An Existential Interpretation of the Artistic Theories of Paul Klee
Schweigert, Charles James
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The tendency of modern art toward dehumanization poses an apparent paradox for aesthetics. Concerned primarily with purifying art of all human content, modern art nonetheless seeks to embody deeply human meanings. The problem thus posed for aesthetics is to explain the dehumanizing intent of modern art in terms of a profoundly humanistic philosophy. Furthermore, it must do so in such a way that the presently dehumanized state of art becomes actually the more authentically human. Such is the purpose of an existentialist aesthetic. Existentialism attempts to discover in the heart of man's being the entirely free act by which he establishes himself as an individual in the society of men. That free act is also the source of creative expression and hence of new meanings. The deliberate attempt of modern art to dehumanize itself can be viewed as an assertion of artistic freedom and hence also as a promoter of new meanings. Existentialism as a philosophy concerned with the conduct of human life and modern art concerned with free artistic expression are thus parallel phenomena in the modern world related by their common concern with human freedom. It is the purpose of this paper to present a synthesis of modern art and existentialism in the form of an existential interpretation of the artistic theories of Paul Klee. Since existentialism does not constitute a consistent system of philosophical principles, the interpretation will rely mainly on the aesthetic theories of Jean-Paul Sartre and Maurice Merleau-Ponty, two eminent French existentialist thinkers. It is hoped that such an interpretation will indicate the value of similar interpretations of other twentieth century artists and hence perhaps or modern art in general.If you are not a current K College student, faculty, or staff member, email firstname.lastname@example.org to request access to this SIP.