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Essay Forgeries Notes

Philosophy Notes > Aesthetics Notes

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Does the fact of a work's being a forgery bear on its artistic value?
The importance of forgeries in the history of art to the nature of art criticism is significant for a number of reasons. Firstly, establishing why we intuitively consider a forgery to lack artistic integrity, or merit, when compared to a genuine original work demands of us that we clarify why we consider the original to be valuable or worthy of admiration to begin with. Secondly, even if we can establish what it is that we admire in original works of art, it is not clear what it is about the notion of forgery that makes forged works of art worse than an original, particularly in cases in which the forgery is of sufficiently high quality to be visually indiscernible from the original. We should begin answering the title question by establishing what will be meant by the term 'forgery', but also by the notion of 'artistic value', as opposed to simply aesthetic value. I will posit that aesthetic value constitutes a significant element of artistic value, but that certain cases allow us to assert that they are not the same, and that more is contained in the concept of artistic value than merely aesthetic merit. I will go on to examine appearance theory and the assertion that an artwork's aesthetic value lies in what is seen in the painting at face-value and nothing else, arguing that this conception does not fully characterise the relationship, since there exist some marginal examples that suggest that an aesthetic response can be elicited by artworks apparently lacking any special aesthetic distinction from similar objects. I will subsequently examine the views of Lessing and Goodman, establishing first that a work's being a forgery is not an aesthetic flaw in the work, but rather relates to the concept of originality in art, before concluding that Lessing is right to suggest that the impact of a work's being a forgery upon artistic value is constituted in the disparity between the date of production suggested by stylistic features of the artwork and its actual date of production, and that as such a work's being a forgery clearly does impact upon its artistic value. We should begin, then, by making explicit what we will mean by 'forgery' in this essay. Most simply, we could describe a forgery as a replication of an artwork or style of art that is intended to deceive - this distinguishes forgery from a mere 'fake', which is not intended to deceive, or to purport false origins. Goodman defines a forgery as 'an object falsely purporting to have the history of production requisite for the original of the work1', but this definition only covers 'referential' forgery - that of exactly replicating an existing work of art. We should extend our definition to cover cases of 'inventive' forgery - wherein a forgery is not of a specific already-existing work, but rather is a work created in the style of a particular artist or artistic movement, purporting to be an original of that artist or movement, such as the famous case of van Meegeren's The Supper at Emmaus. We should secondly establish what we mean by the notion of 'artistic value'. This is not easily done, but for the purposes of this essay the distinction we should make most clear is that between artistic and aesthetic value. Aesthetic value or merit is in general that worth or value that can be taken from an artwork via direct and immediate perception of that artwork 'at face value', and nothing else. Stalnecker asserts that in some marginal or unconventional cases of conceptual art, such as Duchamp's Fountain, cultural context may be significant enough to create an aesthetic response to an object which lacks 1 N Goodman, The Language of Art, 1976

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