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Should art be for art's sake or for life's sake and what does that mean?Should art be...

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franzo | Student, Undergraduate | eNoter

Posted November 30, 2011 at 12:47 AM via web

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Should art be for art's sake or for life's sake and what does that mean?

Should art be for art's sake or for life's sake and what does that mean?

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wordprof | College Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted November 30, 2011 at 1:08 AM (Answer #2)

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The phrase originally was French -- l'art pour l'art --used to justify the artist's pursuit as a legitimate  human activity, in contrast to the pursuit of worldly goods or fame, etc.  The Renaissance saw a division between art and "commodity," the division giving dignity to artistic pursuits, meaning the creation of beauty for its own sake, setting aside its "usefulness" as a criterion for giving it worth.  More recently, with Modernism, the phrase gained popularity again, usually to defend abstract art.  William Saroyan once said "Art is looking at things carefully," still a good definition and valid justification.  To spend your life making something that didn't exist before is god-like at its core.  Shakespeare, for example, was making "commodity," a product for sale, but his artistic spirit made it beautiful well beyond the original audience's appreciation.  We all know the difference between, say, Pollock and "starving artist" products.  What is the value of Pollock's work?  It made us look at things carefully. In one sense, all human activity is problematic "for life's sake"; Art at least makes something that didn't exist before.

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cvb2447 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Adjunct Educator

Posted November 30, 2011 at 3:45 AM (Answer #3)

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When I was an undergraduate student majoring in drawing and painting, I was very troubled by this question. I had no money and was acutely aware of needing a paying job once I graduated. But the field of study that I had chosen was "art for art's sake" meaning that I was truly interested in trying to find why I wanted to make my creations; they were usually class assignments like any other assignment for learning.

I came to see that my arts major was actually no different from majoring in business or math since those students were trying to find "business for business" sake or "math for math's sake". We were all investigating a field of interest to find our place within it.

Most people know enough about art history to have heard of the Impressionist movement and the criticism those artists endured. But their investigations of color and light were "art for art's sake" and served as a new way to see the world.

"Art for Life's Sake" usually refers to the idea that the world and people in general might need inspiration beyond their everyday routines. When I was young, my father told me that I would be "an educated idiot" if I majored in Art. Well, I did major in art and have gone on to teach, be a Highschool Principal, tutor and write arts and culture articles for a newspaper. I tried to get some of my interest and knowledge about the Arts out to others and they have come back to thank me many times.   

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lmetcalf | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted November 30, 2011 at 9:04 AM (Answer #4)

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When I hear the expression "art for life's sake" I think of artists who are more concerned with being commercially viable than in creating art as an expression of what is in their artistic souls. There is nothing wrong with wanting or needing to be successful, but it is a slightly different goal than creating art that could change the way people understand the world around them.

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wordprof | College Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted December 2, 2011 at 3:49 AM (Answer #5)

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When I was an undergraduate student majoring in drawing and painting, I was very troubled by this question. I had no money and was acutely aware of needing a paying job once I graduated. But the field of study that I had chosen was "art for art's sake" meaning that I was truly interested in trying to find why I wanted to make my creations; they were usually class assignments like any other assignment for learning.

I came to see that my arts major was actually no different from majoring in business or math since those students were trying to find "business for business" sake or "math for math's sake". We were all investigating a field of interest to find our place within it.

Most people know enough about art history to have heard of the Impressionist movement and the criticism those artists endured. But their investigations of color and light were "art for art's sake" and served as a new way to see the world.

"Art for Life's Sake" usually refers to the idea that the world and people in general might need inspiration beyond their everyday routines. When I was young, my father told me that I would be "an educated idiot" if I majored in Art. Well, I did major in art and have gone on to teach, be a Highschool Principal, tutor and write arts and culture articles for a newspaper. I tried to get some of my interest and knowledge about the Arts out to others and they have come back to thank me many times.   

Good answer! You are obviously a gifted teacher.  In this free enterprise environment, we forget that not everything is commodity.

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rgd36 | Student, College Freshman | eNotes Newbie

Posted December 8, 2011 at 7:54 AM (Answer #6)

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Art should be for life's sake, If we did not have art in our lives what would motivate us to be creative, what kind of passion would we have.  I know that having a deeper meaning and creativity is important and a lot of that can be inspired throught art.  Just my point of view!

 

_____________

Liberty and Freedom

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted December 18, 2011 at 9:23 AM (Answer #7)

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L'art pour l'art--Art for art's sake is enough.  Without considering what it can do for people, art for its own sake contributes to the human soul, any way.  Is not "a thing of beauty a joy forever" still not so true?  When artists are only concerned with the expression of their art, they usually create their best works.

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e-martin | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted November 14, 2012 at 4:38 PM (Answer #8)

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Not to hedge too much, but when I read the phrase "art for life's sake" I can't help but see it as just another version of the first phrase, "art for art's sake". 

Art represents a process of enrichment - of ideas, insights, expression, etc. - which offers an artist some satisfaction as part of the process. However, I am not persuaded that artistic process is ever complete without an audience. 

Money does not have to be part of the process, but, in my opinion an audience does (even if that is an audience of one).

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