Hazlitt on aesthetic democracy and artistic genius

Lang, Martin (2021) Hazlitt on aesthetic democracy and artistic genius. The Hazlitt Review, 13 . ISSN 1757-8299

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Hazlitt on Aesthetic Democracy and Artistic Genius
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Abstract

This essay asks how Hazlitt’s notion of artistic genius stands up today, where connoisseurs are unfashionable, expertise is distrusted and popular opinion is often courted and highly valued in the generation and reception of art. It does this by analysing Hazlitt’s concepts of gusto and “aesthetic democracy”. First, Hazlitt’s concept of aesthetic democracy is applied to the painting of Thomas Kinkade, the reassessment of ‘slaver’ statues and a conceptual project by Komar and Melamid to highlight some problems with popular opinion in the assessment of art and with collaborative practices that cede authorship to participants (what I call “the democratisation of art”). Then, Hazlitt’s concept of gusto is scrutinised to argue for the importance of the role of the individual artist’s voice in the production of artworks.
The article makes two conclusions. First that, Hazlitt’s separation of aesthetic democracy from political democracy negates ethical concerns about “undemocratic art”. Secondly, that Hazlitt’s concepts of artistic genius and gusto remind us of the value of the artist-individual and the aesthetic worth of their undiluted input. Consequently, Hazlitt’s concepts of artistic genius and gusto are useful tools to critically assess contemporary art, against the prevailing current of art criticism, allowing us to assert the immanent importance of art and the role of the artist in its creation.

Keywords:William Hazlitt, Artistic genius, Aesthetics, Aesthetic democracy, Komar and Melamid, Slaver Statues, Participatory art, Collaboration, Creative collaboration, Design by committee, Gusto, Truth
Subjects:W Creative Arts and Design > W100 Fine Art
V Historical and Philosophical studies > V350 History of Art
W Creative Arts and Design > W120 Painting
Divisions:College of Arts > School of Fine & Performing Arts > School of Fine & Performing Arts (Fine Arts)
ID Code:44807
Deposited On:10 May 2021 11:08

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