Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art Criticismby Jerome Stolnitz

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  • Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art Criticism by Jerome StolnitzReview by: Richard KuhnsThe Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Vol. 19, No. 3 (Spring, 1961), pp. 351-352Published by: Wiley on behalf of The American Society for AestheticsStable URL: .Accessed: 19/12/2014 18:25

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  • Reviews 351

    figures in Christian narrative and, conversely, by illustrating ancient texts in contemporary style. In the fourteenth century renascence trends were all submerged in the North by the late Gothic style, while Italy produced in Giotto, Duccio, and others, what Vasari called "the first

    lights in the art of painting." A great part of the chapter on I primi lumi

    is devoted to explaining the creation of a

    "picture space" which gives the illusion of ex-

    tending beyond the picture plane like a view

    through a window; this involves a review of

    Panofsky's famous studies on the history of per- spective. The passage (pp. 118-144), is fascinat-

    ing in itself but is perhaps overemphasized in this context, since it interprets Giotto and Duc- cio chiefly in terms of their contribution to a fifteenth century ideal, to the detriment of, for

    example, their astounding dramatic and nar- rative powers that the Quattrocento (the old Donatello excepted) disprized. The chapter also has a unique study of the few examples of an-

    tique influence in the fourteenth century. The concluding lecture, starting with an in-

    genious comparison of Quattrocento art in Flan- ders and in Italy, suggests that a major problem in Italian painting was the conflict between clas- sical settings (influenced by the new architectural

    style) and non-classical figures. Panofsky poses the paradox that the classicizing of the figures by Mantegna and Pollaiuolo begins at the peak of Flemish influence in Italy, though the Northern- ers were non-, even anti-classical before 1500. To- ward the close of the century a new interest in ancient sources (Botticelli's and Piero di Cosimo's

    mythologies) combining with the rise of Neo- Platonism-which tended to fuse ("decompart- mentalize") the several branches of learning and the arts and to reconcile ancient and Christian traditions-led the way to the monumental clas- sic art of the early Cinquecento.

    We find in the Preface that the volume rep- resents only half of the lectures delivered in Sweden: a compromise forced on the author- who has expanded the surviving lectures with astounding riches of documentation-by the hopeless task of keeping up with the vast litera- ture in the "Renaissance problem." This ex- plains a certain inconclusiveness in the argu- ment: its principal theses really need the support of chapters on Leonardo, Diirer, the six- teenth century, or whatever subjects constituted the text as originallv read. I can imagine how painful this decision must have been for a writer distinguished for his Renaissance completeness and perfection of structure. But the most search- ing minds of the Renaissance left jobs un- finished, too. and many of these we treasure

    with gratitude for whatever portion of them is

    preserved. JAMES S. ACKERMAN

    JAMES S. ACKERMAN is professor of art history at Harvard University.

    STOLNI'Z, JEROME. Aesthetics and Philosophy of Art Criticism. Boston, 1960 Houghton Mifflin, pp. x + 510, 27 pls., $6.95.

    The simplest way to characterize this book is to

    say that it is a plenum. There is hardly a prob- lem of art criticism which is not represented by at least two different approaches, and several

    problems are dealt with by exhibiting all the analytical moves that can be made in the game of pedagogical exegesis. Professor Stolnitz has assiduously combed the literature, organized the

    subject of inquiry into headings and sub-head-

    ings, provided helpful bibliographies and lists of questions at the end of every chapter. He is indefatigable, serious, and sound. Yet one wonders what to make of the book; more to the

    point, perhaps, how to use the book. 'he student who followed this text would

    first be told that the study of aesthetics is worth while because all of the reasons against studying aesthetics turn out to be ill-founded. Aesthetics, it is argued, is an independent inquiry, can enliven our interest in art, and is capable of arriving at reasonably secure conclusions. The student is warned to give up beliefs not sup- ported by evidence, to be empirical, curious, and systematic. Why is it that as I read the admirably cautious introduction I longed for an extrava- g:ant, colorful generalization "from the top dowIn?"

    In conformity with the dialectic of modern aesthetics, Part I is devoted to "The Aesthetic Experience." Following that the student is led through "The Nature of Art"; "The Structure of Art: problems of Ugliness, Truth, and Mo- rality in art"; "The Evaluation of Art"; and finally "The Criticism of Art." The same pat- tern of argument marks each section: leading theories and statements, their strengths and weaknesses noted, are carefully set forth. At the conclusion the author contributes a statement of his own. Here is an example which illustrates the approach to criticism of this book:

    We have analyzed "imitation"-theory, form- alism, emotionalism, and "fineness"-theory in order to learn their answers to two ques- tions chiefly: (1) Which properties distinguish "works of fine art" from other objects and specifically from other art-objects? (2) What characteristics of aesthetic experience are most important to its value?

    And now, at the conclusion of our study,

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  • 352 REVIE W S

    one question will naturally arise: which one of the theories gives us the true answer to these questions?

    In a very real sense, the reader can and must decide this for himself. Perhaps you have already done so. It may well be that you have decided that one theory presents a sound and adequate conception of art and aesthetic ex- perience. If so, you should be prepared to justify your opinion. A belief is rational only when objective evidence can be adduced on its behalf. You should therefore be prepared to show how the chief concepts of the theory are grounded upon the facts of art, artistic creation, and aesthetic perception....

    Whether the reader has or has not come to a conclusion, I now want to offer for his consideration a different kind of conclusion.

    Now the first important conclusion to which, I think, the argument has led, is this: no single one of the theories of art and aes- thetic experience is completely adequate and comprehensive. (pp. 200-201)

    The author then points out the errors to be found in each theory and concludes:

    Each theory lends itself readily to the analy- sis of a certain kind or style of art-"essence" and "ideal"-theory to neoclassic art, formalism to abstract art, and emotionalism to Romantic art. But the explanatory power of these theo- ries cannot be compartmentalized according to periods in the history of art. Often a theory can be turned upon art of an earlier epoch with fruitful results.... Moreover, one and the same art-object can be interpreted by two conflicting theories. They will, of course, point up different features of the work and they will "read" it differently. But most important works of art are so rich and wear so many dif- ferent faces that both of these opposing in- terpretations can be legitimate and aesthetic- ally rewarding................ .......... Once again, the conclusion is impressed upon us that we must accept and work with a num- ber of irreducible theories. (pp. 206-207) It can be seen from the above passages that

    there are many central issues that need careful analysis, e.g. the difference between an interpre- tation and a theory. This is but one example of confusions which mar the book. But it is meant to be a text for introductory courses in aesthetics and art criticism, and therefore it is important to ask whether it meets a need. What would be gained from using it? All the ma- terials necessary for the course are in the book; but that can have the unfortunate consequence of keeping the student away from the primary sources. The historical and systematic dialectic

    of positions is exhibited; but that often makes philosophy into an obstacle course, as Stephen Spender complained. A fundamental student obligation is the mapping and organizing of in- quiries already made; a most valuable teacher activity is the proposing and defending of im- aginative hypotheses. A book of this kind would relieve both student and teacher of their most difficult and central tasks.

    Professor Stolnitz has made permanent the kinds of things he has done in his classes; his students have been most fortunate, and other teachers can learn a great deal from what he has thought. It seems to me that this book is most useful as an "inspirational journal" for teachers; it has no place as a textbook for stu- dents.


    RICHARD KUHNS is assistant professor of philoso- phy at Columbia University.

    NEUMEYER, ALFRED. Glanz des Schonen. Ge-

    sprdche mit Bildern. Heidelberg, 1959, Lam- bert Schneider, pp. 115, 37 ills., DM. 19.80.

    In the humanities the scientist faces the su- preme test when he attempts to give an account of an individual case: one period, one person, one work. Can he remain faithful to his cate- gories, yet do justice to the substance of the tangibly real? The art historian Hans Sedlmayr in his recent Kunst und Wahrheit (1958) re- minds us that one must "have" the work of art in order to investigate it, that is, one must ade- quately perceive what one is to interpret; and he asserts that at the present stage of Kunstwis- senschaft "nothing is so important as an im- proved understanding of the particular work of art, and nowhere does the existing science of art fail so completely as in regard to this task."

    The ease with which Dr. Neumeyer passes the test is a privilege of mature scholarship and pedagogy. He has learned to "see," and the re- vealing historical facts and anecdotes lie al- ways ready to hand. He searches for the core of each work, and to this core his analysis of form strictly relates. His twenty-eight examples, reach- ing from a painting on a Greek bowl to a late Klee, are not intended to represent the various facets of the history of art-although Neumeyer does much fine teaching as he goes along-nor to suit the modern taste. The title of the book is meant to be a reference to claritas, that splendor or radiance which, according to Aquinas, must be added to integritas and consonantia in order to produce beauty. The author asserts that "un- til our own days painting mostly proclaimed the holy and the beautiful," and the style of his selection is classic.

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    Article Contentsp. 351p. 352

    Issue Table of ContentsThe Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Vol. 19, No. 3 (Spring, 1961), pp. 253-386Front Matter [pp. 369-380]Some Aspects of Baroque Landscape in French Poetry of the Early Seventeenth Century [pp. 253-261]The Iconology of Style (Or Wlfflin Reconsidered) [pp. 263-273]Meanings of Baroque [pp. 275-287]Indian Poetics [pp. 289-294]The Question of a Judaic Aesthetic in Ancient Synagogue Art [pp. 295-304]Evolutionary Ideas in Late Nineteenth. Century English and American Literary Criticism [pp. 305-310]Time in Film and Fiction [pp. 311-315]Contextualist Theory and Criticism as a Social Act [pp. 317-325]George Lansing Raymond's Comparative Aesthetics [pp. 327-337]The Composer's Machine [pp. 339-345]Letters Pro and Con [pp. 347-348]ReviewsReview: untitled [pp. 349-350]Review: untitled [pp. 350-351]Review: untitled [pp. 351-352]Review: untitled [pp. 352-353]Review: untitled [pp. 353-354]Review: untitled [p. 354]Review: untitled [pp. 354-356]Review: untitled [pp. 356-357]Review: untitled [p. 357]Review: untitled [pp. 357-358]Review: untitled [pp. 358-359]Review: untitled [pp. 359-360]Review: untitled [pp. 360-361]Review: untitled [pp. 361-362]Review: untitled [p. 362]Review: untitled [pp. 362-363]Review: untitled [p. 363]Review: untitled [pp. 363-364]Review: untitled [p. 364]Review: untitled [pp. 364-365]Review: untitled [p. 365]Review: untitled [p. 365]Review: untitled [pp. 365-366]

    Review: Articles of Interest [pp. 367-368]Notes and News [pp. 381-382]International News and Correspondence [pp. 383-386]Back Matter