Georg Wilhem Friedrich Hegel
German philosopher of the early 19th century.
Dialectic thinker: process of thinking by means of dialogue, discussion, debate, or argument.
Absolute consciousness is the key source for connecting everything.
Reality is rational and its ultimate structure is revealed in the structure of our thought.
Human consciousness moves from thesis to antithesis to synthesis: serious thought on one idea leads to its opposite, these two views are then united when the mind moves to a higher level of thinking.
From Lectures on Fine Art (1835-38)
Three views on art as a product of human activity:
1. View: Art is assumed to be learnable because it’s a product of man.
Hegel’s view: But only the mechanical can be learned. In artistic creations, rules only provide generalities which are inadequate to artistic creation as it is a spiritual activity.
2. View: Art is not general, but specific to gifted spirit that is limited to it and not distracted by other laws. So art is genius and talent.
Hegel’s view: But genius is only part of art, the other part being the actual production that needs development and reflection. Thus external workmanship is needed alongside genius.
3. View: Nature is better than art because it has life.
Hegel’s view: But external existence isn’t what makes art, it is rather the artistic spirit that creates it. So art is better than nature that has no spirit. Art is permanent unlike the changeable nature.
View: Nature is better because created by God.
Hegel’s view: But God also created Man and implanted spirit in him so God is honored by Man’s creations as they are conscious and self-productive.
Man is a thinking subject who produces a duplicate of himself in art, both theoretically in the idea behind his art and practically in the creation of the artistic object.
Man does this so he can change nature’s inflexible foreignness into a realization of himself.
So art serves the universal need to change nature in order for man to see himself in it.
Man develops his Ideals into three consecutive forms of art that explain how its meaning related to its shape:
1. Symbolic Art: Found in Eastern art which gives meaning even to the worthless object.
The idea is not yet well-formed so art is an attempt to represent it.
Nature is left unchanged, idea implanted on it (idea of strength on lions).
Defect: Here the idea can’t find an adequate object to live in, so it exaggerates its shape causing a mess since the idea is still not fully shaped while the object is.
2. Classical Art: Found in Greek art
To suit content to idea, one must find in nature that which is suitable, since it is the concept that invented the shape of the object.
The most suitable shape is human form that actually possesses a spirit.
Defect: But since spirit and form are to be in perfect harmony, then spirit becomes human and particular, not absolute and eternal.
3. Romantic Art: It cancels that unity of idea and form and reverts to difference between the two.
Whereas the Greek god is the object of naïve intuition, the Christian god provides man with the knowledge that he is distinguished from animal.
Spirit here finds adequate embodiment in thought as Christianity makes the spirit, rather than the body, the essence.
Thus Symbolic art strives for the Idea, Classical art attains it in an object, Romantic art transcends it.