Sunday, March 30, 2008

The scientific work of our countrymen has probably evoked less scepticism on the part of foreign judges than their achievements in other departments of cultural activity. There is one obvious reason for this difference. When our letters, our art, our music are criticized with disdainfully faint commendation, it is because they have failed to attain the higher reaches of creative effort. Supreme accomplishment in art certainly presupposes a graduated series of lesser strivings, yet from what might be called the consumer's angle, mediocrity is worthless and incapable of giving inspiration to genius. But in science it is otherwise. Here every bit of sound work… counts.
From Civilization in the United States: An Inquiry by Thirty Americans

George Santayana responds in his review, published as Marginal Notes on Civilization
It counts in art also, when art is alive. In a thoroughly humanized society everything -clothes speech manners, government- is a work of art, being so done as to be a pleasure and a stimulus in itself. There seems to be an impression in America that art is fed on the history of art, and is what is found in museums. But museums are mausoleums, only dead art is there, and only ghosts of artists flit about them. The priggish notion that an artist is a person undertaking to produce immortal works suffices to show that art has become a foreign thing, an hors-d'oeuvre and that it is probably doomed to affectation and sterility.
Among other things the above counts as my review of the Biennial

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