Welcome to Art 473-673 for the Fall 2013 Semester!

Hello and Welcome to Art 473-673!  This Fall 2013 semester we will explore the sustained cry for artistic freedom and its connection to the outpouring of creative energy between 1890 and 1960.  Although much of this visual material may seem “old” to you, in reality the pitched battle by the artist for expressive freedom is a recent phenomena from a historical context.  An exhibition catalogue entry written by critic Clive Bell, published in the Second Post-Impressionist Exhibition (1912), states:  “We all agree now that any form in which an artist can express himself is legitimate, and the more sensitive perceive that there are things worth expressing that could never have been expressed in traditional forms.”  Clive Bell began his catalogue entry with the following exclamation:  “The battle is won.”  Do you believe that “the battle is won”?  Your thoughts?

Picasso Les_Demoiselles_d'Avignon


Pablo Picasso, Women of Avignon, 1907

Pollock No._5,_1948


Jackson Pollock, Number 5, 1948

30 thoughts on “Welcome to Art 473-673 for the Fall 2013 Semester!

  1. It seems to me that “the battle is won” is the true expression that we cannot perceive through traditional media alone. In which I agree because there are so many expressions that many artists have and they cannot put all of their emotions/feelings into a painting alone. Maybe through a series of paintings or so but even through that series, an audience cannot fully comprehend the true meaning behind the painting. The spectator can observe the painting and make many assumption upon assumption which can seem valid if they have proof to back it up. But they are merely opinions not facts of why the artist wanted so and so onto the picture or why this specific color is there.
    Even for the artist themselves, despite their technical work and experience through their art, their true feelings cannot all be put into one artwork alone.
    And so, “the battle is won”.

  2. I have to disagree with Clive Bell’s opening line. Saying something has ended has a certain finality to it. There is no room for growth or for improvement, and like all things in the art world, change is inevitable and hopefully progressive. Art has been widely defined and while I agree that we have taken a huge step in self expression through various types of art that “traditional forms” might not have been able to accomplish, people will always need to be taught acceptance and tolerance. A painting can only be powerful if people are willing to give it power, and if they aren’t able to interpret the expression the artist is conveying, has anything been expressed? I believe that the battle will never be over, but it can be adapted and art (media, lyrical, physical etc) is a fantastic start.

  3. I would have to say that I disagree with Mr. Bell in regards to the battle being won, or even close to being over for that matter. Art in all its forms is something that serves to be a reflection of society at any given point in time. So long as there are artists expressing themselves through different mediums or means and critics (or ‘The Establishment’) to provide a counterpoint to their artistic expressions, conflict will always remain to be a constant fixture. Throughout the majority of history, art has typically followed patronage, but then changes around the mid 1800s. We then see artists rejecting the normal, traditional notions of art and painting, subsequently rebelling against the Salons and art jurors of the time. Today, it could be said that the roles may have reversed somewhat, where patronage follow art. Certainly, art in all its forms is something that elicits an emotional response from viewers. Nowadays, art that is provocative often stirs up emotions from critics and the public alike. As long as we the viewers have something to say or challenge, then the battle is certainly no where near over.

  4. I tend to agree with that the battle is won; but only recently, not back in the 20’s. Based on all the art that has come before where limitation put on the artist to follow a particular school. As the styles changed, there has always been a pushback. Even in the Twentieth Century there was censorship of art, either by the government or our parents. I totally remember “The Tropic of Capricorn” being banned in the US in the early 1960’s. You had to get the book through the mail or at a “dirty book store.” As recent as 2000, there have been controversies regarding art and legal battles to censor it. None have won, thank God. I think that the government (or certain factions of the government) is more contemporary and recognizes art as an individual expression and no matter how offensive or provocative, it is our 1st amendment right to express it.

  5. I think ‘a’ battle is won, in that all forms of art that have been discovered and/or are expressed today are considered as art. What hasn’t been won yet is the acceptance of certain kinds of art–people looking down to it, thinking that it isn’t really art. For example, if someone drew people or cartoons doing certain things, people would see that right away. They would easily get it. Now, if someone were to make something, such as an expressionist piece of art, people wouldn’t get it right away. We would have to look closely and try to find things we see in the art that could possibly be linked to the intent of what the artist is trying to express. People today, I think, are too stubborn to do that, thus they shun it and say it isn’t art. As mentioned already, artists have different ways of (successfully) expressing themselves through the kind of art they do. Maybe it is too complex for everyone else right now. Maybe it just has to take more time to win every battle (in this case).

  6. I disagree with Mr. Bell. The battle has not been won. Yes, artists are able to express themselves more with this new found technique in the early 20th century, but as humans it is in our nature to continue to evolve. Society outside and inside of the art world develop new ways to express themselves and that’s how it will continue to be as long as we exist. Clive Bell originally wrote his statement in 1912 and since then there has been numerous developments in expressionism art, such as performance art. The battle will continue as long as we as people continue to make art.

  7. I would have to disagree with Clive Bell, “the battle is won.” I feel that even though artists are able to express themselves more freely than in the past; there are still critics, communities, and some social personal oppions that will either reject or destroy, if given the chance, an artist expression in art. For example “Piss Christ”. I feel that “the battle” will never be won, as we still have societies that can’t even accept someone’s eles personal beliefs.

  8. I believe that the only battle won is the that which is stated. “We all agree now that any form in which an artist can express himself is legitimate….there are things worth expressing that could never have been expressed in traditional forms.” But there is never going to be an end result. We will never be satisfied with any specific area or method to be able to express ourselves. There will always be the traditional and the new expressive ways we achieve creating today will one day be considered traditional. Therefore, artists will always be looking for and developing new ways to constantly find that medium that correctly visualizes their idea, thought, feeling, etc. to the absolute most specific way possible.

  9. There are several key words in Clive Bell’s statement coupled with the historical period of the day that lead me to agree indeed, at that time, “the battle is won.” Mr. Bell’s written entry is for The Second Annual Post-Impressionism Exhibition of 1912 which connotes an acceptance in the art world and perhaps of society in general that the Post-Impression movement accomplished what Impressionism, Neoclassicism and Romanticism did not: a complete break from art based in realistic observation. Taken within the context of the time, this great schism was as unparalleled in the history of western art as it was monumental. Post-Impressionist artists like Cezanne and van Gogh broke through and heralded in the new era of twentieth century art. That Mr. Bell did not proclaim “the war was won” perceptively indicates that future generations of avant-garde artists would have their own battles to wage.

  10. It goes without saying that the more artistically inclined are able to recognize when their subject is so poignant that it cannot be expressed using a traditional art form. This is how art has progressed and evolved over many centuries. However, in regards to the claim, “we all agree now that any form in which an artist can express himself is legitimate,” the battle has not been won. Art is not static; it is constantly changing. Artists will always find new methods of expressing themselves and said methods may not be accepted as legitimate art forms until long after their creation. Artists will continue to push the envelope and critics will continue to challenge them. The battle will never be won, but this is not a tragedy. The battle is what keeps art alive.

  11. I think that the battle has been won because at this day and age anything can be perceived as art. Which can also become a problem because there are a lot of bad artist that try to take advantage of the fact that any form in which an artist can express himself is considered legitimate. This makes it hard to determine what bad art is and I believe that it demeans art. At least during the traditional days one had to have talent in order to be called an artist. Today anyone can make a crappy piece, put some senseless meaning to it, and claim that they’re artist. The battle that should be worth winning is the freedom to express any kind of idea no matter how controversial it may be.

  12. “We all agree now that any form in which an artist can express himself is legitimate, and the more sensitive perceive that there are things worth expressing that could never have been expressed in traditional forms.”

    I don’t think “we all agree” that any form is legitimate (think pornography) anymore than we agree on who or what an artist is. So the battle can’t be won, nor should it be. The discourse that we, as a society, are involved in is what propels us to the next level of our evolution. That is the same with all levels of that society, especially the art movements that are left to represent a society after it’s time has past. We view our history by the wars waged and the art left behind. That art is forged by someone saying what was done previously no longer speaks for me (us), no longer represents how I am living my life so how can the battle be won. Why do we see it in terms of a battle anyway? It’s just evolution.

    • Bell seems to be referring to the battle for non-traditional expressions in art to have a place in the mainstream of culture apart from “academy” standards. This began with Courbet, Manet and the Impressionists late in the 19th century who staged their own exhibitions apart from the Salon and culminated in the post-impressionism exhibition Bell is commenting on. I agree that the battle was won at that time and gave ground even to this day for uninhibited artistic freedom of expression. I question whether “any form in which an artist expresses himself is legitimate.” That leaves open killing, desecration and whatever else the artist can think of simply because it is artistic expression.

  13. I definitely do not think that “the battle is won” when it comes to the fact that “any form in which an artist can express himself is legitimate,” because, really, I don’t believe that it is. So…if I, one person, believe that there’s plenty of artistic expressions that are illegitimate, I’m sure there are plenty others out there that believe the same. Expressions of explicit sexuality seem like cheap “attention-grabbers” meant, not for the artists’ own personal expression, but more for their own monetary gain. The same goes for people who choose to put their cats’ paws in blue paint and have them walk around on a white canvas. They are simply cheap tricks at an attempt to whore out their lack of creativity to become a “one hit wonder” in the art world. But forms of artistic expression, such as photography, still get a bad rap as well…being considered perhaps too easy, or not an expression of the artist/photographer himself, or people “getting lucky” with one good photo that goes viral, while someone who really cherishes the art they make gets overlooked. The only way you can really legitimize a form of artistic expression is if the artist really does all they can to put themselves in the artwork and have a passion for it…when that happens, it should be easy to read in the artwork whether or not the artistic expression is legitimate in the form the artist prepared it.

  14. When it comes to Clive Bell, “the battle is won.” I would have to disagree as an artist the body of work you can create depends greatly on where you are in the world. in the western world we are for the most part free to express ourselves as we please in whatever art for we choose. However, in much of the world artist still face censorship and political/cultural pressure in regards to the message of their art.

  15. I’m not sure that the battle has been won. Actually, I doubt it could ever been won, nor that it should be. Sure, the arena of what is considered art has opened considerably in the last hundred or so years, but not every form an artist might use would be instantly accepted as a legitimate expression. By considering art to be driven from the inner creativity of a gifted individual, we neglect the social dimensions. Art is never really art until a group of people confer it with status. Expression that breaks with conventional forms is always suspicious at first and then become institutionalized. Without that uncomfortable feeling that compels us to reject the new and take shelter in the comforts of familiar art, I doubt art would be a significant cultural force.

  16. I do not agree that the battle is won. Although there have been many new ways of interpreting art since Bell’s time, some people do not truly accept them as mediums of expression because it conflicts with what they believe is considered as art. Yet even if some question one way of expressing art there are still those who will support it. In fact, as long as there are supporters then virtually anything can be considered as art, but that also means there will be those who oppose that medium. This constant bickering of what is and is not considered art will always be around, and until it ends then it can be said that “the battle is won”.

  17. I believe that the question “The battle is won?” should be applied to each artist individually and not generalized. Art as a whole has moved forward and has been able to express a wider range of ideas, that have not been able to be expressed in the past. Yes, we have come to an age where more and more art forms are accepted, but not in its entirely. In fact, it may never be. The question should be asked to each artist, do you think your work expressed what you wanted to convey, did people react the way you expected? Those are the questions that would define whether or not one has “won” the battle.

  18. I believe that the statement “The battle is won” isn’t a fully realized statement. I agree that art should be expressed in different manners and not be constrained through rules and specific processes. In my own viewpoint, art should be something intellectually or visually pleasing to the viewer. There’s an epiphany during that era; a mental and visual rejection of the past. I don’t believe in the statement that any form of art should be legitimate. It’s implying too much that anyone can produce art. Understanding artists and their work from the past and using new found methods creates a more harmonious concept of art. The “old” types of art should not be rejected nor should it be thought of as a an enemy to be defeated. Art should be a continuos exploration; using the techniques and ideas learned and discovered.

  19. I would agree that great strides have been taken to giving legitimacy to various different art forms. However, I do not believe the battle is won. There will always be art forms that people will simply not accept right away and it seems like a cyclical struggle whenever something new pops up and is looked down upon. New musical genres can take years to be considered an art form. I feel like art is far too subjective to say that every art form can be respected enough to be considered legitimate.

  20. I, like many of the other fellow commenters, do not agree that with Mr. Bell’s quote that “the battle is won”. I interpret this quote to mean of the battle between the painter and the viewer/society. As new forms of art and expression come into the realm of the art world and the mainstream, there are people who look down and try to fit into a box what is art and what is not. They are the same arguments that people were having decades ago but you would be hard-pressed to find a individual who would not consider Picasso or Pollock artists now. I believe that it takes time for many people to come to accept difference in art, but it is inevitable with the passage of time.

  21. I do not agree with the comment “The battle is won.” It is such a vague comment that I would find difficulty standing behind it even if I did think he was correct but a quick glance at art history well after 1912 shows great difficulty for some artists to be recognized as what they are. Up until now there are still artists that are criticized for “not creating art”. The “battle” wasn’t over in 1912 and it may never end. Calling a win suggest that art will end at some point but so much of art is pushing the boundaries and finding new mediums and ways to express. The only way I could even begin to imagine the battle to truly “ending” would be for artists to exhaust literally every medium and form of art possible. Until that point there will be artists forging new paths and questioning the nature of art.

  22. Artists such as Picasso and Pollock were a breed of artists that had the ability to portray their inner thoughts and feelings onto canvas. Emotionally invested artists create a portal into another version of artistic expression that creates paths for new ways of design. The time period for these artists was crucial of creating a new way of expression that can encompass the artists’ vision and capture the attention of the common man. The historical evidence of these great artists prove that they have won the battle of innovation.

  23. It definitely depends on who Bell is refering to as “we.” If by “we” Bell is referring to mainstream society, then no, the battle is not won. Even in our current day people continue to reject the works of famous abstract expressionists quite regularly. Many times I have heard people making ignorant remarks like “my kid could do that” or “that’s not art.” Of course, I recognize that the party Bell is adressing is not likely the general public, but most probably the historically insular art world. Perhaps it is better that the battle isn’t won in respect to society as a whole. The fact perceptions and expectations continue to be challenged is a good thing as it is neccesary to progress and development.

  24. I believe the battle should never have existed. Just as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so is what is considered art. To claim that we ‘won the battle’ is to admit that we as a society have censored ourselves, and isn’t art suppose to be an expression of one’s freedom? Since the battle has happened and continues to every time a controversial artist goes mainstream. I do not think we ‘won’ anything, I think we lost a little bit of our freedom.

  25. Yes I do agree that “the battle is won.” Since an artist can express himself through his works of art in any shape or form, then that shows that he has the total freedom to do so. The battle has to be won because an artist can express whatever thoughts and emotions through his art works without any limits. If the battle hasn’t been won then there would be restrictions to what an artist can and cannot express. So since the battle is won, the artist can show everything worth expressing through his art that doesn’t need to follow any rules of what has already been expressed through traditional forms.

  26. A resounding “no” in response to Bell’s sentiments that “the battle is won”; with regards to Picasso and Pollack, specifically– I think we aim to speak on a caliber or “breed” of artist that existed in their own rights and canons as iconic and visionary cornerstones of the artistic world, who happened to live in a cathartic time that recognized “art” as a legitimate medium through which one could make a sociopolitical statement; as opposed to an expected fixture of day-to-day life.

    The inherent struggle express a thought, convey sentimentality, or incite action through art, versus the critical reception (and consequences) of that art has always existed, though. In a sense, the pieces themselves serve to immortalize, and breathe life into the struggle(s) which plighted the artist, at the time of its execution. Should artists be given free reign to execute whatever message they would like? Absolutely. Should the artist expect to have this freedom AND go with carte blanche? To act without an eye towards the potential reception and consequences of said art? Probably not.

    The tension that rifts creative freedom and “the rules”, is ultimately just as much a part of the artistic process as conceptualizing the piece. Ultimately, the “commentary” that arises out of such tension can be argued to be the ultimate goal– a valued piece that challenges, changes, and in its own right– informs the social landscape in which it was created.

  27. I generally tend to agree with the idea that “The battle is won.” In a way, I don’t really feel like there was much of a battle to begin with. There was certainly the outbursts against the uncommon forms of expression through art, but there will always be just as there always has been critics. Though that hasn’t stopped artists. While the twentieth century brought about some strange methods of art that had not appeared in the past, I believe that it is a result of a growing of humanity and consciousness more than any specific artistic win. As long as humans have had language they have had to find ways to express themselves in a way that others will understand. The more we know, the more ways we will discover to express ourselves, to tell stories, and to ultimately criticize others for their methods.

  28. I do not agree that the battle is won. Even though there are countless ways of viewing art regardless of the era. Even if there are people who question it one way there are people that will stand behind it. This argument of what is Fine Art and what isn’t will go on far past my life. The moment it does end is the time we can rejoice and agree with Bell’s saying of “The Battle is Won”.

  29. I believe that the battle has been won, but not the war. There will always be an active resistance from certain parties against certain progressions in art. I will concede that in modern times more people are more accepting of what is considered unusual or progressive. I feel there are not as many barriers that artists need to break through in order to express art in the way of their choosing. Even though there are more freedoms granted to the artist, there will always be opposition fighting to hold onto what they consider traditional. To this day I encounter people that criticize the way modern art looks, that it is not as beautiful or realistic as, say, the Renaissance artists. There is a disconnect believe modern art’s meaning and people’s interpretations of the material.

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