Unreal Nature

January 19, 2015

Religious Needs

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:41 am

… Art has not ceased to unriddle these questions if not for the understanding then assuredly for our intuitive feelings, and has thus become the refuge and sanctuary of religious needs — in a scientific age.

This is from Landscape • Portrait • Still-Life: Their Origin and Development by Max J. Friedlander (1963):

… Of the things conveyed to the senses anything human will, if plausibly portrayed, turn towards us with eloquence, since all human suffering, joy, action is — potentially — our own, and hence can be understood without difficulty, fathomed, felt. It is different with landscape: it rises up before us like something mysterious, a melody rather than a statement.

… The painters of the sixteenth century contemplated landscape in the same frame of mind with which they were accustomed to linger in their capacious churches. All metaphysical thought in the Middle Ages was netted by orthodoxy, guided, but also cramped; later, become free, it sailed out into poetry and art yet without giving up its heritage of devout meditation. Since the world as Creation, or rather as the result of Creation, was glorified in veneration of the Creator, especially in the seventeenth century, it remained hallowed even when the relations between Creation and Creator became open to doubt. Indeed, reverence for the phenomenal world gained in depth when the creative Power, worshipped from time immemorial as divine, was sought in nature herself.

[line break added to make this easier to read online] The personal longing for belief, the ever-active need to worship by looking, turned to landscape. In the nineteenth century, C.D. Friedrich and van Gogh avow in the clearest possible terms that they look at nature in religious ecstasy. Knowing such extreme instances as this, to be met with in the puritanical North, we can trace the religious element even where it is less loudly voiced and works unconsciously — as in the frankly sensuous art of the French sun-worshippers. The painter may be worldy-minded and a freethinker, but he will always gratefully applaud a beauty which, if not of God, is certainly not man-made.

… Art has not ceased to unriddle these questions if not for the understanding then assuredly for our intuitive feelings, and has thus become the refuge and sanctuary of religious needs — in a scientific age.

… So long as belief in the Bible ruled unshaken, the ‘Maker,’ Himself made in the image of man, was regarded as having fashioned the cosmos, meaningfully and planfully, with organisms that are God-willed and immutable in form and substance. But when the world was regarded as having evolved, when the cause of the evolution was lodged in nature, the eye fastened itself on coming-to-be, growth, passing-away, change, on the relations of things to one another, for instance the relation between soil and growing vegetation, terrain and the course of rivers, the might of the elements and their effects. In all Being the ‘having become’ was detected. At last, the existence having become questionable, and even the object without a subject dispossessed of existence, the vision that depended on the subjectivity of the observer gained in significance.

Thus Being was superseded by Becoming and Becoming by Seeming.

-Julie

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