Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Does classical art achieve the same level of emotional impact as expressionistic art?

If we recognize the distinction between expressionistic art (french, german, abstract expressionism, etc) and classical realism (french neo-classical realism or the classical realism of today), do you think that classical art can achieve the same level of emotional impact as expressionistic art?

I ask this question because I often read or hear from classical realist types who assert that the high degree of skill and finish and pictorial clarity (or whatever you want to call it) that goes into classical art is the vehicle by which the highest minded ideals of human existence can be most effectively communicated.

I'm not sure why this claim is made with such confidence, given the obvious examples in the history of art, of artworks of great emotive power that are not classical in nature. Do classicists simply ride on the coat-tails of the classical Greek & Roman cultural traditions of western culture? Do they rely on the general public's love of realism in art?

This claim seems similar to the claim that classical music buffs make about classical music, and the logic by which they discard any modern music. The obvious training and talent that get channeled into classical careers is indeed long and daunting. But is the effort to perfect a very evolved and complex art form (and craft form) enough to secure for that form the mantel of artistic high ground?

Sub-questions about classical art...

Does classical art rely on subject matter to tell the viewer what to feel?
Can one really be told what to feel?
Does this make classical art analytical?
Does the pictorial clarity of classical art hinder the conveyance of emotional content?
Is precision inherently incompatible with emotive intent. If so, then why do it. If not, then is there some limit to what can be conveyed unambiguously.

Sub-questions about expressionistic art...

Does expressionistic art rely on formal elements (deliberate distortion of line or color ) to affect the viewer at the emotional level?
Does this make expressionistic art less analytical and more emotional?
Does the pictorial ambiguity  of expressionistic art lend itself to emotive communication?

Is there a continuum of clarity, whereby on one extreme we have total clarity (a white canvas), and on the other end we have total ambiguity (visual chaos).

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