Cover image for The invention of art : a cultural history
The invention of art : a cultural history
Shiner, L. E. (Larry E.), 1934-
Publication Information:
Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 2001.
Physical Description:
xix, 362 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
The Greeks had no word for it -- Aquinas's saw -- Michelangelo and Shakespeare: art on the rise -- Artemisia's allegory: art in transition -- Polite arts for the polite classes -- The artist, the work, and the market -- From taste to the aesthetic -- Hogarth, Rousseau, Wollstonecraft -- Revolution: music, festival, museum -- Art as redemptive revelation -- The artist: a sacred calling -- Silences: triumph of the aesthetic -- Assimilation and resistance -- Modernism, anti-art, and the Bauhaus -- Beyond art and craft?.
Format :


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NX440 .S5 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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With The Invention of Art , Larry Shiner challenges our conventional understandings of art and asks us to reconsider its history entirely, arguing that the category of fine art is a modern invention--that the lines drawn between art and craft resulted from key social transformations in Europe during the long eighteenth century.

"Shiner spent over a decade honing what he calls 'a brief history of the idea of art.' This carefully prepared and--given the extent and complexity of what he's discussing--admirably concise, well-organized book is the result. . . . Shiner's text is scholarly but accessible, and should appeal to readers with even a dabbler's interest in art theory."-- Publishers Weekly

" The Invention of Art is enjoyable to read and provides a welcome addition to the history and philosophy of art."--Terrie L. Wilson, Art Documentation

"A lucid book . . . it should be a must-read for anyone active in the arts."--Marc Spiegler, Chicago Tribune Books

Author Notes

Larry Shiner is professor of philosophy at the University of Illinois at Springfield

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

University of Illinois philosophy professor Shiner (The Secret Mirror, etc.) spent over a decade honing what he calls a "brief history of the idea of art." This carefully prepared and given the extent and complexity of what he is discussing admirably concise, well-organized book is the result. Looking forward as much as backward, Shiner finds that "the category of fine art is a recent historical construction that could disappear in its turn." He plausibly traces the 18th-century division between "so-called polite and vulgar arts" from a time when music, for example, was played at home or for "religious and civic occasions" to when it started to be played in concerts with no other goal than artistic enjoyment in and of itself: "On this high cultural ground, noble and bourgeois could meet as a fine art public, rejecting both the frivolous diversions of the rich and highborn as well as the vulgar amusements of the populace." It was the beginning of art as we experience it today. Shiner cites examples from a wide range of forms, including Shakespeare's plays, Greek drama, Cellini's sculptures and Michelangelo's paintings. He also discusses Asian art, pointing out how "the Japanese language had no collective noun for `art' in our sense until the nineteenth century" and establishes that the phrase "Chinese art" is also a relatively recent invention, since before the 19th century no one in China "grouped painting, sculpture, ceramics, and calligraphy together as objects" with something determinate in common. Essentially optimistic in tone, this book argues that people who complain about the "death of art" are really just failing to measure "the staying power of the established art system." A must for larger art collections, Shiner's text is scholarly but accessible, and should appeal to readers with even a dabbler's interest in art theory. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Choice Review

In this well-illustrated book, Shiner (philosophy, Univ. of Illinois at Springfield) provides a convincing narrative of the social construction of modernism and dispels any claims of art's "universal status." He argues that the category of fine art itself is a recent invention dating from the 18th century. Social changes, such as market economies and the rise of the middle class, encouraged certain distinctions--fine art was distinguished from craft, the artist from the artisan, and refined pleasure from ordinary pleasure. The fine arts, it was said, are "a matter of inspiration and genius and meant to be enjoyed for themselves in moments of refined pleasure, whereas the crafts and popular arts require only skill and rules and are meant for mere use or entertainment." Museums appeared, the traditional patron was replaced by the consumer, and an emphasis on aesthetic value replaced that of function. As these developments evolved through the 19th century, the artist's image gyrated between bohemian nonchalance or dandyism and the artist as "secular saint-and-martyr," and such concepts as the avant-garde, art for art's sake, and the shock of the new made their appearance, eventually becoming the basis of 20th-century modernism. Lower-division undergraduates through professionals. R. M. Davis Albion College

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
The Great Division Words and Institutions
Part I Before Fine Art and Craft Overview
1 The Greeks Had No Word for It Art,techne, ars The Artisan/Artist
2 Aquinas's Saw From "Servile" to "Mechanical" Arts Artificers The Idea of Beauty
3 Michelangelo and Shakespeare: Art on the Rise Opening up the Liberal Arts
The Changing Status of Artisan/Artists
The Ideal Qualities of the Artisan/Artist Shakespeare, Jonson, and the "Work"
A Proto-Aesthetic?
4 Artemesia's Allegory: Art in Transition
The Artisan/Artist's Continuing Struggle for Status
The Image of the Artisan/Artist
Steps toward the Category of Fine Art
The Role of Taste
Part II Art Divided
5 Polite Arts for the Polite
Constructing the Category of Fine Art
The New Institutions of Fine Art
The New Art Public
6 The Artist, the Work, and the Market
The Separation of the Artist from the Artisan
The Ideal Image of the Artist
The Fate of the Artisan
The Gender of Genius
The Ideal of the "Work of Art"
From Patronage to the Market
7 From Taste to the Aesthetic Learning
Aesthetic Behavior
The Art Public and the Problem of Taste
The Elements of the Aesthetic
Kant and Schiller
Sum Up the Aesthetic
Part III Countercurrents
8 Hogarth, Rousseau, Wollstonecraft Hogarth's "Hedonist Aesthetics"
Rousseau's Festival
Aesthetic Wollstonecraft and the Beauty of Justice
9 Revolution: Music, Festival, Museum
The Collapse of Patronage
The Revolutionary Festivals
Revolutionary Music
The Revolution and the Museum
Part IV The Apotheosis of Art
10 Art as Redemptive Revelation Art Becomes an Independent Realm
The Spiritual Elevation of Art
11 The Artist: A Sacred Calling
The Exalted Image of Artists
The Descent of the Artisan
12 Silences: Triumph of the Aesthetic
Learning Aesthetic Behavior
The Rise of the Aesthetic and the Decline of Beauty
The Problem of Art and Society
Part V Beyond Art and Craft Overview
13 Assimilation and Resistance
The Assimilation of Photography Varieties of Resistance: Emerson, Marx, Ruskin, Morris
The Arts and Crafts Movement
14 Modernism, Anti-Art, Bauhaus Modernism and Purity
The Case of Photography Anti-ArtThe Bauhaus Three
Philosopher-Critics on the Division of Art
Modernism and Formalism Triumphant
15 Beyond Art and Craft? "Primitive Art"
Crafts-as-Art Architecture as Art
The Photography-as-Art Boom
The "Death of Literature"?
Mass Art Art and Life
Public Art