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What Is The Expression Theory Of Art

Essay, Research Paper

Art has evolved and regenerated itself many times during our human existence. These differences are defined through changes in styles under various theories. During the nineteenth and early twentieth century, a style known as Expressionism became popular. During this movement the artists were trying to use their artwork as a tool of expression toward life. It was mainly dominant in the nonrepresentational arts, such as abstract visual arts and music. It also was probably one of the most difficult movements to understand because the whole point of the piece lay within the artist. Not only was it a movement, it defined the act of art as a whole. From the beginning of time, each work of art, excluding replicas, show a way of expressing one’s self. Every artist puts a piece of his or herself into their artwork. Who really is to determine what that work of art was meant to express?

One might ask, "Since most artwork is used as a way for an artist to express him or herself, what makes this expression period anything special?" On the general level "Expressionistic art, whether literature, painting, music, or cinema, often involves intense psychic disturbance and distortion in the perspective adopted by the artwork." "It is remote from the objective or realistic portrayals of the world, as well as from the happier emotions." To bring a more defined meaning to the overall theory of expressionism, two philosophers play a large role. The first notarized expressionistic philosopher was the Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy who was followed by his counterpart R.G. Collingwood: a twentieth-century English philosopher. Together they hold the two best known expositions of the expression theory.

What make these two analyzers important is not what they agreed on, but rather on how they contrasted. They both conclude that during the expression theory, the main concern was to express emotion. The one question that draws the two apart is "What does it mean to express an emotion?" They attempt to conclude this question, by providing the answers to a few others. What the nature of art is? Why we make and appreciate art? Why the arts are so valuable?

The best way to go about describing their thoughts is to state one of the thinkers discoveries followed by a thorough investigation of the second’s, beginning with Leo Tolstoy. He begins his argument by trying to decide what is the value of art? How do we determine its value to the public, since art is a social aspect of life? For Tolstoy, the value of art comes from the function art serves in society and in human historical development. Art appears in everything that lives and should have the force to bring people together as a community. For him expressionism in art is a means of communication, in such as a language. Therefore, language can be described as a form of art under the theory of expressionism. Speech transmits the thoughts and experiences of mankind, serving as a means of expression among them; art also acts in a similar manner by sharing emotions. If people could not be affected by art, we would still be in the era of savagery. Referring back to the author of our book, John Fisher, emotional communication is essential to art. Fisher also states that too much harnessed emotion will tend to lower the value of art.

What can we define as art and what can we exclude? For Tolstoy, a piece to be considered art must surpass a few requirements. First, the piece of work must express deep and unique feeling and emotion. Second, the artist must intentionally produce an external artwork, which transmits feeling and emotions to the audience. Finally, the artwork must portray the same emotions that the author intended. The only one of these that can fall short of being perfect, is the final one, for which in this case, the artwork is just considered unsuccessful. Here the objective reality is the inner feelings of the artist to be communicated to the external receptor through the piece of art. It all centralizes to emotions vs. non-art.

Using the chain link format, fitted with Tolstoy’s theory, the Nature of Art can be split into extending categories. Under Tolstoy’s theory, the immediate Nature of Art would be the intuitive expression impact the work has over the audience. Following, would be the artist’s feelings and the art’s universality. Here the value of art is in its enrichment of man culturally. If you view this all in a combined sense, art equals language, which equals the sharing of our emotional lives. Therefore there is an external objective that needs to be viewed by our senses unintentionally. This is how the artist and the audience becomes one. An example of this could be shown through music. If you put music into a three stage event, you would have the musician (who is expressing the externalized formulation), then the music as reflective emotions (the artwork), and finally the audience (the expressive emotion). Tolstoy views the arousal view as requiring prior knowledge of their own emotions before expressing them, not spontaneous. This leads to emotional understanding vs. intellectual understanding.

Collingwood’s theory on the other hand states sees the expression of art in the exploration of disposition and emotional experience from a particular perspective; the experience of art is neither the calculated arousal of emotion in an audience nor the pre-established formulization of culture. Collingwood sees real emotion as individual and contextual. This concept conflicts with the arousal methods that are planned. For him, both the artist and the audience are equals. For Tolstoy the audience is essential to expression. Collingwood sees expression as a relationship between the artist’s feelings and the artwork. The audience is not necessary for the artist to express his or her emotions. Collingwood has a theory of his own, which he calls Corruption’s of Consciousness. Here the emotion is not honest and understood as a statement by the artist or with the audience that does not want to willingly experience the emotion. Art can also be individualistic, where any gesture or efforts by anyone at any given time if conceived and understood in a correct manner can be considered art.

Are emotions the creator of art? For a piece of artwork to be successful, does everyone in the audience have to feel the same emotions? Can one have negative emotions toward a work and it still be considered art? For Collingwood the same artwork can have different expressive qualities. For example, the same work of art can share expressive qualities of gaiety, melancholy, and anxiety. It can be forceful and even portray serenity. These different emotions are necessary in order to make moral assessments of the world. For this art acts as a metaphor, which needs not express deep feelings in order to be successful. Feelings are relative to emotions, which are either true or false.

As Jerrold Levingson points out, " there is a paradox in supposing that we experience real emotions when we experience artworks." "Many of the emotions identified with artworks are unpleasant." "Why would we seek out these emotions in art if we avoid them in real life?"" "Yet we do seek out artworks that involve negative emotions." "This paradox constitutes an objection to Tolstoy’s version of expression theory since Tolstoy does propose that genuine art actually moves the audience to feel the emotions that the artist attempts to convey." You can divide Levinson’s emotional theory into two separate components: the cognitive and the effectual. The cognitive would be initiated with belief, followed by one’s attitude and desire and then finally evaluated. The effectual components are the comprehensive feelings that occur; these are correspondent real life events. "If the music does not evoke a real emotional response in a listener, according to this school of thought, this response should be considered inappropriate."

No matter whose view you take they all have their faults. Making a theory on art is not the same as making a theory in science. With science you have guidelines that can be proven. There are very few guidelines in art that can be backed up by fact. The ideal of defining a theory in art is based on emotions as well. Both Tolstoy and Collingwood are using their emotions in order to judge other emotions. If I were forced to pick a philosopher to side with, I would probably lean toward Collingwood, since he leaves more area for variety. He places more of the wealth of the emotional art within the artist themselves rather than a third party. If it were totally up to me I would leave the decision on whether a work is good or not between the artist and whomever was viewing it at that time. What I might think as a good piece of work and what might evoke emotions in me might not do the same for another who might consider themselves experts, but does that really make my opinion less valuable?




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