Comparing Formalism & 'Art for Art's' Sake

Comparing Formalism & 'Art for Art's' Sake
Coming up next: Contemporary Urban Life in Impressionist Paintings

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
 Replay
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:05 In Defense of Art
  • 1:00 Formalism
  • 2:35 Art For Art's Sake
Add to Add to Add to

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Timeline
Autoplay
Autoplay
Speed

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

In this lesson, you will explore two different philosophies about the purpose of art and ways to analyze art. Then, test your understanding with a brief quiz.

In Defense of Art

Hey, we're off to a protest. Want to join? What's our cause? Save the planet? Nope. Save the whales? No. Save the art. That's our cause. Here, you'll need a picket sign.

Did you know that art was endangered? That's why we're trying to raise awareness, not many people know this. Actually, art has been on the endangered list since the 19th century when a new technology was introduced into art's natural habitat, France. This technology was photography and it threatened to replace art due to its ability to perfectly capture reality. So, people began discussing the purpose and meaning for art.

There are several different viewpoints; today we're stopping by rallies for two of the major ones. We may not all agree on the purpose of art, but we can appreciate its value and work together to save the art. Ever been to an art historian rally? It can get pretty heated, so keep your eyes open.

Formalism

Welcome to the first rally, hosted by the Formalists. Formalism is a theory of art which states that the value of art is within its form and style. Formalists argue that art should be studied for its compositional elements, such as line, shape, or color. This is the true function of art and therefore, formalists do not focus on iconography, symbolism, or the historical and social context in which the art was created. These aspects are not ignored, but they are considered of secondary importance below the physical traits of the art.

In the 19th century, formalism helped define the goals of art history as a discipline. Some scholars saw it as the duty of the art historian to simply analyze the composition of a painting, not its context. This reflected emerging values of the time that looked to scientific, rational logic for truth, not traditions or emotions.

Here, looks like a few protestors have some art for us to look at. This is Impression, Sunrise, by Claude Monet:

null

A formalist analysis of this would focus on the rough, wide brushstrokes that obscure clear senses of figures and objects. Notice the use of horizontal strokes of color to indicate motion in the waves or reflections of light. This contrasts with the vertical orientation of the silhouetted figures, both the person in the boat and the ships and factories in the background, as well as diagonal strokes of the sky. Color and direction serve to distinguish spatial relationships. Through this analysis of color and composition we can identify this as an Impressionist painting. See how that works?

Art for Art's Sake

Uh-oh, I see some anti-formalists coming over. They think that art should be studied in terms of its context first. This could get pretty ugly, so I think it's a good time to head over to our next rally. This one is Art for Art's Sake, a 19th-century belief that the value of art is in the existence of art.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about Study.com
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account
Support