New Bearings in Esthetics and Art Criticism

A Study in Semantics and Evaluation

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SUBJECTIVISM                                             121
or picture, this engaging personality, to me? Does it give me pleasure, and if so, what sort or degree of pleasure? How is my nature modified by its presence, and under its influence?' " 62 Now, while criticism of this kind may be stimulating and enlightening in the hands of a genius like Pater, it is unreveal-ing, cloying, and even exasperating in the work of an average writer like Clive Bell, as the following passage upon Raphael's "Bible" in the Vatican Loggia proves:
Let us just look at the ceiling for one moment to see whether we cannot feel the authentic touch in The Creation of Eve and The Fallfor my part I prefer them almost to Michelangelo's versions and whether we do not catch a breath of superior inspiration in the design of The Finding of Moses, David and Goliath and Bathsheba. If, perversely, you pretend rather to find a touch of David in The Judgment of Solomon I am in too good humour to protest. But I must tell you that, though I know it is wildly improbable that Raffael ever put his brush to a single one of the grotesques, I adore them all.63
In such critical theory and practice there is evidently no question of intrinsically objective standards. Upon what ground, then, do certain subjectivists claim final validity for their views? How is it that Kant and his followers considered the "judgment of taste" at once subjective and universally valid? Or that contemporary subjectivists, like Bell, talk about the "absolute value" of the "esthetic thrill"? All such opinions, which may differ considerably in appearance, are based upon the presuppositions that all superior minds are similarly constituted and that, therefore, they will or should present uniform and correct evaluations. At this point objectivism and subjectivism join hands: both theories hold that their appraisals are eternally true; both base their convictions
62.  Quoted by E. E. Kellett, Fashion in Literature, p. 20.
63.  Enjoying Pictures, p. 81.