the Value of Art

“The value and rank of every art is in proportion to the mental labor employed in it, or the mental pleasure produced by it” declared the very erudite 18th century portraitist Sir Joshua Reynolds with respect to the particular branch of painting learned by the students who formed his then auditory, nevertheless managing to encompass the whole spectrum of activities men generally practice in their attempt at self-expression, writing included.

Still, what amount of truth conveys the affirmation?

A great deal.

In literature as in sculpture or cinematography the only channel through which people receive the intended message is intellectual and therefore all works conceived to deliver certain ideas, share certain moods, illustrate particular visions et cetera must first engage the mind to eventually arouse the senses. An alternative has yet to be devised. Because, indubitably, no artistic feeling can emerge from outside the brain.

Vivid colors may excite our eye’s nerves, beauteous figures might inflame our hearts and ingeniously depicted passages of books equally brilliant could easily stimulate vicarious delights but never without the impulse generated by mental perception. This organ inside our skull weighting under 2 kilos gives rise to the entire range of pleasures tasted while reading, watching movies, listening to music and so on. We are deprived of the lushest bliss if incapable to put it to use.

Thus, having resolved the genuine worth of an art piece is contingent upon the cerebral satisfaction it provides, what masterpiece so enraptured your mind that you want to share in a comment below?


Patricia Beykrat – the Roving Aesthete


36 responses to “the Value of Art

  1. Reblogged this on chrismcmullen and commented:
    This includes literature as a subset of art. The article makes a great point about the value of art (including literature) in relation to mental labor and mental pleasure.

  2. In the subset of literature I would say Ann Rice’s work. She always put her heart and soul into her work and her series was so very well written. In visual art, I had a chance to go to the Smithsonian and honestly I loved all of the paintings that I saw and each and every brushstroke seemed its own chapter. I loved them all for different reasons and in different ways, like my children.

    • I too found Lestat’s character and his philosophical musings titillating enough to read half of the series which revolves around the life of vampires such as Louis, Armand and Daniel. Cursively written and thoroughly well researched indeed, though I’m not a particular fan of fantasy novels.

      • There is one sentence in her Mayfair Witches legacy series where she speaks of a character, Lasher, standing at his penthouse window in Rockefeller Center looking down on the cathedral roof contemplating capitalism as the snow fell on the rooftop beneath him. I don’t remember the exact words, but the image combined with my thoughts was quite profound.

    • Yes I love Anne Rice’s work. You’d never guess her tales were laden with such otherwise unsavory characters as vampires and witches because of the poeticism dripping from her words. That’s why I enjoyed “Interview with the Vampire,” but absolutely hated the film version.

  3. There are too many works of art that enthrall me. But, if I had to pick one, I’d say anything by artist Alfredo Rodriguez. His use of light and shadows add an incredible sense of realism. I almost feel as if I’ve stepped into the world of his subjects and could engage them in conversation.

    • Our favorite masterpieces are invariably determined by the way we personally relate to the subject or theme. That explain your preference for this artist in the detriment of others, right?

  4. Well, I must say this read alone inspired me enough to leave a reply below 🙂 SO much can be discussed in terms of “artgasms” , but I must say, I could read “Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College” by Thomas Grey over and over and over again and somehow manage to experience growing pleasure each time. Thanks for this delicious plate of brain food Patricia!

    • Always very glad to have provided food for thought! And, indeed, there’s a plethora of things to be said about “artgasms” (really like the therm, though I think officially they call it Stendhal syndrome?) not necessarily related to literature.

  5. Pingback: The Process II, Finale: Calling All Artists, Thinkers, Writers | A Holistic Journey·

  6. Just to be honest, my mouth hung open and I drooled all over my keyboard! Only your writing can do that to me. It is like reading poetry. Amazingly wonderful and careful…..claudy

  7. Renoir’s “Blue Umbrella’s” – apart from Renoir’s amazing way of capturing the eyes of a beautiful woman, this work has many emotions hidden within it’s colours. Dali’s “Persistence of Memory” – because time has always fascinated me, and Dali somehow touches a primitive sense of the illusory nature of time (v. cool for a general relativist/cosmologist). Michelangelo – Sistine Chapel – talking about the proportion of effort of creation! Michelangelo again: David – perfection in white. Too many others, but Renoir again: “Le bal du moulin de la Galette” – so much black? in an impresisonsit artwork? The psychology of people watching people and wondering what they are saying is spell-binding, and strangely erotic. Your question is too hard to completely answer Patricia, but thanks for asking. I love following your blog.

    What’s also interesting, is that the artist can conceive of the work within their own mind. And there it might remain. Their effort to bring it to light is something people often fail to appreciate. It’s not art until it enters the mind of another, perhaps. Again, people often fail to aprpeciate that both the performance and the reception of art is so overwhelmingly intellectual. I doubt there ever will be an alternative.

    • Or it might, but nothing as pleasant and intimately satisfying as art, I’m sure.
      Thank you for taking the time to share your answer to my query. I’m a fan of Dali’s lunacy myself and highly appreciate David as a paragon of masculine -artistic- beauty, we can agree on that!

      • That was an interesting reply…. “Or it might…” you mean there might be alternatives to measuring the value or rank of art in other ways, or other than through cerebral processes (mind)? There are AI software systems that can rank “greatness” but they are parasitic upon human perception, since all their algorithsm are fed data from human art critics. It’d be pretty hard to ever have a cold hard algorithm with no human input which could assess value and rank of great art. For me, I think the human mind (or any other sentient minds if there are any extraterrestrials “out there”) is indispensable because art is art only when it’s beauty or evocative intentions (sometimes unintended!) are provocked, and these are “spiritual” (to use a phrase not many people agree on a definition of) and that implies a sentient cnscious mind, not justa computational process like an artifical brain.

      • Yes, you’ve pretty much summed up my opinion here. Art intended to appeal to humane sensibilities would never really be interpreted by artificial intellects without losing a great deal of its charm

      • Once, looking at the hills of Western Mass from a certain point on the Hampshire College campus, it seemed as if the peaks and valleys describe that very melody, which wordlessly encodes the crux of the Christian Gospel – that the Kingdom of Heaven is within us if only we had eyes to see.

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