What Art Is

What Art Is

ARTHUR C. DANTO
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 192
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt32bfhx
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  • Book Info
    What Art Is
    Book Description:

    What is it to be a work of art? Renowned author and critic Arthur C. Danto addresses this fundamental, complex question. Part philosophical monograph and part memoiristic meditation,What Art Ischallenges the popular interpretation that art is an indefinable concept, instead bringing to light the properties that constitute universal meaning. Danto argues that despite varied approaches, a work of art is always defined by two essential criteria: meaning and embodiment, as well as one additional criterion contributed by the viewer: interpretation. Danto crafts his argument in an accessible manner that engages with both philosophy and art across genres and eras, beginning with Plato's definition of art inThe Republic, and continuing through the progress of art as a series of discoveries, including such innovations as perspective, chiaroscuro, and physiognomy. Danto concludes with a fascinating discussion of Andy Warhol's famous shipping cartons, which are visually indistinguishable from the everyday objects they represent.

    Throughout, Danto considers the contributions of philosophers including Descartes, Kant, and Hegel, and artists from Michelangelo and Poussin to Duchamp and Warhol, in this far-reaching examination of the interconnectivity and universality of aesthetic production.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-19511-8
    Subjects: Art & Art History, Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. PREFACE
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. CHAPTER ONE WAKEFUL DREAMS
    (pp. 1-52)

    Early in the twentieth century, beginning in France, the visual arts were revolutionized. Up until that point, they—which, unless otherwise indicated, I shall simply designateart—had been dedicated to copying visual appearances in various media. As it turned out, that project had a progressive history, which began in Italy, in the time of Giotto and Cimabue, and culminated in the Victorian era, when visual artists were able to achieve an ideal mode of representation, which the Renaissance artist Leon Battista Alberti, in hisOn Painting, defined as follows: there should be no visual difference between looking at a...

  5. CHAPTER TWO RESTORATION AND MEANING
    (pp. 53-75)

    These judgments—that the Sistine ceiling was basically a drawing and that it was essentially monochrome, like the sepia panels painted by Daumier—are reports from the past that tell us how the ceiling looked in the 1930s, when the two men spent time in Rome with the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. They tell us what the ceiling looked like before the most recent cleaning, which was approved in 1994. I visited Rome in 1996 as a guest of the American master Cy Twombly, who was enthusiastic about the restoration, which, he argued, proved that Michelangelo was truly a...

  6. CHAPTER THREE THE BODY IN PHILOSOPHY AND ART
    (pp. 76-98)

    It has twice happened to me that a piece of philosophy which I was developing about the body seemed to have a significance very different from that which had engaged my interest in the first place. The result in both instances was somewhat comical. In the 1960s, for example, I got involved with the philosophy of action. I was interested in working out the differences between two kinds of action—actions we perform by doing something else, which causes the first action to happen, and actions we simply perform, without first doing something through which the intended actions happen. Turning...

  7. CHAPTER FOUR THE END OF THE CONTEST: THE PARAGONE BETWEEN PAINTING AND PHOTOGRAPHY
    (pp. 99-115)

    Theparagone—Italian for “comparison”—was used in the Renaissance to claim the superiority of one of the arts over the others. Leonardo, for example, drew up a paragone between painting and the other arts, like poetry, music, sculpture, and architecture. The upshot was that painting emerges as superior to all the rest. The whole point of the exercise was to enhance the circumstances, social and material, of actual painters like Leonardo himself. In a way, painting was in fact the dominant art in New York when the Abstract Expressionists flourished, and while I know of no paragone that was...

  8. CHAPTER FIVE KANT AND THE WORK OF ART
    (pp. 116-134)

    Although Immanuel Kant’sCritique of Judgmentis incontestably the great Enlightenment text on the aesthetic values of that era, dealing as it does with taste and the judgment of beauty, it must for that reason seem to have little to say about art today, where good taste is optional, bad taste is artistically acceptable, and “kalliphobia”—an aversion to if not a loathing for beauty—is at least respected. Clement Greenberg claimed that Kant’s book is “the most satisfactory basis for aesthetics we yet have.” It may have been true for Modernist art—but Modernism, as a period style, more...

  9. CHAPTER SIX THE FUTURE OF AESTHETICS
    (pp. 135-156)

    A few years ago, the American Society for Aesthetics published two “call for papers” announcements on its web page, each for a conference on aesthetics as a neglected topic in the treatment of art. They were issued by two disciplines that do not ordinarily share a perspective—art history and philosophy. The organizers of each of the conferences appeared to agree that aesthetics is more central to art than either discipline had recently recognized. Art historians, according to the first call, having lately addressed art primarily from political and social points of view, are beginning to find merit in approaching...

  10. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 157-160)
  11. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. 161-164)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 165-174)