction is nevertheless visible--as they are manifested physically. The mother is a steely eyed iron maiden, whose plastic smile looks as though it took considerable effort to achieve. The father is a yellow faced block head, literally. His smile is more genuine, but inane. The children look insolent and sullen and they, too, are grotesque caricatures of their emotional damage. At first glance, one would tend to conclude that some hideous accident had befallen the family, their faces discolored and deformed. But if one examines the portrait more closely, it becomes clear that the only real deformity present is not physical—it is psychological and philosophical. The abstract mental states were communicated by visually: the mother is wearing a crucifix. The father is a yellow block-head. The son is wearing an Earth First t-shirt and the daughter adorns various Nazi symbols. This painting is called FAMILY VALUES.

[2]THE BEAUTIFUL WOMEN: Ayn Rand’s hypothetical example: Imagine the painting of a beautiful women and the cold sore: Ayn Rand argued that a painting of beautiful women in a gorgeous gown ---with a cold sore would evoke a more intense response than would the reality of a woman with an actual cold sore.

That minor affliction, she argues, “acquires a monstrous metaphysical significance by virtue of being included in a painting. It declares that a women’s beauty and her efforts to achieve glamour (the beautiful evening gown) are a futile illusion undercut by a seed of corruption which can mar them at any moment and that this is reality’s mockery of man.

The principle of her argument is that particular details do assume greater significance in a work of art than they would possess in reality, because the viewer is aware that their presence is intentional, and that the artist must have considered them important. [“Art is selectivity"].

And so Rand’s summery of this hypothetical painting is therefore negative.

But is the painting of the beautiful women interchangeable with the Family Values painting? No, it’s not. I could very well agree with Rand’s summation of the painting of the beautiful women—and I would agree with Julian’s summation of the Family Values painting, which was:

“If I saw that painting, I would conclude that the artist's choice of subject was made in order to expose, pillory, and mock those irrational philosophies. If well-executed, the painting sounds like an insightful commentary on, and indictment of, those evil philosophies espoused by so many people.”

I agree with you. Why wouldn't we say that of the Beautiful Women painting?

The Beautiful women painting is offered up as an example of that which “attacks beauty and values” whereas the Family Values painting is an example of an artist ATTACKING ugliness, corruption and modern philosophical erosion, and in a rather visceral manner. The beautiful Women painting flaunts ugliness as a given; Family values mocks it. These are two different things.

How do we know this? By our emotional responses? No.
It doesn’t matter if your responses were exactly the same in viewing the two paintings—which could very well be revulsion. A WORK OF ART CANNOT BE PROPERLY EVALUTED AS “GOOD” OR “BAD” ON THE BASIS OF A SENSE OF LIFE RESPONSE.

Why is this? Ayn Rand draws a crucial distinction between ESTHITIC RESPONSE and what she terms ESTEHTIC JUDGEMENT. The former is a spontaneous emotional reaction—-the latter is a function of intellectual appraisal. In this latter case, that is what Julian did: his conclusion about Family Values was a dispassionate evaluation of the success with which the artist projects his intended theme. [“Whether one shares or does not share an artist’s fundamental view of life,” Rand explains, “is irrelevant to an esthetic appraisal of his work qua art.”

The implicit meaning of any work of art is “This is life as I [the artist] see it”—and the meaning of one’s response to a work of art is “This is (or is not) life as I see it.” What an art work “expresses,” according to Rand, is not a emotion per see, but rather a concretized view of life---which has emotional significance for the artist, and has the power to elicit an emotional response in others.

I believe many Objectivists make a crucial mistake in regard to the concept of a “sense of life” and its application to the arts. They incorrectly take their own emotions as “tool of cognition” and attribute their own negative response to a work of art and summarize that the artist must have an ugly sense of life---and sometimes this negative critique borders on making moral judgments.

For example, it may very well be good to criticize the Beautiful women painting if the artist created it with the express purpose to attack the good—-but just because the artist of the ‘Family Values’ painted a—shall we say, “ugly” portrait does NOT make him on par with the first artist! The ‘Family Values’ artist is attacking the ugly, the corrupt and wicked. The abstract meanings of the two paintings are exact opposites.

“Integration: every element of the artist's product must in some way enhance and relate to that work's central theme.”
Firstly, in order to OBJECTIFY HIS VALUES, the artist must translate them into CONCRETES, into forms appropriate to the nature of reality as perceived by the mind.

Human cognition, Rand emphasizes, requires “dancing back and forth” between the abstract and the concrete. One must always ground one’s abstractions in real concretes, and one must always try to understand the abstract principles or concepts implicit in all concretes.
Did you hear that? ONE MUST CONSIDER THE ABSTRACT PRINCIPLES OR CONCEPTS IN ALL CONCRETES.

For example, consider the Beautiful women painting.
THE THEME: Our attempts at glamour are futile and laughable because they can be marred and undercut by something simple as a cold sore---or whatever other maladies this shit life has to offer. It’s the cold sore that would overshadow the beauty of this women and her stunning gown.

Let’s consider now the concretes used to communicate this theme.
THE CONCRETES: A beautiful women. A stunning gown. A cold sore. [and that’s all it took].

Now let’s consider THE THEME of Family Values: The philosophical erosion is a serious matter and is handed down from generation to generation thanks to evil and cowardice.

THE CONCRETES: Well, it’s a family where you have “generations.” The mother is, as I said, “a steely eyed iron maiden, whose plastic smile looks as though it took considerable effort to achieve” conveying that the “cerebral” philosophy that has been imparted to the children have taken root. And the stupidity and cowardice is conveyed by the fact that the father’s face is yellow and the shape of his head is a block. The children: the boy attires an Earth First t-shirt, the daughter is draped in Nazi garb.

Conclusion: The “beautiful women” painting endorses corruption and ugliness as “the norm.”

The Family Values painting—with a touch of macabre--INDITES human depravity in a very visceral manner. It is a ribald attack upon that which is bawdy and sordid in life--and this implicitly indorses its opposite. That’s the purpose that satire can serve.

Now, Julian, please recall that you concluded the same thing in regards to the Family Values paintings. I only provided the concretes.

It was you who summarized its theme [You used the standard of Esthetic judgment]:

“If I saw that painting, I would conclude that the artist's choice of subject was made in order to expose, pillory, and mock those irrational philosophies. If well-executed, the painting sounds like an insightful commentary on, and indictment of, those evil philosophies espoused by so many people.”

Even if you gave had a negative emotional response [esthetic response] to BOTH paintings--it does not mean they are equal--once you analyze their themes [esthetic judgment].

The themes in each painting are DIFFERENT.

**

edit: others, please feel free to agree AND expand...or rip me up if you believe I have it all wrong ;0].

Julian

Victor Pross's picture

That's fine, been there and done that. But Let also say that I don't mean to present myself as "the master" of Ayn Rand's philosophy of art, either. All I can say is this: I have given a great deal of thought to it (tons!) And, for what's it's worth, I'm a painter and am writing my first novel.

[edit]:

In regards to this--from your original post, the answer is: COMMUNICATION in art--a big YES! Didactics--no! Do you remember that game in school where you play "Show and Tell"? In art, it's simply about the SHOW part--not the "tell." In fact, there is a principle in any writing class that says: Show me, don't tell me."

Communication or didactics is not (should not be?) the primary purpose of art. Concretising his vision of man, and of reality, is the primary purpose of an artist.

Merrill's Definition

JoeM's picture

Hi, Julian. Merrill DOES mention Rand's "selective re-creation of reality" criteria, but challenges it because of the nature of music. I didn't go into all of that here because I wanted to focus on the idea of judgment of art by focusing on purpose. (I'm of mixed opinion on his definition.) I didn't want to focus on his challenge, which is a whole other thread! (Also tackled in WHAT ART IS, and the JARS symposium.)

Sorry Victor,

JulianP's picture

Sorry Victor, I think the sideline on satire distracted me, and I missed your analysis. Smiling I'll go over it again. I am not an expert on this stuff, as I am sure you can see. Smiling

Cheers
Julian

That's cool, Julian

Victor Pross's picture

Question:

3. Integration: every element of the artist's product must in some way enhance and relate to that work's central theme.

Did I not already do this to your satisfaction...or you still welcome other people to expand on it?

[edit: yes, the question of satire is perhaps another topic; it came in as a sideline].

Satire and aesthetic value, and my original question

JulianP's picture

Hi Victor,

That sounds good. Go ahead and "hog the talk time". Smiling Or we can patiently wait for your separate post on aesthetic value and satire, which really deserves its own thread.

Now, back to my original question. I am still waiting for some more concrete examples of how you (and anybody else) would use the three (or more?) criteria to judge a real piece of art:

1. Selectivity in regard to subject: the artist must select a subject that best represents his sense of life.
2. Clarity: the artist must clearly convey his sense of life in his work.
3. Integration: every element of the artist's product must in some way enhance and relate to that work's central theme.

Cheers
Julian

Agreed Penelope

Landon Erp's picture

So in your assessment would you call archetecture a craft then.

Wow it is just starting to hit me that there really isn't enough discussion of crafts in Objectivism. Which I think leads to a lot of the frustration from people when you tell them that their favorite medium "isn't actually art."

Sorry just a little aside.

---Landon

Inking is sexy.

http://www.angelfire.com/comics/wickedlakes

Yup, I'm convinced.

JulianP's picture

Hi Victor,

Yup, I'm convinced. Your previous analysis, and indeed, my own analysis of Family Values, invalidates that statement of mine. I withdraw it. Smiling

Cheers
Julian

Ayn Rand did not think that

Penelope's picture

Ayn Rand did not think that architecture was art in the strict sense. This may be in the lectures for "The Art of Fiction," but I dunno for sure. She says that while things like architecture and photography have elements of art, they are not art because the standard of selectivity for those undertakings is NOT 100% what the artist thinks is important about life, but what is required to perform a function (architecture) and what happens to be in front of you (photography).

Crafts

Landon Erp's picture

I'm not sure if your far enough in the book to have read this part yet. But it's a point Robert Malcolm brings up frequently. It is also a point I can agree with and I think needs mentioned.

There are things in the world that serve an aesthetic purpose as well as another "practical function" this falls under the idea of crafts.

Things like photography, cooking, furniture and decorative pieces for the home fall into this category (ironically even though Rand viewed Archetecture as an art form I think it fits this category better but I might be wrong on that).

I don't know the proper definition of crafts off the top of my head but I thought they netted a mention.

---Landon

Inking is sexy.

http://www.angelfire.com/comics/wickedlakes

Hi Joe,

JulianP's picture

Thanks Joe!

You quote Ron Merrill:

"Thus the correct definition of art is: A man-made object or process the function of which is to unduce (sic?) a sense of life in the observer."

That's interesting. He doesn't mention the "selective recreation of reality" aspect. It's art as long as it's function is to induces a sense of life in the observer.

So, cooking and architecture could be art, if it is done to evoke a sense of life? Or am I reading it incorrectly?

You wrote: "The function of the artwork is to express the sense of life of the artist".

So I guess you're saying that art is the medium for the artist's sense of life?

That sounds very similar to Rand's definition. She says that art is a selective recreation of reality, which will be imbued with the artist's sense of life.

You said that you judge a piece of art's aesthetic merit by seeing how well it expresses the sense of life of an artist. I am still not sure how you would determine this, without knowing the sense of life of the artist in the first place.

But in any case, how would you, personally, go about using this criteria, given a real-world example?

Thanks!
Julian

in speaking as to the value

Victor Pross's picture

Speaking as to the value of satire, I said in the below post that..."As merely one example, Charlie Chaplin made a mockery of Nazi Germany in his film The Great Dictator. In this case, it was a POSITIVE film. I could cite dozens of other examples."

One more example here--as a general statement--can be served up by Julian:

"I would certainly look at it every now and then, to remind myself what I'm fighting against." [Speaking here of the Family Values painting].

But this is not a full arguement.

**

[edit]:

Julian, in your orginal posting that started off Chapter, you write:

"Even though sense of life is the fountain of art, -esthetic- merit can not be judged by using ones sense of life - ie. emotional reactions. Art is a philosophical composite. That's why it's possible to say: "That is a great work of art (esthetically), but I don't like it (based on deeper philosophical objections and/or a sense of life judgement.)"

Absolutely, this is the correct understanding of Ayn Rand's position on art, and in due course I would like to expand on this.

However, I don't want to "hog" all the talk time. I'll await your commits and those of others.

--

Yes, yes, the much touted

Victor Pross's picture

Yes, yes, the much touted word “nihilism” again. You say that *I* make too much of something else or other? On the contrary, I think you make too much of Family Values by slapping that word “NIHILISM” on it. Furthermore, you will see that it was Julian who came to the conclusion as to the painting's meaning, darling. Remember? I agree with him.

However, the word is inapplicable in this case.

If I were to give a somewhat humorous indication of what nihilism actually is, I would cite a quote from Brando who said in “The Wild One” when asked what he is against—his answer was: “What have you got?” Let’s grab the philosophical lexicon and avoid the promiscuous use of that word [even if you live in the sticks.] Believe me, I am very able to debate the question of nihilism versus satire.

Now lets take a little look at the question of Satire—which Family Values is about. I believe in the use of satire to serve a good purpose.

As one writer sums up:

"A manner of writing that mixes a critical attitude with wit and humor in an effort to improve mankind and human institutions. Ridicule, irony, exaggeration, and several other techniques are almost always present. The satirist may insert serious statements of value or desired behavior, but most often he relies on an implicit moral code, understood by his audience and paid lip service by them."

And yet another writer describes satire as an "artistic form, chiefly literary and dramatic, in which human or individual vices, follies, abuses, or shortcomings are held up to censure by means of ridicule, derision, burlesque, irony, or other methods, sometimes with an intent to bring about improvement."

As merely one example, Charlie Chaplin made a mockery of Nazi Germany in his film The Great Dictator. In this case, it was a POSITIVE film. I could cite dozens of other examples.

Anyway, it is true that a painting's theme can NOT be indicated as fully as, say, an entire novel or movie. But that’s not a painter's responsibility or fault—it’s the nature of the medium. There are limitations to painting versus a full novel.

You write: “All I see is that Family Values mocks these people, a little. Indictment? That's a word with huge implications. It requires more than a little satire, which is all a painting of this type can achieve because there is nothing to compare, there is no answer to it and so we are left with more than a little skepticism & cynicism and not much else.”

Frankly, I don’t really know what you mean here: …”there is nothing to compare, there is no answer to it…” [?] But you assert that Family Values merely "mocks these people" without arguing as to why? I say it is a blazing lapoon! [and I back it up--and again, it was also Julian's summation.]

But I would say that the question of employing satire, humor, black humor--or whatever you call it-—in terms of ‘value’ in art, could be an interesting conversation. If you, or Julian, wish to---I’m game.

**

edit: Speaking of "making too much" of something, would you then say that Rand's description of the Beautiful Women painting as a "corrupt, obscenely vicious attack on man, on beauty, on all values"--as overstated? Hmmm? Eye

--

Its a Sound Garden Video

Marnee's picture

All I see is that Family Values mocks these people, a little. Indictment? That's a word with huge implications. It requires more than a little satire, which is all a painting of this type can acheive because there is nothing to compare, there is no answer to it and so we are left with more than a little skepticism & cynicism and not much else.

"This is the way it is over here in suburbia. Isnt it lame?"

"Uhh, I dunno, I guess." *shrug*

If you want to indict bad values or the valueless then you should show what can be valued, in the very least what the artist thinks should be valued.

Frankly Victor you read too much in to it. This is why the knee-jerk reaction is indeed a good one. There is only so much to see in this painting. The knee-jerk reaction is an answer to these similar questions: "Why did the artist choose put these things on this canvass rather than something else? Why would he spend all that time and effort to create this image?" He could have painted values but instead he mocked bad ones. Sense of life, values? Nihlistic, skeptic, cynic.

PS: Do you remember that Sound Garden video for Black Hole Sun? Pretty similar to you description of Family Values. Was it a great indictment of complacent and valueless suburbia? Eh. *shrug*

Julian (and others)

Victor Pross's picture

In addition to what I'll have to say about "a sense of life"--I must take issue with this below statement, Julian Smiling

"Also, if the entire repertoire of an artist consists of monsters and twisted mockeries of humanity, like Odd Nerdrum, you can be fairly certain that the artist's sense of life is ugly.
In both the case of romantic realism, and nightmares the likes of Odd Nerdrum's, the choice of subject is much more telling of the artist's sense of life, than a negative caricature is."

***

[Others, please feel free to jump in]

Subject Matter and Meaning in Art.

Victor Pross's picture

Hi Julian, (and others)

Okay, first thing: Subject Matter and Meaning in Art.

I suppose you are aware of Ayn Rand’s citing of a painting of a beautiful women and the cold sore? She argued that a painting of this cold sore would evoke a more intense response than would the reality of a woman with a cold sore. That minor affliction, she argues, “acquires a monstrous metaphysical significance by virtue of being included in a painting. It declares that a women’s beauty and her efforts to achieve glamour (the beautiful evening gown) are a futile illusion undercut by a seed of corruption which can mar them at any moment and that this is reality’s mockery of man.

The principle of her argument is that particular details do assume greater significance in a work of art than they would possess in reality, because the viewer is aware that their presence is intentional, and that the artist must have considered them important. [“Art is selectivity"]. And so Rand’s summery of this hypothetical painting is therefore negative.

But is the painting of the beautiful women interchangeable with the ‘Family Values’ painting? No, it’s not. I could very well agree with Rand’s summation of the painting of the beautiful women—and I would agree with your summation of the Family Values painting:

Julian: “If I saw that painting, I would conclude that the artist's choice of subject was made in order to expose, pillory, and mock those irrational philosophies. If well-executed, the painting sounds like an insightful commentary on, and indictment of, those evil philosophies espoused by so many people.”

I agree with you. Why wouldn't we say that of the 'Beautful women' painting?

The ”beautiful women painting” is offered up as an example that which “attacks beauty and values” and the like whereas ‘Family Values’ is an example of an artist attacking ugliness, corruption and modern philosophical erosion, and in a rather visceral manner. These are two different things.

How do we know this? Our emotions told us? No.

It doesn’t matter if your responses were exactly the same in viewing the two paintings—which could very well be revulsion. The implicit meaning of any work of art is “This is life as I [the artist] see it”—and the meaning of one’s response to a work of art is “This is (or is not) life as I see it.” What an art work “expresses,” according to Rand, is not a emotion per see, but rather a concretized view of life---which has emotional significance for the artist, and has the power to elicit an emotional response in others.

But I do believe many Objectivists make a crucial mistake in regard to the concept of a “sense of life” and its application to the arts. They incorrectly take their own emotions as “tool of cognition” and attribute their own negative response to a work of art and summarize that the artist must have a ugly sense of life---and sometimes this negative critique borders on making moral judgments. It's like a knee-jerk response.

For example, it may very well be good to snicker at the “beautiful women” painting if the artist created it with the express purpose to attack the good—-but just because the artist of the ‘Family Values’ painted a—-shall we say, “ugly” portrait does NOT make him on par with the first artist! The ‘Family Values’ artist is attacking the ugly, the corrupt and wicked. The abstract meanings of the two paintings are exact opposites. It's a mistake to make a knee-jerk response--as too many Objectivsts are wont to do--by saying: "Oh, that's an ugly painting! Evil sense of life!"

Regarding the current approach to the ‘sense of life’ question, there are a few errors in which Objectivist make—-and I will cover that soon in another post. [It is a pet peeve of mine].

But let me get to the issue, for now, of only this: “Integration: every element of the artist's product must in some way enhance and relate to that work's central theme.”

Firstly, in order to OBJECTIFY HIS VALUES, the artist must translate them into CONCRETES, into forms appropriate to the nature of reality as perceived by the mind.

Human cognition, Rand emphasizes, requires “dancing back and forth” between the abstract and the concrete. One must always ground one’s abstractions in real concretes, and one must always try to understand the abstract principles or concepts implicit in all concretes.

Did you hear that? ONE MUST CONSIDER THE ABSTRACT PRINCIPLES OR CONCEPTS IN ALL CONCRETES.

For example, consider the the beautiful women painting.
THE THEME: Our attempts at glamour are futile and laughable because they can be marred and undercut by something simple as a cold sore---or whatever other maladies this shit life has to offer. It’s the cold sore that would overshadow the beauty of this women and her stunning gown.

Let’s consider now the concretes used to communicate this theme.
THE CONCRETES: A beautiful women. A stunning gown. A cold sore. [and that’s all it took].

Now let’s consider THE THEME of Family Values: The philosophical erosion is a serious matter and is handed down from generation to generation thanks to evil and cowardice.

THE CONCRETES: Well, it’s a family where you have “generations.” The mother is, as I said, “a steely eyed iron maiden, whose plastic smile looks as though it took considerable effort to achieve” conveying that the “cerebral” philosophy that has been imparted to the children have taken root. And the stupidity and cowardice is conveyed by the fact that the father’s face is yellow and the shape of his head is a block. The children: the boy attires an Earth First t-shirt, the daughter is draped in Nazi garb.

Conclusion: The “beautiful women” painting endorses corruption and ugliness as “the norm.”
The Family Values painting—with a touch of macabre--INDITES human depravity in a very visceral manner. It is a ribald attack upon that which is bawdy and sordid in life--and this implicitly indorses its opposite. That’s the purpose that satire can serve.

Now, Julian, please recall that you concluded the same thing in regards to the Family Values paintings. I only provided the concretes. It was you who summarized its theme, its meaning: “If I saw that painting, I would conclude that the artist's choice of subject was made in order to expose, pillory, and mock those irrational philosophies. If well-executed, the painting sounds like an insightful commentary on, and indictment of, those evil philosophies espoused by so many people.”

I agree.

Let me know what you think of my analysis.

Tricky...

JulianP's picture

Hi Victor,

Tricky... You really made me think. You also stirred up some curly questions which I had bumped into earlier, while pondering the three criteria for judging aesthetic merit you mentioned. I think I'm much clearer on those now.

If I saw that painting, I would conclude that the artist's choice of subject was made in order to expose, pillory, and mock those irrational philosophies. If well-executed, the painting sounds like an insightful commentary on, and indictment of, those evil philosophies espoused by so many people.

However, I wouldn't want to hang this caricature on my wall and look at it every day, as I suspect it would be too depressing. I would certainly look at it every now and then, to remind myself what I'm fighting against.

So in this case, I would experience a negative reaction to the painting, which would have been part of what the artist wanted to achieve, I suspect. For an analogy in the literary world, perhaps a Dostoevsky novel would be close?

Now, as for the artist's sense of life, this is difficult or impossible to figure out. At best, I would guess that the artist is rational. Since I've assumed it's a negative caricature, and there is no positive antitheses presented, other than the implied, it's difficult to see what the artist is 'for', and only what he is 'against'. I think it's much easier to figure out the sense of life of an artist when they are portraying what life, reality, and man -should- be like, for example, in romantic realism.

Also, if the entire repertoire of an artist consists of monsters and twisted mockeries of humanity, like Odd Nerdrum, you can be fairly certain that the artist's sense of life is ugly.

In both the case of romantic realism, and nightmares the likes of Odd Nerdrum's, the choice of subject is much more telling of the artist's sense of life, than a negative caricature is.

Take Ayn Rand's fiction as an example. She also portrays irrational and evil philosophies, as manifested in twisted caricatures of humanity. However, she contrasts these monsters with heroic characters. So, while, like the painter of 'Family Values', she chooses some of her subjects in order to point out their underlying corruption, she additionally presents her view of what life -should- be like. When reading her fiction, I find myself feeling disgust for the human slime which are the villains, and great admiration for the heroic characters.

In the beginning, I bumped my head against the three criteria, as they didn't seem to explicitly cover cases like this - negative caricatures. So, perhaps I would modify the criteria slightly to explicitly account for when an artist portrays something which they're against.

Phew, that was a knotty one. Smiling Is that more or less correct?

Cheers
Julian

That is truly foul - the

JulianP's picture

That is truly foul - the stuff of nightmares...

His style reminds me of Rembrandt, and his themes remind me of another creator of monsters, H.R. Giger... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giger

With themes like that, I suspect he would have fitted right into the dark and middle ages...

Is Nerdrum a good artist? Undoubtedly. In terms of technical skill, his paintings are altogether in a different league from Munch's The Scream. His paintings are also streets ahead in their ability to evoke dread and horror in me. I agree with Marnee; I think Goya (and Nerdrum) are much better at making monsters.

I will now try to forget what I saw. *retch*

Julian (and others)

Victor Pross's picture

Julian, before answering your questions, if you'll permit me to ask you a question--so as to better to answer your questions in due course.

I don't have the actual image, but I would like to ask you (and whoever else cares to answer) what you figure the 'sense of life' of the artist is by my describing--clearly--the artist's work. This question would be related to theme--not mastery of tecnique, of course.

Here we go:

This artist painted a picture called 'Family Values'--a truthful picture of a garden-variety family, a portrait that spun Norman Rockwell on his head.

The painting was a study of the macabre pathology of a generic family: father, mother, son and daughter stand frozen as if posing for a photograph. The parents are all smiles, but their dysfunction is nevertheless visible--as they are manifested physically.

The mother is a steely eyed iron maiden, whose plastic smile looks as though it took considerable effort to achieve. The father is a yellow faced block-head, literally. His smile is more genuine, but inane. The children look insolent and sullen and they, too, are grotesque caricatures of their emotional damage. At first glance, one would tend to conclude that some hideous accident had befallen the family, their faces discolored and deformed. But if one examines the portrait more closely, it becomes clear that the only real deformity present is not physical—-it is psychological and philosophical. There abstract mental states were communicated visually: the mother is wearing a crucifix. The father is a yellow block-head. The son is wearing an Earth First t-shirt and the daughter adorns various Nazi symbols.

Again, the painting is called 'Family Values.'

If you saw such a painting, you would conclude...

My opinion and why.

Landon Erp's picture

By seeing the simplified world and comparing it with my images of what I know the world to be the image conveys to me the emotional content of the subject. It's as if I'm not only viewing him from the outside but I'm viewing him through the filter of his own thoughts and emotions.

It has an iconic quality that connects more quickly and deeply than simply viewing an event as a disinterested third party.

The abstraction is what makes it work for me. My comic background is probably appropriate to mention here because I tend to think the more abstract/impressionistic style works very well in a storytelling standpoint but not as well as a single image worthy of a long period of contemplation.

Some examples of both film and comics where it was executed supurbly are

Fritz Lang's Metropolis

here
here
here
here

And in comics, David Mack's Kabuki

Here
here
here

In a painting you should be given a subject and a chance to view it, study it and make your own judgements on the subject and events depicted. In a story you need something that can pull you into a further literary level of contemplation. Painting deals only with sight, you need something to give your other senses reference points, scents, sounds, textures, and thought/emotion.

Impression is different from other "abstract" styles of art in that the "abstraction" going on is legitimate. It is an attempt to convey both concretes and (usually emotional) abstracts simultaneously and when done effectivly insepearbly.

---Landon

Inking is sexy.

http://www.angelfire.com/comics/wickedlakes

Folks...

Victor Pross's picture

Has anybody heard of a "modern" artist named ODD NERDRUM? It's an odd name I know. He's a current artist who has returned to classical realism--a master artist and craftsman. However, look at his themes and style and judge his sense of life. Grip yourself.

When ya get to the site, scroll down to the bottom and click on a selction of the years to see samples of work. [1987-93 is good]

Let me know what ya' all think.

http://www.nerdrum.com/

Right Joe that is what Im

Marnee's picture

Right Joe that is what Im saying. It is too abstract for me to feel much from it. I mean I can glean some sort of idea from it but after a few moments the feeling is lost and Im ready to move on.

But with Goya, oh my, his more horrific images haunt me.

And his beautiful ones as well. But Im glad about that Smiling.

I also found this

Marnee's picture

I also found this one:

http://www.tracyfineart.com/bl...

Goya often painted very monstrous, sad, and horrible themes.

The Scream

JoeM's picture

Maybe he was just left home alone...and used too much aftershave...

Landon,

Marnee's picture

Landon,

Do you think the same feelings and themes could have been expressed better, to better or stronger emotional effect, if the painting had been done with more realism? My first impression is yes. I have an easier time sympathizing with recongizably human faces rather than cartoonish or alien looking ones, and poorly drawn ones, flat ones, at that.* I will try to think of a good example or a similar theme but different technique. Maybe you have one? Anybody?

Okay how is this for an example:

http://www.tracyfineart.com/bl...

* Which is funny because there are certain animated movies that make me cry uncontrollably. Im just saying that I dont think this painting does not accomplish what you say it does. At least not for me.

Purpose and Esthetic Judgement

JoeM's picture

"I wonder if you (and anybody else) would mind elaborating a bit on how to judge a piece of art's objective, aesthetic value?"

Here's an idea from Ronald Merrill's IDEAS OF AYN RAND on the topic:

"Every man-made entity is properly defined in terms of its function...Applying this principle to art lead leads us to a better definition. To begin with, it is certainly true that all art is man-made; a painting of a landscape may be art, but not the landscape itself. There is our genus. What is the function of art? Note that when we speak of function, we mean the purpose from the point of view of the user. For what purpose do we use art? What we seek from a work of art is to be induced to feel an emotion-specifically, a sense of life. There is our differentia. Thus the correct definition of art is: A man-made object or process the function of which is to unduce a sense of life in the observer."

Putting aside Merrill's definition for a moment, I think it's fair to say that the criteria is based on the function of the artwork, though I'd quibble about the point of view of the user part, because it seems other-oriented. An artist can surely create a work of art that he will never expose to the world, making him the user, so I'd say that the function of the artwork is to express the sense of life of the artist, and the criteria should be on how and how well the work achieves the goal. (That's a seperate judgement from the judgement of the sense of life of the artist and his work, which is why Rand explained that it's legitimate to say "That's a great piece of art, but I don't like it.")

I think I found a good example of what I was getting at

Landon Erp's picture

I'm kind of suprised I forgot this gem

The Scream by Edvard Munch.

In the foreground the central figure is completely mishapen... almost to the point where it is past the point of recognition as human. This effect is rendered by a series of simple brushstrokes... emphasis on the word simple.

The lack of shape of the lead figure as well as that within much of the background evokes a feeling of helplessness. You have no idea who or what you are or what the world around you is, it's as if the entire world is passing you by and you can't find a moment's objectivity or focus to percieve the world around you. You are consumed by fear at this great unknown as well as a saddness.

There are two background figures, standing upright, shaped in a far more squared manner than the central figure. They are rendered in a far more realistic style than the rest of the painting. Their figures in proportion to that of actual men. Their clothes don't blur together in the same manner as the screamer, you can see that they are both wearing business suits and trenchcoats. They seem to have more of a focused shape to their existance. They also seem to be having a casual walk enjoying good conversation.

This evokes the sense of tragedy in regard to the screamer. He feels so lost, so helpless, so completely out of touch with reality... yet he is not offered the solace most in his position take. All he must do is view the figures in the background to understand that something better than what he is living is possible, it has simply always eluded him. He fears most of all that it always will.

This painting perfectly expresses fear and lonliness in an incomprehensible universe. While I think most people here would not agree with this premise, looking into this painting may be as close as anyone wants to come.

To the other part of my own challenge. I often see examples of heroism fall short of their possibility. I think the biggest flaw in execution is simply not thinking. Not thinking past the stereotypes and plots which are old as storytelling itself. Not thinking about the particular values that guide a hero, not thinking about how to engage the reader's mind... how to lead it into every point necessary to understand the reasoning behind the people and actions within the story, how to bring up the questions you want him to ask, how to project a literal vision of "what a hero is to me."

The only thing worse than this is simply thinking that all of this is implied and consciously giving no attention to it.

That's my take.

---Landon

Inking is sexy.

http://www.angelfire.com/comics/wickedlakes

Thank you Victor. Now that

JulianP's picture

Thank you Victor. Now that we're clear about what art is (thanks Marnee Smiling), I wonder if you (and anybody else) would mind elaborating a bit on how to judge a piece of art's objective, aesthetic value?

The criteria you mention are:
1. Selectivity in regard to subject: the artist must select a subject that best represents his sense of life.
2. Clarity: the artist must clearly convey his sense of life in his work.
3. Integration: every element of the artist's product must in some way enhance and relate to that work's central theme. (There is that interesting word again: Theme...)

You said that Ayn Rand considered there to be -at least- three criteria; what are the others? Perhaps it's still coming later in the book. If so, don't worry about elaborating too much.

Maybe examples would make it clearer? In the spirit of Landon's question, how would one go about analysing a piece of art using these three criteria? Examples could be from any form of art, e.g. literature, drama/film, poetry, music, dance, sculpture, painting/drawing, photography.

Cheers
Julian

Purposeless Art & Purposeless Artist

Marnee's picture

Coincidnetally, I just discovered this incident at Rule of Reason:

An artist's presentation plinth was mistaken for his actual work of art and then accepted into an exhibit when his actual peice was rejected at the Royal Academy

If that isnt argument enough that art should be "...man's metaphysical mirror." And not just any old thing such that, as Julian points out (hooray! that's what I always say), "concretising his vision of man, and of reality, is the primary purpose of an artist."

Art has been so corrupted in our institutions that now even stuff that was never even intended to be art, not the artist's purpose, is now art, and considered better than the actual peice. Bah.

By the way, and off topic a little, Julian I think you really nailed it when you defined the pupose of the artist. I always thought it was better to define the purpose of the artist as opposed to "what art is." In doing so one defines art as well as the artist and that makes it so much easier to objectively identify what is good and bad about a work of art as well as if it is indeed a work of art.

Cheers.

I'll have to look for the

JoeM's picture

I'll have to look for the reference, but it was most likely in his tell-all.

Huh?

Lindsay Perigo's picture

Giuseppe—you said:

That's also the line that Nathaniel Branden thought was too harsh...

You mean:

An artist reveals his naked soul in his work - and so, gentle reader, do you when you respond to it.

Really? How revealing, yet again! Where did he say that?

OK, some homework for everyone now, kinda in response to Landon's post. All go & listen to, as many times as you need to to thoroughly digest, Rach's Sonata Op. 19 for cello & piano. Anyone who doesn't agree with me that this is sublimity set to music will be sentenced to tongue-kissing someone truly awful & slack-jawed. An O-Liar maybe. Smiling

Gentle Solo reader...

Victor Pross's picture

An indication of a “bad sense of life” is the person who likes “Revolution 9” above anything else on the Beatles' White Album. A “good sense of life” is revealed when a person likes everything else on this album—except for Revolution 9.

Something that might be interesting

Landon Erp's picture

I think a good excercise to go with this chapter would be a compare and contrast.

Since one of the key ideas in aesthetic judgement is how well does the artist express his view of existance it might be good to discuss one instance of an excellently executed work of art which expresses ideas each viewer here may find abhorant abhorant And contrast that against either a real or potential example of how a work of art that expressed your exact ideals could fall apart on an aesthetic execution level.

And then through discussing this, try to understand the essentials which make this possible.

I was ready to start this myself, but I need to think further through my example first. Anyone else should feel free to chime in.

---Landon

Inking is sexy.

http://www.angelfire.com/comics/wickedlakes

Linz, true headbangers don't

JoeM's picture

Linz, true headbangers don't get prickly, they take out their pitchforks and devil horns and turn it up louder and stick out their tongues!

That's also the line that Nathaniel Branden thought was too harsh...

Crunch Time!

Lindsay Perigo's picture

"An artist reveals his naked soul in his work - and so, gentle reader, do you when you respond to it."

And this is the nub of all the arguments, and all the prickliness when headbanging gets attacked! Smiling

On to chapter 3!

I'm still chewing on this epistomology thing (read IOE about 3 months ago and now reading through OPAR epistomology sections). This section in RM is what led me down to the bookstore for OPAR:

Cognitive abstractions are formed by the criterion of: what is essential?  Normative abstractions are formed by the criterion of: what is good?  Esthetic abstractions are formed by the criterion of: what is important?

I think this is the key to understanding my response to art and a tool for really seeing the art I am looking at. This chapter makes me want to run to a (real) art museum and look at things with better understanding of it. The begining of the chapter reminded me of the 'art' on the Engineering campus at the University of Michigan.

*edit for using the word understand 3 times in a sentence...*

Hi Julian

Victor Pross's picture

Chapter 3:

Art as a Concretization of Metaphysics

Just to repeat: A work of art serves no utilitarian purpose beyond human contemplation of it. Ayn Rand argues that good art should serve as an emotional fuel for human consciousness. In her definition, "Art is a selective re-creation of reality according to an artist's metaphysical value-judgments." A work of art thus reflects the artist's sense of life, including his sense of the universe as benevolent or malevolent. Art concretizes abstract principles back into concrete percepts that are impregnated with profound abstract meaning. Even to a person without an explicit philosophy, a work of art can still convey this profound sense of life.

Aesthetic Value as Objective

An art work can be judged by two standards: metaphysics and aesthetics. The first involves judging the artist's metaphysical sense of life and evaluating it as proper or improper. The second standard involves evaluating how well an art work actually concretizes the artist's sense of life. Ayn Rand advocated at least three principles useful in judging an art work's aesthetic value:

• Selectivity in regard to subject: the artist must select a subject that best represents his sense of life.

• Clarity: the artist must clearly convey his sense of life in his work.

• Integration: every element of the artist's product must in some way enhance and relate to that work's central theme.

Victor: Objectivist--writer--artist--nice guy

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