Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Hippolyte Taine combines a historical interest in his subjects with an interest that is philosophical. Two of his wide-ranging works are Histoire de la littérature anglaise (1863-1864, 4 vols.; The History of English Literature, 1871) and Les Origines de la France contemporaine (1876-1894, 6 vols.; The Origins of Contemporary France, 1876-1894). In his studies, he regarded history and philosophy as sciences; he believed that a study of the nature of art and of art production could proceed, in the manner of any scientific study, by attention to the observable facts and by the framing of inductive generalizations. Consequently, his Philosophy of Art is to some extent a description of some predominant art periods and to some extent an attempt to generalize philosophically from the data of his historical inquiries. Taine’s studies include those of the art of Greece, the Netherlands, and Italy.
Taine’s working assumption is that no work of art is isolated, and that the only way to understand a particular work of art or the nature of art in general is by attending to the conditions that lead to a work of art. According to this theory, the character of a work of art is determined by the artist, but that artist is shaped by a number of inescapable cultural influences. Taine believes that works of art present, in perceptible form, the essential character of the time and place in which the artist works. In his...
(The entire section is 1527 words.)
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