Theory of art

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The theory of art , including art theory , can be understood as all discursive treatises that attempt to theoretically determine the essence , the prerequisites and possible inherent laws of art (in the broad sense: fine arts , literature , music , performing arts , applied arts ).

Art theory is a comprehensive term that deals with the genesis, nature and function of art, predominantly the visual arts, in history and society.

There are relationships and overlaps with art history , aesthetics , art criticism and, more recently, with cultural studies , but also with philosophy , psychology , media theory and perception research .

Historical art theory can be found, for example, in texts by Immanuel Kant ( Critique of Judgment ), Hegel ( lectures on aesthetics ), Schiller ( on the aesthetic education of man; Kallias or on beauty ), Schelling ( philosophy of art ) or Konrad Fiedler ( writings to art ).

Some well-known art theorists of the 20th century are: Theodor W. Adorno , Roland Barthes , Bazon Brock , Benjamin HD Buchloh , Peter Bürger , Arthur C. Danto , Guy Debord , Thierry de Duve (* 1944), Dagobert Frey , Michael Fried , Ernst Gombrich , Clement Greenberg , Rosalind Krauss , Donald Kuspit , Gert Mattenklott and Susan Sontag .

Many artists, for example Paul Cézanne , Kasimir Malewitsch , Wassily Kandinsky , Paul Klee , Joseph Beuys , Marcel Duchamp , Andy Warhol , John Heartfield , Wolf Vostell , John Steinbeck , Jackson Pollock , Jean Cocteau , wrote theories of their own art.


Artists, who of course always speak pro domo , are not necessarily called to act as enlighteners themselves. The poet Arno Holz , committed to naturalism , formulated his art law around 1900:

"Art = Nature - X"

- Arno wood

X stands for the artistic means of reproduction and their handling by the artist and should be kept as minimal as possible in order to keep the difference between art and nature small.

The modern tendency towards the destruction of all values ​​was already expressed at the beginning of the 20th century by the (ironically?) Formulated "art law" of Dada , here in a formulation by Hugo Kersten from 1914:

"The highest and last art law is: to break anything."

- Paul Portner

Kurt Tucholsky formulated his “Art Law” more pragmatically and certainly ironically in a merciless slap on the side:

"There is an art law that is eternal: We don't want to be bored!"

- Ignaz Wrobel (Kurt Tucholsky) : ways of love. The world stage. Volume 22, number 32, pages 230-231. wikisource . Retrieved August 17, 2010


  • Stavros Arabatzis: Art Theory. An exploration of the history of ideas. Springer VS, Wiesbaden 2018. ISBN 978-3-658-19588-5 (print).
  • Georg W. Bertram: Art. A philosophical introduction. Reclam, Stuttgart 2005.
  • Charles Harrison and Paul Wood: Art Theory in the 20th Century. Hatje Cantz, Hamburg 2003, (anthology for the 20th century).
  • Otto Pächt : Methodical to art historical practice. Selected Writings. Munich 1995, ISBN 3-7913-0410-0 .
  • Dagobert Frey: Building blocks for a philosophy of art. Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 1976, ISBN 3-534-06897-1 .
  • Ernst H. Gombrich : The crisis of cultural history. Thoughts on the value problem in the humanities. dtv / Klett-Cotta, Munich 1991, ISBN 3-423-04562-0 .
  • Heinz Ohff , Pop and the Consequences or the Art of Finding Art on the Street. Droste Verlag, Düsseldorf 1968.
  • Marcel Duchamp: The writings. Volume I. Texts published during his lifetime. Edited by Serge Stauffer. Regenbogen-Verlag, Zurich 1981.
  • Bazon Brock, Aesthetics as Mediation. Working biography of a generalist. DuMont Kunstverlag, Cologne 1977, ISBN 3-7701-0671-7 .
  • Rainer K. Wick , Art Sociology - Fine Arts and Society. DuMont, Cologne 1979.

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Konrad Fiedler: Writings on art. Edited by Gottfried Boehm, Munich 1971, 2 volumes (2nd improved and expanded edition 1991).
  2. Wolf Vostell. Life = Art = Life , Art Gallery Gera, EA Seemann, Gera 1993, ISBN 3-363-00605-5 .
  3. Elizabeth Langhorne: Jackson Pollock - Art as a search for meaning. Abstraction, all-over, action painting. Hawel, Wallerstein 2013, ISBN 978-3-9810376-7-8 .