The Rebirth of Art

Art is one of the clearest mirrors reflecting society and culture. Some would even dare to say that it is a society's collective memory. The transformation from traditional to modern art has been studied and written about since its occurrence. It is truly the best way to understand our current situation, especially for those clinging to tradition. This article will try to give a brief idea of the main differences and what can be said about society and culture.

There are two attitudes artists and thinkers in early modernity had towards the past. As mentioned by Arbogast Schmitt, it was apparent that the Middle Ages did not “evaluate the world through reason but merely based on appearance.” Secondly, they neglected intuition and focused on conceptual distinction as seen in the work of Platonism (Platonic realm) and Aristotle’s ultra-abstract notions of potential, efficient, final and formal causation, etc. The rebirth of art, taking into account these criticisms, can be seen in Matteo Palmieri's dialogue (1432) and Leonardo Bruni. From this current of thought arose the notion that art is about how an individual reacts to an object, including the feeling and sensuality to which it gives rise. Research sees the celebrated arts of the Age of the Renaissance with its humanism and reforms embodied precisely in this property of art as being subjective. “Mistrust vis-à-vis the world has turned into a deep love for the world” (Pierre Wenger, 1998).

The most important is that the concept of beauty had changed.  In the architecture of the Cordoba Mosque, churches, and the classical oud playing, you can see a human effort trying to grapple and connect with what is beyond him.  It had a religious fervor—reaching for a beauty that transcended them. The condition for beauty agreed on by most, as articulated by Plato, is the “agreement of the parts with each other and with the whole, and harmony, symmetry, proportion, and their mathematical-geometrical justification.” This  was now measured by subjective intuition, not from transcendental sources or concepts.

This is what makes modern art unique from traditional art. Art now has to do with intuition and direct experience, not some version of art that has been conceptualized using metaphysics – the priority for modern artists constitutes “objectivity of representation.”  Secondly, the individual rather than some transcendental concept is what measures beauty.  Although Plato’s definition of beauty as “harmony, symmetry, proportion” holds, this synthesis is not derived through studying the theories underlying nature (metaphysics), traditional mathematics or religious knowledge, but instead such elements can be found within the object painted. By carefully examining the thing, it can reveal its inner rationality and beauty to you. Art is the “subjective illusory creation of such a ‘reality.’ ” Through the framework just described, you can easily understand the transformation from a traditional aesthetic to Renaissance, Mannerism (16th century), Classicism and Baroque (17th century), Rococo (18th century), Neoclassicism (18th century), Impressionism (20th century), Abstract art, etc.

If one thing constitutes modern art and also thought, it is that knowledge, proper knowledge, is not found in conceptual notions but rather in experience. Any insight into anything must begin with direct experience, and that experience is the measure of how much it aligns with reality. We arrive in turn to the individual – mathematics and logic are mental, reality is mind-dependent, a world where there is my truth, your truth, our truth (truth in ideas or proposition), but no truth beyond our self. Hence what follows is really the disintegration of religion, even religious experience is either considered the blind faith of Kant or a psychological experience (William James) nothing more. For a further exposition on the topic, refer to “Modernity and Plato” by Arbogast Schmitt.