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What are the features of Neoclassical criticism?

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Features of Neoclassical criticism would include an adherence to fixed standards of beauty, the veneration of tried and trusted ways, and an emphasis on craftsmanship in the construction of works of art.

Neoclassical critics saw themselves as being part of a tradition stretching all the way back to ancient critics such as Horace. They venerated the critics of old, who set down laws of taste and rules of craftsmanship that they believed were universal.

In their critical works, Neoclassical critics consciously attempted to carry on that old and venerable tradition. In doing so, they also believed that they were reminding artists of their responsibility to adhere to fixed standards of beauty and craftsmanship.

Neoclassical art became associated with the following of fixed rules in the creation of art, rules that were based on a sense of balance and proportion. Although such rules were not quite as inflexible as critics alleged, they nonetheless did not allow for much in the way of innovation or novelty. Anything of that sort was looked down upon by Neoclassical critics as grotesque or vulgar, lacking the necessary decorum.

To the Neoclassical critic, a work of art was a piece of craftsmanship that followed tried and trusted rules, sought to convey universal truths, and was appropriate to the taste of an elite, educated minority. This meant that there was no place in the Neoclassical canon for works of art that dealt with the lives of ordinary folk. Only the so-called great and good were thought fit to be the subjects of great paintings, poems, and stories.

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