New Bearings in Esthetics and Art Criticism

A Study in Semantics and Evaluation

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66
PROBLEMS IN MEANING
revelations expressed by Rembrandt's "Supper at Emmaus" in the Louvre? and in what critical terms may one best analyze the religious wonder and mystery which seem to pervade that picture? These insights and revelations, in the first place, have little, if anything, to do with verifiable facts; the question of historical accuracy, i.e., the question of perhaps the most relevant sort of "scientific truth/' is of negligible artistic interest. In the second place, the "artistic consistency" of the painting, though highly important if one is evaluating the work as a whole, may be ignored in the present context, for this consistency is not, primarily at least, in question. And in the third place, the "new observations, new interpretations, new appraisals" portrayed by Rembrandt do not merely express the artist's sincere emotions or ideas; they seem to correspond in some way, to some kind of objective actuality. Thus, though one will observe in what follows that the theory of truth as artistic insight approximates the views of Stace and Collingwood in that, like them, it stresses, as the key criterion of truth, the validity of personal reactions; nonetheless these two views are unlike in that the "sincerity" position stresses the "genuineness" of the artist3s personal reactions, whereas the "insight" position accents the "genuineness" of the meanings revealed by the work of art to qualified observers.
One may illustrate this distinction between the "sincerity" view and the "insight" view by remarking that an inferior artist may deeply feel and sincerely express artistic meanings which the judicious critic will find insipid, trivial, sentimental, and the like. Moreover, when Clive Bell remarks that Fra Angelico "is never inadequate to his problem, that of telling the truth about the emotional significance of things," 125 he is not referring to the sincerity of Fra Angelico's emotions; rather, he is affirming that painter's ability to reveal some-
125. Enjoying Pictures (New York, 1934), p. 59.