More on Kant and Modern Art

kant-portraitIn my Kant and Modern Art post, I quoted eight varied big-name contemporary thinkers — Danto and Dutton and Rand and Scruton and others — who identify Immanuel Kant as the key philosopher in explaining the transition to modernism in art.

Here are two more I came across recently:

Jean-Fran├žois Lyotard, leading postmodern thinker: “It seems to me indispensable to go back through the Analytic of the Sublime from Kant’s Critique of Judgement in order to get an idea of what is at stake in modernism, in what are called the avant-gardes in painting or in music.”[1]

David Bentley Hart, an Eastern Orthodox theologian: “Sublimity is in critical fashion, here on the far side of modernity; and it is — with whatever degree of conceptual alteration — the sublime of Kant’s Critique of Judgment that has come to define the nature of this fashion.”[2]

So: Why is Kant’s version of the sublime fundamental to modernism in art?

kant-via-pomoIt’s an interesting question, for there’s over a century from the publication of Critique of Judgment at the end of the eighteenth century to the modernist break at the end of the nineteenth. What happened in that century? It’s also interesting because Kant is a highly abstract philosopher. How did his philosophical theories come to define artistic practice? And it’s interesting because Kant has a deserved reputation for rigid Prussian formality in the content and style of his writing, while modernism in art embraces the very un-Prussian figures of Picasso, Duchamp, Pollock, and Warhol. How can any explanation conjoin such apparent opposites?

So a fun intellectual history project that still awaits writing up.

[1] Jean-Fran├žois Lyotard, The Inhuman (Stanford U.P., 1991), p. 135.
[2] David Bentley Hart, The Beauty of the Infinite: The Aesthetics of Christian Truth (Eerdmans, 2004), p. 44.

Connecting Kant to postmodern epistemology: Chapter 2 of Explaining Postmodernism [pdf].
Connecting Kant to the phrase “giving back.”
Wendy Steiner on Kant and modernism in art.

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