Notebook, 1993-

APPROACHES - Modernism -- Mainstreams of Modern Art

From: Canaday, John. Mainstreams of Modern Art. New York: Simon and Schustesr. 1961.

Mainstreams of Modern
- Idealism and Disillusion

For all their differences, the classicists and the romantics held one convicton in common, and it was a basic one: they thought of life and the world as a mystery that could be explored to discover the reason for man's existence. Niether doubted the assumption that we are here for a reason and that our being is justified and meaningful. For both, nature--all the different facets of life, of the world--was what Delacroix called "a vocabulary" that could be used to study the mystery's solution. Classic or romantic the idealist assumes that within all the conficts and contradictions, all the ambiguities and confusions of life, somewhere there is a harmony, a discoverable truth, by which man can understand the fact that he exists. The forces around him and within him, all apparently working at odds agaisnt one another, must certainly be not accidental, as they appear to be, but animated toward meaningful order; must certainly be some part of a universal plan within which we move for some purpose toward some reward, some profound satisfaction of the human yearning to be more than an organism that is born, suffers, and dies.

The classicist sought to clarify the mystery by intellectualizing man's experience. The romantic sought its heart in the more ambiguous area of the "soul" and was willing to cultivate even life's suffering in the conviction that emotional experience holds the answer everyone seeks. But in the end--and this is the important point--both classicist and romantic were idealists, refusing to accept the world at face value, rejecting it in the end, forcing the experience of life into their respective and equally arbitrary molds in spite of repeated evidence [p. 74] that they could never get more than a part of it to fit.

By the middle of the nineteenth century, twenty-five years after David's death and a decade before Delacroix's and Ingre's, painters were becoming disillusioned with idealism in either form and were turning to realism, which in several forms was to dominate painting until near the end of the century. Meanwhile, the movement had been anticipated by one of the most unillusioned painters who ever lived, the Spaniard Francisco Goya [1746-1828]. [p. 75]

[Canaday, John. Mainstreams of Modern Art. New York: Simon and Schustesr. 1961.]



The contents of this site, including all images and text, are for personal, educational, non-commercial use only. The contents of this site may not be reproduced in any form without proper reference to Text, Author, Publisher, and Date of Publication [and page #s when suitable].