An Essay Towards a Theory of Art

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An Essay Towards a Theory of Art  (1922) 
by Lascelles Abercrombie


Part I

The Theory Largely Eclectic
Artistic Theory Yields Only Intellectual Satisfaction
Æsthetic and Art to Be Distinguished
Their First Distinction
But Art Supposes Æsthetic

Part II

Scope of Æsthetic
The Matter of Æsthetic
What Æsthetic Experience is
But Æsthetic Experience is not Itself Art
Distribution of Æsthetic Experience

Part III

Beauty Occurs Only in Æsthetic Experience
But Æsthetic Experience Need not be Beautiful
The Judgment of Beauty
Illustrated in a Locomotive
Evident Adaptation may be Judged Beautiful
Absolute Beauty
How it is the Type of a Work of Art

Part IV

Art is the Expression of Æsthetic Experience
Expression in Art is Communication
No Communication, No Art
Expression in Art is of Whole Experience
Compound Structure of Experience
No Imitation of Objects in Art
Why the Arts may be Classed Together
Beautiful Experience not Necessarily the Source of Art
But Beauty must be the Result of Art
Origin of Art is Impulsive Experience
Existence of Art is Expressive Experience
They are Distinguishable
Impulsive Experience the End as well as the Cause

Part V

Specific Beauty of Art is given by Expression
Fragmentary Beauty
Whole Beauty
It is Given by Evident Adaptation
Art not Created for the Sake of Beauty
Beauty not Specific to Art may Occur in Art
Possible Limitations of Art and Beauty
How Art is Disinterested
How it is Interested

Part VI

Nature of Artistic Expression
It is Symbolic
Its Means are Empirical
Artistic Conception
Artistic Technique
Technique gives Expressive Experience
This is Variable
Expressive Reveals Impulsive Experience

Part VII

Conception the Condition of Technique
Hence Technique has Two Aspects
Matter and Form
Form the Symbol of Unity
And the Completion of Artistic Expression
Form gives Art its Function
Form gives Significance to Expressive Experience
As Unity Does to Impulsive Experience
The Significant World is Æsthetic Experience
The Ideal World is Artistic Experience

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1926.

The author died in 1938, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 80 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.