Jeffrey Carduner, Aesthetic Realism consultant, writes:
People have loved works of art, and have returned to look at paintings again and again. But they haven’t known that all art is about themselves too, their own lives. And people haven’t seen that what makes for the beauty in art is ethical: that art has answers to the most difficult questions about good and evil—answers we need urgently right now! Aesthetic Realism, founded by Eli Siegel, is the philosophy that shows this—and you’ll be thrilled and educated as you read “Art Has Been Ethics All Along,” the magnificent new issue of The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known.
The commentary by Ellen Reiss begins:
Dear Unknown Friends:
We are serializing How Aesthetic Realism Sees Art, a landmark lecture Eli Siegel gave in January 1956. In it, he illustrates that new way of seeing art and its relation to everyone’s life which is the basis of Aesthetic Realism: “All beauty is a making one of opposites, and the making one of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves.”
We’ve reached the third part of our serialization. As I described in the previous two issues: less than a year before this talk, the Terrain Gallery had opened, a gallery based then—and excitingly, freshly, powerfully all the years since—on the great principle just quoted. And simultaneous with its opening was the publication of Eli Siegel’s Fifteen Questions, Is Beauty the Making One of Opposites? The month prior to this lecture, Is Beauty was reprinted in The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism. And now, in January 1956, Mr. Siegel is speaking, in this talk, to working artists, some of them students of Aesthetic Realism, others not. To illustrate what art fundamentally is, he quotes contemporary reviewers and also statements made in previous centuries.
What I have just written is background. But I cannot resist saying again, as a person who has looked closely at the subject: Yes, what makes a thing beautiful, what distinguishes art from not-art, has been defined at last, after all the many centuries; and it has been defined by Eli Siegel. Further, the relation of beauty to our own hoping, tumultuous lives has been explained. We are trying to do what art does: make a one of intellect and emotion; truth and imagination; order and freedom; our individual self and our relation to thousands of things, happenings, people, a whole world not ourselves.
Titian: Art and Ethics
Some days ago, there appeared in the New York Times an article that I see as important. It is important because it raises newly, for our own time, a question that has been present in art history. It was much present in the 19th century, and John Ruskin and Walter Pater stood notably for disagreement about it. The question is: what is the relation between art and morality, beauty and ethics? In the Times of August 12, art critic Holland Cotter writes about an exhibition at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. It features, he writes,
a cycle of six monumental oil paintings of mythological scenes that Titian, who died in Venice in 1576, produced, late in his career….Purely in terms of formal innovation and historical influence, great is what this art is….Yet the same exhibition raises troubling questions about how, in art from the distant past viewed through the lens of the political present, aesthetics and ethics can clash.
One of the paintings, the one Mr. Cotter discusses most, is The Rape of Europa. He calls it “Titian’s superlative creation,” yet he says:
Its theme—a young woman…is abducted and forcibly impregnated by a god in disguise—can’t help but put us on red alerts today….In fact, the whole cycle, with its repeated images of gender-based power plays and exposed female flesh, invites #MeToo evaluation, and raises doubts about whether any art, however “great,” can be considered exempt from moral scrutiny.
Aesthetic Realism is very clear about this mightily important subject: if something is real art, it is also real ethics—whatever its subject matter….Read more