The German Classics of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, Volume 07 eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 600 pages of information about The German Classics of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, Volume 07.

This abstract relation brings also to consciousness the foreignness of the spiritual idea to natural phenomena.  And the spiritual idea, having no other reality to express its essence, expatiates in all these natural shapes, seeks itself in their unrest and disproportion, but finds them inadequate to it.  It then exaggerates these natural phenomena and shapes them into the huge and the boundless.  The spiritual idea revels in them, as it were, seethes and ferments in them, does violence to them, distorts and disfigures them into grotesque shapes, and endeavors by the diversity, hugeness, and splendor of such forms to raise the natural phenomena to the spiritual level.  For here it is the spiritual idea which is more or less vague and non-plastic, while the objects of nature have a thoroughly definite form.

The incongruity of the two elements to each other makes the relation of the spiritual idea to objective reality a negative one.  The spiritual as a wholly inner element and as the universal substance of all things, is conceived unsatisfied with all externality, and in its sublimity it triumphs over the abundance of unsuitable forms.  In this conception of sublimity the natural objects and the human shapes are accepted and left unaltered, but at the same time recognized as inadequate to their own inner meaning; it is this inner meaning which is glorified far and above every worldly content.

These elements constitute, in general, the character of the primitive artistic pantheism of the Orient, which either invests even the lowest objects with absolute significance, or forces all phenomena with violence to assume the expression of its world-view.  This art becomes therefore bizarre, grotesque, and without taste, or it represents the infinite substance in its abstract freedom turning away with disdain from the illusory and perishing mass of appearances.  Thus the meaning can never be completely molded into the expression, and, notwithstanding all the aspiration and effort, the incongruity between the spiritual idea and the sensuous form remains insuperable.  This is, then, the first form of art-symbolic art with its endless quest, its inner struggle, its sphinx-like mystery, and its sublimity.


In the second form of art, which we wish to designate as the classical, the double defect of symbolic art is removed.  The symbolic form is imperfect, because the spiritual meaning which it seeks to convey enters into consciousness in but an abstract and vague manner, and thus the congruity between meaning and form must always remain defective and therefore abstract.  This double aspect disappears in the classical type of art; in it we find the free and adequate embodiment of the spiritual idea in the form most suitable to it, and with it meaning and expression are in perfect accord.  It is classical art, therefore, which first affords the creation and contemplation of the completed ideal, realizing it as a real fact in the world.

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The German Classics of the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries, Volume 07 from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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