What makes a picture, symphony or novel a work of art? Above all, it is a fabrication, a new reality imagined and created by the artist. This fiction is accomplished by the selection of elements that nature offers—colors, masses, emotions and tones, and their regrouping according to an arbitrary arrangement. The choice of these empirical factors, and their ordering—balance of masses, harmony of proportions, musical or visual rhythm—everything, in short, which establishes mutual relationships between the parts of an object—are the property of a work of art which, by this name, becomes a cosmic thing. A third phase, equally important, concludes this effort at abstraction. A work of art is isolated from its surroundings, circumscribed by the limits of its form. Accordingly, every painting is, first of all, put upon a symmetrical surface. The frame attests that the isolation of this microcosm within it is a painting. Art encloses the infinity of...


New to The New Criterion?

Subscribe for one year to receive ten print issues, and gain immediate access to our online archive spanning more than four decades of art and cultural criticism.

Popular Right Now