“Art Has Been Ethics All Along”
Number 2065. September 1, 2021
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…Read more
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