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An essay on the limits of painting and poetry

Hisrepresentative works include a collection of poems in the volume (Poetry, Poetry, 1938), (Perfume to the Wind, 1945), (TheNational Flag, 1945), an anthology (Xuân Diệu Anthology, 1983), a collection of short stories, (The Yellow Pine Pollen, 1939), diaries, essays, and literary criticisms.

The first person who compared painting and poetry with one another was a man of refined feeling, who became aware of a similar effect produced upon himself by both arts. He felt both represent what is absent as if it were present, and appearance as if it were reality; that both deceived, and that the deception of both is pleasing.

Laocoon an Essay on the Limits of Painting and Poetry

Laocoon an Essay Upon the Limits of Painting and Poetry

Laocoon An Essay Upon The Limits Of Painting And Poetry

The dazzling antithesis of the Greek Voltaire, “Painting is dumb poetry, and poetry is speaking painting,” can never have been found in any didactic work; it was an idea, amongst others, of Simonides, and the truth it contains is so evident that we feel compelled to overlook the indistinctness and error which accompany it.

But, just as tho no such difference existed, many recent critics have drawn from this harmony of poetry and painting the most ill-digested conclusions. At one time they compress poetry into the narrower limits of painting; at another they allow painting to occupy the whole wide sphere of poetry. Everything, say they, that the one is entitled to should be conceded to the other; everything that pleases or displeases in the one is necessarily pleasing or displeasing in the other. Full of this idea, they give utterance in the most confident tone to the most shallow decisions; when, criticizing the works of a poet and painter upon the same subject, they set down as faults any divergences they may observe, laying the blame upon the one or the other accordingly as they may have more taste for poetry or for painting.

Laocoon: An Essay upon the Limits of Painting and Poetry

If Apelles and Protogenes, in their lost writings on painting, affirmed and illustrated its laws by the previously established rules of poetry, we may feel sure that they did it with that moderation and accuracy with which we now see, in the works of Aristotle, Cicero, Horace, and Quintilian, the principles and experience of painting applied to eloquence and poetry. It is the privilege of the ancients never in any matter to do too much or too little.

Laocoon : an essay on the limits of painting and poetry

Gotthold Ephraim Lessing first published Laokoon, oder über die Grenzen der Mahlerey und Poesie (Laocoon, or on the Limits of Painting and Poetry) in 1766. Over the last 250 years, Lessing's essay has exerted an incalculable influence on western critical thinking. Not only has it directed the history of post-Enlightenment aesthetics, it has also shaped the very practices of 'poetry' and 'painting' in a myriad of different ways. In this anthology of specially commissioned chapters - comprising the first ever edited book on the Laocoon in English - a range of leading critical voices has been brought together to reassess Lessing's essay on its 250th anniversary. Combining perspectives from multiple disciplines (including classics, intellectual history, philosophy, aesthetics, media studies, comparative literature, and art history), the book explores the Laocoon from a plethora of critical angles. Chapters discuss Lessing's interpretation of ancient art and poetry, the cultural backdrops of the eighteenth century, and the validity of the Laocoon's observations in the fields of aesthetics, semiotics, and philosophy. The volume shows how the Laocoon exploits Greek and Roman models to sketch the proper spatial and temporal 'limits' (Grenzen) of what Lessing called 'poetry' and 'painting'; at the same time it demonstrates how Lessing's essay is embedded within Enlightenment theories of art, perception, and historical interpretation, as well as within nascent eighteenth-century ideas about the 'scientific' study of Classical antiquity (Altertumswissenschaft). To engage critically with the Laocoon, and to make sense of its legacy over the last 250 years, consequently involves excavating various 'classical presences': by looking back to the Graeco-Roman past, the volume demonstrates, Lessing forged a whole new tradition of modern aesthetics.

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Laocoon an essay on the limits of painting and poetry


Laokoon an essay on the limits of painting and poetry

All values are human values, relative values, in art as wellas elsewhere. Yet there does seem to have been more or less ofa general agreement among the cultivated of mankind over the agesas to what is good art and what bad. Taste has varied, but notbeyond certain limits; contemporary connoisseurs agree with theeighteenth-century Japanese that Hokusai was one of the greatestartists of his time; we even agree with the ancient Egyptiansthat Third and Fourth Dynasty art was the most worthy of beingselected as their paragon by those who came after. We may havecome to prefer Giotto to Raphael, but we still do not deny thatRaphael was one of the best painters of his time. There has beenan agreement then, and this agreement rests, I believe, on a fairlyconstant distinction made between those values only to be foundin art and the values which can be found elsewhere. Kitsch, byvirtue of a rationalized technique that draws on science and industry,has erased this distinction in practice.

Vol. laokoon an essay on the limits of painting and poetry 9

and (Eds). (2017) Rethinking Lessing's Laocoon: Antiquity, Enlightenment, and the 'Limits' of Painting and Poetry.[Book]. Classical Presences. Oxford University Press: Oxford.

Laocoon: An Essay Upon the Limits of Painting and Poetry

The absolutists keep adopting new names as each old name starts to stink, but in the nineteenth century, the time when they were intellectually most successful, they mostly called themselves romantics, identifying themselves with the then fashionable artistic and cultural movement, although most of the political “romantics” were no more talented at poetry or painting than Hitler was, and most of the real romantics were not political absolutists, far from it. When the fascists came to power these totally disappeared, mostly calling themselves relativists. The name relativist failed to shake the stink of the gas ovens where the Jews were exterminated, and they are changing it yet again. Since the extermination camps set up again, in what used to be Yugoslavia, relativists have almost disappeared. Soon there will be few relativists, they will all be Post Modernists, or some such.

Laocoon an essay on the limits of painting and poetry - …

Indeed, this false criticism has misled in some degree the professors of art. It has produced the love of description in poetry, and of allegory in painting: while the critics strove to reduce poetry to a speaking painting, without properly knowing what it could and ought to paint; and painting to a dumb poem, without having considered in what degree it could express general ideas without alienating itself from its destiny, and degenerating into an arbitrary method of writing.

Laocoon: An Essay on the Limits of Painting and Poetry

A third reflected upon the value and distribution of these universal laws, and noticed that some are more predominant in painting, others in poetry; that thus, in the latter case, poetry will help to explain and illustrate painting; in the former, painting will do the same for poetry.

Symbolism and Decadence in Wilde's Salome

Even amongmodern poets whose spirit of audacity, modernity and emancipation is the imprimatur of their personalworldview, such as Xuân Diệu, the temerity of pushing verse tone patterning to its limit was notparticularly popular.

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