Closing reflections on mimeticism


Representation remains commonplace

Dorm & apartment rooms, desks (of course, much of this is not art)

Why are representative images so powerful?

1. Problem of specifying the notion of imitation in art

Is strict mimeticism ever possible? Is it desirable? What is the point of representational works of art?

Ernst Gombrich -- all artistic representation occurs through schema

Nelson Goodman -- we make the world (in art, in science, in all knowing?)

Gombrich & Nelson’s main point -- creation of works of art is always as much making as it is re-presenting

2. Can the mimetic theory fit all art?

Abstract art, much of music & dance?

Wassily Kandinsky’s 1910 watercolor

One possible response: But even non-representational art has some representational elements. What could they be?

And what about photography?

Roger Scruton’s suggestion

What about fiction?

Colin Lyas’s "as if" suggestion (Aesthetics   (Montreal:  McGill-Queen's UP, 1997) 49).

3. Other criticisms of representational art

Clive Bell’s critique of representational art

In works of art, representation is always irrelevant; form is all that counts

Response to Bell

We often see form through representation

Form & representation are intertwined.

But Bell’s critique of representational has some value

It proposes that we should not look at works of art as surrogates for the real thing; when art is representational, it must have some other function.

4. What might be these other functions?

Some suggestions (add your own)

(1) Delight in the act of imitating itself

Our attention in a representational work of art is [should be] on the act of imitating itself--the skill & the imagination which it requires. We take delight in this skill. (See Lyas 53).

Delight in the wit & cleverness of imitation

E.g., of trompe l’oeil (deceit of the eye)

Unswept Dining Room Floor Mosaic, later Roman copy of Pergamene original of the 2nd century B.C.
Museo Gregoriano Profano, Vatican Museums, Rome

Ludger tom Ring the Younger
Open Missal, c. 1570
oil on oak panel transferred to Masonite
Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, New York

Mark Tansay (US b.1949), The Innocent Eye Test
1981.  MET, NYC

(2) An effective way of expressing emotions

(3) The transformation of perception


Edouard Manet (French, 1832-1883)     
A Bar at the Folies-Bergeres  1881.
Courtauld Institute, London

Edouard Manet (French, 1832-1883)     
A Bar at the Folies-Bergeres.  1881.  detail of reflections
Courtauld Institute, London

Others?