Read The Renaissance: Studies in Art and Poetry by Walter Pater Online

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'To burn always with this hard gemlike flame, to maintain this ecstasy, is success in life.'The Renaissance (1873) at once became the touchstone for the decadent imagination for a generation of Oxford undergraduates. Pater was shocked at the reaction his book inspired: 'I wish they would not call me a hedonist, it gives such a wrong impression to those who do not know Gree'To burn always with this hard gemlike flame, to maintain this ecstasy, is success in life.'The Renaissance (1873) at once became the touchstone for the decadent imagination for a generation of Oxford undergraduates. Pater was shocked at the reaction his book inspired: 'I wish they would not call me a hedonist, it gives such a wrong impression to those who do not know Greek.'. The book had begun as a series of idiosyncratic, impressionistic critical essays on those artists that embodied for him the spirit of the Renaissance; by collecting them and adding his infamous Conclusion, Pater gained a reputation as a daring modern philosopher. But The Renaissance survives as one of the most innovative pieces of cultural criticism to emerge from the nineteenth century....

Title : The Renaissance: Studies in Art and Poetry
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ISBN : 9780192835536
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Number of Pages : 208 Pages
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The Renaissance: Studies in Art and Poetry Reviews

  • BillKerwin
    2018-11-25 12:46

    If you wish to put only one 150 year old book of art essays on your reading list, this is the one I would recommend. It revolutionized British art criticism, inspired—and provided a philosophical basis for--the l'art pour l'art movement, and, most important (for me at least), it expressed a new sensibility in innovative and beautiful prose--lambent, melodious, sinuous, languid and yet capable of intellectual subtlety and moral force—prose which would influence English letters for decades to come.The mid-Victorians had moved art criticism into the realms of the moral (Ruskin) and the objective (Arnold). Then, in 1867, Pater asked: how can we determine the morality of a style or the value of an aesthetic object unless we first become aware of our own impressions and the sensations they evoke in us? “In aesthetic criticism the first step towards seeing one's object as it really is, is to know one's own impression as it really is, to discriminate it, to realise it distinctly.” For Pater, the critic is someone who educates his sensibilities by bathing them in the subtleties of beauty, and then, by analyzing his own reactions, transforms himself into a sentient instrument for the appreciation of art. “What is important, then, is not that the critic should possess a correct abstract definition of beauty for the intellect, but a certain kind of temperament, the power of being deeply moved by the presence of beautiful objects.”A generation after Pater wrote these words, his views had come to dominate the fin de siecle. Throughout the '70's, young intellectuals, particularly those of “Uranian” sensibility, gravitated to Pater's Oxford afternoon teas. His visitors and correspondents included many who would help form the taste of the coming age: Arthur Symons, Lionel Johnson, Violet Paget (“Vernon Lee”), and Gerard Manley Hopkins, to mention a few. Oscar Wilde in particular revered The Renaissance, and in his last year at college often took walks with Pater to discuss his aesthetics, which later became the basis of Wilde's own. He and the other young men of his generation took Pater's message as their guide to life as well as art: “to burn always with this hard gemlike flame, to maintain this ecstasy, is success in life.” (The two men admired but did not like each other. Pater found Wilde clever but disagreeable; Oscar thought Pater too easily frightened. When Pater later condemned Dorian Gray as an immoral distortion of Epicureanism, their amicable relationship came to an end.)In addition to the sensibilities of The Yellow Nineties, Pater's exaltation of beauty over utility also helped shape Modernist attitudes in the early 20th Century. Proust, Joyce, Woolf, Yeats and Stevens—all are touched by the influence of The Renaissance.If you don't have the time for the whole book, you should at least read the introduction and the conclusion, “Pico della Mirandola” (for an illuminating glimpse of early Christian Humanism), “Leonardo da Vinci” (for the “Mona Lisa”), “The School of Giorgione” (for some of Pater's mature observations on painting), and “Winckelmann” (for the tragic history of this early German Hellenist and his "romantic, fervent friendships with young men").To illustrate the beauty of Pater's prose, here is part of his celebrated description of the “Mona Lisa” (which Yeats thought so poetic he reproduced it in an anthology, all by itself, broken up into lines as if it were free verse):She is older than the rocks among which she sits; like the vampire, she has been dead many times, and learned the secrets of the grave; and has been a diver in deep seas, and keeps their fallen day about her; and trafficked for strange webs with Eastern merchants: and, as Leda, was the mother of Helen of Troy, and, as Saint Anne, the mother of Mary; and all this has been to her but as the sound of lyres and flutes, and lives only in the delicacy with which it has moulded the changing lineaments, and tinged the eyelids and the hands.

  • Kalliope
    2018-12-17 06:26

    Books mark pathways. I arrived at this book from a quote encountered in Botticelli that I found very beautiful. It came from Pater’s essay on Botticelli and this may remains my favourite essay from this collection...he is a visionary painter, and in his visionariness he resembles Dante. Giotto, the tried companion of Dante, Masaccio, Ghirlandaio even, do but transcribe, with more or less refining, the outward image; they are dramatic, not visionary painters.. But the genius of which Botticelli is the type usurps the data before it as the exponent of ideas, moods, visions of its own.This volume is then a collection of essays published separately at different dates, from around the decade of the 1870s. When he wrote them, the subjects were not as widely treated or known as they are now. This requires a certain degree of estrangement from our own culture if one desires to bring to life the novelty of Pater’s perceptions. Their freshness also helps us to be more lenient with the few errors in which he incurred.Following the tradition of the Grand Tour, Walter Pater (1839-1894) travelled to Italy in 1865. These were years of dramatic changes in the political geography of Italy. And this requires also an effort in our imagination in trying to detach ourselves from our contemporary notions of the place. Unsurprisingly, during his visit a new passion took hold of Pater and he proceeded to devote several of his subsequent studies and writings to the Italian artists of the Renaissance. The understanding of the Renaissance, in particular of the earlier part—the late 14C and 15C, deepened significantly during the 19C. The French historian Michelet baptised the period with its now coined term; soon the Swiss historian Burckhardt articulated its culture; the theoretician Ernest Renan expanded the geographical borders of its cultural imagination; British circles of artists called themselves in honour to the art that interested them; Ruskin echoed these artists, his friends, in the shift of emphasis on which part of the Renaissance offered the most sincere morality. It is in this trail that we have to situate Pater’s lovely essays.The essay that drew me in the path to this book was apparently the first monographic study of Botticelli in England. Even if I picked the book for its Botticelli, I have also enjoyed his study of the early French literature, with the stories of Li Amitiez de Ami et Amile and Aucassin et Nicolette. Reading Pater just after Burckhardt's The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy, who was convinced that the Renaissance could only have happened in Italy, this different focus on the French provenance of the seeds of the new way for man to understand his own place in the world, was startling. But only for a couple of seconds. After all, we know well that Provençal as well as Sicilian poetry paved the way to Dante’s still nuovo.Pater’s writing on Giorgione is wonderful for its generalities and less so for its particulars. Giorgione has been a difficult artist to study given the scant documentary evidence. Pater wrote his views when it had just been decided that several works had been wrongly attributed to Giorgione. He therefore centres on the one painting, which he thinks was undoubtedly a Giorgione. Sadly, it is now thought that Titian painted it. Nonetheless, many of his meditations on aesthetics are still a riveting read.Another of my favourites was his Pico della Mirandola. Pater digs inside the preoccupations of this intriguing personality and presents him as the epitome of the goals of the Renaissance thinker: the impossible reconciliation of the pagan antique world with the Christian religiosity.The jewel of the crown, however, is his essay on Leonardo. Pater first pointed the finger and identified that which was non-identifiable: the elusiveness and ambiguity of La Gioconda’s smile, and thereby contributing to the consecration of the most iconic of icons (.. its germinal principle, the unfathomable smile, always with a touch of something sinister in it.)Befittingly the essay itself has become an icon of Pater.And as reading paths rarely come to a dead end, to follow on the track of Pater I can already identify several book-posts with the name of Walter Pater stamped on their spines.

  • Geoff
    2018-12-07 06:38

    ”...the more liberal life we have been seeking so long, so near to us all the while. How mistaken and roundabout have been our efforts to reach it by mystic passion and religious reverie; how they have deflowered the flesh; how little they have emancipated us! Hermione melts from her stony posture, and the lost proportions of life right themselves.”It’s amazing how thoroughly Pater’s study of the aesthetics of the Renaissance has been incorporated into our own modern attitude toward the subject; in this book written disparately between 1866 and 1877 one recognizes what is now the established context through which we view the great works of the 15th and 16th centuries; one can also catch glimpses of an aesthetic sense and even a lushness of prose style that can be found blooming later in the Modernists- Proust’s gently verbose approach toward infinite beauty, the phenomenologists’ concern with the ultimate power of the imagination and the long resonance of the brief image, the late-Sensualists’ doctrines of intimate knowledge and voluptuous experience, Wilde’s entire oeuvre predicted, Woolf’s rhythms in their embryonic form, Joyce’s erudite, elegant crafting and musicality. The famous “conclusion” to the Renaissance studies gathers the ghosts of Blake, Poe, Gautier, Swinburne, and a host of others to make an argument against death, oblivion, and fettered modes of living, and proposes a dignity to human life that lies in its swiftness, its “sweetness”, its subjectivity, its completeness in the awareness of death, each moment death-struck, “unstable, flickering, inconstant”, but elevated by the aesthetic sensibilities and given a permanence in the growth of perfected forms.This idea is formulated in a series of connected biographical essays on a selection of some of the great, representational minds of the times, influenced by Pater’s travels to Florence, Pisa and Ravenna and his observations of the troves of art lying open there. The essays attempt at a chronology of these persons' lives, but are beautifully digressive, and do not linger long on particularities- Pater’s point here is to elucidate theories of beauty and change and technique rooted in the intellectual development of these beings and their works. Dante and Savonarola loom over the entire work like archangels, but Pater finds his essence in Pico della Mirandola attempting a reconciliation of Catholicism and paganism, trying to bring Homer, Virgil, Demosthenes and Cicero into the environs of the papacy with his Oration on the Dignity of Man; the letters of Abelard and Heloise, and the French chanson that sung in strict rhyme of earthly passion and estranged lovers’ midnight meetings in huts weaved from wildflowers and moonlit gardens girdled by ruined stone walls; Botticelli*, and “the sadness with which he conceives the goddess of pleasure”, “a blending in him of a sympathy for humanity in its uncertain condition, its attractiveness, its investiture at rarer moments in a character of loveliness and energy, with his consciousness of the shadow upon it of the great things from which it shrinks...”; Michelangelo’s tempered strength, his Leda, “the delight of the world breaking from the egg of a bird”, his unfinished sculptures hinting at unfinished humanity, his love of stone and the ashen tones of isolation; Joachim du Bellay’s efforts to elevate vulgar French to a language capable of containing the highest philosophical and intellectual flights, and in this a rejection of the church’s imposed Latin on the academia; da Vinci, “smitten with a love of the impossible- the perforation of mountains, changing the course of rivers, raising great buildings, such as the church of San Giovanni, in the air”, for whom philosophy “was to be something giving strange swiftness and double sight, divining sources of springs beneath the earth or of expression beneath the human countenance”, his “way to perfection through a series of disgusts”, his obsessive sketches of human faces with an “interfusion of terror and beauty” that was given its greatest expression in the Medusa of the Uffizi. In da Vinci, Pater locates the thesis of the Renaissance, the reach for beauty in the radical terror and loneliness of mankind on earth, and that this reach needs to be as much toward the past as it is toward the future. In da Vinci’s works we see the individual within the acknowledged types breaking free, “the rent rock, the distorting lights of evening on lonely roads, the unveiled structure of man in the embryo, or the skeleton...”The ultimate emphasis of the book is that in the attempt to resurrect Antiquity, to reclaim out of darkened centuries the Hellenic light, in the modes of living of those polytheistic, sensual, humanistic Greeks, the great artists of the Renaissance were attempting to infuse a lost dignity into the human form, to again feel pity for the lot of man, to find a delimiting way forward through crushing religious and economic forces, to stake their lives on the value of human beauty, philosophy, music, in contrast to some Platonic ideal realm that we may never attain, to limn a gesture and grace and sounds that locate the divine in the mortal; and the hope that with this rediscovery would come a gentleness, a kind of sympathy, a nostalgic song sung for the blighted lives of men. That life should be as kind and elevated and touched by beauty as is possible, and that those ambitions are not fulfilled by the abstractions of Christianity and faith in another life. That this life might prove itself to be enough. “To burn always with this hard, gem-like flame, to maintain this ecstasy, is success in life.”*One interesting way this collection dates itself is how Botticelli is constantly referred to as “a minor painter”, “overlooked”, etc. I wonder if Pater alone is responsible, in this book, for Botticelli’s present prominence.

  • Roy Lotz
    2018-11-28 06:29

    That it has given a new sense, that it has laid open a new organ, is the highest that can be said of any critical effort.I had no idea what to expect from these essays. The only reason I became aware of Pater was because a copy of this book was sitting on the bathroom floor in my friend’s father’s house. Since my friend’s father is a successful painter, I naturally took note of a book about art so intimately placed. Much later, after finishing Burckhardt’s famous analysis of the Renaissance, and with my trip to Rome looming, I decided that I would finally see why a painter sought out this book for his bathroom inspiration.Pater was an idiosyncratic fellow, and these essays certainly reflect that. Some of the topics he covers are expected: Botticelli, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci. Others are more surprising: Joachim du Bellay, a Frenchman who wrote a defense of the French language; two medieval French stories about love and adventure; and Johann Winckelmann, the 18th century German classicist. Clearly, Pater’s conception of the Renaissance was far broader than Burckhardt’s, who considered the Renaissance a strictly Italian affair. Also broad is Pater’s conception of criticism: for him, it is not merely a vocation, but an entire philosophy of life.I am referring specifically to the famous “Conclusion” that is tacked on to the end of these essays. In it, Pater puts forward a whole aesthetic philosophy of life: Everything is in flux; both matter and mind are temporary; the only thing we have is the moment; and since death may come at any time, and will come inevitably, the only rational response is to enjoy this moment as best you can. Now, some thought that Pater was advocating hedonism, but that is far from the case. He was, rather, an aesthete; and for him, “enjoying the moment” meant finding the most beautiful shade of green in a field of grass, or observing the play of light on a windowpane—that sort of thing. The ability to be constantly, delicately, indefatigably absorbed in one’s senses, and yet have the focus and taste necessary to select from these perceptions the most lovely, is what Pater meant with his famous suggestion to “burn always with this hard, gemlike flame,” which for him is “success in life.”At times, the age of these essays showed. This was most conspicuous in Pater’s essay on Giorgione, in which he bases his whole appreciation on one painting, elevating it to the height and epitome of Giorgione’s aesthetic—a painting which is now believed to be by Titian. But for the most part, the essays have retained their force and interest. Indeed, you may not realize how original this book was, since it anticipated and shaped so many of our attitudes about art and the Renaissance. To pick just one example, Pater’s discussion of the Mona Lisa, dwelling on her mysterious smile, certainly helped spur on our fascination for that work.Nevertheless, I am unsure whether Pater actually deepened my appreciation for the Renaissance works he discussed. This is due, I think, to his ideal of the critic: to be acutely sensitive to the power of art, and to be finely discriminating of what is more or less beautiful. Sensitive and discriminating Pater certainly is. (Several times I wondered if he passed out while writing his essays, since, judging by his breathless and insistent tone, he was always to be right on the cusp of a brilliant epiphany or a transcendent experience. It must have been exhausting.) But notice what is lacking from his ideal of the critic: to analyze, to discuss, to inform. The critics who have most helped me appreciate art are those who taught me about the painting the artist; who showed me what to look for, how best to situated the painting within a certain context; in short, who pulled me into the world of the painting. But since Pater holds up sensitivty and discrimination as ideals, he is faced with the problem: how does one communicate those qualities, which are personal, to somebody else? To do this, he resorts to writing long rhapsodies, reveries, aesthetic ecstasies about the works under consideration. These passages are almost uniformly brilliant, often breathtaking. Nevertheless, it felt more like watching Pater look at a painting, overhearing the thoughts and associations the painting inspires in his brain, rather than learning how to appreciate the painting myself.I cannot finish this review without discussing Pater’s prose. He is considered to be one of the great stylists, and this reputation is well deserved. The man was such a brilliant writer that it often seemed irrelevant what he was writing about; he could write an essay on the underside of a mosquito and it would be good literature. This is not to say that he has no limitations. Most conspicuously, he has not even a trace of the epigrammatic. If a point can be made in ten words, Pater will give you fifty, though those fifty will be as finely crafted as a Baroque statue. His sentences never arrest you or stop you short, but rather overwhelm you, burying you under a pile of clauses, metaphors, images, until you’re short of breath and so dazzled that it seems someone has shone a flashlight in your eyes. Comparisons with Proust and Woolf, especially the latter, come readily to mind; but Pater has a manic insistence that makes his writing uniquely urgent.Another limitation is that Pater seems incapable of that kind of easy grace, that effortless virtuosity, which many of the greatest writers display. Rather, his prose strains every nerve, exerts every muscle, panting and sweating as it pushes itself onward. This impression is, apparently, an accurate one: According to Wiki, he obsessively polished, tweaked, and rewrote his works, until every word, every sentence, every paragraph was just to his taste. This makes his prose like a super-ornate jewel, breathtaking in its designs, its symmetries, and its technical daring; yet for all that rather delicate and precious, and inevitably a bit ostentatious. I will leave you with a passage from his essay on Michelangelo:And of all that range of sentiment he is the poet, a poet still alive, and in possession of our inmost thoughts—dumb inquiry over the relapse after death into the formlessness which preceded life, the change, the revolt from that change, then the correcting, hallowing, consoling rush of pity; at last, far off, thin and vague, yet not more vague than the most definite thoughts men have had through three centuries on a matter that has been so near their hearts, the new body—a passing light, a mere intangible, external effect, over those too rigid, or too formless faces; a dream that lingers a moment, retreating in the dawn, incomplete, aimless, helpless; a thing with faint hearing, faint memory, faint power of touch; a breath, a flame in the doorway, a feather in the wind.

  • Eric
    2018-12-14 11:36

    This brought me back to college, when, under the sway of Sexual Personae, I expended an inordinate amount of youthful ardor reading, underlining, and reading over again key paragraphs in the prose manifestoes of aestheticism, particularly Baudelaire’s Salons and—my golden book—The Painter of Modern Life. Paglia’s suggestion of Pater led me to the famous “Conclusion” of The Renaissance. It struck me as something like an “English domestication of Symbolism,” “what minor talents are always apt to want, a recipe for being an artist”—two phrases of Hugh Kenner’s I would have endorsed had I known them, but which now seem beside the point, if not churlish—and I decided not to bother with the rest of the book. Too vague. Not enough spleen. P: To burn always with this hard, gem-like flame…B (who sounds like Werner Herzog): You mean my naked mistress wearing nought but jewels, bangles and chains whose jingling music give her the conquering hair of a Moorish slave on days when her master is pleased!P: …is success in life.B: Success? In life? Life is ennui! Bad Luck! Erotic torment! A hospital in which every patient seeks to change beds! I’ll put down my dolls. I also snickered at what I saw as Pater’s donnish straining after Socratic effect, the molding of handsome young heads (it worked—Wilde cherished The Renaissance). Similarly, Lytton Strachey is said to have—in a sad parody of seduction—“influenced a generation of Cambridge undergraduates” via the institutional memory of his languorous attitude and cache of “decadent” French novels. Monastic British homosexuality looked pretty quaint back when Edmund White’s grab-your-can-of-Crisco 70s sex memoirs defined my idea of “gay writing.” (Maybe I didn’t take English aestheticism seriously because I didn’t see it leading anywhere. I could see how Baudelaire and Flaubert got you to Proust, Joyce, and Nabokov. Pater seemed to lead to Wilde and the early, heraldic Yeats—that is, not very far. In painting, Manet and Cézanne->Picasso and Matisse; Burne-Jones and D.G. Rossetti—>fantasy novel cover art?) Well, I was pretty stupid—Pater is amazing, deeply weird, anything but quaint or dismissible. I’m drawn to his relish of ambiguous complexity, the fetish he makes of secret histories, subtle abdications, and the futility of labels and orthodoxies that have “no real claim upon us.” This was a man who planned to become a clergyman despite believing not a word of Anglican doctrine, so excited was he by the idea of a public office concealing a strange soul. (Wilde may have been attracted by this play of masks.) Denied that lark, this gay don grew a “heavy military moustache,” and “retained this grotesque disguise to the end of his life.”* Kenneth Clark, again from the Introduction: “A small group of friends delighted in his conversation. For the rest he was mysteriously absent or completely impenetrable.” In the chronicles I make merely the sign of the hiatus. The re-discovery of pagan models, of motion and sentiment more subdued and mysterious, ampler and more ambiguous than found in the all-too-legible allegories, the coarse theological caricatures of Medieval art, is thus the perfect pretext for Pater’s modernist purification of aesthetics, his divesture of public morality, labels, engagement, judgment, his focus on the passive, shifting illegibility of our states. Pater sees, both as an ideal to be attained and a true state to be conveyed by realistic art, thatwhite light, purged from the angry, bloodlike stains of passion and action, [which:] reveals, not what is accidental in man, but the tranquil godship in him, as opposed to the restless accidents of life.“Man and women, again, in the hurry of life, often wear the sharp impress of one absorbing motive, from which it is said death sets their features free”—whereas the effigies of Greek sculpture are “characterless, so far as character involves subjection to the accidental influences of life.” Through art, Pater says, we can confront the ineffable, elusive stuff of life—the “vacant figure, nameless and unplaced in history” that Yourcenar’s Hadrian found beneath and beyond his serial selves and temporary worldly commitments—the “inmost” self Proust aimed to excavate from the pretentions manifested “in our habits, in society, in our vices.” I invoke Proust and Yourcenar because I now see Pater not as the godfather of a facile kind of fin de siècle verse, all Whistler-ish daubs and washes, but as herald of the benthic analyses of the introspective modernist novel. Paglia quotes a critic who calls Virginia Woolf the “final exquisite flower of Pater’s doctrine.”** Interesting. It’s a pity that some books are known by but one purple patch at a time. In this case, it's Pater’s famous evocation of a vampiric Mona Lisa, which Yeats broke into free verse and placed first—above the lintel, as it were—when he was allowed to edit the Oxford Book of Modern Verse. I for one think Pater is best encapsulated by his passage on Botticelli’s ambivalent Madonnas: Her trouble is in the very caress of the mysterious child, whose gaze is always far from her, and who has already that sweet look of devotion which men have never been able altogether to love, and which still makes the born saint an object almost of suspicion to his earthly brethren. Once, indeed, he guides her hand to transcribe in a book the words of her exaltation, the Ave, and the Magnificat, and the Gaude Maria, and the young angels, glad to rouse her for a moment from her dejection, are eager to hold the inkhorn and to support the book. But the pen almost drops from her hand, and the high cold words have no meaning for her, and her true children are those others, among whom, in her rude home, the intolerable honour came to her, with that look of wistful inquiry on their irregular faces which you see in startled animals–gipsy children, such as those who, in Apennine villages, still hold out their long brown arms to beg of you, but on Sundays become enfants du choeur, with their thick black hair nicely combed, and fair white linen on their sunburnt throats.-----------*** And, perhaps, the bisexual Marina Tsvetaeva, who writes: How much a human being loses with the acquisition of a sex, when for nought, away, this, there begin to be designated by a name, from the total blueness of the longing and the river it turns into a face, with a nose, with eyes, and in my childhood, a prince-nez as well, and a moustache…

  • Michael Young
    2018-12-04 07:38

    Rereading Walter Pater Rereading Walter Pater’s The Renaissance I’m struck how the sheer pleasure of reading the book breaks hard against the abundance of thought it provokes. It makes it difficult to decide if I should rhapsodize about the beauty of his prose or delight in the many connections his work has to other writers and thinkers both before and after him. Perhaps a little of both.His aesthetic, as he describes it at the beginning of his essay on Giorgione, accounts for how he allowed himself the luxury of such a poetic style. For Pater, the all important element in a work of art is its impression. When he says, “in its primary aspect, a great picture has no more definite message for us than an accidental play of sunlight and shadow for a few moments on the wall” he frees himself to enter a painting or poem or the life of an artist and permit his own reactions to form the meaning. He can suggest the sound of poured water mixing with played pipes in Fête Champêter or the smile of the Mona Lisa “defining itself on the fabric of [Leonardo’s] dreams” and I take these in without any hesitation that they are not good scholarship since that is not the intention. Pater is not trying to get at some objective message or meaning, but at what it means to him to inhabit a certain space.Pater argues that it’s neither the senses nor the intellect that art addresses, but the “imaginative reason.” I immediately understand this to correspond to what I call the sensibility. It is an odd organ of perception. But it is Pater’s effort to describe how this vague organ registers aesthetic reality that makes his descriptions so beautiful and why it is not accurate to understand him as simply a critic or hedonist. In fact, so many of his attitudes and ideas seem to foreshadow much in modernism and existentialism.As I read him, I have strong but undefined feelings that he stands on the narrowest and subtlest bridge dividing what is Romantic from what is modern. Or that he breathes the air of both atmospheres without fully inhabiting either. Certainly, much of what is in the major existentialists and major modernists can be seen as the evolution of the Romantic stances, their natural consequence and end. When Blake asserts that the imagination is the Holy Spirit, there is no significant progress made when Stevens proclaims “God and the imagination are one.” When Keats said negative capability is “when man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts without any irritable reaching after fact & reason,” he defined exclusively for artists what Camus would define as the absurd man. So when Pater describes Fra Angelico’s Coronation of the Virgin, it registers as more than an aesthetic disagreement, but a metaphysical one. That’s because Pater had already made a step toward that fragmented landscape of modern life. But he doesn’t seem to step fully into it or, if he does, he’s wearing some kind of protective armor, something that keeps his mind intact where later minds are in pieces. What Pater says of Goethe could be said of himself, “he defines, in clearest outline, the eternal problem of culture — balance, unity with one’s self.”One sees his method of unity in how he portrays what the mind does to satisfy its need “to feel itself alive.” He said it “must see into the laws, the operation, the intellectual reward of every divided form of culture; but only that it may measure the relation between itself and them. It struggles with those forms till its secret is won from each, and then lets each fall back into its place.” This reaches back to Blake who said,He who binds to himself a joyDoth the winged life destroy.He who kisses the joy as it flies,Lives in eternity's sunrise.And it reaches forward to Simone de Beauvoir when she defines freedom as being “able to surpass the given toward an open future.” Between these two metaphysics of freedom, Pater defines his technique to give the intellect the completeness he said it demanded. However, this technique contains the seed of its own dissolution. In the very notion of the “divided form of culture” is everything that gives him his uniting focus and what transformed, for later minds, into a multiplicity that fragmented the psyche itself.For Pater, there are discrete aesthetic moments offered to the intellect to construct its own unity, forms yielding definitions and boundaries of cultural discourse. But in the 20th century, the existentialists rejected the mere play of such forms. Again Simone de Beauvoir said, “We repudiate all idealisms, mysticism, etcetera which prefer a Form to man himself.” The divided object presented to the mind in the 20th century was not culture, but man himself, his fragmented psyche. As the poet George Oppen put it, “we have chosen the meaning, of being numerous.” The self no longer felt the unity it once did and could no longer contrive it. Walter Pater’s mentor, Matthew Arnold, exemplified this fragmentation quite dramatically. In fact, the teacher stood on the other side of that bridge dividing and distinguishing the Romantic sensibility from the modern one.Pater was not driven, like his mentor, to proclaim, “I am fragments” because aesthetic appreciation was a uniting principle for him. He was not a hedonist, but an aesthete. In his famous conclusion to The Renaissance, Pater writes, “Not to discriminate every moment some passionate attitude in those about us, and in the very brilliancy of their gifts some tragic dividing of forces on their ways, is, in this short day of frost and sun, to sleep before evening. With this sense of the splendor of our experience and of its awful brevity, gathering all we are into one desperate effort to see and touch, we shall hardly have time to make theories about the things we see and touch.” It is staggeringly beautiful and poignant, another of the infinite renderings of carpe diem. But we see here the idealism Beauvoir rejects; we see Pater’s unity in gathering together these moments. He is the central self bringing his singular experiences into the whole of his guiding intelligence. And this divides him from the 20th and 21st centuries; this keeps him from being wholly modern. As close to the doorstep as he comes, he remains outside. But he is so wonderfully there, an almost reassuring figure — if only we could be more like him — the favorite grandfather of many artists and intellectuals, a source of wisdom too remote to follow but close enough to relish quoting.

  • Bruce
    2018-11-25 05:49

    After coming across an excerpt from The Renaissance in the Norton critical edition of Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray, I decided to satisfy my curiosity and read the whole work. Though Pater is often described as a proponent of art for art's sake (and thus one of the key figures in the late nineteenth century aestheticism caricatured by Wilde), I found him to be a relentless searcher for metaphysical meaning in the ineffable details of art, e.g. (from the chapter on the painter Giorgione) "[t]he sudden act, the rapid transition of thought, the passing expression" or "a mere gesture, a look, a smile"; in such "exquisite pauses in time . . . we seem to be spectators of all the fulness of existence, and which are like some consummate extract or quintessence of life."Surely such details are what lend most art its potency in our lives, and what we tend to remember the longest. The Renaissance is a rich exposition of such details in the works of various key figures from that period, and an invitation to mine it (and art from all periods) for nuggets of experience with which to come closer to the "quintessence of life."Of course, if you're anything like me, you will want to know more precisely what that quintessence consists of. Pater, apparently, was not particularly interested in that information, but rather in attaining the "highest quality to your moments", or, as he infelicitously puts it, "getting as many pulsations as possible into the given time." This point of view makes his famous Conclusion anticlimactic for me. After the rich suggestiveness of the analyses of da Vinci, Michaelangelo, et al., to then reduce it all to pleasurable "pulsations"! But the suggestiveness remains, despite, his interpretation; The Renaissance does regale the reader with observations of a world filled with intimations from art that man is indeed made in the image of God. It matters little if Pater did not believe in that God if he has so eloquently laid out the evidence.

  • S.D.
    2018-12-06 11:28

    A fine example of creative subversion. Ostensibly a collection of critical essays addressing subjects such as Da Vinci, Bottecelli, Pico della Mirandolla, and others, Pater uses them to demonstrate his own aesthetic philosophy in practice – a refined and subjective approach to the interpretation of creative expression. What Pater reveals, in addition to a delightful command of the written word, is not the supposed intent of the artists themselves, but rather what Pater himself sees in them. His theory is in stark contrast to the tradition of those which hold art to be defined and judged by certain universal criteria. Pater’s theory may be branded nihilistic; and yet, if art is indeed a mirror, shouldn’t we each see our own reflection in it?

  • C. Michael
    2018-11-23 05:38

    Pater presents some good insights but there's much overwrought writing and his overly effete manner made for some tedious reading. Much of what is asserted must be taken on the authority of the writer alone; apparently he was convinced that if he expressed himself cleverly enough, then what he said must be true. Doesn't work that way for me.

  • Bent-o
    2018-11-18 06:24

    Although Pater says some stirring things about the value of aesthetics in art, his prose is so florid and over-the-top it hurts to read.

  • Diana
    2018-11-24 09:38

    This won't hold much appeal for those who haven't studied art or English at university level, but it is nonetheless quite interesting. It's technically a tribute to famous Renaissance artists, but I see it is more a manifesto of the aesthetic movement of the fin de siecle (sorry I can't put the accent in). I particularly enjoyed Pater's description of the Mona Lisa (it is arguably the work's most famous passage), and if I had my book handy I would copy it here. Alternatively, I will relate the one line I do recall. It is a statement that, in my opinion, embodies the decadent ideals: 'Not the fruit of the experience, but the experience itself.'

  • Stavros
    2018-12-16 11:44

    Η "Αναγέννηση" είναι ένα από τα πιο ρηξικέλευθα κείμενα φιλοσοφικής κριτικής του πολιτισμού που ενέπνευσε μοντέρνους συγγραφείς και ποιητές,όπως ο Προύστ,ο Τζόυς,ο Γέιτς,ο Πάουντ ή ο Καβάφης και επιζεί μέχρι της μέρες μας ώς ανεπανάληπτη έκφραση μιάς αισθητικής θεώρησης της ζωής."Tο βιβλίο που είχε μιά τόσο παράξενη επίδραση στη ζωή μου,αποτελεί την ΑΓΙΑ ΓΡΑΦΗ ΤΟΥ ΚΑΛΛΟΥΣ." -Όσκαρ Ουάιλντ

  • Dan Crews
    2018-12-09 11:20

    The style, the style, the style....I have heard that much of the information is incorrect. I really don't care. What he brings up in your mind when savoring the language you just can find anywhere else. If you like this read Imaginary Portraits.

  • Wally
    2018-11-24 07:26

    Go to a bookstore. Grab this book. Turn to the last three pages. Read them. Enjoy the new sparkle upon your every moment that it will give you. Unfortunately for a small number of you it might just depress you that your moments are not gem-like flames. But it's worth a shot.

  • Rob
    2018-11-18 07:32

    when academics still had (something like) a pulse.

  • Anna Maria
    2018-11-18 07:20

    I defy anyone to read the Conclusion to this work and not feel the burning of a 'hard, gem-like flame'.

  • Matt
    2018-12-14 07:36

    I'd only really known Pater through quotes and influence. I know he was a sacred text for the great Oscar and that there were a legion of louche, sybaritic Oxford undergrads back in the late-19th Century who venerated him...so far, so good.I finally decided to pick this one up because if you've been thinking about a guy's shorter blurbs for a long enough time it behooves you, I think, to tackle a larger, more comprehensive text. So I entered Pater's Latinate labyrinth of prose expecting something luminous, dulcet, enlightening and inspiring. I wouldn't say I didn't find it, not quite, but I was definitely hit with the alienating shock of "W-T-F" more times than I expected. Granted, I'm no archivist when it comes to the Renaissance, but accessibility was a consistent issue. Pater writes beautifully, don't get me wrong, but he writes in these heavy, complex, allusive sentences that take a while to decode and get used to. Line for line the guy is practically a prose poet, but there's a lot you have to re-wire in terms of your reading mind to be able to fully grasp.I wrote about halfway through that even though I liked what he was saying I couldn't say I really knew what he was writing about. I don't know most of the works of art he talks about-and there are not a few mentioned- and it would have been SO HELPFUL if OWC had included some pictures of the paintings and sculptures herein described.I hate it when my massive ignorance bumps up against the wall of a particular writer's erudition. Ultimately, I'm generous enough to say it's my bad and not theirs: I mean, c'mon, to paraphrase Omar Little- you want to mess with the puppies or run with the wolves?So I guess I have to remove a star for the edition, since after all an interested reader is picking up the book to be pleased, edified and instructed, are they not? There is a helpful concordance of footnotes in the back and that was very nice but honestly, wouldn't it have been ten times better to get even a crude facsimile of some Raphael and Leonardo while we're at it?That said, approaching the text with an uncommonly clear head did make the experience go down easier. It grew on me, even as I'd put it aside for other, more accessible and less forbidding tomes. I still love how Pater writes, it's an effort that pays off, but in order to LEARN something I could take away about some of the most lauded art mankind ever produced, I need more. Pater writes with deep learning and wise familiarity about his subjects, no doubt, but what I really enjoy is his semi-impressionistic language and his unabashed willingness to get poetic and well-nigh reverent about his subjects. I think one of the critic's jobs is to make the subject come alive in the reader's mind; highlight things that otherwise would be marginalized or go unnoticed, illuminate the text in a way that brings it into glorious relief. A critic is like a chef, sorta, mixing and arranging the raw materials so that the work of art can be experienced in its freshest form. And when you write stuff like this, it's almost impossible not to shake your head with awe and interest and enrichment: "To regard all things and principles of things as inconstant modes of fashions has more and more become the tendency of modern thought. Let us begin with that which is without- our physical life. Fix upon it in one of its more exquisite intervals, the moment, for instance, of delicious recoil from the flood of water in summer heat. What is the whole physical life in that moment but a combination of natural elements to which science gives their names? But those elements, phosphorus and lime and delicate fibres, are present not in the human body alone: we detect them in places most remote from it.Our physical life is a perpetual motion of them- the passage of the blood, the waste and tissues of the brain under every ray of light and sound- processes which science reduces to simpler and more elementary forces. Like the elements of which we are composed, the action of these forces extends beyond us: it rusts iron and ripens corn. Far out on every side of us those elements are broadcast, driven in many currents, and birth and gesture and death and the springing of violets from the grave are but a few out of ten thousand resultant combinations.That clear, perpetual outline of face and limb is but an image of ours, under which we group them- a design in a web, the actual threads of which pass out beyond it. This at least of flame-like our life has, that it is but the concurrence, renewed from moment to moment, of forces parting sooner or later on their ways.Or if we begin with the inward world of thought and feeling, the whirlpool is still more rapid, the flame more eager and devouring. There it is no longer the gradual darkening of the eye, the gradual fading of colour from the wall- movements of the shore-side, where the water flows down indeed, though in apparent rest- but the race of the mid-stream, a drift of momentary acts of sight and passion and thought.At first sight experience seems to bury us under a flood of external objects, pressing upon us with sharp and importunate reality, calling us out of ourselves in a thousand forms of action. But when reflection begins to play upon those objects they are dissipated under its influence, the cohesive force seems suspended like some trick of magic; each object is loosed into a group of impressions- colour, odour, texture- in the mind of the observer.And if we continue to dwell in thought on this world, not of objects in the solidity with which language invests them, but of impressions, unstable, flickering, inconsistent, which burn and are extinguished with our consciousness of them, it contracts still further: the whole scope of observations is dwarfed into the narrow chamber of the individual mind. (My personal favorite passage, thus italicized, though the ital. should really enhance the entirety of the quotation, but whatareyagonnado..)Experience, already reduced to a group of impressions, is ringed round for each of us by that thick wall of personality through which no real voice has ever pierced on its way to us, or from us to that which we can only conjecture to be without. Every one of those impressions is the the impression of the individual in his isolation, each mind keeping as a solitary prisoner in its own dream of a world.Analysis goes a step further still, and assures us that those impressions of the individual mind to which, for each one of us, experience dwindles down, are in perpetual flight; that each of them is limited by time, and that as time is infinitely divisible, each of them is infinitely divisible also; all that is actual in it being a single moment, gone while we try to apprehend it, of which it may ever be more truly said that it has ceased to be than that it is.To such a tremulous whisp constantly re-forming itself on the stream, to a single sharp impression, with a sense in it, a relic more or less fleeting, of such moments gone by, what is real in our life fines itself down. It is with this movement, the passage and dissolution of impressions, images, sensations, that analysis leaves off- that continued vanishing away, that strange, perpetual, weaving and unweaving of ourselves.Philosophiren, says Novalis, ist dephlegmatisiren, vivificiren.* The service of philosophy, of speculative culture, towards the human spirit, is to rouse, to startle it to a life of constant and eager observation. Every moment some form grows perfect in hand or face; some tone on the hills or the sea is choicer than the rest; some mood of passion or insight or intellectual excitement is irresistibly real and attractive to us- for that moment only. Not the fruit of experience, but experience itself, is the end.A counted number of pulses only is given to us of a variegated, dramatic life. How may we see in them all that is to be seen in them by the finest senses? How shall we pass most swiftly from point to point, and he present always at the focus where the greatest number of vital forces unite in their purest energy? To burn always with this hard, gem-like flame, to maintain this ecstasy, is success in life. In a sense it might even be said that our failure is to form habits: for, after all, habit is relative to a stereotyped world, and meantime it is only the roughness of the eye that makes any two persons, things, situations, seem alike.(Other favorite passage, here come them ol' lovely italics agin'...)While all melts under our feet, we may well grasp at any exquisite passion, or any contribution to knowledge that seems by a lifted horizon to set the spirit free for a moment, or any stirring of the senses, strange dyes, strange colours, and curious odours, or work of the artist's hands, or the face of one's friend. Not to discriminate every moment some passionate attitude in those about us, and in the very brilliancy of their gifts some tragic dividing of forces on their ways, is, on this short day of frost and sun, to sleep before evening. With this sense of the splendour of our experience and of its awful brevity, gathering all we are into one desperate effort to see and touch, we shall hardly have time to make theories about the things we see and touch. What we have to do is to be for ever curiously testing new opinions and courting new impressions, never acquiescing in a facile orthodoxy, of Comte, or of Hegel, or of our own. Philosophical theories or ideas, as points of view, instruments of criticism, may help us to gather up what might otherwise pass unregarded by us. 'Philosophy is the microscope of thought.'** The theory or idea or system which requires of us the sacrifice of any part of this experience, in consideration of some interest into which we cannot enter, or some abstract theory we have not identified with ourselves, or of what is only conventional, has no real claim upon us. One of the most beautiful passages of Rousseau is that in the sixth book of the Confessions, where he describes the awakening in him of the literary sense. An undefinable taint of death had clung always about him, and now in early manhood hr believed himself smitten by mortal disease. He asked himself how he might make as much as possible of the interval that remained; and he was not biased by anything in his previous life when he decided that it must be by intellectual excitement, which he found just then in the clear, fresh writings of Voltaire.***Well! We are all condemnames as Victor Hugo says: we are all under sentence of death but with a sort of indefinite reprieve- we have an interval, and then our place knows us no more. Some spend this interval in listlessness, some in high passions, the wisest, at least among 'the children of the world', in art and song.For our one chance lies in expanding that interval, in getting as many pulsations as possible into the given time. Great passions may give us this quickened sense of life, ecstasy and sorrow of love, the various forms of enthusiastic activity, disinterested or otherwise, which come naturally to many of us. Only be sure it is a passion- that it does yield you this fruit of a quickened, multiplied, consciousness. Of such wisdom, the poetic passion, the desire for beauty, the love of art for its own sake, has most. For art comes to you proposing frankly to give nothing but the highest quality to your moments as they pass, and simply for those moment's sake." I Know, Right? This finely observed, eloquent, wise and witty rhapsody to the tiny perpetual pulse of life just gets under the skin. This is life-changing stuff, isn't it, or at least life-justifying. I had to break it up into smaller, more manageable paragraph chunks rather than the huge, essentially three page rant in the original text. If you can make it this far, then you know you can have some dynamite on your hands. If not, then perhaps you're not missing the party. Emerson knew that to be great is to be misunderstood, and let's not forget that Pater sort of ruefully chuckled when his book became a lodestar for a new generation: "I wish they would not call me a hedonist, it gives such a wrong impression to those who do not know Greek." * "To philosophize is to cast off intertia, to come alive"- Another beautiful sentiment obscured without translation in the footnotes! Gahh!** That's from Victor Hugo, Les Mis, if you're keeping score at home... *** Footnotes say that there's no mention of Voltaire in Rousseau's text, so uh, just believe Walt if you will...

  • Adam
    2018-12-10 05:22

    Read Pater influenced Yeats' early poems. Picked this up to see why. I now see why.

  • Steve Owen
    2018-11-28 05:19

    Pater expresses the ideology of humanism clearly and distinctly, which shows both its strengths and contradictions.

  • Richard
    2018-11-22 13:21

    I felt after finishing my Powys project that some of the books were worth going back and re-reading. This one was first on the list, given its importance to me personally and to the project as a whole. Also I felt it deserved a longer review.Where do I start? Walter Pater is the founder of the aesthetic movement, and this was its foundational text. If only within the history of culture and art, this book is of incredible importance, but also it was the first book ever written where the critic's writing itself rose to the level of art (see Wilde's essay, the Critic as Artist, which was about Pater), and as a result, you can trace the lines of the work through Auerbach's Mimesis all the way to Derrida. (Walter Pater also founded the historical fiction genre with "Marius the Epicurean"). Walter Pater is "everywhere" in late Victorian writing, his influence greatest among the Wilde crowd, but even where he is not quoted you can feel his influence.First of all - this book, as the first if its kind, is not ordinary art criticism, just like Herodotus is not normal history, or Don Quixote not a normal novel. Pater picks out various artists, some obscure, some not as obscure, and uses them as a vehicle for his overarching art and cultural theories, which are as profound as they are beautiful. For example, in his piece on Giorgione, he begins by talking about painting, music and poetry as not "different languages of one and the same fixed quantity of imaginative thought" but that "the sensuous material of each art brings with it a special phase or quality of beauty, untranslatable into the forms of any other, an order of impressions distinct in kind...." The overall impact of the book is quite overpowering, you are left in this heightened state of feeling, as if you never understood or appreciated art or culture before.Pater sometimes goes over the top, perhaps, most famously in his long elegy about the Mona Lisa - and yet what else explains the hordes at the Louvre or the world's fascination with this painting? He took Botticelli out of obscurity with "Renaissance" - and for that alone we should be grateful. Occasionally - and sadly - he discusses paintings which were later attributed to other artists as being by the artists he discusses, so I'm not sure this book is where you would go to learn about Da Vinci's paintings (in particular). The piece on Wincklemann drags a bit, and sometimes he goes on distant tangents. And yet you are so often brought back by another profound observation.So - on the one hand, insightful art criticism, but moreso - a view of life, a way to live - and this becomes summed up in Pater's incredible conclusion, possibly the four greatest pages of English prose ever written. The conclusion comes completely out of nowhere, it is a statement not on the Renaissance, but on how to live. You can't even quote from it because the whole thing is one giant quote. I would also point out its rather extreme genius contains an irregular number of oddities, "phosphorous and lime", for instance, which give it a unique and individual character. So where does it lead? For Pater: Marius is a different kind of book, but of a similar quality. Pater's other writings on the Powys list, Imaginary Portraits, Plato and Platonism, and Gaston, are kind of like shadows of Renaissance, worth reading, but almost like appendices.In the 1880's, Oxford graduates memorized and chanted Pater's famous conclusion as an act of rebellion against their superiors. It represents in many ways the summit of Western culture and civilization, with everything that followed a reaction against its presumptions (portrayed as snobbery) and sensitivity (portrayed as effeminacy or effeteness). Personally I view the aesthetic movement as captured by Pater as the pinnacle of Western art criticism, in the same way I've come to view Goethe as the pinnacle of literature, and Beethoven of music. While my personal relationship with aesteticism - in terms of living a life to its demands - is problematic, and I fear promoting it as a way of life to others, for which a very few would be in the least prepared, in Pater's pure form it is difficult to find even the slightest thing to criticise; I feel that everything that followed was tearing it down, mocking it, not the thing itself but the attitude it represented. For, after all, what is there greater (or more) to say than the very end of the book:"Great passions may give us this quickened sense of life, ecstasy, and the passion of love... Only be sure it is passion- that it does yield you this fruit of a quickened, multiplied consciousness. Of such wisdom, the poetic passion, the desire of beauty, the love of art for its own sake, has most. For art comes to you proposing frankly to give nothing but the highest quality to your moments as they pass, and simply for those moments' sake."

  • Darius
    2018-11-23 05:21

    Breath taking in its simplicity and its depth. I felt this book more than I learned any specific mode of criticism. He is after all correct: it is the force of the beautiful object's presence that alters the viewers nature, fixing him as something augmented for having experienced the beautiful artifact. His views on aesthetics have shifted mine away from technical specificity and toward the spirit of the object as the temporal experience to convey to the reader. Great work! Must read!

  • Isen
    2018-11-18 13:39

    The book is a collection of essays on artists of the Renaissance, or rather possessing the "spirit of the Renaissance" regardless of their actual location in time. The essays are roughly biographical, and it seems that the author is trying to use the lives of the artists, rather than their art, to argue some point about what the Renaissance, or art, or whatever is. "Seems" is the operative word as the author flicks from point to point, picks up strands of arguments and discards them, digresses, reminisces, and generally spews his thoughts on the page with no apparent purpose. It reminds me most of an episode of Family Guy where every event is followed by a "This reminds me of the time something completely irrelevant happened". However, an episode of Family Guy at least has direction. One could chop up one of the author's essays, mix up the order, and end up with something every bit as sensible as the original.

  • Jessica
    2018-12-17 07:32

    "To regard all things and principles of things as inconstant modes or fashions has more and more become the tendency of modern thought. Let us begin with that which is without—our physical life. Fix upon it in one of its more exquisite intervals, the moment, for instance, of delicious recoil from the flood of water in summer heat. What is the whole physical life in that moment but a combination of natural elements to which science gives their names? But these elements, phosphorus and lime and delicate fibres, are present not in the human body alone: we detect them in places most remote from it. Our physical life is a perpetual motion of them—the passage of the blood, the wasting and repairing of the lenses of the eye, the modification of the tissues of the brain by every ray of light and sound—processes which science reduces to simpler and more elementary forces. Like the elements of which we are composed, the action of these forces extends beyond us; it rusts iron and ripens corn. Far out on every side of us those elements are broadcast, driven by many forces; and birth and gesture and death and the springing of violets from the grave are but a few out of ten thousand resultant combinations. That clear, perpetual outline of face and limb is but an image of ours, under which we group them—a design in a web, the actual threads of which pass out beyond it. This at least of flame-like our life has, that it is but the concurrence, renewed from moment to moment, of forces parting sooner or later on their ways.”

  • Marie
    2018-12-02 10:43

    A rather uneven yet rewarding little 19th-century book of art historical encomia that I would, in spite of my reservations - outlined below - consider buying (I read a library copy). The book consists of a collection of previously published articles, which may ultimately have worked better had they remained independent pieces, rather than finding themselves doing duty as the chapters of a book. It isn't that a common motif is lacking, or even that the motif (the various incarnations of the Renaissance) fails to make itself known in any of the chapters. It is there. However, both the choice of individual subjects and the somewhat varying lengths, styles and gists of the chapters seem a little too random for a book proposing to give a properly representative account of the moods and modes of the Renaissance, making it obvious that they were not devised together as something to be considered as a whole. I will say that some passages, such as the immortal ekphrasis of the Mona Lisa, are priceless - I would put up with reading the whole volume again for that description alone - and that the creation of the book necessitated the writing of both preface and conclusion, which not only I, but countless generations of aspiring art historians and others, would have been loathe to do without .

  • Two Readers in Love
    2018-12-12 09:27

    “The service of philosophy, of speculative culture, towards the human spirit, is to rouse, to startle it to a life of constant and eager observation. Every moment some form grows perfect in hand or face; some tone on the hills or the sea is choicer than the rest; some mood of passion or insight or intellectual excitement is irresistibly real and attractive to us, — for that moment only. Not the fruit of experience, but experience itself, is the end. A counted number of pulses only is given to us of a variegated, dramatic life. How may we see in them all that is to seen in them by the finest senses? How shall we pass most swiftly from point to point, and be present always at the focus where the greatest number of vital forces unite in their purest energy? To burn always with this hard, gemlike flame, to maintain this ecstasy, is success in life." (“The Renaissance: Studies in Art and Literature” original “Conclusion”)If you find that you have a counted number of pulses in this world, this is the book to spend several of those pulse on….

  • Alyson
    2018-11-25 12:39

    Philosophiren, says Novalis, ist dephlegmatisiren vivificiren. The service of philosophy, of speculative culture, towards the human spirit is to rouse, to startle it into sharp and eager observation. Every moment some form grows perfect in hand or face; some tone on the hills or the sea is choicer than the rest; some mood of passion or insight or intellectual excitement is irresistibly real and attractive for us,—for that moment only. Not the fruit of experience, but experience itself, is the end. A counted number of pulses only is given to us of a variegated, dramatic life. How may we see in them all that is to be seen in them by the finest senses? How shall we pass most swiftly from point to point, and be present always at the focus where the greatest number of vital forces unite in their purest energy?

  • Micha
    2018-12-09 13:31

    The final chapter of this book, only a few pages long, is really all that I think I needed to know of it. Oscar Wilde loved this book and studied under Pater, but of course what spoke to me was what spoke to everyone that read it: "To burn always with this hard, gemlike flame, to maintain this ecstasy, is success in life." I think I'm going to have to head over to Marius the Epicurean instead for more of that particular genre of singular Decadent heroes that my thesis has evolved into.

  • Dan
    2018-12-15 10:19

    Pater’s book is a reading of the work of the artists of the Renaissance (Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo Buonarroti, etc.); many, including writers William Butler Yeats and James Joyce, were admirers of Pater’s abilities as a prose stylist.

  • Lucie García
    2018-12-17 05:30

    I LOVED IT. Brilliantly written, contains insights on the most important artists from The Renaissance and also interesting theories on the movement being originated in France and not Italy. Easy to read, and The Conclusions are a new take (inspired by the lifes of the renaissance men) on the old "Carpe Diem" motto. Just, brilliant.

  • John
    2018-12-01 06:22

    I certainly did not expect to enjoy reading this book. Art and poetry are not on my list of things i crave to read about. But this was so very well written and interesting. I had to take my time in reading it, rereading many parts over a few times and giving them my complete attention. I am glad i did not read it 50 years ago as I would not have been able to give it the time it deserves.