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.

But the congruity of idea and reality in classical art must not be taken in a formal sense of the agreement of a content with its external form; otherwise every photograph of nature, every picture of a countenance, landscape, flower, scene, etc., which constitutes the aim of a representation, would, through the conformity of content and form, be at once classical.  The peculiarity of classical art, on the contrary, consists in its content being itself a concrete idea, and, as such, a concrete spiritual idea, for only the spiritual is a truly essential content.  For a worthy object of such a content, Nature must be consulted as to whether she contains anything to which a spiritual attribute really belongs.  It must be the World-Spirit itself that invented the proper form for the concrete spiritual ideal—­the subjective mind—­in this case the spirit of art—­has only found it, and given it natural plastic existence in accordance with free individual spirituality.  The form in which the idea, as spiritual and individual, clothes itself when revealed as a temporal phenomenon, is the human form.  To be sure, personification and anthropomorphism have frequently been decried as a degradation of the spiritual; but art, in so far as its task is to bring before direct contemplation the spiritual in sensuous form, must advance to such anthropomorphism, for only in its body can mind appear in an adequately sensuous fashion.  The migration of souls is, in this respect, an abstract notion, and physiology should make it one of its fundamental principles that life has necessarily, in its evolution, to advance to the human shape as the only sensuous phenomenon appropriate to the mind.

The human body as portrayed by classical art is not represented in its mere physical existence, but solely as the natural and sensuous form and garb of mind; it is therefore divested of all the defects that belong to the merely sensuous and of all the finite contingencies that appertain to the phenomenal.  But if the form must be thus purified in order to express the appropriate content, and, furthermore, if the conformity of meaning and expression is to be complete, the content which is the spiritual idea must be perfectly capable of being expressed through the bodily form of man, without projecting into another sphere beyond the physical and sensuous representation.  The result is that Spirit is characterized as a particular form of mind, namely, as human mind, and not as simply absolute and eternal; but the absolute and eternal Spirit must be able to reveal and express itself in a manner far more spiritual.

This latter point brings to light the defect of classical art, which demands its dissolution and its transition to a third and higher form, to wit, the romantic form of art.


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