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Kanzer, M. (1964). Essays in Aesthetics: By Jean-Paul Sartre. New York: Philosophical Library, Inc., 1963. 94 pp.. Psychoanal Q., 33:599-600.

(1964). Psychoanalytic Quarterly, 33:599-600

Essays in Aesthetics: By Jean-Paul Sartre. New York: Philosophical Library, Inc., 1963. 94 pp.

Review by:
Mark Kanzer

Sartre's individualistic adaptation of the philosophy of existentialism—the view of man as a lonely anguished creature achieving a moment of existence in a chaotic universe—includes some elements of freudian and Marxist teachings and is applied to æthetics in the present slim volume of essays. Four artists are selected as illustrations.

Tintoretto, to whom half the book is devoted, was a native of Venice, a craftsman who discerned, loved, and told the truth about his city. He was undeniably an opportunist, a cheat, a greedy seeker of commissions for profit—in short, a Venetian. For this reason, he was rejected by his fellow-citizens, while admiration was heaped instead on Titian, a peasant immigrant whose interests were directed exclusively to the service of a fading aristocracy. The rich merchants preferred the illusory image, not the genuine reflection of themselves.

Sartre next considers three moderns, Giacometti, Lapoujade, and Calder. Giacometti, who regards art as 'an absurd activity', wrestles with the problem of representing human beings as isolated from each other both by outer space and inner space. Four of his nude women, seen at a distance, never come nearer to the spectator: they are everlasting symbols of hopeless desire. Men cross a public square during the same time interval but achieve no pattern of relationship to each other. Sartre is moved to comment on lines as affirmations, definitions and confinements of individual existence, exerting impulses of attraction and repulsion and marking the emergence from nothingness into being. He examines the refusal of the eye to accept the existence of gaps in a female figure and portrays the audience as willing dupes and accomplices of the magician-artist in bridging the spaces and receiving as reward a momentary visual satisfaction.

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