New Bearings in Esthetics and Art Criticism

A Study in Semantics and Evaluation

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"ART" AND "BEAUTY"                                  35
is because he is strongly inclined toward that organic view of meaning which directly prompts the use of real definitions.
Consider as further examples of Croce's linguistic methods, two comments in his Aesthetic upon beauty. In one place, he says: "We may define beauty as successful expression" ^-seemingly a permissible point of view since the comment is apparently intended as a volitional definition; yet thirty pages farther on, we learn that to call things beautiful is "a verbal paradox, because the beautiful is not a physical fact; it does not belong to things, but to the activity of man, to spiritual energy." 66 This latter quotation indicates, first that Croce's previous definition of beauty as "successful expression" is in facteven though it is introduced by the propitious yet apparently mechanical words "we may define"a real, not a volitional one, and second that, for whatever reason, he is unwilling to apply his sensible position concerning a definition of the sublime to a definition of beauty. Added proof of these facts is afforded by his astonishing words in the Encyclopaedia Britannica: "The old and only idea of what art is." 67
One capital illustration from Crocean criticism will show further weaknesses which real definitions promote. Professor Lionello Venturi who, like Croce, gives a real definition of art in terms of intuition or creative imagination, lately remarked:
The intellectual satisfaction found in geometric shapes, which Plato called beauty, has no connection with creative imagination. Mr. [Herbert] Read, unaware of this misunderstanding, writes: "The result (of cubist art) is a work giving true pleasure, in no way depending on the representation of the object, not relative to its use or associations, but always and naturally and absolutely beautiful." A cubist painting [Venturi goes on to say] does not give pleasure, nor does it appear beautiful; but even
65.  Ibid., p. 129.
66.  Ibid., p. 159.
67.  14th ed., I, 269.