The Philosophy of Fine Art Volume III
Category: Ideas
Genres: Philosophy
Level 12.18 18:41 h
The translation of Hegel’s “Aesthetik” or “Philosophy of Fine Art,” which is contained in the four volumes of the present work, is the first complete translation in English of the three volumes devoted to this subject in the collected edition (Berlin, 1835).

The Philosophy of Fine Art

G. W. F. Hegel

Translated, with Notes, by
F. P. B. Osmaston, B. A.



Third Part
The System of the Particular Arts


The objects treated by our science in the first part were the general notion and the reality of beauty in Nature and art, in other words beauty in its truth, and art in its truth, the Ideal in the as yet undeveloped unity of its fundamental principles, independent of its specific content and its distinguishing modes of envisagement.

This essentially genuine unity of the beautiful in art, in the second place, unfolded itself within its own resources in a totality of art-forms, whose determinate structure defined at the same time the content which the art-spirit was impelled to fashion from itself in an essentially articulate system of manifestations of beauty under which the Divine and human is envisaged to the world.

What still is absent from both these spheres is the reality that is present within the elementary substance of the external phenomenon itself. For although both in our examination of the Ideal as such, and in that of the specific modes of symbolic, classical, and romantic art, we throughout referred to the relation or complete mediation which obtains between the significance conceived as an ideal principle and its embodiment in the external or phenomenal materia, yet this realization merely retained its validity as that which was still exclusively the ideal art-activity in the sphere of general world-impressions of beauty, in and through which it is diffused. Inasmuch, however, as the fundamental conception of beautiful implies, that it make itself objective for the immediate vision, that is to say for the senses and sensuous perception as an external work of art, so that what is beautiful becomes only then itself through such a definite form appropriate to itself explicitly united with the beautiful and the Ideal, we have in the third place to review this territory of the art-product as actually self-realized in the entirely sensuous medium. For it is only through this final configuration that the work of art is truly concrete, an individual entity which is at once real, self-contained, and singular. The Ideal can only constitute the content of this third sphere of our aesthetic philosophy for the reason that it is the idea of the beautiful, in the collective totality of all its world presentments, which is thus self-realized in objective form . For this reason the art-product is still, even up to this point, to be conceived as a totality articulated in itself, nevertheless as an organism, whose organic parts, which — while in the second part of our inquiry they were differentiated under a collective concept of essentially disparate world-aspects — now fall asunder as isolated members, every one of which becomes independently a self-subsistent whole, and in this singularity is capable of bringing into display the totality of the different art-types. Essentially and in accordance with its notion it is quite true that the collective result of this new reality of art belongs to one single totality. Inasmuch, however, as it is a portion of the realm of the sensuous present, in which the same is made real to itself, the Ideal is now resolved into its phasal states as a process , and confers on them an independent and self-subsistent stability, albeit they are capable of coming into juxtaposition, essential relation, and reciprocal reintegration with one another. And this real world of art is the system of the separate arts. Just as then the particular types of art, regarded throughout as totality, expose intrinsically a process, an evolution, that is, of the symbolical to the classical and romantic types, we find also, on the one hand, a similar advance in the particular arts, in so far as it is the very art-types themselves which receive their determinate existence through these specific arts. From another point of view, however, the particular arts have also themselves within them a process, a progression, independently of the art-types to which they attach an objective reality, a process which in this its more abstract relation is common to all. Every art possesses its spring-time of perfected elaboration as art, and on the one side or the other a history that precedes or follows this period of full-bloom. For the products of the arts collectively are spiritual products, and consequently are not at once to hand in their own specialized province respectively, as are the forms of Nature, but are subject to a beginning, progression, completion, and termination, a growth, a blooming, and a decay.

These more abstract differences, whose devolution we propose at the very commencement of our inquiry briefly to indicate, since it asserts itself equally in all the arts, are identical with that which it is usual to define under the name of rigorous, ideal, and approved style, when indicating the specific styles of art in each case, which are mainly related to the general mode of embodiment and representation, partly as considered in its external shape, and its possession or lack of spontaneity, its simplicity, its surfeit of detail, briefly in all its various aspects, according to which the definition of the content emerges in the external appearance; partly no less in its aspect of the technical elaboration of its sensuous material, in which the art in question gives determinate existence to its content.

It is a common assumption that art finds its beginnings in what is devoid of complexity and is natural. In a certain sense, no doubt, we may accept this as true. In other words what is rude and barbarous is without question, when contrasted with the genuine spirit of art, something both nearer to Nature and less complex. What is, however, natural, vital, and simple in art, regarded as fine art, is something quite different to this. All beginnings which are merely simple and natural, in the sense of uncouthness, do not as yet belong to the province of art and the beautiful at all as, for example, in the case where children scrawl simple figures, and with a few formless strokes would indicate thereby a human form, a horse, and so forth. Beauty, considered as a spiritual product, demands even from the start an elaborate technique, implies a long series of experiment and practice. Simplicity, when we refer to it as the simplicity of the beautiful, its ideal proportions, is rather a result, which only succeeds in overcoming the variety, medley, confusion, excess and incumbrance of its matter, and in concealing and effacing its preparatory studies, after much mediating work, so that at last Beauty, with all its unfettered spontaneity, appears to us as though liberated in one cast . What we find here is very analogous to the behaviour of a man of education, who, in all that he says and does, moves simply, spontaneously, and with ease, albeit he did not by any means start in the possession of such simple spontaneity, but rather has only secured such as the result of a thorough self-training.

For this reason it is no less in accordance with the nature of the fact than it is with the actual course of history that art in its beginnings rather presents us the appearance of artificiality and clumsiness, running largely into incidental detail, and generally overloaded with the elaboration of drapery and the environment of its subject-matter; and precisely in the degree that this external material is more compact and multifarious, to that extent that which is really expressive is reduced to its baldest terms; in other words what is truly the free and vital expression of Spirit in its forms and motion is that which is here least in evidence.

In this respect consequently the primitive and most ancient art-products in all the particular arts are the vehicle of a content that is essentially most abstract, such as simple tales in poetry, theogonies effervescent with abstract thoughts and their incomplete elaboration, single objects of sacred association in stone and wood and so forth, and the representation remains unaccommodating, monotonous or confused, stiff and dry. More especially in plastic art the facial expression is insipid with a repose which does not so much express spirituality in its essential penetration as a purely animal emptiness, or conversely is remorseless and exaggerated in its emphasis on characteristic traits. In the same way the bodily forms and their motion are devoid of life, the arms, for example, are glued to the body, the legs are not divided, or are clumsily moved, or in angular and constrained modes; and in other respects such figures are ill-shaped, suffer from narrow compression, or are excessively lank and extended. On the other hand we find that much more devotion and industry is spent upon accessories such as drapery, hair, weapons, and ornaments of a similar nature; the folds of the drapery remain wooden and independent, without being able to accommodate themselves to the limbs, just as we may often see for ourselves in images of the Virgin and saints of early times, where they are in part run together in monotonous regularity, and in part are continually broken up in harsh corners, not flowing freely in their lines, but scattered about with diffuseness over too wide a surface. And in the same way the first attempts at poetry are full of breaks, devoid of connection, monotonous, dominated in an abstract way by one idea or emotion, or elsewhere wild, violent, the particular being obscurely assimilated, and the whole as yet not bound together in a secure and ideal organic unity.

It is only, however, after such preparatory work as the above that the style which is the main subject of our present inquiry commences with what is truly genuine fine art. In this it is no doubt in the first instance at the same time still austere, but already moderated with more beauty in its severity. This severe style is the more lofty abstraction of the beautiful, which comes to a stop with that which is of real importance, expresses and reproduces the same in its broad outlines, still disdains all amiability and grace, suffers the main subject-matter alone to assert itself, and pre-eminently expends very little industry and elaboration on what is incidental. And in doing so, this severe style also still adheres to the imitation of that which is immediately given to sense. In other words, just as, in regard to content, it takes its stand, so far as ideas and representation are concerned, in what is given it, in the tradition, for example, of a revered religion, so also, to take the opposite point of view, namely, that of external form, it will merely render assured the fact itself, and not its own invention. It is, in short, satisfied with the general broad effect that is educed from the fact, and follows in expression closely upon the growth and definite existence of this. In the same way everything that is accidental is held aloof from this type of style, in order that the caprice and spontaneity of the individual mind may not appear to be involved in it. The motives are simple, the objects of representation few ; and for this reason no considerable variety in the detail of configuration, muscles and motion, is apparent.

Secondly, the ideal, purely beautiful style hovers between the simply substantive expression of fact and the fullest exposition of all that immediately pleases. We may define the character of this style as the highest degree of vitality compatible with a beautiful and reposeful greatness, such as we admire in the works of Pheidias or Homer. It is a living presentment of all traits, shapes, modifications of such, motions, limbs, in which there is nothing without significance and expression, but everything is instinct with life and action, and testifies to the breath, or very pulse of free life itself on the merest glance at the work of art in question; a vitality, however, which essentially makes visible one totality, and only one, is the expression of one content, of one individuality of action.

It is in such a truly vital atmosphere that we find moreover the breath of grace poured forth over the entire work. Grace is indeed a concession to the hearer and spectator, which the severe style despises. At the same time, whenever Charis, that is Grace, is asserted in the presence of an onlooker, if only as an acknowledgement, a means of conveying pleasure, yet in the ideal style we find that such a presence appears entirely divested of any craving to confer merely pleasure. We may perhaps explain our meaning in more technical language. The fact or subject-matter is here the substantive in its concentration and self-absorption. During the process, however, that it is manifested through the medium of art, and is, so to speak, concerned to actually exist for others, to pass over, that is, from its simplicity and essential solidarity to particularization, articulation, and individualization, we may regard this development to an existent form for others as at the same time a kind of complaisance on the part of the predominant matter, in so far, that is, as it does not appear to require this more concrete mode of existence, and yet is wholly poured forth into it for us. Such a charm as this is only entitled to assert itself in such a style so long as what is really substantive also persists in undisturbed self-possession, as we may call it, over against the grace of its manifestation, which blooms forth entirely in outward guise as an original type of superfluity. This indifference of the ideal or inner self-assurance for its existence, this repose of itself on itself is precisely that which constitutes the beautiful negligence of the grace, which attributes no immediate value to this, its mode of manifestation. And it is just in this that we must look for the loftiness of the beautiful style. Beautiful free art is careless in its attitude to the external form, in which it refuses to let us see any peculiar movement of the mind, or any end or intention. Rather in every expression, every modification, it points to one thing only, and that is the idea and vital principle of the whole. It is only by this means that the Ideal of the beautiful style asserts itself, which is neither harsh nor severe, but already shows the softening influence of the cheerful notes of the beautiful. Though no violence is done either to any feature of expression, any part of the whole, and every member appears in its independence, and rejoices in its own existence, yet each and all is content at the same time to be only an aspect in the total evolved presentment. This it is which alone displays, alongside of the depth and determinacy of individuality and character, the grace of Life itself. On the one side we have indeed merely the substantial subject-matter predominant, but in the detailed exposition, in the lucid, and at the same time exhaustive variety of traits, which complete the definition of the appearance, and place it before us in its transparent vitality, the spectator is at the same time freed from the thing in its baldness, in so far as he possesses and is wholly face to face with its concrete life. By virtue, however, of the last mentioned fact, this ideal style, so soon as it carries this modification in its external aspect to yet further lengths, passes over into the so-called agreeable or pleasing style. Here we have the assertion of another intent than the mere vitality of the fact . The giving of pleasure, the active elaboration in the direction of externality is asserted as itself an object, and is a matter of independent concern. As an example we may take the famous Belvedere Apollo, not indeed as itself belonging to this latter style, but at least marking the transition from the lofty style to that of sensuous attraction. And inasmuch as in an art of this kind it is no longer the single actuality itself to which the entire embodiment is referable, the particular details become under this mode, even though in the first instance still deducible from the central object itself and rendered necessary by means of it, more and more for all that independent. We feel that they are introduced, or interpolated, as ornaments, intentional additions of episodical import. And yet for the very reason that they are only related to the object accidentally and only receive their essential definition in a personal relation to the spectator or reader, they flatter the individual taste of such, to which their workmanship is primarily directed. Virgil and Horace, for example, delight us in this respect by an educated style, in which we can trace a variety of things aimed at, and an effort deliberately made to give pleasure. In architecture, sculpture, and painting, owing to this spirit of complaisance, simple and imposing effects of size disappear, and we find on every side small pictures standing by themselves, ornamentation, fineries, dimples on cheeks, elegant hair-dress, smiles, all the varied folding of draperies, enchanting colours and shapes, exceptional, difficult, but for all that unconstrained movements in the pose of the figure . In the so-called Gothic or German art of building, where the same is carried in the direction of this spirit, we find decoration elaborated without limit, so that the whole appears to be little more than a collection of little columns with all the utmost variety of ornamentations, diminutive towers, spires, and so forth, which, in their isolation, please us, without, however, destroying the impression of the larger connections of the whole and the still insistent masses of the same.

In so far, however, as the province of art we have been discussing in its entirety gives way to this activity of externalization, this presentment of what is purely exterior, we may emphasize it in its further generalization as the effect, which makes use of as a means of expression what is unpleasing, strained, and colossal, the type of uncouth contrasts such as the prodigious genius of Michael Angelo often exploits to excess. The effect may be generally indicated as the excessive leaning towards an ulterior public, which results in the form no longer being asserted in its independent, self-sufficient and buoyant repose. Rather it turns round, as it were, and makes an appeal at the same time to the onlooker, and strives to place itself in a relation to him by means of this manner of presentment. Both aspects, namely essential repose and the address to the spectator, must no doubt be present in a work of art; but these aspects should fall together in complete equilibrium. If the work of art in the severe style is wholly without qualification self-contained, without any appeal to the spectator, it leaves him cold. If, on the other hand, the appeal is made too directly to him, it creates indeed a sensuous pleasure, but loses to that extent its substantive thoroughness , or it does so without this thoroughness of content and the simple character of the conception and delineation therein contained. This passage from itself then merges in the accidental characterization of the appearance; as a result the image itself shares this accidental character, in which we no longer recognize the actual subject-matter and the form which is imperatively rooted in itself, but rather the poet and artist with his own personal designs, his peculiar type of production and skill. And for this reason the public is entirely released from the essential content of the work, finding itself by means of it placed in a personal relation to the artist, inasmuch as everything now wholly depends on its seeing that which the artist through his art intended, that is, the cunning and personal skill which is embodied in his grasp of his subject and its execution. To be thus brought into personal community of insight and critical acumen with the artist is for most people a flattering concession; and our reader or audience, and very possibly the spectator of plastic art, with even more readiness wonder at their poet, musician, or painter or sculptor respectively; and the vanity of such is all the better satisfied in proportion as the work invites them to this personal criticism, and supplies them openly with hints of such designs and points of view. In the severe style, on the contrary, no such confidences are made over to the spectator at all. What we have is just the substantive nature of the content, which in its representation austerely, and even harshly, repulses the purely personal quest. A repulse of this kind will often be no doubt merely indicative of the spleen of the artist, who, after entrusting a profound significance to his work, instead of making the exposition of the same free, transparent, and buoyant, deliberately makes it hard to follow. A trade in mysteries of this kind is also nothing but another form of affectation, and a spurious alternative to the complaisance we have criticized.

It is pre-eminently in the work of the French school that we find this tendency to flatter, attract, and create effect, and they have in this way elaborated this easy-going and complaisant attitude to the public as the main object of their efforts. They seek to find the real importance of their artistic work in the satisfaction such affords others, whose interest they would arouse and whom they would duly impress. This tendency is particularly marked in their dramatic poetry. Marmontel, for example, gives us the following anecdote in connection with the performance of his drama “Dénis, the Tyrant.” The crisis culminated in a question asked the Tyrant. Clairon, in whose mouth this question was put, when the moment for asking it had arrived, and when actually in conversation with Dionysius, made a forward step in front of the audience and dramatically addressed them instead. By this rhetorical effect the enthusiastic support of the entire piece was assured.

We Germans, on the other hand, require too much a content in our works of art, in the depths of which the artist finds a deliverance from himself, without troubling himself about the public, who is just left to look at it, take trouble over it, and help himself out with it, as he pleases or is able.

Division of Subject

Approaching now, after these general observations we have made with reference to the distinctions of style common to all the arts, the division of the third fundamental section of our inquiry we may observe that the one-sided understanding has looked about in many directions for various principles of differentiation in its classification of the specific arts severally. The true division can, however, only be deduced from the nature of the work of art, which in the entire complexus of its forms explicitly unfolds the totality of the aspects and phases which are referable to its own notion. And the first thing which asserts itself in this connection as important is the consideration that art, in accordance with the fact that its presentments now have definitely to pass into sensuous reality, becomes on account of this also art for the senses, so that the definition of this sense and the material medium which is applicable to it, and in which the work of art is made objective, must necessarily furnish us with the principles of subdivision in the several arts. Now the senses, for the reason that they are senses, or in other words, are related to a given material, a disparate exterior medium and an essential multiplicity, are themselves different, namely, feeling, smell, taste, hearing, and sight. It is not our business in this place to demonstrate the ideal necessity of this totality and its disparate parts; that is the function of the philosophy of Nature. Our problem is limited to the inquiry whether all these senses, or if not, which of them are capable, by virtue of their notional significance, of being organs for the reception of works of art. We have already at a previous stage excluded feeling, taste, and smell. Botticher’s mere feeling with the hand of the effeminately smooth portions of statues of goddesses is not a part of artistic contemplation or enjoyment at all. By the sense of touch the individual merely comes, as an individual endowed with sense, into contact with the purely sensuous particular thing and its gravity, hardness, softness, and material resistance. A work of art is, however, not merely a sensuous thing, but Spirit manifested through a sensuous medium. As little can we exercise our sense of taste on a work of art as such, because taste is unable to leave the object in its free independence, but is concerned with it in a wholly active way, resolves it, in fact, and consumes it. A cultivation and refinement of taste is only possible and desirable in connection with dishes of food and their preparation, or the chemical qualities of objects. An object of art, however, should be contemplated in its independent and self-contained objective presence, which no doubt is there for the mind that perceives it, but only as an appeal to soul and intelligence, not in some active relation, and with none whatever to the appetites and volition. As for the sense of smell it is just as little able to become an organ of artistic enjoyment, inasmuch as things are only presented to this sense in so far as they are themselves in a condition of process, and are dissolved through the air and its direct influence.

Sight, on the other hand, possesses a purely ideal relation to objects by means of light, a material, which is at the same time immaterial, and which suffers on its part the objects to continue in their free self-subsistence, making them appear and re-appear, but which does not, as the atmosphere or fire does, consume them actively either by imperceptible degrees or patently. Everything, then, is an object of the appetiteless vision, which materially exists in Space as a disparate aggregate, which, however, in so far as it remains unimpaired in its integrity, merely is disclosed in its form and colour.

The remaining ideal sense is hearing. This is in signal contrast to the one just described. Hearing is concerned with the tone, rather than the form and colour of an object, with the vibration of what is corporeal; it requires no process of dissolution, as the sense of smell requires, but merely a trembling of the object, by which the same is in no wise impoverished. This ideal motion, in which through its sound what is as it were the simple individuality , the soul of the material thing expresses itself, the ear receives also in an ideal way, just as the eye shape and colour, and suffers thereby what is ideal or not external in the object to appeal to what is spiritual or non-corporeal.

As a third accretion to these two senses we have the sensuous conception, memory, the retention of images, which appear in consciousness by means of the isolated perception, in this way subsumed under universals, and become related and united to the same by means of the imagination, so that now in one particular aspect the external reality itself exists both as ideal and spiritual, while that which is spiritual from another point of view accepts under the imaginative conception the form of what is external, and is brought to consciousness as a disparate and correlated aggregate.

This triple mode of seizing on reality offers art the well-known division into first, the plastic arts, which elaborate their content for vision in the external form and colour of objects, secondly, in the art of sound, music, and thirdly, into poetry, which as the art of speech uses tone merely as a symbol, in order, by means of it, to address itself directly to what is ideal in the contemplation, emotion, and imagination of our spiritual life. If we rest satisfied with this sensuous aspect of our subject-matter, as the final principle of its differentiation, we shall, in respect to our first principles, find ourselves in a difficulty, because the grounds of this division, instead of being deduced from the concrete notion of our subject-matter, are merely borrowed from the most abstract features of it. We have consequently to look about us once more for a principle of division that has deeper roots, which has, in fact, already been put forward in the introduction of this work as the truly systematic mode of dividing this third section of it. The function of art is just this and only this, namely, to bring before the grasp of the senses truth, as it is in the world of spirit, reconciled, that is, in its unity as a whole with objectivity and the sensuous material. In so far, then, as this is possible at this stage in the element of the external reality of the art-product to that extent the totality, which the Absolute is in its very truth, breaks apart into the various modes that differentiate it as a process.

The middle point, the truly substantive centrum, is given us here in the representation of the Absolute, God Himself as God, in His independent self-subsistence, not as yet developed to the point of motion and difference, or advanced to the active operation of and separation from what is His, but presented essentially self-absorbed in supreme divine repose and stillness, briefly the Ideal embodied in a form essentially adequate to itself, which persists in its determinate existence in correspondent identity with itself. And in order that it may appear in infinite self-subsistency the Absolute must be conceived as Spirit, as conscious Subject, but as Subject which possesses essentially itself its own adequate mode of external appearance.

As divine subject, however, which passes forth into actual reality, it has confronting it an external world for environment, which, in conformity with the Absolute, must be built up to an appearance harmonious with the same, an appearance permeated with the Absolute. This environing world is then on one side the objective as such, the basis, the embrace of external Nature, which, taken by itself, possesses no absolute significance for Spirit, nor any ideality such as is present to individual consciousness , and consequently is only able to express by suggestion the spiritual Ideal which its appearance must seek to secure by embodying its embraced content in a world of Beauty.

In opposition to external Nature we find the ideal realm of consciousness , the human soul as the medium for the existence and manifestation of the Absolute. Together with this subjectivity is conjoined the multiplicity and differentiation of individuality, particularization, distinction, action, and development, that is, in general terms the full and varied world of the reality of Spirit , in which the Absolute is known, willed, experienced, and actively present. We may already infer from what we have indicated above that the differences under which the total content of art is differentiated are in essential consonance, both for our grasp and presentation of them, with what we have previously in the second portion of our inquiry examined as the symbolical, classical, and romantic types of art. In other words symbolic art only carries the art-process to the point of marking an affinity between content and form, instead of their identity, of only suggesting the ideal significance in itself and the content which that suggestion purports to express, in other words the external appearance . It furnishes consequently the fundamental type to that specific art, whose function it is to elaborate the objective world as such, Nature’s environment in the beautiful conclusion given by Art to Spirit (mind), and to image by suggestion the ideal significance of what is spiritual in this external medium. The classical Ideal, on the contrary, meets the case of the presentation of the Absolute as such, in its self-subsistent external reality, its essential self-repose, while the romantic Spirit (mind) type of art is, both in content and form, identical with the internal life of the soul, and the emotional life both in its infinite aspect and its finite particularity.

It is, then, on a principle such as the above that the system of the particular arts is differentiated as follows:

First, we have architecture, the beginning of all, whose foundation reposes in the very nature of its subject-matter. It is the commencement of art for this reason, that art at the start has in general terms neither discovered for the presentation of its spiritual content the adequate material, nor the forms that fully express it, and is consequently compelled to rest content in the mere search after such true satisfaction, and to do so in the externality of its content and its mode of presentation. The medium of this primary art is that which is essentially unspiritual, gross matter, that is, only capable of configuration according to physical laws of gravity. Its form is the image of external Nature, united by its regularity and symmetry in the whole of a work of art to express merely an external reflection of Spirit.

The second art is sculpture. Both for its principle and content it possesses spiritual individuality under the mode of the classic Ideal in the sense, namely, that the ideal and spiritual finds its expression in the corporeal appearance pertinent to spiritual life, which it is the function here of Art to present in existent artistic actuality. It consequently still accepts for its material gross matter in its spatial extension, without, however, shaping the same in conformity to rule merely in respect to its gravity and its natural conditions according to the forms of the organic or inorganic, or in relation to its visibility in bringing it down to, and in all essential respects particularizing it in, a simple repetition of the external appearance. The form which is here, however, determined by virtue of the content itself is the actual life of Spirit, human form, and its objective organism permeated with Spirit’s own breath, whose function it is to embody in adequate shape the self-subsistence of the Divine in its supreme repose and unperturbed greatness, unaffected by the divisions and limitations of human affairs, their conflicts and endurances.

Thirdly, we have to render intelligible in one final whole those arts whose province it is to give form to the ideal content of the individual soul-life.

The art of painting marks the beginning of this final totality. It converts the external form itself entirely into an expression of what is ideal , which within the limits of the environing world not merely reproduces the ideal self-containedness of the Absolute, but also brings to the vision the same as essentially a personal possession in its spiritual existence, volition, feeling, action, in its activity and relation to another, and consequently also in its sufferings, pain, death, in the entire series of passions and satisfaction. Its object is for this reason no longer God simply, that is, as object of the human consciousness, but this consciousness itself, God, that is, either in His reality present in the action and suffering of individual life, or as spirit of the community, as the spiritual related through feeling to itself, soul-life in its resignation, its sacrifice of, or joy and blessedness in, life and action within the limits of the natural world. As a means to the presentation of this content the art of painting is bound to utilize the external phenomenon in respect to its form, not merely the human organism, but also Nature in its simplicity in so far as the same suffers what is of spirit to shine through with clarity. It is, however, unable to utilize as material physical matter and its spatial existence just as it is; it is compelled, in working it up into its forms, essentially to idealize the same. The first step by means of which the sensuous material is raised in this respect to confront mind , consists, on the one hand, in the uplifting of the actual sensuous appearance, whose visibility is converted into the mere show by art, and on the other in colour by means of the distinctions, transitions, and modulations of which this transformation is effected. The art of painting, consequently, in order to express the soul in its ideality, resolves the three dimensions of space into that of superficies as that which most intimately asserts the ideality of what is external, and represents spatial distance and form by means of the phenomena of colour. For painting is not concerned with producing mere visibility in its general significance, but with that form of visibility which, if it is ideally produced, is also quite as much essentially particularized. In sculpture and the art of building forms are visible by means of external light. In the art of painting, on the contrary, the material which is itself essentially obscure possesses intrinsically within itself its inward or ideal, light in short. It is itself transfused in its own medium, and mere light is to that extent essentially obscured. The unity, however, and blending of light and dark is colour .

Secondly, the art of music offers a contrast to that of painting in one and the same sphere as the latter. Its real element is the ideal realm as such, emotion in its formless independence, capable of asserting itself not in externality and its reality, but purely through the external medium which disappears immediately when it is expressed and thereby cancels itself. Its content consequently consists of the internal life of Spirit in its immediate, essential subjective unity, emotion simply; its material is musical tone, its form and configuration, the concord, discord, harmony, contrast, opposition, and resolution of such tones according to the laws of their quantitative intervals respectively and their artistically elaborated time measure.

Finally, in the third place, after painting and music we get the art of speech, poetry in its general terms, the absolutely genuine art of Spirit and its expression as such. For everything which the human consciousness conceives and spiritually embodies in the chamber of spirit speech is able to accept, express, and bring imaginatively before us, and only speech is thus able. In respect to its content, therefore, poetry is the richest and its boundaries are the widest. But in proportion as it gains as the vehicle of Spirit it loses on the side of the material object. In other words, for the reason that it neither works for the perception of the sense as the plastic arts, nor merely for the ideal emotion, as music does, but is concerned to create its spiritual significances under the form of its own spiritual medium merely for the conception and contemplation of mind, the material through which its constructive activity is asserted only retains for it the value of a means, however much it may be elaborated in an artistic sense, by which Spirit is expressed for Spirit, and no longer counts as a sensuous mode of existence, in which the spiritual content is capable of finding a reality adequate to it. Such a means can in the light of our previous consideration only be tone regarded as the still relatively most adequate material of spiritual expression. Tone here, however, does not in the present case preserve, as was the case with music, an independent validity of its own for which the unique and essential aim of art could be exhausted in finding an artistic form, but conversely is entirely steeped in the world of Spirit and the definite content of conception and contemplation, and appears simply as the external symbol of this content. So far as the embodiment which the poetry receives is concerned, in this respect poetry may claim to include the whole field of art in the sense, that is, that it repeats in its own province the modes of presentation adopted by the other arts, which is only in a qualified degree the case with painting and music.

In other words poetry gives, on the one hand, as epic poetry the form of objectivity to its content, which no doubt here does not, as in the plastic arts, attain to an external existence. It is none the less a world conceived by the mind in the form of the objective world and represented as objective for the individual imagination. This it is which constitutes human speech as such, which finds satisfaction in its own content and its expression by means of speech.

On the other hand, however, poetry is conversely to an equal degree speech of the soul, the ideal medium, which, as that inward content returns to itself, is lyrical poetry, which invokes the aid of music in order to penetrate yet more deeply the world of souls and emotion.

Finally, to take the third example, poetry proceeds through speech within the limits of a self-contained action, which it at the same time makes an object of its presentment, and consequently is able to ally itself closely to music, gesture, mimicry, and the dance. This is dramatic art, in which man, in all that the term implies , creatively presents the work of art which is the product of human life. These five arts form the system of realized and actual art, essentially determined by itself and differentiated as such. In addition to them there are no doubt other incomplete arts, for example, the arts of gardening and dance. These we shall only refer to incidentally as the opportunity recurs. A philosophical investigation must perforce restrict itself entirely to distinctions referable to the notion, and develop and grasp these adequate and veritable modes of embodiment. Nature and reality is not, it is true, confined to these circumscribed limits, but is more liberal in its movement, and we not unfrequently hear it made a matter of praise that in this respect the products of genius are perforce compelled to expand themselves beyond just such limitations. In Nature, however, transitional organisms of either hybrid or amphibian type, instead of emphasizing the spontaneity and excellence of Nature, merely demonstrate its inability to hold fast to the essential differentiations of species which are rooted in that process, or to prevent their deterioration before external conditions and influences. The same thing may be affirmed in art with regard to these intermediate forms, although the same are capable of producing much, too, that delights us, is full of charm and utility, albeit not in the highest class of perfection.

If we turn our attention now after these introductory remarks and considerations to the more specific examination of the separate arts, we shall find ourselves from another point of view in some difficulty. For inasmuch as we have hitherto concerned ourselves with art as such, the Ideal and the general types, under which its evolution according to its notion proceeds, it is imperative to pass over into the concrete existence of art, and by doing so into the world of experience. Here we find a condition very analogous to that we observe in Nature, the provinces of which are readily grasped in their generality and the necessary laws which distinguish them, in whose actual material existence, however, the individual objects and their species, not merely in the aspects which they present to observation, but also in the form under which they exist, are of such a wealth of variety that, as a part of the difficulty, they offer as feasible every conceivable way of approaching them; and in addition to this the philosophical notion, when we are desirous of applying the standard of its simple lines of distinction, appears as insufficient for this purpose and the mere grasp of thought incapable of taking in the breath of such fulness. If, however, we merely rest satisfied with mere description and superficial reflections we fall short no less of the object we have set before us, that is, a development which is both scientific and systematic. Added to which difficulties we have the further one that nowadays every particular art makes the independent demand for a special science, inasmuch as with the continuous growth of connoisseurship in art the range of such special knowledge has become ever more rich and extensive. This science of the connoisseur, or dilettante, has, however, in our own times become fashionable under the direct teaching of philosophy itself. It has, in short, been maintained that it is in art we must look for real religion, the discovery of truth and the Absolute, that, in short, it stands on a loftier pedestal than philosophy for the reason that it is not abstract, but receives at the same time the Idea in reality and for a contemplation and emotion which are concrete . And on the other hand it is regarded nowadays as of august importance in art to occupy one’s attention with an infinite superfluity of detail of this kind, in the interests of which the demand is made from everyone that he should have observed some novelty or other. Such critical labour is a kind of learned trifling which may very readily be overdone. It causes, no doubt, considerable pleasure to examine works of art, to grasp the thoughts and reflections which such may suggest, to give currency to the points of view, which others have pointed out, and by this means to become judges and critics. The more rich, however, by this means, namely, that everybody is intent on having discovered on his own account something uniquely his own, a learning and process of reflection has become, the more every particular art, nay, every branch of the same, now renders necessary the completeness of a treatment of it from the individual’s standpoint. As a corollary the historical aspect of such a survey and the criticism of works of art, which becomes inevitable, only add yet further to the learning and range of the subject. It is, moreover, essential before we take part in any discussion over the details of matters of artistic import that we should already have seen much and many times. Personally I have no doubt seen a considerable amount, but by no means all that is necessary to enable me to discuss the material of art exhaustively. All such difficulties, however, we may meet with the simple response that it does not lie within the aim of the present work to teach art-criticism, or to bring forward an historical review of such learning, or only to the extent such is necessary to apprehend on philosophical principles the essential and universal aspects of our subject, and their relation to the idea of the beautiful in its realization within the sensuous medium of art. If we keep this aim before us the variety of artistic effects we above indicated need cause us no embarrassment; for despite this complexity the essential character of the subject-matter according to its notional idea is the controlling factor; and although this is frequently lost in accidental matter by virtue of the medium in which it is realized, points of view are none the less in evidence, in which it is as clearly proclaimed. To grasp these aspects, and to develop them in a scientific way, is the very problem which it is the function of philosophy to elucidate.

Subsection I


Art, by enabling its content to attain a realized existence under a definite form, becomes a particular art. We may therefore now for the first time refer to it as an actual art and find therein the real beginning of art. With this particularity, however, in so far as it purports to bring before us the objectivity of the Idea of the beautiful and art, we have presented to us at the same time in its notional significance a totality of what is particular. For this reason when we now, in the sphere of the specific arts, begin our examination of the same with the art of building this must not merely be accepted in the sense that architecture asserts itself as the art which, by virtue of its notional definition, is first presented to us as such an object of inquiry, but we may equally accept as a result, that it is also in relation to its existence the art first to be considered. In supplying, however, an answer to the question, what the mode of origin was, which fine art, relatively to its notion and realized form, has received, we must exclude the experience of history no less than reflections, conjectures, and ordinary conceptions, which merely have reference to objective history, and are so readily and in such variety propounded. In other words, men are ordinarily actuated by an impulse, to bring before their mental vision anything in its original mode of appearance for the reason that the beginning is the simplest mode, under which the fact asserts itself. And connected with this impulse we have present behind it the covert conviction that the simple mode of appearance informs us of the fact in its notional significance and real origin, and the further amplification of such a beginning to the actual point in the process which only really concerns us is further with a like readiness conceived under the trivial mode of thought, that a process so understood has gradually brought art forward to the crucial stage above indicated. A beginning, however, of this simplicity is, if we look at its content, something which, taken by itself, is so unimportant, that for philosophical thought it can only appear as wholly accidental, albeit it is for the ordinary consciousness only just in such a way that the origin can be readily grasped. For example, we have the story, as an explanation of the origin of the art of painting, told us of a maiden who followed the dim outline of the shadow of her sleeping lover. In the same way we have sometimes a cave and sometimes a hollow tree adduced as the point of departure in the art of building. Beginnings of this kind are so intelligible in themselves that further comment on the fact appears unnecessary . In particular the Greeks invented many charming tales to explain the origins not merely of fine art, but also ethical institutions and other conditions of life, all of which satisfied the primary need to make such beginnings visible to the imagination. Such beginnings are not substantiated by history, and yet they do not aim at making the manner of origin intelligible directly as a process involved in the notion, but purport to confine their explanation to the field of objective history.

Division of Subject

We have, then, in such a way to establish the beginning of art from its notional significance, that the first problem of art is made to consist in giving form to that which is essentially objective, the ground, that is, of Nature, the external environment, and by doing so to make that which is without ideal import to conform both to significance and form, both of which still remain external to it, for the reason that they are not either the form or significance inherent in the objective material. The art, which has set before it this task is, as we have seen, an architecture which has already discovered its first elaboration under the modes of sculpture, or painting and music .

If we now direct our attention to the most primitive origins of the art of building, we find at the earliest stage that we can accept for such a beginning the hut, regarded as the human dwelling, and the temple, as the exterior enclosure of the god and his community. With a view to define this commencement more closely a dispute has been raised with reference to the nature of the material employed for building, whether, that is to say, it originated in buildings of wood, which is the opinion of Vitruvius, and is supported by Hirt in a similar reference, or rather from those of stone. This contrast of original material is no doubt of importance, for it does not merely concern its external quality as one might at first sight suppose, but rather the architectonic character of fundamental forms; for instance, the kind of decoration united with it is essentially bound up with this external material. We may, however, entirely set aside the distinction as a purely subordinate aspect of the matter rather referable to what is accidental and empirical, and devote our attention to a point of more importance.

In other words, in dealing with houses, temples, and other buildings we are confronted with the essential condition, to which we attribute the fact that buildings of this kind are merely means which presuppose an external end. Hut and house of God alike presuppose those who dwell in them, and for whom they have been erected, men and the images of gods. Man is also prompted by a desire to leap and sing; he requires the mediacy of human speech; but speech, leaping, shouting, and singing are not as yet poetry, the dance and music. And when within the architectonic adaptation of means to ends in order to satisfy specific needs, in part referable to daily life and in part to the religious cultus or the state, the impulse in the direction of artistic form and beauty asserts itself, we find at the same time a division apparent in the kind of building above mentioned. On the one hand we have man, thinking man, or the image of the god as the essential object, for which, from the other point of view, architecture merely supplies the means of environment and covering. With such a divided point of view we are unable to constitute our beginning, which is in its nature the immediate, and simple, not a relativity or essential relation of this sort; rather we must look for a point of departure, where a distinction of this kind does not yet arise.

In this respect we have already at an earlier stage stated that the art of building corresponds to the symbolic type of art, and in a unique degree gives realization to the principle of the same as particular art because architecture generally is adapted to suggest the significances implanted in it purely in the external framework of the environment. If the distinction, then, above referred to between the object of the external cover independently presented in the living man, or the temple’s image, and the building regarded as the fulfilment of such an object, is to be absent from our earliest stage, we shall have to look about us for buildings which precisely, as works of sculpture, do stand up in independent self-subsistence, which in short carry their significance in themselves rather than in some other object or necessity. This is a point of the highest importance, which I have never found raised hitherto, although it goes to the root of the matter, and alone is capable of disclosing the manifold nature of external forms, and of supplying a thread to conduct us through the maze of architectonic configuration. A self-subsistent art of building of this kind will also to a similar degree differ from sculpture on this ground, namely, that it, as architecture, does not create images, whose significance is that which is essentially spiritual and personal, and which itself intrinsically possesses the principle of an appropriated embodiment throughout adequate to its ideal import, but builds up works which, in their exterior form, can merely give an impress of the significance in a symbolic way. And for this reason this type of architecture, both in respect to its content and, its presentation, is really of a symbolic type.

All that we have said with reference to the principle of this stage of art applies equally to its mode of presentation. Here, too, we find that the mere distinction between buildings of wood and stone is not sufficient, in so far as the same points to a means of limiting and enclosing a defined space for a specific religious or other human purposes, as is the case with dwellings, palaces, and temples. Such a space, may be obtained either by hollowing out essentially solid and stable masses, or conversely, by preparing walls and roofs to enclose it. We can make our beginning of the art of building with neither of these alternatives, which we should consequently define as an inorganic form of sculpture; such a type no doubt piles up independently stable images, but while doing so does not in any way make the end of free beauty and the manifestation of Spirit in the bodily form commensurate with the end it pursues, but in general terms sets up a purely symbolic form, which purports in itself to indicate and express a particular idea.

Architecture is, however, unable to remain standing at such a point of departure. Its function indeed consists just in this, namely, to build up external Nature as an environment which emanates from Spirit itself through the gates of art under the forms of beauty, and to build it for the independently present life of mind, that is mankind, or for the images of the gods that are set up and clothed by man in objective form, and to build up the same as that which no longer carries its significance in itself, but discovers the same in another, that is man, and his necessities and objects of family and State-life, culture and so forth, and by so doing surrenders the self-subsistency of such buildings.

Regarded under this aspect we may assume the advance of architecture to consist in this, that it suffers the above indicated distinction between end and means to appear in separation, and constructs for man, or the individual human form of gods, which is the work of sculpture, an architectural dwelling, palace, or temple analogous to the significance of the same.

And, thirdly, the termination unites both phases in the process, and appears within this aspect of division as at the same time self-subsistent. These points of view present to us, as the classification of the entire art of building, the following heads of division, which essentially comprehend the notional distinctions of the matter in question no less than the historical development of the same.

First, we have the genuine symbolic or self-subsistent type of architecture.

Secondly, there is the classical type, which gives independent form to spiritual individuality, divesting on the other hand the art of building of its self-subsistency, and degrading it in the intent to set up an inorganic environment under the forms of art, for the spiritual significances which are now on their part independently realized.

Thirdly, romantic architecture, in other words the so-called Moorish, Gothic, and German, in which, it is true, houses, churches, and palaces are also merely the dwellings and places in which civic and religious needs and activities are concentrated; which, however, conversely are also shaped and raised without let or hindrance for the express object of emphasizing their self-subsistency.

Although on the grounds already advanced architecture in respect to its fundamental character remains of a symbolic type, yet the artistic types known as the truly symbolic, classical, and romantic constitute the closest means of defining it, and are here of greater importance than in the other arts. For in sculpture the classical, and in music and painting the romantic, penetrates so profoundly to the entire root-basis of these arts respectively, that for the elaboration of the type of the other arts , to a more or less degree, but little room is left for other aspects. And, finally, in poetry, though it is the fact that it gives the most complete impress in its art-products of the entire series of art-types, we shall find it necessary to make our classification not by means of the distinction between symbolic, classic, and romantic poetry, but according to the specific differentiation applicable to poetry as a particular art in epic, lyrical, and dramatic poetry. Architecture is, on the other hand, art in its immediate relation to the external medium, so that in this case the essential differences consist in this, whether this external matter receives its significance intrinsically, or is treated as a means for an object other than it, or finally asserts itself in this subservience as at the same time independent. The first case is identical with the symbolic type simply, the second with the classical, the real significance attaining here an independent presentation, and in doing this the symbolic is attached as an environment wholly external to it, a type which is exemplified in the principle of classical art. The union of these two types is coincident with the romantic, in so far, that is, as romantic art makes use of the exterior medium as a means of expression, yet withdraws itself into itself out of this reality, and is consequently able once more by doing so to let objective existence stand forth in self-subsistent embodiment.

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