Category Archive 'The Arts'
03 Mar 2019
Yale’s Brutalist Art and Architecture Building, designed by Paul Rudolph 1963.
â€œHow did it ever happen that, when the dregs of the world had collected in western Europe, when Goth and Frank and Norman and Lombard had mingled with the rot of old Rome to form a patchwork of hybrid races, all of them notable for ferocity, hatred, stupidity, craftiness, lust, and brutalityâ€”how did it happen that, from all of this, there should come Gregorian chant, monasteries and cathedrals, the poems of Prudentius, the commentaries and histories of Bede, the Moralia of Gregory the Great, St. Augustineâ€™s City of God, and his Trinity, the writings of Anselm, St. Bernardâ€™s sermons on the Canticles, the poetry of Caedmon and Cynewulf and Langland and Dante, St. Thomasâ€™ Summa, and the Oxoniense of Duns Scotus? How does it happen that even today a couple of ordinary French stonemasons, or a carpenter and his apprentice, can put up a dovecote or a barn that has more architectural perfection than the piles of eclectic stupidity that grow up at the cost of millions of dollars on the campuses of American universities?â€
â€” Thomas Merton, “The Seven Story Mountain”.
28 Mar 2018
Remember Kenneth Clark’s magisterial tour d’horizon of Western Art, the thirteen-part Civilization documentary television series that appeared on the BBC in 1969 and in America on PBS in 1970?
The New York Review of Books is reviewing the 2016 James Stourton biography, Kenneth Clark: Life, Art and Civilisation, just being released now in the U.S.
Kenneth Clark is an interesting biographical subject, a talented and fortunate fellow who lived a rich and glamorous life devoted to the appreciation and explication of the Fine Arts. But I was even more struck by the reviewer’s, Richard Dorment, a former Art Critic for the British Telegraph, bald opening discussion of just how far contemporary academic fashion has left behind Kenneth Clark and the Civilization he so brilliantly described.
Once the most celebrated art historian in the world, Kenneth Clarkâ€™s star began to fade in the 1980s when a new generation of scholars rejected the object-based scholarship he epitomized and began to study works of art using Marxist, feminist, and psychoanalytical theory. When Clark placed a painting or a building in its historical setting it was to understand more fully how and why it was made, and what it meant to those who first saw it.
Theory-based art history takes the opposite approach: broadly speaking, the scholar is interested in the work of art not as an end in itself but for what its making might tell us about the society that created it, particularly its attitudes toward subjects like race, gender, and social inequality. This kind of art history is taught in most universities on both sides of the Atlantic today. The scholarship Clark represented survives mainly in some museums and exhibition catalogs. Whereas his books were once required reading in undergraduate courses, many are now out of print. Civilization, the television show that introduced millions of people around the world to art history and lit the spark that led to the mass popularity museums and galleries enjoy today, is largely forgotten.
One shudders in horror to realize that it has come to this, that it is our fate to live in such a time, when the enemy of Civilization is not only within the gates, but occupying all the leading academic chairs and in control of all the leading museums, cultural institutions, and even the book reviews.
Kenneth Clark would shake his noble head in annoyance, then smile ruefully and say: “Oh well, after all, this, too, shall pass!”
17 May 2009
Fjordman observes that the Chinese have a special enthusiasm for Western classical music while Muslims commonly care little for Western music or art. When Muslims look for inspiration to the West, their admiration is focused on weapons of mass destruction, the authoritarian state, socialism, and militaristic nationalism, in other words: fascism. The leading political movement in the post colonial Islamic world has been Ba’athism, a political movement specifically modeled on German National Socialism.
Despotism comes quite natural to Islamic culture. When confronted with the European tradition, many Muslims freely prefer Adolf Hitler to Rembrandt, Michelangelo or Beethoven. Westerners donâ€™t force them to study Mein Kampf more passionately than Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa or Goetheâ€™s Faust; they choose to do so themselves. Millions of (non-Muslim) Asians now study Mozartâ€™s piano pieces. Muslims, on the other hand, like Mr. Hitler more, although he represents one of the most evil ideologies that have ever existed in Europe. The fact that they usually like the Austrian Mr. Hitler more than the Austrian Mr. Mozart speaks volumes about their culture. Koreans, Japanese, Chinese and Middle Eastern Muslims have been confronted with the same body of ideas, yet choose to appropriate radically different elements from it, based upon what is compatible with their own culture.