New Bearings in Esthetics and Art Criticism

A Study in Semantics and Evaluation

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148                            PROBLEMS IN EVALUATION
sance and of today? And conversely, is it not evident that the analyses and appraisals of formalistic critics like Fry and Bell will be better, say, concerning the painting of fifteenth century Italy and worse concerning that of fifteenth century Flanders?
Obviously, however, the relevancy of principles will directly depend upon one's total critical system. Thus the foregoing criticism of Veronese's banquet scenes will be unintelligible to anyone who does not recognize a distinction between subject matter and content, and it will be repudiated as trivial by those who consider the distinction unimportant or who appraise solely by formal standards. Or again, the estimates implied in the preceding paragraph regarding fifteenth century painting in Italy and in Flanders will be unacceptable to those critics who do not evaluate highly both the form of the Italian painting and the content of the Flemish painting. A critic, that is to say, who does not primarily treasure Antonio Pollaiuolo's profile portraits for the organization of their pattern and color, and who does not primarily treasure Rogier van der Weyden's Escorial "Crucifixion" for the profound spiritual expressiveness of Saint John's face, will obviously not agree that formalistic expert critics will be better judges of Italian than of Flemish art. Since, therefore, the application of the relevancy of standards is dependent upon an entire critical system, one should conclude that the most desirable systems are comprehensive in scope. Judged on this basis, the principles of Coomaraswamy and of Fry appear unduly restricted. Yet this kind of limitation, I suggested earlier, affects only the quantitative and not the qualitative value of a critical system. Therefore the diverse principles of Coomaraswamy and of Fry, though applicable, according to my standards, only in judging certain kinds of art, are wholly superior in their somewhat limited way.