One of my weaknesses is a fear of really large books. I have been reading bits and pieces of From Dawn to Decadence for some time and I have untold other tomes sitting on the shelf with bookmarkers a few dozen pages inside. I just got Paul Johnson’s mammoth Art: A New History in the mail and tonight I was determined to start reading. I hope to read a chunk every day, or every other day, and actually finish this one.
For your reading pleasure, here are some choice quotes from tonight’s reading:
“I argue here that art predated not only writing but probably structured speech too, that it was closely associated with the ordering instinct which makes society possible, and that it has therefore always been essential to human happiness.”
“Of all the problems which afflict artists, and afflict them more intensely the stronger their skills and passions, the most important is choosing between conformity and freedom.”
“When we look at works of art, we must remember that often their creator was a prisoner of his time and culture, albeit a willing one as a rule . . . For art is Janus-faced, tradition and novelty fighting for supremacy.”
“By art I mean three things: useful are, concerned with survival; fine art, concerned with beauty; and fashion art, concerned with conformity to social rules.”