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Meaning of Modern Art


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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

That modern art is different from earlier art is so obvious as to be hardly worth mentioning. Yet there is little agreement as to the meaning or the importance of this difference. Indeed, contemporary aestheticians, especially, seem to feel that modern art does not depart in any essential way from the art of the past. One reason for this view is that, with the exception of Marxism, the leading philosophical schools today are ahistorical in orientation. This is as true of phenomenology and existentialism as it is of contepmorary analytic philosophy. As a result there have been few attempts by philosophers to understand the meaning of the history of art--an understanding fundamental to any grasp of the difference between modern art and its predecessors.

Art expresses an ideal image of man, and an essential part of understanding the meaning of a work of art is understanding this image. When the ideal image changes, art, too, must change. It is thus possible to look at the emergence of modern art as a function of the disintegration of the Platonic-Christian conception of man. The artist no longer has an obvious, generally accepted route to follow. One sign of this is that there is no one style today comparable to Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, or Baroque. This lack of direction has given the artist a new freedom. Today there is a great variety of answers to the question, "What is art?" Such variety, however, betrays an uncertainty about the meaning of art. An uneasiness about the meaning of art has led modern artists to enter into dialogue with art historians, psychologists and philosophers. Perhaps this interpretation can contribute to that dialogue.--Excerpted from the author's preface


Originally published in 1968, Karsten Harries's classic work provides a philosophical understanding of how modern art differs fundamentally from the art of earlier periods.

About the Author

Karsten Harries is Howard H. Newman Professor of Philosophy at Yale University.

Table of Contents


Part I: Historical Introduction

1. Christian Backgrounds

2. The Cartesian Tradition

3. Classicism

4. The Beautiful and the Sublime

Part II: The Aesthetics of Subjectivity

5. The Search for the Interesting

6. Negation, Abstraction, and Construction

7. Kitsch

8. The Demonization of Sensuousness

9. The Search for Immediacy

10. The Veil of Isis

11. Art and Psychoanalysis

12. The New Realism

13. Realism and Kitsch

14. Conclusion: Beyond Modern Art


Product Details

Harries, Karsten
Northwestern University Press
Criticism -- Theory.
Art-Theory and Criticism
Edition Description:
Studies in Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy
Publication Date:
9 x 6 in

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Related Subjects

Arts and Entertainment » Art » Style and Design
Arts and Entertainment » Art » Theory and Criticism
History and Social Science » World History » General
Humanities » Philosophy » Aesthetics

Meaning of Modern Art New Trade Paper
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Originally published in 1968, Karsten Harries's classic work provides a philosophical understanding of how modern art differs fundamentally from the art of earlier periods.
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