Sunday, July 8, 2012

On Taste and Creativity

      "This intense concern with individuality, this preoccupation with the notion of the creative derives not only from the Romantic revival—Keats was perhaps the first to formulate the moral predicament of the artist—but also from the industrial revolution: the idea of the creative in the intellectual sphere emerges together with that of “the productive” in the material.   The age of neglected education but of a since unrecapturable individuality and taste—the 18th century, when art and life were fused in a harmonious social ethos, an age when the artist and craftsman were the natural servants of an instinctively cultivated society, gave way to an age when making and living, work and leisure, endured a fatal bifurcation, man and nature were divorced, quality became lost in quantity, stability dissipated in movement; the artist retreated from the increasing ugliness of the machine civilisation into self-conscious isolation; the craftsman, the link between the common man and the imaginative arts, disappeared: organisation replaced organism.

      Romantic egotism,  the  sense of being an autonomous “creator”, linked with the lapse of “form”—that preservative of the spiritual as well as the social hierarchy of the 18th century—reflects morally the decay of instinctive taste in the general spiritual  disorganisation.  “Taste”,   the   leisurely, modest monosyllable that so accurately epitomises an attitude to life at once patient and sensitively discriminating, a view of art as the “foster-child of silence and slow Time”, gave way in the Romantic upheaval to “creativeness”, to the impatience, the feverish tempo it connotes. “Invention” was transferred from the vocabulary of an urbane literary criticism to the coarser realm of mechanical productiveness—the gracious handmaiden of the Muses became the haggard slave of speed."

D. Lawrence Thomas, André Gide: the Ethic of the Artist (1950)

No comments: