New Bearings in Esthetics and Art Criticism

A Study in Semantics and Evaluation

Home | About | Philosphy | Contact | Search

ii4                                PROBLEMS IN EVALUATION
himself would find different meanings in it at different days and hours and in different stages of his own development/' 49 Or, to quote an even more extreme statement of this point of view by the painter-critic Roger Fry: " I'm certain that the only meanings that are worth anything in a work of art are those that the artist himself knows nothing about/ " 50 Moreover, consider as a challenge to the justice of regarding the value of the artist's appraisals as intrinsic and constant the likelihood that the points of view, hence the evaluations, of the artist and of the critic will diverge: the likelihood, as M. Focillon expresses it, that "the creator of a work of art regards his work , . . from a standpoint wholly opposite to that taken by the critic, and should he chance to use the same language in speaking of it, he does so in quite an opposite sense." 51 Besides, suppose that the artist has left no record of his purpose or the success of its fulfillment?
All such practical considerations will not, of course, disturb the objectivist. But reconsider in this connection the crucial reflections that the artist's intention is conditioned by and relative to his culture, standards, and environment and that "our estimate of those 'intentions' is inevitably influenced by our own attitude which in turn depends on our individual experiences as well as on our historical situation." 52 Thus the evaluation of the intention or of the properties given an object by this intention always bears a relation to someone: the artist or the critic. That, indeed, the only intelligible meaning
49.  Art as Experience, pp. 108-109.
50.  Virginia Woolf, Roger Fry (New York, 1940), pp. 240-241.
51.  Henri Focillon, The Life of Forms in Art, p. 1. Certain of Picasso's statements about works of art lend important confirmation to the views of Focillon and Dewey cited in this paragraph. See A. H. Barr, Jr., ed., Picasso: Forty Years of His Art (The Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1939), pp.
15> *9-
52.  Erwin Panofsky, "The History of Art as a Humanistic Discipline," The Meaning of the Humanities (Princeton, 1938), p. 105.