Chpt.1 Abstraction and Empathy
This work is a contribution to the work of art. Natural beauty is on no account to be regarded as a condition of the work of art, despite the fact that it has become a valuable element in the work of art. Specific art have, in principle, nothing to do with the aesthetics of natural beauty. Modern aesthetics has taken the decisive step from aesthetic objectivism to aesthetic subjectivism, culminating in a doctrine that can be called empathy. Modern aesthetics is inapplicable to wide tracts of art history. "Its Archimedian point is situated at one pole of human artistic feeling alone." We regard its counterpole an aesthetics proceeding from man's urge to abstraction.
Presupposition of the theory of empathy (Lipps). "Every sensuous object, insofar as it exists for me, is always the product of two components, of that which is sensuously given and of my apperceptive activity. " Thus every line demands me of self-activation, which cannot be performed by me without friction or inner opposition. "If I can give myself over to the activity demanded of me without inward opposition, I have a feeling of liberty." This feeling of free self-activation is a feeling of pleasure (positive empathy). There is also a case where there arises a conflict between my natural striving for the self-activation and the one demanded of me, and the sensation of conflict is likewise a sensation of unpleasure (negative empathy).
The primitive work of art was seen as a product of three factors: utilitarian purpose, raw material, and technics. Thus the history of art was a history of ability, while the new approach reagards the evolution of art as a history of volition. "The stylistic peculiarities of past epochs are, therefore, not to be explained by lack of ability, but by a differently directed volition."
We must distinguish between the imitaion impulse and naturalism as a type of art. The primitivve imitation impulse has prevailed at all periods, and its history is a history of manual dexterity, devoid of aesthetic significance, while the value of a work of art lies in its power to bestow happiness.
The need for empathy can be looked upon as a presupposition of artistic volition only where this artistic volition inclines toward the truths of organic life, that is toward naturalism in the higher snese. Aesthetic enjoyment is the objectified self-enjoyment. Our counterpole to the need for empathy appears to be the urge to abstraction. Whereas the precondition ofr the urge to empathy is a happy ppantheistic relationship of confidence between man and the phienomena of the external world, the urge to abstraction is the outcome of a great nner unrest inspired in man by the phenomena of the outside world. In a religious respect it corresponds to a strongly transcendental thinge to all notion, namely an immense spiritual dread of space. "The happiness that the civilised peoples of the East sought from art did not consist in the possibility of projecting themselves into the things of the outer world, of enjoying htemselves in them, but in the possibility of taking the individual thing of the external world out of its arbitrariness and seeming fortuitousness, of eternalising it by approximation to abstract forms and, in this manner, of finding a point of tranquillity and a refuge from appearances." Riegl saw the urge to abstraction(urge of self-alienation) as the basis of the artistic volition of the early civilisations.
Chpt. 3 Ornament
It is of the essence of ornament that in its products the artistic volition of a people finds its purest and most unobscured expression. Art does not begin with naturalistic constructs, but with ornamental-abstract ones. The theorem of the spontaneous genesis of the geometric style is one of the main arguments of the artistic materialists. Art historians have either taken the sudden irruption of vegetal elements into ornament as a result of the imitative tendency, or they have pointed to the symbolic value of the various motifs. Plant ornament is related to symmetrisation and stylisation. While the geometric style gives the structural law of inanimate matter, vegetal ornament originally gave not the plant itself, but the regularity of its outward structure. The primary element is not the natural model, but the law abstracted from it. The animal motifs developed along purely ornamental-linear paths. Antithesis between the naturalism of the Mycenean style and the essentially abstract character of the ensuing Dipylon style.