Social History of Art
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Passages and content are drawn from Arnold Hauser (1968), The Social History of Art, with additional annotations by Dirks.
It is rooted in the moment of its creation.
"One thing is certain: every work of art shows clear traces of its own time, and contains the unique, unrepeatable, and unmistakable character of a historical constellation. It represents a stage in the development of style which is precisely definable, in technical accomplishments and in sensual-intellectual sensibility. It depicts people and relationships in situations which arise once and only once and addresses itself to individuals who judge the depictions from a specific historical standpoint and a particular social position." (p. 77)
Every work and every reinterpretation has its author. That author responds to cultural influences at his historical moment in creating an art work.
Ideology is the complex interwoven fabric of assumptions about the world shared among members of a social station or class situation.
"The bias of art comes from its completely social nature. It is always talking for someone to someone, and reflects reality seen from a social station and in order that it can be seen from such a station." (p. 219)
"Art furthers the interests of the stratum which, so to speak, enjoys a monopoly on it, simply by the reflection of its ideology and the tacit recognition of its social standards of value and criteria of taste. The artist whose existence and progress depends upon the charity and benevolence of this stratum and is delivered up to it with all his hopes and prospects becomes unwillingly and unwittingly its mouthpiece in the pursuit of its goals and the support of the system which ensures its dominance." (p. 221)
The work remains incomplete until it is engaged by the recipient. Art is intended to provoke associations and connections to prior experiences of the recipient, so the actual work finally exists only as completed by the recipient.
"However insignificant the contribution may be which the reader, listener, or spectator makes objectively to the received work, the artist's creation is shifted into another sphere or onto another level when it is simultaneously or subsequently supplemented by the recipient." (p. 429)
"Although works of art do not by any means always improve in the course of history, their effect does become more complicated and they can achieve a depth, a profundity, and a richness of correlations which they did not possess from the beginning." (p. 443)
First indication of intellectual property: first signed works of art, and first recognition of a lyric poet as creator of his own work.
"While the poet, even in times of his complete dependence and servility, still counted as the guest of his patron, there was no attempt to conceal the fact that the artist in the narrower sense works for pay." (p. 266)
"Michelangelo was the first to express the decisive wish to carry out a work single-handedly, from beginning to end, and he was reluctant to work with students or helpers. He is thus in this sense the first modern artist whose social peculiarity contains nonconformism and alienation as constant determinants." (p. 158)
"At first people were sentimental and exuberant, because the aristocracy was reserved and self-controlled, but soon inwardness and expressiveness become artistic criteria, the validity of which is recognized even by the aristocracy. There is a deliberate hunt for spiritual shocks and gradually a real emotional virtuosity is achieved, the whole soul is dissolved in pity and, in the end, the only aim pursued in art is the excitement of the passions and the rousing of the sympathies. Sentiment becomes the most reliable medium between artist and public and the most expressive means of interpreting reality; to hold back from the expression of feeling now means to forgo artistic influence altogether, and to be without feeling means to be dull." (p. 558)
"For the very first time the creators of artistic or literary works expressed openly and without further ado, the ideology of the social group they belonged to, by outlook or birth, against the interests of the rulers, the class, or the circle who fed them." (p. 294)
"The saturated, half-educated bourgeois wants no shocks or enlightenment from art, merely entertainment and a way of passing the time. . . . People who up to this time had hardly counted as consumers of art now form a considerable part of the reading public, playgoers, and people interested in painting; but they want nothing but their unassuming diversion and their undisturbed recreation. Inasmuch as they set the standards of the demand for art, they represent one of the deepest rifts in artistic taste." (p. 303)