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Three Theories of Art Essay

Custom Student Mr. Teacher ENG 1001-04 5 June 2017

Three Theories of Art

Harold Osborne (Aesthetics and Art Theory) identified three basic ways in which we can think about works of art. In the simplest sense, a work of art has certain physical properties. It is made of a material (e. g. , wood, marble, clay, paint on canvas, ink on paper) which possesses texture, contains shapes, occupies a portion of space, reflects certain colors, and is apprehended over time. In addition, these colors, textures, and shapes are organized together in a certain way.

These material and organizational qualities of a work of art are called its formal properties, and discussion about the value of art from this perspective is to consider a formal theory of art. Secondly, art uses its formal properties to present itself in certain basic ways. For example, art which serves as a copy of reality is described as “realistic” or “naturalistic. ” Art which presents an improved version of an existing reality is called “idealistic. ” Though in the recent past in the West we’ve shown a bias for naturalistic art, some art doesn’t mimic reality, and this kind of art we call “abstract.

” Discussion of a work of art within the context of realism and abstraction is to participate in a presentational theory of art. Throughout history works of art have typically served a purpose, they’ve served as instruments to accomplish these purposes. For example, art has served to indoctrinate people about the importance of particular political and religious personages and beliefs. When we talk about art in terms of acting on behalf of a purpose, Osborne says we’re working within an instrumental theory of art. All works of art offer formal, presentational and instrumental qualities.

These categories become the framework for the analysis of works of art. To assist in their application to a work of art, listed below are words, expressions and responses typical to each category. Formal Theory: Terms: Form: shape, size, location, scale, texture, visual clarity Color: harmony/dissonance, properties of light/illumination Design: balance, symmetry/asymmetry, order, unity, proportion, geometric/organic Emotional responses to attributes listed above: a beautiful color, a beautiful combination of shapes and colors; a feeling of awe in response to the scale, mass, symmetry of a building.

Response is primarily emotional. Cognitive responses: Comparison of art and nature (e. g. , pattern in art and nature); comparison of different works of art in formal terms. Presentational Theory: Terms: Realism, naturalism, idealism, illusion, representation, architectonic, abstraction, style, stylized, decorative, connoisseurship/taste Emotional responses to the attributes listed above: the perfectly beautiful body of the Greek goddess; delight in the quality of illusion. Cognitive responses to the above attributes: assessment of the accuracy of representation; comparison to other art of this type. Instrumental Theory:

Terms: Craft, communication of personal ideas and emotions, communication of social (moral, political, religious) values, narrative, iconography, education, magic and ritual, vicarious experience, art-for-art’s sake Emotional responses to attributes listed above: beautifully crafted piece; empathic reaction to artist’s expression; enjoyment of the vicarious experience of a realistic presentation. Cognitive responses to the above attributes: insight into reality; understanding social values, historical events and characters. There is a prominence of cognition in this category because of the communication of ideas.

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