“Museum Without Walls,” the first of the four principal sections of THE VOICES OF SILENCE, defines the two crucial developments of the past one hundred years which have given rise to a new concept of art. These two factors, which permit twentieth century man to inherit the cultures of the past and to assess the art of these cultures with a new vision, are the advent of photography, which made world art accessible to everyone, and the eclipse by modern art of an aesthetic ideal which prevailed from the sixteenth century to the nineteenth.
Thanks to photographic reproductions, the student, connoisseur, or critic is no longer limited in his exploration of the artistic world by the confines of an art gallery; he can now open an art book and examine Greek vase paintings, pre-Columbian sculpture, Romanesque frescoes, Byzantine folk art, Mayan bas-reliefs, as well as a profusion of paintings and statues by the accepted masters. This exposure to world art entails a revision of values: miniatures, decorative reliefs on pillars, tapestries, stained glass, and coins are isolated and enlarged in reproduction and thus invite comparison with canvases and sculpture. Moreover, in separating works from their original context, the “museum without walls” forces them to undergo a metamorphosis; a piece of Gothic statuary found in a book is no longer an integral part of a cathedral; it offers itself as a single entity divorced from the limitations of time and...
(The entire section is 1644 words.)
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