Ralph Waldo Emerson's Art Essay

1255 words - 5 pages

The concept with which Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Art” deals is the recognition of beauty through art. Art is viewed through the course of the composition as both an expression of the human soul and as a language that speaks to all individuals, not just the rich or the privileged. To the individual, art is a means through which he/she can be inspired to create and, in turn, inspire others. What Emerson attempts to pontificate is the overarching idea that art conveys different meanings unto different individuals and serves as a tool for inspiration for the spirit. In delivering his viewpoints on the subject of art, Emerson remains consistent and flowing as he not only informs the reader about the subtleties of art, but also raises valid ideas about its perception and challenges the reader to question their own perception and value of the subject.
The definition of art varies from person to person, and there is no right or wrong answer when questioning what constitutes art. Emerson believes “the individual, in whom simple tastes and susceptibility to all the great human influences overpower the accidents of a local and special culture, is the best critic of art” (5). The individual cannot rely on word of mouth to receive an accurate idea of a painting because the message conveyed unto the masses may not necessarily be the identical message conveyed unto the individual. In order to receive a clear analysis, the individual must personally experience the painting and establish his/her own opinion. By this logic, the point of the critic is meaningless because he cannot accurately portray unto the listener the message of the painting, for he based his deduction on the personal emotions and thoughts provoked by the work of art. Through such observation, the notion of an individual perception of art is recalled, which ties back with Emerson’s argument. In addition, the reader of the text must realize that the critics trusted to convey analyses of art cannot serve as the end-all, be-all when forming an opinion about a masterpiece, referring back to how the text challenges the reader to question their definition of art.
Because the perception of art yields different values to the careful observer, the critic must not be given a role in determining one’s personal tastes. It is true that what one may dismiss as unworthy of their time, another may view as their newest source of creativity. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, or as quoted by Emerson, “It was not painted for them, it was painted for you, for such as had eyes capable of being touched by simplicity and lofty emotions” (7). Though people may criticize the individual’s tastes and deem him a person not worthy of association, the individual must not allow the words of the critics to take root in their souls. The person enjoyed the work because it conveyed unto them a message it could not covey unto another soul. If the human spirit can create art, the human spirit can also distinguish art, tying...

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