19th Century Art: In the 19th century Matthew Arnold stated that "We mean by art not merely an aim to please, but also pure and faultless workmanship." Arnold, who was the foremost establishment arbiter of taste in the later 19th century, was being a little defensive here. He was reaffirming the importance of skill, while acknowledging that art should also aim to please; that is, create something beautiful. The ideals of art as stated by Arnold are exemplified by the painting on the right. But why was he being defensive about this well established idea that artists exhibit skill? Because in the 19th century for the first time we have dissent from this idea, expressed in the idea of the Avant Garde- the notion that the creative powers of the individual artist are at the center of what art is?
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