Wednesday, December 5, 2012

On Limits and Achievement

Madonna and Child, Benozzo Gozzoli, 1460

“In order to grasp what it is that is before us, we must have some notion of what the maker of the object in question has done, including some idea of the limitations, technical and conventional, within which the artist has worked. It may be perfectly true (and not necessarily obviously so) to remark that in a painting of the Madonna the pale pink of the Virgin’s robe contrast pleasantly with the light blue-gray of her cloak. But it is far from irrelevant to know that the artist may be working within a canon (as, for example, fifteenth-century Italian artists did) according to which the robe must be some shade of red, and the cloak must be blue. The demand (to juxtapose fundamentally warm and cool colors) poses difficulties for creating harmony between robe and cloak, in the face of which [different artists do different things]. To say that [their] resulting assemblage of colors is pleasant may, again, be true enough; a fuller appreciation and understanding, however, would involve recognizing how that pleasant harmony is a response to a problematic demand put upon the artist.” (1)

“The value of art is in the achievement, the discovery. In imitation, there is no discovery; nothing is achieved and so there is nothing of value.” (2)

1. Denis Dutton, “Artistic Crimes”, pp172-187
2. Leonard B. Meyer, “Forgery and the Anthropology of Art”, pp 77-92
 in The Forger’s Art: Forgery and the Philosophy of Art
Denis Dutton, ed. Berkeley, 1983

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