Experience of Arts

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Experiences of Art: Reflections on Masterpieces is a critique of art history that takes historical inquiry beyond the level of recited facts to new insights drawn from a thematic approach to selected periods in the history of art. The book examines the origins of human creativity in prehistoric art and recounts the stories of discovery by prehistorians, who had a passion for the origins of art. The chapter seeks to recapture the same mystery and fascination with humankind’s beginnings that characterized their lives and writings about prehistoric art. Classical antiquity is another major epoch of exploration in the book and is devoted to an investigation of the word “classical” both as it was defined in antiquity and what its heritage means to people today. Classicism acquired a very problematic status in the middle of the 20th-century through the rise of fascism in German and Italy but is still very much part of the legacy of the Western cultures reaching back to antiquity. The chapter seeks to inquire into what remains of the classical tradition today, if anything at all. An earlier generation of scholars eagerly examined a corpus of Renaissance art theory, offering some of it in translation, but unlike the previous work, this book actually applies the concepts of a major debate in art theory revolving around color and design to actual famous masterpieces. The chapter recites famous quotations from Renaissance art theorists around students’ insights into works of art. The fourth chapter provides a thorough investigation of a paradoxical situation running throughout the “Age of Reason” of the 18th century, showing that beginning from the time of Louis XIV to the Romantic period, there were actually conflicting tendencies between rationalism and anti-rationalism. The chapter investigates art through the fabric of history, philosophy, and literature. The final chapter on modern art begins with van Gogh, the first artist who pursued art as a means of self-fulfillment and self-expression and thereafter unravels the history of modernism’s dialectic between artists’ creative selves and their relationship to the world around them. The chapter resumes the theme of the crisis of the Enlightenment from the previous chapter, leaving the reader with an impression of how a crisis of subjectivity has manifested itself in art since the beginnings of modernity to contemporary day times.