Thursday, January 08, 2009

The Aesthetics Cop

Here is the complete text of
"How the Metropolitan Museum Misteaches Art" (1962)
by my favorite skeptical curmudgeon,
Theodore L. Shaw.

How can you argue with a skeptic ?

Except -- perhaps to ask him
how he would do a better job than the Met.

Perhaps this guy is too
much of a crank
to merit serious attention.

But still...
I like the questions that he raises,
and if serious aesthetes
cannot answer them,
they should probably be arrested
by "The Aesthetics Cop"
and locked in an art museum
until they can figure them out.

I like the fact
that he shows paintings
and then variants of them
to test whether that variation
would make any difference to the man in the street.

(although to an aesthete,
the opinion of randomly chosen individuals
would be worthless)

His contribution to art theory
may found here:

"Art Reconstructed: A New Theory of Aesthetics"
(published 1937)

that somewhat resembles
a text book in high school physics,
and was discussed here , here , and here )


Anonymous marly said...

And there I thought that Mrs. Frishmuth had just the very slightest bit of indigestion...

Chris, you ought to compare his remarks with a current catalogue and see how new foibles have replaced the old!

January 09, 2009  
Blogger chris miller said...

As long as we don't expect these (or any) seminars to be as definitive as a high school textbook on physics (which is what Shaw wants) -- I think they're successful to the extent that they get people more interested in looking at things. (which is not the same as feeling that they know any more about them!)

And by that standard -- Canaday's text actually worked pretty well -- at least as far as Shaw and his
readers would be concerned.

Weren't you fascinated by whether the Chardin would have looked better with the apple leaning in or out ?

January 09, 2009  
Blogger Robert said...

Super post, took a long time to read and think about!

January 12, 2009  
Anonymous marly said...

Yes, "looking at things" is a good goal.

Hey, that was the pear! I wondered if the slight difference in numbers (how slight?) was a genuine reaction or some vague bits of art knowledge, insistence on the eye being moved toward the center.

Back later. I've come to realize that being behind is now my permanent state...

January 15, 2009  
Blogger chris miller said...

Oops - yes it was the pear! - and maybe the "slight difference in numbers" just reflected a statistical margin of error.

I wonder how Shaw conducted his tests and where he found people who were willing top pay attention to his questions.

These are things we need to know if we're going to be seriously scientific about it -- but I'm afraid that Shaw was just goofin'.

January 15, 2009  
Blogger marlyat2 said...

Yes, it would be fun to know his slant...

Profundity of still life: pears can lean; apples can't.

January 27, 2009  

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