“All art is quite useless”. This statement of Oscar Wilde is in his “Preface to The Picture of Dorian Gray”, which expresses one of the central aspects of the idea of Art for Art’s Sake: art shall have no other aim than being art and it should be protected from subordination to any moral, didactic, social or political purpose.
In his essay “Le Question de l’Art pour l’Art”, M. Stapfer makes two assumptions on the character of the idea: Firstly, that it is “perpetually and recurrent and eternally insoluble” and secondly, that the movement was “French in character and origin”.
Frenchman Théophile Gautier is said to have first used the term in regard to its actual meaning. Although he did not use the phrase “‘l’artwork pour l’artwork” itself, the preface to his novel “Madmoiselle de Maupin” remains to be regarded as probably the most essential manifestos of this idea. M. Cassagne holds the opinion that the movement in France developed as a response to the ethical values of the bourgeoisie, in addition to to humanitarianism. Artists, frustrated and dissatisfied with politics, religion and society, started to withdraw into aesthetic isolation and to propagate the independence of art.
In the nineteenth century, it was widely considered that art had both to idealize life within the manner of the Idealists or the Romantics, to criticize it or merely to present it, just like the Realists did. John Ruskin, for instance, thought of art to be means to external, primarily didactic purposes. He, just like we’ll hear from the aesthetic writers, appreciated the beauty of art. But for him magnificence and the great thing about art wasn’t end in themselves. So for him art was beautiful, if its consumers have discovered or understood something by the assistance of it, in different words, if it had a didactic impact.
Why Art for Art’s Sake Became the Necessity?
Socially and traditionally the Art for Art’s Sake Movement is embedded in an age of great changes in all areas of life primarily attributable to the Industrial Revolution. First of all it introduced the end of the medieval feudal system with its kind of “compact and cohesive” structure of life and little cause for the emergence of particular groups with a powerful sense of identity and of their opposition to different groups. Artists didn’t have to justify themselves and their actions. Due to industrialization and specialization in all domains of life, separate groups with separate mentalities developed. Artists started to treat themselves as such, having certain rights and obligations. So the development of Art for Art’s Sake must be seen within the context of the movement to pluralism.
Secondly, the Industrial Revolution brought in an acceleration of social change. With the expansion of the middle class not solely social issues got here alongside, but additionally, a change within the literary market. From 1800 onwards, artists were no longer depending on aristocratic or upper class patrons. Instead they were usually compelled to jot down what the public needed to read. One impact was the differentiation between real art and mass production or trivial literature, one other was a change within the relationship between the artist and his public. The writers no longer wrote for the aristocratic classes or for noblemen, whom that they had handled with respect, addressing any individual superior to them in rank, however for social or mental inferiors.
Thirdly, the Industrial Revolution made ugliness, destruction of nature, urbanization and overpopulation permanent features of life in cities. Artists, who felt to be devoted to nature and sweetness, had been quickly depressed and frustrated by this unaesthetic environment of living. The Romantic writers started to react by fleeing into different, imaginative worlds to escape from actuality. They appreciated what industrialization had started to destroy: nature, magnificence, sensitivity.
A fourth consequence was the spread of the Benthamist Utilitarianism and the scientific mentality. The emphasis was placed on material, useful and sensible elements of life. Everything was judged by its utility and its material benefit.
This perspective had critical consequences to religion. As religion is one thing invisible and the existence of God couldn’t be proved by scientific means, individuals now no longer certain about his existence. The gap produced by the weakening of the church and religious believes was usually full of even stricter ethical values, which may very well be undermined by philosophic principle. Religion appeared no longer appropriate as a foundation for all times, instead the explicit crucial and ethical values based mostly on philosophy became essential. The aesthetic writers were capable of producing one thing fascinating and the decadents had been capable of shocking with their works. The response to those circumstances and the dealing with the lack of sense in life is characteristic of all literature of the nineteenth century.
The adherents of Art for Art’s Sake tried to fully flip their back on society, politics, morality and every thing aside from art. They claimed a whole separation of art and life.
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