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Thread: The decline of western art

  1. #1

    The decline of western art

    Compared to the classic masters (e.g., Caravaggio or Michelangelo), there seems to be a decline in the aesthetics of western art. The general aesthetics of art seems to have changed from one that was universal and relatable to something that's contrived and in some instances, downright ugly.

    For instance, one can look at Raphael's Stanza della Segnatura and instantly be in awe of the scope and art of the work. Even in impressionist pieces, this continues to be the case.

    However, much of what passes for modern art and subsequent contemporary art just seems so contrived, and often a substitute for real talent.

    For instance, Pietà is a majestic piece of sculpture, and in its place, we have artists today who ejaculate in test tubes and call it art instead. Most of the modern art also looks like compositions that could be done by an 8 year old, and yet, these artists continue to be popular.

    What has caused this decline in aesthetics and general talent? Why do we not see as many great masterpieces as Pannini's Venetian Gallery? What is so spectacular about Andy Warhol's work that it is put on a pedestal along with the likes of Goya, Renoir, and Jean-Léon Gérôme?

    I realize this is a subjective question, but nevertheless, I have seen and heard this sentiment expressed by many people who are unable to relate to what passes for modern art these days.

    For instance, consider the examples below (Twombly and Picasso, for those who care):

    Contrast them against these classic favorites, such as:

    I would argue that the aesthetics of the latter two paintings are certainly more pleasing than the first two, setting aside all the other baggage that's associated with art today.

    I can even relate to the likes of Lichtenstein, whose creations are inherently aesthetically pleasing:

    This is by no means limited to art. Consider, for instance, the new John Paul II sculpture:

    Contrast this against Pietà:

    Despite the deceptive proportions, Mary's body is hidden in the drapery of her outfit. If Mary were to stand up, she would be ~7 feet tall relative to Jesus. We went from producing such magnificent sculptures to appallingly ridiculous ones.

    Therefore, to me, the classic response that all art is subjective or that art is all about triggering an emotional response is a cop out, at least from an aesthetic standpoint.

    If you were to show a thousand people from around the world the first two paintings vs. the second two paintings, I would be willing to bet that the vast majority would find the latter two more aesthetically pleasing.

    I find the equivocation that all art is equally pleasing quite disingenuous. The whole aspect of emotion and nuance is the kind of contrived, artificial reasoning that I had mentioned in my question. While I don't disagree with any of those, I am only talking about aesthetics.

    Banksy spraying a can on a wall may amuse me or tickle my political fancies, but aesthetically, it is still mediocre at best. In contrast, the Feast of Herod with the Beheading of St John the Baptist looks magnificent in comparison (as an aesthetic).

    So, I am looking for a response that does not conflate all the other things that go into defining art -- only aesthetics. Now, if you argue that the aesthetics of a chicken scratch are the same as Monet's water lilies, then I think we have a fundamental disconnect.

    With all that said. What has caused the aesthetic decline in western art as a collective phenomenon?

    Do you agree/disagree? Discuss.
    Last edited by M. Montaigne; Jan 19, 2015 at 08:49 AM.

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  3. #2
    Random guy vinylgreek's Avatar
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    Thanks for an interesting discussion topic but I won't prove to offer any earth-shaking insights. I do agree that Western art has declined dreadfully with only occasional instances of what I consider art being produced - usually to little critical notice or approval.

    At root I believe that the art world has become very insular and self-limiting. It has been my view that art ennobles and elevates the creator and viewer. It is the manifestation of a Divinely given gift and it is therefore the artist's obligation to glorify the Giver of that gift through the creation of objects of beauty worthy of that Being.

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  5. #3
    MWC is that my watch's Avatar
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    came for a look stayed for the biskwits
    yes it's is a good question I like the renoir a lot...... like monet this is one of my favs

    but then I like picasso.

    and love the kiss by rodina

    and I sorta like andy worhol well some of his work it's like an 80's thing but not for me

    like the classical stuff maybe I understand it more or should it be it speaks to me more

    yeah just don't get the modern stuff not saying it's bad or wrong I just don't get it .. but I do get this

    but as they say it's all subjective

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  7. #4
    Just as a side note, you are picking out stuff from the past that has stood the test of time, it has already been through a process of selection and has been found worthy. It isn't clear to me that the stuff you pick out as being comparable is actually so. Who knows, perhaps in the future people will look back at Frank Wootton or Richard Hamilton rather than Kurt Schwitters or any of the 'Sensations' artists. There's no denying that Picasso was a master of his craft, he just chose to paint stuff that was challenging rather than traditional. Who is to say that the work of his that makes it to the future will be from this period?

    I suspect that art is in rude health, we are just focusing on slightly less talented show offs, through the prism of art as commodity. However, you might have a point, because as Banksy once said:

    Quote Originally Posted by Banksy
    “The thing I hate the most about advertising is that it attracts all the bright, creative and ambitious young people, leaving us mainly with the slow and self-obsessed to become our artists.. Modern art is a disaster area. Never in the field of human history has so much been used by so many to say so little.”

  8. #5
    Member CamB's Avatar
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    While I am no expert, its pretty obvious that a lot of rubbish sells for outrageous prices.

    Have a go at this
    Last edited by CamB; Jan 19, 2015 at 09:54 AM.
    Regards Cam

    Tudor Pelagos, Omega Speedmaster 3510.50, Oris 1965 Diver, Tissot Visodate, Helson Blackbeard, Seiko PADI Turtle, Tag Heuer F1

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  10. #6
    Member CamB's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CamB View Post
    While I am no expert, its pretty obvious that a lot of rubbish sells for outrageous prices.

    I GOT 2 OUT OF 10
    Regards Cam

    Tudor Pelagos, Omega Speedmaster 3510.50, Oris 1965 Diver, Tissot Visodate, Helson Blackbeard, Seiko PADI Turtle, Tag Heuer F1

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  12. #7
    King of Mars bolaberlim's Avatar
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    Nov 2014
    Porto, Portugal
    One of the things I don't get is "performance art" I saw one were a bunch of people stood on newspaper, and made a wee wee on photos and money. Literally. I could not believe my own eyes.

    The reason is complicated, I suspect. We live in fast times, People ( not all but most) don't look at things, they just glance at them. A Banksy stencil means more to a kid than a classic painting. Banksy has a message to send, and it does it very well- I like it! But when they go to a museum and see all those masterpieces, the message is not there. They see a picture. They do that with their cellphones, so the artist is not really that impressive. On a trip to London about 8 years ago I went to the National Gallery and took a good long look at those paintings ( shame on me I don't remember a single artists name) and I was with a couple of friends and they kept making those noises like they were tired to be there. These are cultured people but even to them looking at those was a bore, while I was trying to find the actual brush strokes that composed each color on the faces and finding it fascinating.

    This leads me to two conclusions at least:

    1)To really see and appreciate these images you have to see them live, and go to those strange places called "museums". If you see them on a screen or paper, it's just another image.

    2) People need context to appreciate what they are looking at. Banksy is immediate, and it delivers a message. Understanding the context of each work of art will help people appreciate it more.

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  14. #8
    Timewaster jsw41's Avatar
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    Almonte, ON, CA
    I am no art expert, by any means; but that doesn't mean I don't have an opinion. There are things that have happened in the last 100 years that may lead to the phenomenon you describe:
    1. Follow the money; there are no wealthy magnates willing to employ a painter/sculptor for a decade or so to create these masterpieces.
    2. Anyone can create an image, a colour image, and with their cellphone!

    These were different 150 yrs ago.

    If you come to a fork in the road; take it, and then put it down so someone else can use it.

  15. #9
    Moderator - Central tribe125's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by M. Montaigne View Post
    What has caused the aesthetic decline in western art as a collective phenomenon?
    The pace and complexity of modern life, the reduced cycle of change, the ease and comfort provided by technology - together they have contributed to superficiality in all things, including art.

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  17. #10

    Classical painting carries on, it's just not the loudest branch of art.

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