I’m not so sure that the goal of art is being able to improve society. Sure, that’s definitely the outcome of some pieces, but I think the goal is more about getting one’s point across about SOMETHING, whether it be for the good of humanity or not. Richardson was pretty clear about his views on this in his first essay. He writes:
“If in a Picture the Story be well chosen, and finely Told (at least) if not Improv’d, if it fill the Mind with Noble, and INstructive Ideas, I will not scruple to say ’tis an excellent picture” (Richardson, 13).
I agree with Richardson on this one- art should tell a story. Artists obviously put a lot of effort and time into some, in not all, of their pieces, and therefore it must have been done for a reason. A good example to get my point across is a painting from the german artist, Anselm Kiefer. This piece is titled “Todesfuge”.
This painting was actually based on a poem written soon after World War II. By knowing this background information, one can see within the colors and structure that this painting is trying to display a sad message. Even if you didn’t know the background info, you could still tell that it’s a chaotic piece with depressing colors. That in itself is probably enough for this artist, because he is trying to get viewers to think about what he is displaying.
Richardson also said in his work that “one should pronounce it (a painting) such in proportion to the Number of the Good Qualities it has, and their degrees of goodness” (14-15). I find this thought relatable to the idea of telling a story within a painting, because even though the painting above isn’t the most beautiful, it should be considered ‘good’. Richardson’s rubric for the ‘goodness’ of a painting seems similar to mine, which makes Kiefer’s painting extremely good in my eyes.
This painting, on the other hand, really annoys me. It is a piece titled “The Gate” by Hans Hofmann.
I mean honestly, I don’t understand it. I read up on it a little, and apparently Hofmann was trying to emphasize the amount of space between each color and get viewers to gradually see a gate as they analyze it. Great. What did I get out of that? Nothing. I genuinely like the idea of paintings having meaning behind them, and this one just doesn’t have any meaning in my opinion. I think Richardson would agree that this painting doesn’t have a lot of ‘good’ qualities hiding within it.
Overall I think that artist’s have (or try to have) a goal in mind. Although it is not always to improve society, it probably is always to evoke thought or emotions in its viewers.