New Bearings in Esthetics and Art Criticism

A Study in Semantics and Evaluation

Home | About | Philosphy | Contact | Search

"ARTISTIC TRUTH"                                    79
ings of subsidiary moment and stresses the necessity of correspondence between these meanings and some objective actuality, whereas the criterion of artistic significance reverses the import of these ideas.
Since "truth" as artistic insight is the mode which is most likely to be confused with artistic significance, it is perhaps worth pointing to the separation between the two which is clearly implied in Clive Bell's reference, already quoted, to Fra Angelico's characteristic of "telling the truth about the emotional significance of things"; and it is noteworthy that Greene carefully distinguishes between the concepts of artistic truth and artistic significance and devotes a separate chapter to an extensive analysis of each. By contrast, Langer's claims that artistic truth has "degrees" and that it is "all significance, expressiveness, articulateness," 146 are confusing; in these claims she is guilty, I believe, of doing precisely what she has previously condemned in others: namely, ill-defining artistic truth.
Before considering this standard of artistic significance at greater length, I must state, briefly, in just what sense I intend throughout this book to use the slippery words "content" and "form." By "content" I refer to the innumerable moods which art objects express: for example, the "energy and power" of a baroque facade, the "poignant sadness" of Detente sculpture, the "dignity and aristocracy" of Velasquez' portraits. So defined, content is something totally different from the non-esthetic factor of subject matter. Thus the "Last Supper" as a theme is subject matter which has been interpreted and artistically expressed in many different ways. Content, in short, is synonymous with artistic expression. By "form" I refer, in a broadly inclusive sense, to the organization, ordering, or relationships of elements in art objects. This organization will include such artistic constituents as balance, symmetry, and rhythm; and we may call such ele-
146. Philosophy in a New Key, p. 263.