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Time in the Aesthetic Dimension of Visual Art

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In the spring of 2006 the English artist Noel White met the author J.T. Fraser while staying with friends near Cordoba, Spain. Lively discussion arose between them prompted by a reading of a paper by the social scientist Barbara Adam, which argues for the recognition of a moral dimension in political decisions. What follows here is an essay based on their conversation. The essay does not comment directly on Adam's arguments, but extends the question of the moral dimension to White's own area of expertise, the visual arts. Through an analysis of aspects of the history of modern painting it offers an understanding of morality in art, not as an added extra, to be permitted or not, but, if the making of a thing is to go beyond mere emotional expression, as integral to it. This conclusion is reached by showing how it is the moral dimension that underlies the early discoveries of modern painting, which at the same time links it with earlier forms of painting, but which was an aspect subsequently overlooked in the interpretation of this new form in the modern era with perhaps hidden consequences.


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