New Bearings in Esthetics and Art Criticism

A Study in Semantics and Evaluation

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OBJECTIVISM                                         ioi
whereas the late Renaissance with its notorious interest In scientific investigation praises Leonardo's technical skill and fidelity to nature, the nineteenth century with its new conception of woman praises the mysterious and enigmatic character of Leonardo's interpretation. In the case of Tintoretto, whose general critical rating through the centuries is notable for its consistency rather than for its fluctuation, some critics (e.g., Ruskin) value his art for its dramatic and religious expressiveness, whereas other critics (e.g., Pittaluga) challenge the artistic importance of this content and insist that Tintoretto .should rather be praised for his original and remarkable use of light.20 This obvious yet frequently neglected fact of the existence of diverse kinds of appraisals may be further illustrated by these remarks about Milton:
You cannot miss his grandeur. And yet it is clear that hardly two people can read him in the same way. He makes one appeal to the ignorant, another to the fairly well-read, another to the profoundly learned: one to the student of Homer, another to the Dante-enthusiast, another to the "correct" Frenchman who is steeped in Racine: yet another, may I add, to Mr. T. S. Eliot? For even Mr. Eliot, amid all his depreciation of Milton, reveals that he is somehow conscious of the poet's greatness.21
In extreme cases of diverse judgments, objects once valued chiefly as utilitarian productions have become, for later cultures, solely esthetic objectsmuseum pieces. Examples would be African spoons and fetishes or the majority of Italian Renaissance drawings. Even if It is true that the spoons and fetishes were created for their beauty as much as for their efficiency, esthetic considerations were surely once less domi-
20.  Mary Pittaluga, II Tintoretto (Bologna, 1925). On pages 109-167 the author gives a most interesting historical account of the criticism of Tintoretto.
21.  E. E. Kellett, Fashion in Literature (London, 1931), pp. 55~56-