Quality is the first norm for art, but its final norm is love and truth, the enriching of human life, the deepening of our vision.


Ut pictura poesis? - Bruce Herman

Ut pictura poesis?

by Bruce Herman
During the late Renaissance, a Latin phrase from Horace was often bandied about as a means of pulling the artist up and out of the servant role in society and placing him among nobles: ut pictura poesis ("as is painting, so is poetry"). The upshot was that art had more in common with poetry and philosophy than with carpentry. Since then, and in particular for the last couple hundred years, the arts have largely been in "experimentation mode"—moving away from the humble business of craft and service and much more strongly toward ideas, issues, and theory.
Since the Renaissance, the servant role of the artist—with craftsmanship as its central value—has been gradually waning and the intellectual-poetic aspects of art have steadily risen. Historians and critics during this period have hailed the "breakthrough" mentality, and some have even equated art with the cutting edge and the avant-garde—as though traditional approaches to art-making are simply disqualified as art altogether because they are focused upon the well-made thing and not primarily on ideas. There was even a prolonged period recently (from around 1960 until the 1990s) when the words "traditional" and "craftsy" were the kiss of death for an artist's career. One result is that in the past several decades, artists of every discipline have been trained with the primary expectation that they shall produce new and sometimes shocking objects; choreograph daring dance movements; compose provocative musical pieces or poems—and in many cases, skill has been moved to the margins or completely off-stage.