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Art and Anarchy by Edgar Wind
Introduction by John Bayley
Published by Northwestern University Press in 1985
Book Review by Bobby Matherne ©2002


Three quick quotes from book:

...effective censorship is a contradiction in terms. Like pruning, it gives new vigor to what it cuts back; but if it attacks the root, it destroys the plant it is supposed to save.

If modern art is sometimes shrill, it is not the fault of the artist alone. We all tend to raise our voices when we speak to persons who are getting deaf.

As Croce rather brusquely put it, there is no 'double bottom' to the suitcase of art.

What you see is what you get, both with art and Wind. A art historian by profession and a master writer by avocation, Wind overflows with a wealth of insights into the evolution of art over the past five centuries. He points out that in Raphael's time, a theory was extant that Plato used the language of poetic enthusiasm and Aristotle that of rational analysis. Thus he explains how the painter's "School of Athens" came to be dominated by Apollo (god of poetry) and Minerva (goddess of reason). By following this thought in analysis, one is led to discoveries about the painting that a purely sensory examination would have missed. "Our eye sees as our mind reads," Wind remarks.

On patronage he comments on how, "we prefer to wait until an artist has finished his work" but in the Renaissance, patrons were wont to exercise their critical judgments while the fate of the work was still in doubt. He explains the creative part that Pope Clement VII played in the development of Michelangelo's works in Rome. He contrasts this with the laissez-faire attitude taken by the architects of the UNESCO building in Paris. He says the art that resulted seems to "loiter about the place without function, distracted and disunited."

A challenging book, filled with French and German quotations, well worth reading in their originals, which is not optional since no translations into English are provided.

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