New Bearings in Esthetics and Art Criticism

A Study in Semantics and Evaluation

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ments of form "formal." But artistic form or organization need not be restricted to these elements; the concept may refer also to the ordering of such "associated" elements in the realm of artistic expression as action, character, and setting.147 In this case, we have associative, rather than formal (or "plastic") form. Associative form is also organization, but it is an organization of elements which pertain to the content. At this point, then, content and form become mutually dependent. And it is true, moreover, that all aspects of formformal as well as associativelead directly to, encourage, and stimulate the expressive possibilities of works of artas, for example, when the compositional rhythmic ordering of a Rubens helps to communicate a mood of exuberant vitality. Form and content, therefore, are tightly linked; yet, since they are basically distinguishable, these two fundamental artistic categories may profitably be differentiated and even considered separately.148 We may now explain artistic significance a bit further by listing certain general facts about it and by citing a number of monuments to illustrate it. The general facts are: (i) The
147.  For an admirable elucidation of "associative form," the reader should consult Abell, Representation and Form, chap. vi.
148.  Although many people believe that such categories of analysis are unnecessary, cumbersome, arbitrary, and misleading, I hold that, while form and content truly interpenetrate and while works of art are specific and unified creations wThich should always be experienced in all their concreteness and individuality, nevertheless a systematic analytical approach which breaks up art objects into constituent elements is a valid and valuable method of thoroughly understanding the works in question. Indeed, "the very word criticism, deriving ultimately from a Greek verb meaning to separate, suggests that the natural, perhaps the inevitable, method of criticizing is to consider separable parts or elements in a poem or picture" (D. A. Stauffer, "Introduction," The Intent of the Critic, p. 22). There is evidence, moreover, that great artists sometimes consciously dissociate content and form. Consider, for example, the following remark of Henry James: "It is a familiar truth to the novelist, at the strenuous hour, that, as certain elements in any work are of the essence, so others are only of the form; that as this or that character, this or that disposition of the material, belongs to the subject directly, so to speak, so this or that other belongs to it but indirectlybelongs intimately to the treatment" (The Art of the Novel, p. 53).