From Empirical Evidence to the Big Picture: Some Reflections on Riegl's Concept of Kunstwollen Author(s): Jas' Elsner Source

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From Empirical Evidence to the Big Picture: Some Reflections on Riegl’s Concept of Kunstwollen
Jas’ Elsner

Archaeology and the history of art share one intimate aspect of method about which we tend to be less explicit than we should be. Whenever we make an argument on the basis of visual or material evidence we take something extremely specific, of which the discussion is inevitably a precise and detailed contextual or formal description, and we use this as a step to generate a large generalization. Whether our art history is interested in artists, patrons, or viewers, in sociological context and conditions of production, in strict morphological connections or in high semiotic theory, our generalizations inevitably leap beyond what is strictly provable by the precise analysis of something so particular as a specific object or set of objects. Besides this very direct issue of method is the related problem of how we write the bigger story within which our objects of material culture will figure. What governs or justifies the kind of story we decide to tell? Of course, there is a real question as to whether the idealized empiricism by which I have characterized this process is correct. We might say that we begin with assumptions that entail our generalizations (this is always more obvious in previous generations—for instance, with Marxist art history or with the art history whose instant reflex is activated by poststructuralist theory), and we find our examples to prove our model. The empirical data turn out to be illustrations of the bigger picture rather than its building blocks, and the
A much shorter version of this paper was given at a conference in Vienna in 2005 marking the centenary of Riegl’s death. My thanks are due to Artur Rosenauer and Georg Vasold for their kind invitation and to the participants for discussion. I am particularly grateful to a number of friends for surviving the infliction of an early draft and for punishing me with useful critiques as a result—especially Milette Gaifman, Margaret Olin, Joel Snyder, and Jeremy Tanner. I am grateful, too, to the editors of Critical Inquiry for their comments and suggestions.
Critical Inquiry 32 (Summer 2006) ᭧ 2006 by The University of Chicago. 0093-1896/06/3204-0003$10.00. All rights reserved.


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Forms of Representation in Alois Riegl’s Theory of Art.742 Jas’ Elsner / Reflections on Kunstwollen foundations of the bigger picture lie in a socially sanctioned and currently popular model for how to interpret historical and visual material in academic terms. However. esp. But this disguises the fact that his greater project was the grand attempt to tie formal empiricism and its positivist entailments to a much bigger. Gombrich. “More Than Ornament: The Significance of Riegl. 2d ed. ed. pp. pp. For not only was Riegl one of art history’s most pronounced empiricists. 157.” in Framing Formalism: Riegl’s Work. “Alois Reigl and the Politics of Art History: Intellectual Traditions and Austrian Identity in Fin-de-Sie ` cle Vienna” (Ph. pp.” Antiquite ´ Tardive 12 (Jan. 46–99. see E. 2004): 253–61. 180–94. and Wolf Liebeschuetz. See Andrea Giardina. San Diego. H. 136–37. Oxford and visiting professor of art history at the University of Chicago. 2001). 3 (1994): 482–94. see Margaret Olin. pp. pp. Forms of Representation in Alois Riegl’s Theory of Art (University Park.. 1993). 60–89. N. no. “Problems of Style: Riegl’s Problematic Foundations. 1992). Evelyn Kain.” Art History 17. Stilfragen: Grundlegungen zu einer Geschichte der Ornamentik (Berlin. is a special mark of Alois Riegl’s work in art history and.2 The fact that his oeuvre is relatively incomplete and fragmentary has meant that he has been seen as making particular historical contributions to specific moments in the history of art—late antiquity and the Dutch group portrait. David Castriota (Princeton. 164–65. 2. esp. University of California. See Riegl. pp.. Penn. indeed. 1992). Margaret Iversen.30 on Tue. a formalist. On Riegl’s empiricism and its entailment in positivism. On its span from Egyptian ornament via Greece and Rome to Byzantium and Islam. general (dare we call it Hegelian?) picture of the development of forms (in the Stilfragen). is one of his greatest legacies. 4–7.3 culminating finally in the development of cultures 1. This complexity of the relations between the particular and the general. but it may also be a quick means to publication.. 1984).. Mass. for instance. always standing for more than itself) in the construction of a larger argument and the history of that process within the discipline of art history. 254–55. pp. (1979.1 but his interventions—especially in late antique art—have come to be seen as fundamental to modern notions of the history of the period. His book Roman Eyes: Visuality and Subjectivity in Art and Text is forthcoming. 49–63. xviii. between the material exemplar and the great philosophical or historicaltheory. J a s ’ E l s n e r is Humfry Payne Senior Research Fellow in classical archaeology at Corpus Christi College. under the title Problems of Style: Foundations for a History of Ornament. and Diana Graham Reynolds. and a style art historian of the first order. This way may be the swiftest path to long-term oblivion. trans.D.41. my interest here is in the problem of the method itself—that is.10. “The Birth of Late Antiquity. diss. the use of visual material (always a special case. London. “Esplosione di tardoantico. pp.J. ed. Paul Crowther. 1893). Olin. 24 Sep 2013 02:21:04 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .” Studi Storici 40 (1999): 157–80. Richard Woodfield (Amsterdam. and Joaquı ´n Lorda. Alois Riegl: Art History and Theory (Cambridge. This content downloaded from 202. 1997). 103–11. 3. The Sense of Order: A Study in the Psychology of Decorative Art.

hereafter abbreviated HGVA. pp. and despite chapter 2 being devoted to “touching and seeing” (Riegl’s famous haptic and optic). Spa ¨ tro ¨ mische Kunstindustrie: Individual Objects and Grand Narratives Riegl’s method of close formal analysis of individual objects leading to stylistic generalization might be described as a bravura tour de force of close looking. A sarcophagus representing Achilles and Penthesilea in the Vatican[fig. trans. see Gombrich. Jacqueline Jung. 1901). under the title Late Roman Art Industry (Rome. For discussions. Conn. 2004).” Art History 25. See Riegl.10.5 1. second. presuming the existence of various levels of depth. pp.Critical Inquiry / Summer 2006 743 and cultural change (in the original program for Spa ¨ tro ¨mische Kunstindustrie 4 and in the unfinished but hugely ambitious Historical Grammar of the Visual Arts). In spite of being 107–33. Alois Riegl.30 on Tue. 129–31. pp. A Lifelong Interest: Conversations on Art and Science with Didier Eribon (London.” Word and Image 12. 2 (1996): 209–17. given the fundamental importance of Riegl’s work for the history of the decorative arts. Graz. 1979). pp. Yet this does not mean a spatial composition in the modern sense.” in HGVA. we will look first at just pagan examples. the placement of figures above one another as opposed to behind each other. pp. 2005). among which in order to avoid controversy. and Benjamin Binstock. Woodfield. 1]. Forms of Representation in Alois Riegl’s Theory of Art.41. 129–53. pp. and Jas’ Elsner. trans. 29–37. 24 Sep 2013 02:21:04 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . “Space. “Spectatorship and the Historicity of Art: Re-Reading Alois Riegl’s Historical Grammar of the Fine Arts. This content downloaded from 202. See Riegl. 1985). third the unequal size of the figures. On Gombrich’s debt to Stilfragen. 83– 106. “Foreword: Aloı ¨s Riegl.” in Framing Formalism. For discussions. no. esp. Rethinking Decoration: Pleasure and Ideology in the Visual Arts (Cambridge. no. Monumental Ruin: Why We Still Need to Read Historical Grammar of the Visual Arts. 4. it receives no mention—not even a footnote—in David Brett. with some of the smallest occupying the foreground. see Matthew Rampley. as is demonstrated on three counts: first the level ground from which the highest figures are separated— even though the level ground does not reach the entire height as it does in the Arch of Titus. Iversen. almost to the point of being obsessive. 361–70. Amazingly. 3 (2002): 358–79. The figures overlap partially in several rows. 5. Brendel. 71–90. Olin. Grace. Historische Grammatik der bildenden Ku ¨ nste (1897–99. the third century and the beginning of the fourth. 1966). . “Reading Riegl’s Kunst-industrie” and Andrew Ballantyne. under the title Historical Grammar of the Visual Arts (New York. Rolf Winkes. . and Stylistic Conformity: Spa ¨tro ¨mische Kunstindustrie and Architecture. These belong almost exclusively to the second half of the second century. pp. 49–81. Spa ¨ tro ¨mische Kunstindustrie (Vienna. Take as an example culled almost at random this passage from Spa ¨ tro ¨mische Kunstindustrie: The best material on which to research the development of reliefs during the middle Empire is the corpus of Roman sarcophagi.. see Otto J. 1991). . hereafter abbreviated LRAI. 11–36. Prolegomena to the Study of Roman Art (New Haven. “The Birth of Late Antiquity: Riegl and Strzygowski in 1901.

]6 f i g u r e 1. the figures are so compressed into a crowd that they remain as close as possible to the level ground and demonstrate their connection with it. which was created during the classical period. For recent discussion with date (c. vol. This content downloaded from 202. The figure in the center is dominant. 1999). but is exactly repeated on a particular type of Persian rug where the figures are replaced with stylistic vegetative motifs of different sizes.” in Achill. Winkes illustrates the wrong sarcophagus.30 on Tue. The linear composition in particular is still based on the triangular system. 82–83. with its mixing of figures of different sizes on one and the same plane. “Achill bis Amazonen. The object described here is Vatican. 230–40 ad) and bibliography. ed. This principle of composition denies the spatial unity of modern art.41. All the figures are in movement. given Riegl’s descriptive precision. 933. lead visibly to the perpendicular triangular system of the Constantinian reliefs. Aeneas. trans. Unforgivably. and because they overlap.10. Cortile del Belvedere). 6. Cortile del Belvedere. fails to cite Riegl. pp. pp. A solution is reached by inserting four figures of medium size that are distributed at regular distances from the dominant figure in the center and the mass of small figures filling the plane. although it goes back to Carl Robert’s work of 1890. Grassinger’s bibliography. Bernard Andreae and Guntram Koch (Berlin. [LRAI. no. which stun the beholder.744 Jas’ Elsner / Reflections on Kunstwollen placed behind one another frequently. but the extremely sharp angles of the legs of the individual triangles. they create an impression of colorful confusion and lack of clarity. see Dagmar Grassinger. 12 of Die Mythologischen Sarkophage. Adonis. and one might say the other figures seem to rotate about it. “Sarcophagus representing Achilles and Penthesilea” (Vatican. mod. 24 Sep 2013 02:21:04 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Consequently the principal artistic element is composition on the plane. 250–51. which is centralized as well as being in contrapposto.

In place of methodological justification. 1889).” The justification for the leap from a Severan sarcophagus of the 230s AD to the early fourth-century reliefs of the Arch of Constantine is never given.7 Yet this account—an extraordinarily detailed and narrowly focused formal intervention (which frankly must be applauded as rather a good description of the object)—is governed by a chronological determinism (in the dates cited by Riegl. pp. pp. Riegl introduces a range of further examples whose equally precise stylistic descriptions are made to lead. the nature of modern composition and spatial conventions some 1600 years later.” the “particular type of Persian rug where the figures are replaced with stylistic vegetative motifs of different sizes. See Riegl. 1979). Forms of Representation in Alois Riegl’s Theory of Art. This is still untranslated and is one of the few areas of Riegl’s output that the vast modern Riegl industry has not yet mined. 55–59. But at least we are here within a relatively narrow band of dates and in the face of a broadly 7. empirical formalism. The reduction of all the potential contextual meanings of the object—its funerary functions and subject matter. a subject of Riegl’s particular expertise). step by step to the reliefs of the Arch of Constantine (see LRAI.10. Already. Altorientalische Teppiche (1892. the likelihood that the central protagonists are portraits of a husband and wife.” “the spatial unity of modern art. follows his catalogue of Coptic textiles in Vienna. we can see the strain between the bigger picture and the material objects that are meant to sustain it. 24 Sep 2013 02:21:04 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Die A ¨ sterreichisches Museum (Vienna. by a kind of overwhelmingness of narrow morphology.” Only the reference to the reliefs of the Arch of Titus would seem warranted by contemporary standards of historically justifiable comparability. of course. see Olin. the mythological content referring not only to the Amazons but also to a tradition of Amazon battles in relief sculpture reaching back to the metopes of the Parthenon and the Bassae frieze—to pure and precise formal description both strips the image of historical specificity and allows it a transhistorical comparability with the public art of nearly two centuries before (in the Arch of Titus).30 on Tue. Note also Riegl’s willingness to spring (without methodological justification) to remarkably distant points of comparison—“spatial composition in the modern sense. subject matter.41. O This content downloaded from 202. and trusting its positivist adumbration to lead to a predetermined historical result.K. This is a case of blinding us with science—adopting a “scientific” method. and the decorative motifs of Persian carpets (this last. in a case like this. by the flow of his text. see Riegl. 83–95). or function after the initial identification of the topic depicted. Mittenwald. Riegl’s interest in carpets ¨ gyptische Textilfunde im K.Critical Inquiry / Summer 2006 745 Note the pure formalism of this analysis—almost entirely without reference to iconography. and by the range of comparanda adduced) so that the sarcophagus can be said to “lead visibly to the perpendicular triangular system of the Constantinian reliefs.

41. where it is dated to the turn of the third and fourth centuries. 86. contemporaries. See Grassinger. mod. And so on. In each case we move progressively closer. pp. 24–25. Vatican. 9. 350 AD. 2) turns out to exemplify “the struggle towards the perfect spatial isolation of the figures as we see it reached in the Constantinian reliefs.30 on Tue. pp. his grand historical claim. is to raise a further series of objects (admittedly related ones. The end result of this process we consider to be the Constantinian reliefs. 57–105. pp.). at the turning point between antiquity and the Middle Ages.” Die Attischen Sarkophage. trans. . of which we are told “as far as artistic execution goes. The next two steps can be detected on the fronts of the two sarcophagi to be discussed as follows” (LRAI.10.11 In this text he is concerned with the notion of “‘hu8. Andreae and Koch (Berlin. transmuted into similarly precise and detailed formal descriptions that purport to paint the transformation of forms to the reliefs of the Arch of Constantine step by step.8 These are a Meleager sarcophagus from the Palazzo dei Conservatori (fig. trans. in fact. “Achill und Hippolytos. an Attic sarcophagus found in Rome.” p. For a discussion of the ambition of the Historical Grammar compared with Spa ¨ tro ¨mische Kunstindustrie and Das This content downloaded from 202. . via the Renaissance and Reformation. The Historical Grammar. 44–45. 83–84. ed. admittedly from Riegl’s point of view an unpublished (and perhaps unpublishable) sketch. This point is exemplified at greater length in HGVA. and successors called it decline) of art from GraecoRoman naturalism to something more like abstraction. with the Constantinian material repeatedly cited in a rhetorical confirmation of the teleological end of the process. pp. ed. but rather its painstakingly focused analysis combined with the plethora of examples is meant to stand by itself as self-evidently right. we are here very close to Constantinian art” (LRAI. See Sabine Rogge. 10. At no point is the methodology justified or explained. 4)10 now in the Museo Gregoriano Profano. to modernity (see HGVA. . 1995). reveals some remarkable general and transhistorical aspirations stretching across all of Western art history from antiquity and the Middle Ages. 6 of Die Mythologischen Sarkophage. 1975). vol. by contrast. “Achill bis Amazonen. with the story of Achilles around its four sides. 102–3. This is. 136–38. 3)9 (dated to the first decade of the fourth century) and a sarcophagus of Adonis from the Lateran (fig. Koch (Berlin. in that they too are Roman mythological sarcophagi). mod. 24 Sep 2013 02:21:04 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .746 Jas’ Elsner / Reflections on Kunstwollen accepted problematic—the transformation (most of Riegl’s antecedents. 11. where it is dated to c. See Meleager. pp. What Riegl does to establish this. 220. since the text in its final (but not its originally envisaged) form focuses on a specific period and a specific set of acknowledged formal problems.). 55–56). Scholarly concentration on Spa ¨ tro ¨mische Kunstindustrie has allowed much to be forgiven in Riegl’s method. pp. So the “so-called sarcophagus of Severus Alexander and Julia Mammea” in the Capitoline (fig.

see Georg Vasold. Of course. 2 (2003): 214–37. pp. p. “Max Dvor ˇa ´ k: Art History and the Crisis of Modernity. 83–134. 2004). Evelyn Kain.12 And it identifies the two fundamental tendencies in tension within Riegl’s vision of art history: the museum curator’s instinct to classify and describe objects in their empirical minutiae (in Stilfragen and Spa ¨ tro ¨mische Kunstindustrie) and the university professor’s desire to formulate a grand theory that could accommodate sweeping historical generalizations (in the Historical Grammar). My point here is that in the Historical Grammar we see a much less morphologically or stylistically obsessed Riegl than in Spa ¨ tro ¨mische Kunstindustrie . no. and eventual collapse. This kind of grand scheme prefigures the moves that Riegl’s student and successor. see Rampley. 1999]). The History of Art as the History of Ideas.41. under the title The Group Portraiture of Holland [Los Angeles. pp. at times he seems to be explicating changing worldviews as adumbrated in three specific (to modern conceptions. as well as its continued reverberation over centuries “in outer forms” (HGVA. I am thinking of Max Dvor ˇa ´ k. decline. would later make quite explicitly towards art history as Geistesgeschichte. peak of perfection. John Hardy (London. At times Riegl seems committed to trying to create a historical grammar for art on the model of language (see HGVA. 216–31).” Art History 26. 303–40). it is always unfair to judge an incomplete and abandoned project as if it were a finished one. 55)—the quotation marks are Riegl’s own—as embodied in forms. in different periods.Critical Inquiry / Summer 2006 747 man worldview’” (Menschliche Weltanschauung) (HGVA. 1984). perhaps rather arbitrary) periods (see HGVA. 12. indeed. Vienna. We are presented with Greek art as the improvement of nature through physical beauty rooted in infinite polytheism. pp. any story— and of how empirical observation may compellingly lead to adequate and Holla ¨ ndische Gruppenportra ¨ t ([1902. p. his concern here is to sketch the big picture in terms of deep cultural meanings. with Christian art as the improvement of nature through spiritual beauty rooted in monotheism. Max Dvor ˇa ´ k. aerial perspective) the manuscript has little empirical basis in the kind of close description so characteristic of Spa ¨ tro ¨mische Kunstindustrie (see HGVA. and finally art as the reproduction of transitory nature rooted in the natural-scientific worldview.” p. along with Rampley. light and shadow. 24 Sep 2013 02:21:04 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . trans. 56). While Riegl makes plenty of references to specific works of art and to particular features of art in general at different periods (such as linear perspective.30 on Tue. On Kulturgeschichte. trans. 1931].10. each with its rise. 292–302). This content downloaded from 202. We are back where we started: at the profoundly problematic point of how one can get the objects to tell a story—the big story. Alois Riegl und die ¨ berlegungen zum Fru Kunstgeschichte als Kulturgeschichte: U ¨ hwerk des Wiener Gelehrten (Freiburg. pp. “Spectatorship and the Historicity of Art. 209.

for all its apparent obscurity (an obscurity probably increased by the quantity of discussion and explication it has generated among some of the most distinguished art historians in the more than one hundred years since it was invented). 2. His invention of this concept. However much we may now reject the specific foundations and assumptions of Riegl’s various arguments. This content downloaded from 202. is designed as a solution to the double impasse of generalizing from the spe- f i g u r e 2. we remain—as practitioners of both art history and archaeology—at the same impasse and before the same methodological conundrum. Kunstwollen as a Methodological Solution It is only in relation to this tension that we can understand Riegl’s famous formulation of Kunstwollen. “Sarcophagus of Severus Alexander and Julia Mammea” (Rome. 24 Sep 2013 02:21:04 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Museo Capitolino).30 on Tue.10. Riegl’s greatness as an art historian lies in his absolutely acute awareness of this problem and his own sense of being pulled in both directions—towards the satisfyingly described single object and at the same time the fully elaborated historical picture.748 Jas’ Elsner / Reflections on Kunstwollen convincing induction.41.

Palazzo dei Conservatori).f i g u r e 3. “Meleager sarcophagus with representation of the Calydonian boar hunt” (Rome.10. Museo Gregoriano Profano). and wounding of Adonis” (Vatican. f i g u r e 4. 24 Sep 2013 02:21:04 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .41.30 on Tue. departure. This content downloaded from 202. “Sarcophagus with the representation of the farewell.

17–28. Hans Sedlmayr (Vienna.13 Among the numerous complications in dealing with Riegl’s own version of Kunstwollen—in addition to having to skirt the pitfalls of the many postRieglian interpretations—is the fact that it was an evolving concept in his work and therefore that all his references to it do not necessarily imply the same thing. Kunstwollen—which Riegl was to describe in 1901 as “the only certain given of a new positivist historiography of art”15 and as an original idea16—had become the key mechanism in which his entire theory of art was grounded. and technique” (LRAI. Forms of Representation in Alois Riegl’s Theory of Art. pp. 9. “I advocated in Stilfragen. 15. Forms of Representation in Alois Riegl’s Theory of Art. pp. On one level. “Naturwerk und Kunstwerk I. mod. Riegl. For a recent discussion. 71. 24 Sep 2013 02:21:04 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . cultural. Riegls “Kunstwollen”: Versuch einer Neubetrachtung (Saint Augustine. p. see Andrea Reichenberger. 1929).41. a teleological view according to which I saw in the work of art the result of a specific and consciously purposeful Kunstwollen” (LRAI. this solves a fundamental problem in art history and archaeology. trans.10. mod. This content downloaded from 202. see Olin. See also Olin. which is that every case we argue can be seen as a special case. 71–72. That is.17 Its genius lies precisely in bridging the aesthetic. See Olin. This definition appears to apply equally to any given individual work of art (as in all the specific examples Riegl adduces so painstakingly throughout Spa ¨ tro ¨mische Kunstindustrie) but also to the work of art in general (or art as a general proposition) and to the generality of works of art in any given period as well. to propose the notion of a positive late Roman Kunstwollen—as opposed to the decline or “‘barbarization’” of 13. Kunstwollen is narrowly encapsulated by the struggle between the artist and limitations imposed upon him in the material he works on and his own technical capacities. 14.” Gesammelte Aufsa ¨ tze.). pp. The work of art here shows “the result of a specific and consciously purposeful artistic will that comes through in a battle against function. trans. p. and as far as I know I was the first to do so. 17. and structural characteristics of any given object (not only high art but any form of craft) from any time with the broader cultural aesthetics of its time. This definition enables Riegl. 9. Kunstwollen— by reflecting a fundamental structure as true to the special case as to typical examples—cuts through the problems of arguing from selective instances. p. 16.750 Jas’ Elsner / Reflections on Kunstwollen cific empirical example and making the mute material object speak. 148–53. 60.).30 on Tue. Methodologically. ed. Germany. p. Forms of Representation in Alois Riegl’s Theory of Art. raw material. even as early as the programmatic introduction to Spa ¨ tro ¨mische Kunstindustrie. Kunstwollen—in the hands of Riegl’s relentlessly acute formalist analysis—couldtake one from any given object or set of objects (such as the sarcophagi discussed earlier) to the big historical picture.14 But from the time it appeared in Spa ¨ tro ¨mische Kunstindustrie. For Kunstwollen in Spa ¨ tro ¨mische Kunstindustrie. 2003).

“constitutes progress and nothing other than progress. and towards the end with Rembrandt’s last group portrait representing the move towards modern Kunstwollen “almost more than any other painting of its time” (Riegl. mod. Such Kunstwollens can. 4. 10)—and to argue that the late Roman Kunstwollen. 12). trans.19 Here. trans. 87–103. and always 18. in The Vienna School Reader: Politics and Art Historical Method in the 1930s. From this. 89). it appears to be a decay that historically did not exist. that has so far appeared to serve as the means for his account of late antique art but is now revealed to be the main topic of Spa ¨ tro ¨mische Kunstindustrie: In every period there is only one orientation of the Kunstwollen governing all four types of plastic art in the same measure.). moreover. Judged by the limited criteria of modern criticism. This content downloaded from 202. mod. 24 Sep 2013 02:21:04 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . the concept of Kunstwollen is adduced programmatically at the opening of Das Holla ¨ ndische Gruppenportra ¨ t. A much better translation of this section exists as Riegl. and ed. p.).18 The entire volume culminates in a conclusion detailing the main characteristics of the late Roman Kunstwollen (see LRAI. That said. 221–34). pp. rather like the evolution of biological species. The Group Portraiture of Holland. compositional contrast and contrapposto against uniformity of composition. and so forth—Riegl “tests” his results by turning to the “literary expressions of the late Romans on the character of their Kunstwollen and artistic practice” (“MC. 2000). “The Main Characteristics of the Late Roman Kunstwollen” (1901). 19. turning to its own ends every conceivable practical purpose and raw material. hereafter abbreviated “MC”. pp. 11.” p. p. 345. but modern art with all its advantages would never have been possible if late Roman art with its unclassical tendencies had not led the way” (LRAI.41. p. by contrast with that of the Flavians and Trajan.30 on Tue. after summarizing the aesthetics of the late Roman Kunstwollen in terms of rhythmic composition and its contrasts with the Kunstwollen of earlier periods—coloristic versus linear rhythm. p. not just those in material or artistic form. This implies not only period-specific Kunstwollens but their evolutionary relationship with each other so that one can be analyzed as transmuting into another. p.10. Christopher Wood (New York. Riegl rises to a crescendo that is no longer about Roman art as such but about the Kunstwollen itself. Spa ¨ tro ¨mische Kunstindustrie is the book in Riegl’s corpus in which Kunstwollen has its longest and most detailed treatment—to such an extent that the book might be seen as more a methodological and philosophical justification of the concept of Kunstwollen through the specific materials of late antique art than as a book on Roman art. be compared—something Riegl briefly attempts to do (still in his programmatic introduction) when he contrasts “our modern Kunstwollen” with the late Roman one (LRAI.Critical Inquiry / Summer 2006 751 Franz Wickhoff ’s reading (LRAI. Implicitly the Kunstwollen of a period includes all its products (or “expressions”). trans.

” Critical Inquiry 8 (Autumn 1981): 29 n.” The objective and the subjective are thus rolled together in a dialectic where each may be said to shape the other. it is worth not20. Here. . For Riegl’s awareness of the subjectivism of the art historian looking back at a distant world from a differently configured set of presuppositions. The character of this will is contained in what we call the worldview (again. in Deutschsprachige Aufsa ¨ tze. under the title “The Concept of Artistic Volition. 16.752 Jas’ Elsner / Reflections on Kunstwollen and of its own accord selecting the most appropriate technique for the intended work of art. 127–30.” “the way man wants to imagine them. Panofsky attributes the development of subjectivism and objectivism in Riegl to The Group Portraiture of Holland. appearing equally in all products or expressions of a given culture.20 Finally. Kunstwollen gives rise to Weltanschauung— the concept of worldview that was fundamental to the logic of the Historical Grammar and that can now be grounded on an empirical basis. 2:1030 n.30 on Tue. sensory recipient. “Realignment: Alois Riegl’s Image of Late Roman Art Industry.” “turning to its own ends every conceivable practical purpose and raw material.10.” Glyph. . see Barbara Harlow. 2 vols. region. 15. All human will is directed toward a satisfactory shaping of man’s relationship to the world. within and beyond the individual. 1998). Kenneth J.” It might even be said to be determinist in that it controls the ways things appear at any given time. “Der Begriffe des Kunstwollens” (1920). just as the poetic Kunstwollen expresses the way man wants to imagine them. Built into the concept is the notion of desire—so that the human will of which Kunstwollen is the expression.” pp. For this interpretation.21 Before turning to the critiques of this set of propositions. trans. See Reichenberger. active being who wishes to interpret the world in such a way (varying from one people. 3 (1978): 118–21. Art expresses the way man wants to see things shaped or colored. 24 Sep 2013 02:21:04 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Our conviction of the correctness of the image of late antique art gained in this way is only strengthened when we realize that the Kunstwollen of antiquity and in particular of its closing phase is completely identical with the other main forms of expression of the human will in the same period. Northcott and Joel Snyder. see Erwin Panofsky. even statecraft and law. (Berlin. Man is not only a passive. philosophy. [“MC. is about the way we “want to see things shaped or colored. the plastic arts. 97–99. This content downloaded from 202. no. science.41. 94–95] Among the entailments of Kunstwollen implied in this passage one might include the implication that Riegl sees Kunstwollen as suprapersonal and autonomous—“governing . 21. in the broadest sense): in religion. Riegls “Kunstwollen. but also a desiring. or epoch to another) that it most clearly and obligingly meets his desires.” “always and of its own accord selecting the most appropriate technique. The plastic Kunstwollen regulates man’s relationship to the sensibly perceptible appearance of things.” pp.

Arthur Burda and Dvor ˇa ´ k (Vienna. to an individual artist. Furthermore. and Iversen. is surprisingly affectionate about this “ingenious combination” given that the mix would have disastrous consequences in the ways the Germanspeaking peoples responded to the more appalling agendas of the reprehensible government that took control (to great popular acclaim) in both Germany and Austria less than thirty years after Riegl’s death and some thirty years before Pa ¨ cht published these comments. in terms of a technical methodological solution. to tell a story within a larger historical or philosophical picture—Riegl confronts the problem head on. see Olin. 193).” Burlington Magazine 105 [May 1963]: 190–91. ed. Alois Riegl. historically contextualized will) into the resistance of the material stuff on which he or she works. Die Entstehung der Barockkunst in Rom. is applied by Riegl equally to an individual work of art.10. Forms of Representation in Alois Riegl’s Theory of Art. the localized bigger picture of a particular Kunstwollen true for a particular age (and Riegl made serious attempts to adumbrate that of both late antiquity and the era of the Dutch group portrait. Faced with what I still take to be the fundamental methodological issue for all material-cultural disciplines (not only art history by any means)—namely. The long last note to the last sentence of Spa ¨ tro ¨mische Kunstindustrie constitutes a meditation on issues of the subjective and objective in relation to the arts. As Otto Pa ¨cht. pp. notably the interrelations between subjectivity (whether artistic volition. See Riegl. all craft and ornament can serve the same historical purpose in revealing a Kunstwollen. pp.41. a number of other factors are made to work with some panache. 24. a Jewish refugee of the 1930s. this cipher for the generating and controlling factor in artistic creation. the way a single object or group of objects may be made to speak. probably the most skillful solution ever suggested. 102–3. or larger collective forms of subjective investment. He sees it clearly and (unlike the long list of those who have fudged it) he tackles it gloriously. a Viennese student of Riegl’s and one deeply sympathetic to his project. perhaps because Riegl saw the problem more starkly than others.Critical Inquiry / Summer 2006 753 ing their masterliness.22 Moreover.25 22. 25. See “MC. such as perception and attention)24 and the objectively analyzable work of art. etched by the maker’s will (itself reflecting a collective.30 on Tue. This content downloaded from 202. Within this scheme. put it: “The term Kunstwollen. “Art Historians and Art Critics—VI: Alois Riegl. social desire. Kunstwollen does indeed allow us to transition from objects to big stories. 1908). What Riegl proposes is frankly. Pa ¨cht writes of “the seemingly conflicting notions of active volition and passive compulsion which are so ingeniously combined in the double meaning of Riegl’s Kunstwollen” (“AH. 93–147. it frees us from aesthetic hierarchies of objects. hereafter abbreviated “AH”). to an historical period. 24 Sep 2013 02:21:04 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . In relation to subjectivity. 129–69. since in principle all the arts.” pp. all archaeological data.” p. to an ethnical group or to a nation” (Otto Pa ¨ cht. 23. as well as leaving notes that would be posthumously edited into a book on baroque art in Rome)23 could be compared with other Kunstwollens to allow for a universal history of the kind to which the Historical Grammar aspires. On perception and attention. It might be added that Pa ¨cht.

Language and Solitude: Wittgenstein. “L’Ecole de Vienne. Alois Riegl. ed. See Olin. 148–49. Massimo Libardi. Ernst Gellner. 1977). Ballantyne. introduction. with whom Riegl studied in 1875. ed. 21–47. and The School of Franz Brentano.” Austrian Studies. with an acute critique of Janik and Toulmin at pp. This content downloaded from 202. see Barry Smith.” in The Subjects of Art History: Historical Objects in Contemporary Perspectives.” in Fin-de-Sie `cle: Zu Literatur und Kunst der Jahrhundertwende. 415–41. pp. but see also Willibald Sauerla ¨nder. “The Birth of Late Antiquity. and also Elsner.10. and Michael Gubser. 1998). See. Reynolds. Forms of Representation in Alois Riegl’s Theory of Art. Intellectual Contexts One important move in the recent “Riegl-industrie” has been to see Riegl’s contributions (beyond the specific art history of the Vienna school)26 within their historical context as examples of the political and cultural concerns of late Hapsburg Vienna. Time’s Visible Surface: Alois Riegl and the Discourse on History and Temporality in Fin-de-Sie `cle Vienna (Detroit. Husserl’s Position in the School of Brentano (Dordrecht. Outstanding are Olin. N. and Iversen. 1994). Allan Janik and Stephen Toulmin. Austrian Philosophy: The Legacy of Franz Brentano (Chicago. see Julius von Schlosser. 1934). Iversen. On Brentano. 83–106. and Wood. pp. esp. 1998). Husserl. Rollinger. pp. 125–30. pp. 5 (1994): 107–20. Wittgenstein’s Vienna Revisited (New Brunswick. of the multicultural and Roman Catholic Austro-Hungarian Empire in its last stages. and esp. Grace. “Alois Reigl and the Politics of Art History”. Dale Jacquette (Cambridge. Liliana Albertazzi. ed. on his influence. 1999). Malinowski. 85–86. 1997). pp. “Spirits and Ghosts in the Historiography of Art. for example. Edouard Pommier (Paris. no. and the Habsburg Dilemma (Cambridge. 1996).J.29 Certainly the willingness to confront fundamental intellectual problems with radical boldness—something common to Brentano. 27. 370.754 Jas’ Elsner / Reflections on Kunstwollen 3. see Robin D. from the writings of Freud to the paintings of Klimt. pp. see The Cambridge Companion to Brentano. Wittgenstein’s Vienna (New York. 52–71. 35–37. vol. Arthur Rosenauer. Holly. Alois Riegl. On which. see Gubser. 28. “Alois Riegl und die Entstehung der autonomen Kunstgeschichte am Finde-Sie ` cle. and Keith Moxey (Cambridge. and Roberto Poli (Dordrecht.” pp. 29.. For more on Riegl and Brentano. On Klimt and Wickhoff (Riegl’s fellow professor and ally at the art institute in Vienna). 9–72. 2 of Histoire de l’histoire de l’art. and Stylistic Conformity. The Vienna School Reader.30 on Tue. 98–103. 1973). ed. 2006). 126–27. since Riegl himself would have had to concede that his own work was the expression of a Kunstwollen particular to his time that was expressed equally in a series of other local cultural products.28 One form of inquiry along these lines is to examine Riegl’s interest in the subjective in relation to the innovative philosophical interventions in psychology by Franz Brentano (teaching in Vienna 1874–95) and by Brentano’s student Edmund Husserl (in Vienna 1884–86). 31.31 But 26. Roger Bauer et al. 2001). 360–61. “Space. Time’s Visible Surface. pp. see Michael Ann Holly. On the development of Husserl’s phenomenology in relation to the influence of Brentano. 53. pp.41. 2004). (Frankfurt. ed. Cheetham. pp.” pp. 61–75. “Alois Riegl: The Late Roman Empire in the Late Habsburg Empire. 24 Sep 2013 02:21:04 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Die Wiener Schule der Kunstgeschichte (Innsbruck. Janik. Mark A. 85–95. and Riegl—was part of the intellectual zeitgeist of Viennese academia in the late nineteenth century30 and arguably an aspect of Vienna’s inheritance to its children of later generations. 30.27 This is actually a very Rieglian form of historicism. such as Wittgenstein.” in Dix-huitie `me et dix-neuvie `me sie `cles.

” in The Philosophy of Bertand Russell.32 Quite apart from the various other late nineteenth. 1985). 51–83. This content downloaded from 202. (Cambridge.” in The Cambridge Companion to Bertrand Russell. 191. Freud.. and connoisseurship in art history—one thinks especially of Wo ¨ lfflin and Morelli.Critical Inquiry / Summer 2006 755 here. 1991).”35 The parallels with Riegl are intriguing—including a close and systematic analysis of a large body of given data in aid of a search for a fundamental and essential explanatory program on which the foundations of the big picture can be firmly established—a kind of Kunstwollen in all its optimistic positivism. Generally. 175–91. 126. Erna Putnam and Gerald J. Peirce. 81–118. Principia Mathematica. see Victor Lowe. ed. Holmes. Just as the philosophical pro32. 61–73. Whitehead and Russell. A Treatise on Universal Algebra. with a view to discovering what premisses are employed.34 Its aim was to “analyse existing mathematics. Nicholas Griffin (Cambridge. (Baltimore. My model for this kind of approach is the classic paper by Carlo Ginzburg. 1903). “The Logicist Foundations of Mathematics. Pears (New York. esp. Ind. Ill.” in The Sign of Three: Dupin. ed. ed. Grattan-Guinness. 1983). 1:vi.. of which the first volume was published in 1910.J. esp. For a critique of the inadequacy of Whitehead and Russell’s formalism. The Mathematical Philosophy of Bertrand Russell: Origins and Development (Basel. 1:231–94. it may be worth placing Riegl’s project within a more intellectual-historical frame. 35. 1946). pp. 2003). and I. p. but also Beazley and Berenson—Riegl’s specificsearch for an essential formal mechanism. pp. Principia Mathematica. whether these premisses are mutually consistent. 1972). has interesting parallels in other equally optimistic and totalizing projects in the first decade of the twentiethcentury. 176. empirical. esp. Sebeok (Bloomington. 33.30 on Tue. 2 vols.” in Bertrand Russell: A Collection of Critical Essays. 1910–13). For discussion. 269–410 and “Mathematics in and behind Russell’s Logicism and Its Reception. on the writing and structure of Principia Mathematica. trans. The Principles of Mathematics (Cambridge. 24 Sep 2013 02:21:04 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . an axiomatic base by which to explain the totality of an entire system. and Bertrand Russell. stylistic analysis. 3 vols. 1870–1940 (Princeton. as one of a series of grand narratives—progressivist (even evolutionary). pp. “Morelli. but on which their preface asserts they were already at work in 1900. The fundamental texts are Alfred North Whitehead. N. see Rudolf Carnap.and early twentieth-century commitments to formalism. See Whitehead and Russell. 123–53. and Sherlock Holmes: Clues and the Scientific Method. On the systematization of logic in Principia Mathematica and its affinities with formalism. 1898). Massey. pp. and whether they are capable of reduction to more fundamental premisses. 44–49. ed. Paul Arthur Schilpp (Evanston. rather than pursue this cultural-historical line of local Viennese contextualization. pp. pp.41. methodologically self-aware—within late imperial European positivism. F. The Search for Mathematical Roots. Alfred North Whitehead: The Man and His Work. Throughout that decade. see Francisco Rodriguez-Consuegra.10. pp. 34. with Applications (Cambridge. 2000). “Russell’s Mathematical Logic.33 The culmination of this process was their Principia Mathematica.. Bertrand Russell and Alfred North Whitehead were concerned with establishing the philosophical foundations of mathematics—both the concepts behind all mathematical expression (or construction) and the fundamental axioms from which it can be deduced. Umberto Eco and Thomas A. pp. D. see Kurt Go ¨ del.

under the title “On the Interpretation of Weltanschauung. painting. a dazzling empirical performance of the method in practice. 24 Sep 2013 02:21:04 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . the “art industry. 2d ed. and Sedlmayr). Probleme. 1959]. “Der Begriffe des Kunstwollens.38 so Principia Mathematica was to be the fundamental statement of mathematics for the ensuing decades and the key text to which Kurt Go ¨ del would react in formulating his famous the- 36. Paul Kecskemeti.10.” Kunst und Wahrheit (1929. trans. pp. [London. .” in Framing Formalism.756 Jas’ Elsner / Reflections on Kunstwollen gram of Spa ¨ tro ¨mische Kunstindustrie (to establish Kunstwollen) is initially less explicit than the book’s apparent topic of analyzing late Roman art. The Principles of Mathematics. pp. Kurt H. Gesammelte Aufsa ¨ tze. and at diminishing to the utmost the number of undefined ideas and undemonstrated propositions . pp. so the philosophical project of Principia Mathematica in relation to the pure workings of logic is less explicit than its claims about mathematics as such. Woodfield. 1978).” in Riegl. Wind. building to the effect of a dazzling and incontrovertible empiricism. In addition to Panofsky. This content downloaded from 202. Principia Mathematica.” From Karl Mannheim. fibulae. Sedlmayr.” Gnomon 5 (1929): 195–213. . See Rodriguez-Consuegra. ed. 32–48 and “Die Quintessenz des Lehren Riegls. The Mathematical Philosophy of Bertrand Russell. 8–58. My Philosophical Development [London. pp.41. Wolff (New York.” Zeitschrift fu ¨r A “Kunstgeschichte als Stilgeschichte. 37. for a review of the second edition of Riegl’s text published in 1927.37 Just as Riegl’s Kunstwollen would prove a fundamental problem for subsequent art history (eliciting specific interpretative interventions in the 1920s from giants of the generation following Riegl. 1937]. Kaschnitz-Weinberg. v). hereafter abbreviated “OIW”. 57). in the introduction to the second edition of The Principles of Mathematics. Even in relation to the difficulties of finding a coherent and all-embracing theory that takes into account subjectivity as well as objectivism. under the title “The Quintessence of Riegl’s Thought. sculpture. Writing much later. so only the first eighty-eight pages of volume 1 of Principia Mathematica consist of prose readable by (if not wholly comprehensible to) the layman. Mittelwald. such as Panofsky. Whitehead and Russell claim their aim is “the greatest possible analysis of the ideas with which [mathematical logic] deals and of the processes by which it conducts demonstrations. and Guido Kaschnitz-Weinberg. 219–23. though Principia Mathematica was (unlike Spa ¨ tro ¨mische Kunstindustrie) an unbridled attempt to establish a wholly objective edifice. the rest consists largely of symbolic annotations and mathematical equations extending for well over one thousand pages in three volumes— again. 1:1). Beitra ¨ge zur Theorie der Weltanschauungsinterpretation (Vienna. “Zur Systematik der ku ¨ nstlerischen ¨ sthetik und Allgemeine Kunstwissenschaft 18 (1925): 438–86. “Spa ¨tro ¨mische Kunstindustrie. p. pp. Edgar Wind. Mannheim. 1923). and so forth).” including buckles.36 Just as Riegl’s program in Spa ¨ tro ¨mische Kunstindustrie is established by example after example of close formal analysis across genres of art (architecture. there are parallel self-awarenesses in Spa ¨ tro ¨mische Kunstindustrie and Principia Mathematica. xviii-xx. 11–32. trans. “The primary aim of Principia Mathematica was to show that all pure mathematics follows from purely logical premisses and uses only concepts definable in logical terms” (Russell. p. from which it starts” (Whitehead and Russell. Russell is more explicit: “mathematics and logic are identical” (Russell.” see Karl Mannheim. 1971). 38.30 on Tue.

42. Naturalist: His Essays and Addresses. 41. . We face that problem now as one soluble by minute. R.10. 2000). whose expression is essentially determined by them.40 In the conclusion to his inaugural lecture as Professor of Biology at Cambridge.. Bateson. S. the study of genes would be developed as a solution to the fundamental evolutionary problems of inheritance and variation to which Darwin had no answer. Genetics in its Edwardian form sketched the possibility of an essentialist and empirically verifiable 39. p. ed.”42 The parallels with Riegl are again striking. Bateson finds in genes a fundamental axiom of analysis by which the sum of minute. pp. In Mendel’s Footnotes: An Introduction to the Science and Technologies of Genes and Genetics from the Nineteenth Century to the Twenty-Second (London. 1979). Only in 1900 were Gregor Mendel’s genetic experiments of the 1850s and 1860s rediscovered. “The facts of Heredity and Variation are the materials out of which all theories of Evolution are constructed. The problems of the grand Darwinian story of evolution can be solved through genetics that. Bateson wrote. S. Naturalist. . New York.41. “The Method and Scope of Genetics. R. Among Bateson’s essays. See Go ¨ del.30 on Tue. 1992). see particularly “An Address on Mendelian Heredity and Its Application to Man” (1906).. This content downloaded from 202. and “The Methods and Scope of Genetics” (1908). For a general account of this period in genetics. and free from the flaws that were inevitable in older collections. The Problems of Genetics. Bateson.” William Bateson. provides a methodological mechanism to move between the particular specimen and the grand narrative. 3. Beatrice Bateson (Cambridge. But in the hands of the likes of William Bateson. Bateson wrote. William Bateson. 75–160. 332–33. 24 Sep 2013 02:21:04 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . individual examples can render not merely a big picture but a historical one. “Heredity and Variation in Modern Lights” (1909). early twentieth-century search for the essential minute items that underpin and explain the big picture is still ongoing.Critical Inquiry / Summer 2006 757 orem that the axioms from which any mathematical system is derived can be neither proved nor disproved within that system. 1928) and also The Problems of Genetics (1913. and distinguishing many of the units or factors which essentially determine and cause the development of their several attributes. a third. Conn. “It can be declared with confidence and certainty that we have now the means of beginning an analysis of living organisms. like Kunstwollen. New Haven. trans.39 While later work has confronted the positivistic certainties of both Kunstwollen and Principia Mathematica and found them wanting. F. B. Meltzer (1931.”41 In the opening to the 1913 publication of his 1907 Silliman Memorial Lectures at Yale. The time for discussion of Evolution as a problem at large is closed. 40. critical analysis. On Formally Undecidable Propositions of “Principia Mathematica” and Related Systems. see Colin Tudge. F.. pp. At last by genetic methods we are beginning to obtain such facts of unimpeachable quality. .

137–62. see “The Quintessence of Riegl’s Thought. 180.” pp. and Wind. The key critiques are those by Panofsky. 1979). such as inheritance. p. 26–27.758 Jas’ Elsner / Reflections on Kunstwollen model of specific “axiomatic” items on which the big story of life in general could be founded. all forms of formalist positivism. offering what has been characterized as a neo-Hegelian line on Kunstwollen as a creative principle enshrined in the structure of art. pp. 148. while the key defenses are by Sedlmayr and Kaschnitz-Weinberg. For Sedlmayr’s insistence that Riegl’s work could not be read in a Kantian way. and mutation. much of the method of genetics—as.Y.44 The problem however is less about Kant and Hegel than about what one wants art history to be. Meanwhile a group of north German scholars (influenced by Cassirer and Warburg)—most notably Panofsky and Wind—advanced what has been described as a neoKantian line that was designed to shift art history away from formalism and issues of artistic creativity towards questions of meaning. Mendel was a Moravian priest. First. of the entire discipline. Berel Lang (Ithaca. 4. On the move to meaning. Svetlana Alpers. adaptation. 24 Sep 2013 02:21:04 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . we may ask what sort of story the theory of Kunstwollen was meant to sanction for its practitioners. Critiques of Kunstwollen What I have claimed was Riegl’s methodological solution to one problem raised a hornets’ nest of other problems. Mannheim. with the “Vienna school. ed.10.not only in Riegl.41. 44.and early twentieth-century art history.. So it is of no surprise that the participants would turn out to be among the field’s most distinguished (if sometimes controversial) expo43. The aim of this process was to establish both variation as such between closely related examples as well as particular relations within variation. for instance. while Go ¨ del was Viennese. all of which may be expressed as a historical narrative of change between descendants and ancestors. “Style Is What You Make It: The Visual Arts Once Again.” in The Concept of Style. What kind of art-historical narrative was on offer? It is around this question that the great debates of the 1920s were clustered. Value. N. esp. p. see esp. At stake in the debate about Kunstwollen in the 1920s was the very course and direction.” a group of scholars that included Sedlmayr. all in the 1920s.30 on Tue.” Daedalus 105 (Winter 1976): 177–88. Kaschnitz-Weinberg. “Alois Riegl: Art. as well as the discourse and method. the method of genetics is strikingly close to the systematic morphological analysis of empirical examples by means of description and photography in late nineteenth. see Henri Zerner. Thus. in Bateson’s Problems of Genetics—consisted of detailed analytic examination and description of specimens—often with the aid of diagrams and photographs—and the comparison of these with other examples in the same species. and Pa ¨ cht. It may be worth remarking on the Austro-Hungarian investment in each of the fields. and Historicism. that I am sketching briefly here.43 In the premolecular era. This content downloaded from 202. esp. For the neo-Kantians and neo-Hegelians.

pp. pp. 2:1064–67.. 24 Sep 2013 02:21:04 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . 9). p. The Sociology of Art: A Reader (London. and Iversen. 445. is ¨ ber das Verha explicitly indebted to Mannheim’s Beitra ¨ ge of 1923. 18–19. Perspective as Symbolic Form. 217 n. 71 the continuity of the term Wollen (borrowed from Kunstwollen) in Mannheim’s work.” Deutschsprachige Aufsa ¨ tze. see Panofsky. Deutschsprachige Aufsa ¨tze. despite citing all three critiques. This content downloaded from 202. pp. 1. 8–14. Politics. for more on Panofsky’s debt to Mannheim. 2:1035–63. 2003). See Panofsky. 69–96. 1. Indeed. pp. 1984). 1. scientific fashion” (“OIW.” p. 483 n. Architecture gothique et pense ´e scholastique. 47. see Joan Hart. The Critical Historians of Art (New Haven. introduction. 1985). In particular. pp. Alois Riegl. 1058 n. 51) and even “heroic” (“OIW. Yet. It is impressively blind about the Beitra ¨ge. esp. It was the first great critical riposte to Kunstwollen. is extremely positive about Riegl—calling the project of Spa ¨ tro ¨mische Kunstindustrie “methodologically still challenging today” (“OIW. esp. see also Dirk Hoeges. “Erwin Panofsky and Karl Mannheim: A Dialogue on Interpretation. “U ¨ltnis der Kunstgeschichte zur Kunsttheorie” (1924). “Zur Systematik der ku ¨ nstlerischen Probleme. 1991). as well as one of the most significant sociologists of the mid-twentieth century. Karl Mannheim. esp. 33 n.. Panofsky saw clearly that Kunstwollen. 2. Wood (New York. 28 and “Zum Problem der Beschreibung und Inhaltsdeutung von Werken der bildenden Kunst. For the place of Mannheim’s paper within art history and especially its influence on Panofsky’s iconology. “Style Is What You Make It”. trans. The Intellectual Development of Karl Mannheim: Culture. 1994).Critical Inquiry / Summer 2006 759 nents. Wood. 152–56.Y. 135–65. 481 n. Holly. Panofsky and the Foundations of Art History (Ithaca. 1074 n. Michael Podro. coming from a sociological interest in how to “determine the global outlook of an epoch in an objective. pp. 44–49. 10–12. which developed into his theory of iconology. see also Jeremy Tanner. Georges Didi-Huberman. from which the work of both Mannheim and Wind explicitly drew. in the afterword Bourdieu upholds Panofsky as a paradigm for the rejection of positivism and praises him for introducing the concept of habitus . It may be worth noting that Panofsky’s later work in the 1920s and 1930s on meaning (Sinn) in art history. on which much has been written (particularly “Der Begriffe des Kunstwollens”). For the afterlife of Panofsky’s intervention in sociology (born in his and Mannheim’s responses to Kunstwollen).” p.” pp. Mannheim. see pp. 46. a theorization that culminated in the iconology of his American period. trans. Along these lines. See “OIW.30 on Tue. pp.10. 13. See Colin Loader. 3.46 effectively constitutes not only some of his most incisive critical thinking in his German phase but also the genesis of his arguments for emphasizing the meanings of works of art over their forms and styles. p. 54).” Critical Inquiry 19 (Spring 1993): 534–66. Kontroverse am Abgrund: Ernst Robert Curtius und Karl Mannheim (Frankfurt. is at least as large as that on Riegl himself. 119–34. pp.41. The Vienna School Reader . Pierre Bourdieu (Paris. Wood.” p. This is a pity since in many ways it is a foundation text for his later works. The secondary literature on Mannheim. and Wind. Devant l’image: Question pose ´e aux fins d’une histoire de l’art (Paris. 7–24.47 and was the most aggressive of the three. 1982).” p. who has a strong claim to being the founder of the modern sociology of knowledge and culture. perhaps because its art-historical interests today seem removed from the main thrust of Mannheim’s achievement. N. and Planning (Cambridge. 1967). Conn. as a formulation for the structural embodiment of a web of psychological drives both within the artist and in 45. 448 n. Panofsky. Introduction. 179–85. who notes at p. 447 n. 1990). Especially useful discussions include Alpers.45 Panofsky’s response to Kunstwollen. Sedlmayr’s defense of Riegl in 1929 perhaps rightly focussed primarily on responding to Panofsky as his key opponent. pp.

This content downloaded from 202. Pa ¨cht uses the term supraindividual (u ¨ berindividuallem) (Pa ¨ cht. Sinn is the key term not only for Panofsky but also for Mannheim. 131). . 16–18.50 the need was to go beneath the external appearance of art to its governing structural principles: “Style is a variable. dependent on inner structural principles. see ibid. presented as a reply to Panofsky that takes account of the latter’s worries about the meaning (Sinn) of Kunstwollen. This is the weakness common to Riegl’s method. Kunst und Wahrheit. They can only succeed in bringing to light the categories and forms of experience and expression pertaining to a given period before they become fully differentiated in objectifications—in other words: all they can establish is a typology of “initial. partly in response to the challenge of Panofsky’s reading of Kunstwollen and delving ever deeper into the kinds of formalist description presaged by the model of the empirical examples laid out so systematically in Spa ¨ tro ¨mische Kunstindustrie. ed..”48 Indeed he reduced the scope of Kunstwollen—the scope of what was valid and interesting in art-historical inquiry—to the complexities of meaning residing in a work of art. . 52. Such understandings are neither futile nor hopeless. absorbed into.10. trans. under the title “Towards a Rigorous Study of Art. [“OIW. . In art history after World War II. Alpers.41. . trans. questions of meaning. Mannheim effectively supports Panofsky’s turn to meaning in an interesting passage: [Riegl] seeks to characterize Weltanschauung as a global entity by ascertaining certain common features. In Sedlmayr’s version. pp. 148.” in The Vienna School Reader. “The Quintessence of Riegl’s Thought. p. 51.”49 The Vienna school. 133–79. . this led to what Svetlana Alpers rightly characterized as a fundamental change in the basic issues: “What Riegl called questions of style are pre-empted by.” p. see “OIW. This kind of deep structuralism is suprapersonal. fail to go beyond abstract.53 “an intransitive and yet purposive 48. 54] 50. which in turn reveal cognitive structures not only in the individual people who made or used such objects but also in collectives and groups of people.”51 Riegl’s achievement had been to show the way (through Kunstwollen) to these “central formative principles” (or “higher structural principles”) that underlie surface appearance and in an essential way expose the cognitive structure of a group of individuals. Complex meanings cannot be adequately grasped or interpreted in terms of elementary concepts. 1999].760 Jas’ Elsner / Reflections on Kunstwollen the wider cultural context. Sedlmayr. formal analysis. created a method of Strukturanalyse or structural analysis. “Style Is What You Make It. Alois Riegl. p.” pp. pp.52 From the forms of particular objects. Michael Pa ¨cht [London. But it will never be possible to derive the wealth of meanings embodied in the actual works from these germinal patterns. Wood. however.30 on Tue. 153.” “germinal” patterns of mental life. Sedlmayr develops the nexus of ideas in Kunstwollen to take us to their deep structures. 53. pp. 49–80. 17. 18–38.” p. and Sedlmayr’s manifesto “Kunstgeschichte als Kunstgeschichte” (1931). The Practice of Art History: Reflections on Method. .” p. 24 Sep 2013 02:21:04 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . Iversen. All such attempts. and especially in the sort so powerfully influenced by Panofsky in America. David Britt. For all this. was untenable in the face of any kind of reductive analytic logic or at least liable to “confused interpretation. 49.

The Kunstwollen of an individual. 1939). p. Ibid. In the introductory chapter to Studies in Iconology.”57 Sedlmayr’s two levels of structural analysis are now transmuted into two levels of iconographical analysis. 55. on the basis of this model. where he argues that he conceives of “iconology as an iconography turned interpretative” (whatever that means) but admits a danger that may 54. This approach preserved a rigorous—even ascetic—attention to forms as the raw material that could then be used for the writing of history. Meyer Schapiro. 24 Sep 2013 02:21:04 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . and (3) “the intrinsic meaning or content.” otherwise “iconographical analysis in a deeper sense. see Hart.”56 which in the republication of this chapter as “Iconography and Iconology” in 1955 was reformulated as Panofsky’sown catchword. put it self. Needless to say. 5–8. “Iconography and Iconology: An Introduction to the Study of Renaissance Art. Kunstwollen was set apart from historical conditions and was itself a vehicle for what.” 57. and it is clear that Sedlmayr devised his Strukturanalyse first. pp. See Panofsky. Meyer Schapiro called “a mysterious racial and animistic language in the name of a higher science of art. but the parallels cannot be denied. 1955). first published in 1939 but self-confessedly dependent on an article originally published in German in 1932. themselves founded on a primary tier of formal analysis.”55 Yet the irony is that Sedlmayr’s response to Panofsky in proposing Kunstwollen as the collective and suprapersonal deep structure underlying the specific forms of works of art was to prove fundamentally influential on Panofsky’s own developed formulation of iconology. This content downloaded from 202.” including form.”54 as Pa in the 1970s. 56.” including the identification of subject matter as opposed to form. 119.41. specifically in response to Panofsky’s early worries about Kunstwollen. At the same time. Panofsky apologizes at length in two paragraphs inserted in 1955 and printed in brackets.. (2) “the secondary or conventional subject matter” or “iconographical analysis in a wider sense. pp. “The New Viennese School” (1936). 58.30 on Tue. “iconology. 460. 31–33.10. with significant rewriting of Studies in Iconology at pp.58 The move in his 1955 revision to “iconology as opposed to iconography” in place of “iconographical analysis in a deeper sense” is interesting and worrying.” Meaning in the Visual Arts (New York. Panofsky. Studies in Iconology: Humanistic Themes in the Art of the Renaissance (New York. p. in The Vienna School Reader. school or region evolves it¨ cht. Panofsky proposes three levels of analysis: (1) the “factual” or “expressional” “identification of primary or natural subject matter. Sedlmayr’s great collaborator of the 1920s and 1930s. “Erwin Panofsky and Karl Mannheim. For the indebtedness of this passage (and its key theoretical ideas) to Mannheim’s Beitra ¨ ge. Panofsky never acknowledged a debt to Sedlmayr. Effectively I am suggesting that both of the key (unacknowledged) sources of the final formulation of iconology—Mannheim’s Beitra ¨ge and Sedlmayr’s “Die Quintessenz des Lehren Riegls”—are responses to Riegl’s Kunstwollen and to Panofsky’s response to Kunstwollen. unacknowledged here by Panofsky.Critical Inquiry / Summer 2006 761 movement. 30–33. already in the 1930s.

. as well as the methods and discursive context for their explication. N. not as ethnology as opposed to ethnography [i. 1951)—see Peter Kidson. In both cases. See also Gombrich. The fear is “that iconology will behave. antithesis. 24 Sep 2013 02:21:04 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions .’”61 Gombrich is rejecting in its 59. no. What motivates Gombrich’s assault on Riegl is something much more fundamental. driving the wheels of artistic developments according to ‘inexorable laws. his translation of Abbot Suger. and determinism that Gombrich saw lurking in the “myth-making” and “mythological explanations” in which “the Kunstwollen becomes a ghost in the machine. “Iconography and Iconology. These were very different debates.60 In any case. 16.e.762 Jas’ Elsner / Reflections on Kunstwollen also have been a desire. In the sixties Otto Pa ¨ cht (a Viennese and Viennese-trained exile living in England) felt compelled to respond to the attack on Riegl by his fellow Viennese and Viennese-trained exile.. collectivism.” p. 5). Panofsky (Princeton. 32. and. p. and St. “Panofsky. Art and Illusion (1960. Ernst Gombrich. meaning.41. and Wind. Princeton. 1946) and Gothic Architecture and Scholasticism (London.30 on Tue. 61. only to be answered by the advocates of the Vienna school in the role of keepers of the sacred flame. targeting his work on Suger—notably. Suger. For a radical attack on the almost startling tidiness with which everything seemed to fit together in Panofsky’s hands. “Kunstwissenschaft. Gombrich.or Austrian-trained. We might say that there were two main phases of polemic around Kunstwollen—that of the 1920s and that of the 1960s.10. Germanor Austrian-born.J.-Denis and Its Art Treasures. though now upon radically different analytic terrain. Mannheim. pp. although the Riegl of Sedlmayr’s Strukturanalyse can be argued to be as unlike the original as that of Panofsky. and subjectivity. trans. historicism. hereafter abbreviated AI. as an interpretative science in relation to empirical data] but like astrology as opposed to astrography [in other words as the exegetical higher nonsense in relation to empirical data]. Denis. 3. ultimately. it is hard not to see his 1955 reworking of “Iconography and Iconology” as designed precisely to inflate iconology with all the mystical baggage he had once resisted.. and German-speaking art historians attacked or at least modified Kunstwollen. What underlies the discussions of the twenties remains a series of art-historical arguments about fundamental issues of form. In many ways the whole of Art and Illusion is a sustained Popperian attack on all the implications of evolutionism.J. Panofsky. emulation. The core issue is whether Panofsky’s iconology creates of Suger “a credible historical figure or an arthistorical fiction” in which “everything turns on a subtle hermeneutic exercise” (ibid.” Das Atlantisbuch der Kunst: Eine Enzyklopa ¨ die der bildenden This content downloaded from 202. On the Abbey Church of St. 60. German. In the twenties the papers of Sedlmayr and Kaschnitz-Weinberg responded to those of Panofsky. Panofsky’s iconology might be seen as a direct descendant of Kunstwollen by reaction. 1984).”59 Where Panofsky’s 1920 paper had deliberately and very effectively deflated the excess of potential meaning tending to virtually mystical resonance that had made Kunstwollen so attractive.” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes. N. 50 (1987): 1–17. and ed.

1964): 420. not to speak of his Nazi politics. 1960). pp..41. p. 1957). 19]) became in Gombrich’s account a cipher for all the worst aspects of the Viennese tradition in which Gombrich was himself trained.62 Pa ¨ cht responded to Gombrich by commenting that “what astonishes me most in all this is the categorical assertion that historicism and kindred views have been finally refuted and are now a thing of the past” (“AH. 653–64. 2d ed. For the simultaneous interest of Panofsky and Sedlmayr in the question of the nature of gothic immediately after the war. The Practice of Art History. 268–300. The Gothic Cathedral: Origins of Gothic Architecture and the Medieval Concept of Order (New York. see Suger. pp. Penn. Riegl is his target as the fountainhead of the tradition that led from formalism to Geistesgeschichte. could and did lead to) that makes the sixties debate so differently pressing from that of the twenties. Gombrich. 63. see pp. and Sedlmayr. 62. This content downloaded from 202. The last part of this latter text might be described as a remarkable attempt to rehabilitate Riegl’s Kunstwollen.” p. 64.Critical Inquiry / Summer 2006 763 art-historical form all the ideological potential for determinism and collectivism implicit in Kunstwollen and explicit in its Sedlmayrian reading (see AI.” Art Bulletin 46 (Sept. inKunste (Zurich. Architecture gothique et pense ´e scholastique. Here he was anticipated by Mannheim. “Review of Kunstgeschichte und Kunsttheorie im 19 Jahrhundert. Just as Kunstwollen had always been a cipher for more than any concept can reasonably be expected to be (hence its methodological uses when not pressed too vigorously). The Gothic: Literary Sources and Interpretations through Eight Centuries (Princeton. World War II and the Holocaust cannot be wholly separated from Gombrich’s thinking. p. see Mannheim. and so on) to Nazi aesthetics can be considered the underlying and tacit key to these interventions. 192).10. 9–13. p. (1950. On the Abbey Church of St. clearly. Graz.63 which he saw dangerously embodied by Sedlmayr. 192. 14.-Denis and Its Art Treasures. pp. which he concluded with this passionate statement: “failure to speak out against the enemies of reason has caused enough disasters to justify this breach of Academic etiquette. so Riegl himself (despite his “touch of genius” [AI. Gothic Architecture and Scholasticism (Latrobe. 585–614. pp. Panofsky. 1956). 24 Sep 2013 02:21:04 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . and Paul Frankl. 1952). postface to Panofsky. Pa ¨ cht’s response is found in “AH.” Die Entstehung der Kathedrale. 658.30 on Tue. 1951). 19). N. restated at greater length in Pa ¨ cht. p. which overtly opposed Sedlmayrian “spiritual structure” against Panofsky’s multilayered iconology (Bourdieu. and his inaugural lecture in the Durning-Lawrence Chair at University College London in 1957. who had already worried about the conflict of Rationalismus und Irrationalismus in the notion of Weltanschauung. This is right.. Here. For Gombrich’s real attack is on unreason as such. but also beside the point (although the implication that Gombrich on Riegl is a bit of a rant frankly remains hard to deny). Beitrage zur Theorie der Weltanschauungsinterpretation. 118–20. 1988). p.” p.”64 In Art and Illusion.J. and it is this context (the hindsight of what Sedlmayr’s art history. see Otto von Simson. Art and Scholarship (London. This opinion is made clear in his polemical review of the essays published in honor of Sedlmayr’s sixty-fifth birthday. 135). The general obsession with gothic among German e ´ migre ´ scholars in the aftermath of the war is not pure happenstance. “Nachwort als Einfu ¨ hrung (1976). What Bourdieu fails to note is that the significance of German gothic (the towers of Nuremberg. esp.

66. Julius von Schlosser.” “an abstract concept put on legs. which may be seen at least in part as an attack on the (heavily ideological) claim from Gombrich to be offering a non. p.66 and that. framing the most fundamental of moral and cultural crises of the twentieth century. These debates. for Gombrich.65 Interestingly. 5. 192). Gombrich. on the other hand. “Reading Riegl’s Kunst-Industrie. the “well-known idea (for there is no question of it being a concept)”—the parenthetical comment surely pace Panofsky and also Sedlmayr—as a “glib catch phrase” (Julius von Schlosser. Pa ¨ cht. one area of art history has remained largely untouched by Warburgianism (or iconology). by a distinctly animistic procedure. “Die Quintessenz des Lehren Riegls.67 Far from being empty. xvi. and then. With a hindsight informed by Hitler’s rise and fall. the Sedlmayrian formalist who was a Jewish refugee.” p. See Sedlmayr.” in Framing Formalism. This is 65.(even anti-) ideological art history. von Schlosser had written of Kunstwollen. between style art history and iconographical analysis. and Wind within the discipline in the three decades after the war. 67. the positions of the twenties could be staked out as a politics in which Sedlmayr’s structure effectively stood for Nazism (for Gombrich). 24 Sep 2013 02:21:04 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . weakens resistance to totalitarian habits of mind” ¨ cht read Gombrich as taking Kunstwollen to (AI. Sedlmayr played with and then rejected in his discussion of Panofsky’s account of Kunstwollen.30 on Tue. endowed with a growth” (“AH. then the polemical debate of the 1920s was about what that soul was and on what grounds it should be located. though it is a view that Pa ¨ cht (rightly) attributes to the influence of Gombrich’s own teacher. the revival of interest not only in Riegl but also in the Vienna school in art-historical circles since the 1990s may be seen as a corrective to the downgrading of form that followed in the wake of the Warburgian ascendancy of the likes of Panofsky. see Woodfield. even in its American incarnation. p. Likewise.764 Jas’ Elsner / Reflections on Kunstwollen vested style with the essential qualities of an age or race.41. Pa be a “form of words to which nothing corresponds in reality. At stake were huge disciplinary agendas underlying the divide between Viennese formalism and Warburgian meaning. This content downloaded from 202. 20). struggled to find a way out of this impasse. The polemic of the 1960s was about something even deeper. I think this is a fundamental misreading. intriguingly.10.” p. 36. For more on Gombrich and Riegl. what might be called the ethical basis of art history’s soul. In 1934. . and “by talking in terms of collectives . have a sharper edge than even the poststructuralist polemics of the 1980s. Strikingly. 71–76. see also p. “Aloı ¨s Riegl [1934]. Epilogue: Coming Clean If art history has a soul. 42 for explicit reproof of Sedlmayr). . Kunstwollen was a concept unsusceptible to properly rational analysis with implications that were little short of evil.” pp.

ed. esp. iconological. Salvatore Settis. 251–64. “Frontality in the Column of Marcus Aurelius. There is much value in treating art-historical discourse in general (whether formalist. On the latter in relation to many of the issues raised here. with the aim of persuading an audience of a point or an argument.30 on Tue. on questions of the potential intrinsic or essential meaning embedded in forms versus purely conventional meaning attributed to them. who knew precisely the strengths of his enemy.68 who would become the greatest classical archaeologist in the interwar years. “Un’arte al plurale: L’impero romano. John Scheid and Vale ´ rie Huet (Tournhout. see my foreword in ibid. it is directed not towards some final positivist truth but towards a goal situated (consciously or unconsciously) in the art historian’s desire.69 We may observe in the more thoughtful formalisms of classical archaeology something of the Rieglian care and Seydlmayrian program to use the empirical weapons of stylistic analysis and formal comparison as something more than the mere basis of a “deeper” iconographical and iconological inquiry.” in Caratteri e morfologie. pp. hugely influential both on German classical art history and on such key figures outside Germany as Ranuccio Bianchi Bandinelli and Otto Brendel (who went to America in the 1940s). It has been insufficiently noticed that Panofsky. pp. see Gerhart Rodenwaldt. 5. 70. Brendel. namely. 1989). “The Concept of Artistic Volition. a deeply Rieglian and Seydlmayrian theme about which German art history remains inarticulate if not ambiguous. 23 n. Rodenwaldt’s work throughout the twenties. 81–82. See Panofsky.70 If I had to come clean about my own position.Critical Inquiry / Summer 2006 765 the branch of the discipline closest to Riegl’s own training. and Tonio Ho ¨ lscher. classical archaeology.” in Autour de la colonne Aure ´lienne: Geste et image sur la colonne de Marc Aure `le a ` Rome. ed. 69. thirties. esp. it is rhetorical. whether ideological. esp. dare one say it now. 24 Sep 2013 02:21:04 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . On these issues at greater length. Emilio Gabba and Aldo Schiavone (Turin. For the explicit nature of Rodenwaldt’s debt to Riegl. vol. Prolegomena to the Study of Roman Art . This content downloaded from 202. 2004).. 2000). xxvi-vii.41. pp. nos. pp. poststructuralist) about the arbitrariness of meaning in relation to form than any side in these debates. even just tendentious. i Greci e i posteri.” Jahrbuch des Deutschen Archa ¨ologischen Instituts. pp. 59–60 (1944–45): 81–87. 4 of Storia di Roma. I think I am more nominalist (even. connoisseurial. See. 260–61. This is to say. 10. psychological. The Language of Images in Roman Art (Cambridge. Belgium. 827–78. chooses in his 1920 Kunstwollen article to attack the work of Gerhardt Rodenwaldt. The rhetorical nature of ekphrasis might also 68.10. for instance. “Zur Begrenzung und Gliederung der Spa ¨ tantike. 22 n. see Elsner. and forties constituted in large part an attempt to explain the moves in Kunstwollen from early Roman art to the Arch of Constantine in direct response to the specific challenge articulated by Riegl in Spa ¨ tro ¨mische Kunstindustrie.” pp. or any other kind) as ekphrasis. One benefit of the notion of ekphrasis is that it specifically enables the reentry of subjectivism as an unavoidable factor (whether as appreciation or interpretation) in understanding works of art.

they too are rhetorical. in my view. This content downloaded from 202. since. if only in spurring such committed and serious contributions as the great.10.30 on Tue. The fundamental grounds of meaning in art or collective Kunstwollen—whether essential or merely historically contextual (and what a crime it is to pair these notions!)—are not. 24 Sep 2013 02:21:04 AM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions . finally attainable. flawed works we have been examining here. in whatever contexts images are employed.41. But the desire to attain them—to make a lasting contribution—is fundamental to art history.766 Jas’ Elsner / Reflections on Kunstwollen be said to effect a parallelism between the discourses we use about art and those of art itself.