Fredrich Schiller on the Aesthetic Education of Man In a Series of Letters

I resently finished this book, Schiller being of interest to me in relation to Goethe and to the phenominon of Weimar Classicism, and its historical importance in the present world. I serindipidously found this book at the Freinds of the Library store, in Brownsville Texas. Who else was reading Schiller here I couldn’t say. Even though the ideas embodied in Weimar Classicism were centered in and applied by specific artists and writers in Weimar durring Schiller’s and Goethe’s lives, the ideas stretch backwards and forwards in time and are, through interpolation and application, relevent today.

One of the main things I noticed and identified with is his deliniation between the sensual and the cognative experience of art, and a higher experience that assimilates both. This is perhap a gross simplification but it is remenisiant of Hegalian dialectic and Nietzsche’s aesthetics. For me these aesthetic perspectives resonate, as I also associate them both historically and in relation to Anthreoposophical aesthetics, specifically Steiner’s group sculpture and related sculptures and paintings.

Historically, the context may be interpreted in the dicotomy of the romantic and the classical movements in art. This can be deduced and applied forward and backwards in time ad infinitum. Some specific art historical examples might be, a comparison between Greek and Roman art of an earlier age, or the impressionist’s rebellion against accedemic art or even Courbet’s realism in contrast to the impressionists and impressionism v.s. post impressionism. Another past example would be Renaisance v.s. Manerist art. Michael Angelo encompassed both. These shifts between the sensual and the cognative or ideal can be seen even within art movements and practitioners. They are never simply a duality, for instance synthetic cubism v.s. analitic cubism. In post-modern art there is an argument that designates an end to the avant guard and this duality is less distinguishable between consecutive movements. However, the ideas can still be observed or applied, the sensual is always present in visual art. Even the most profoundly conceptual has visual componants. The most idealistic art relies heavily on sensual experience to convey concept. Conversly, often the most sensual art raises us to heights of contemplation. It is also inherrant in art that we deal atavistically, and towards fuller conciousness, with the sublime and with essential. and experiential spiritual realities.

I have digressed a little from the content of Schillers Letters. They are not an easy read, and if I do not do them justice here I appologize. For those interested, they are worth the effort.


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