from the writings of
Rudolf Arnheim
gestalt psychologist, art and film theorist, author and professor
• The clarification of visual forms and their organization in integrated patterns as well as the attribution of such forms to suitable objects is one of the most effective training grounds of the young mind.
“Gestalt Psychology and Artistic Form” in L.L. Whyte, ed., Aspects of Form.
• All perceiving is also thinking, all reasoning is also intuition, all observation is also invention.
Art and Visual Perception: The New Version, p.5.
• Good art theory must smell of the studio, although its language should differ from the household talk of painters and sculptors.
Ibid., p. 4.
• Any line drawn on a sheet of paper, the simplest form modeled from a piece of clay, is like a rock thrown into a pond. It upsets repose, it mobilizes space. Seeing is the perception of action.
Ibid., p. 16.
• Order is a necessary condition for anything the human mind is to understand. Arrangements such as the layout of a city or building, a set of tools, a display of merchandise, the verbal exposition of facts or ideas, or a painting or piece of music are called orderly when an observer or listener can grasp their overall structure and the ramification of the structure in some detail. Order makes it possible to focus on what is alike and what is different, what belongs together and what is segregated. When nothing superfluous is included and nothing indispensable left out, one can understand the interrelation of the whole and its parts, as well as the hierarchic scale of importance and power by which some structural features are dominant, other subordinate.
Entropy and Art: An Essay on Disorder and Order, p. 1.
• When Mary [his wife] opened a can in our Tokyo kitchen the other day, she felt, with the strength of a hallucination, that our cat Charcoal was rubbing her leg. She was about to bend down to him when she remembered with a start that he was no longer with us. The Japanese can opener was of an old-fashioned type, the same she used to have at home until about the time Charcoal died, a year ago; shortably afterward she started using a more modern tool, screwed to the wall. She used to open very few cans except those of cat food, so neither for the cans nor the opener was there much competitive association. The mental slat was clean for the association to establish itself between can opener and cat. Add to this that Mary used to open cans of cat food not only at home but anywhere on our travels and at our summer places: no particular locality was tied to the operation, and thus the Tokyo kitchen did not interfere with the cat scene. When the links of an association are free of other ties, the mechanism seems to work best.
Parables of Sun Light, pp. 11-12 (January 17, 1960)
• The least touchable object in the world is the eye.
Ibid., p. 13 (February 6, 1960)
• At one of the annual conventions of the American Society for Aesthetics much confusion arose when the Society for Anesthetics met at the same time in the same hotel.
Ibid., p. 39 (November 12, 1961)
• As one gets older, it happens that in the morning one fails to remember the airplane trip to be taken in a few hours or the lecture scheduled for the afternoon. Memory does return in time, but the suspicion remains that in the end dying will consist in simply forgetting to live.
Ibid., p. 156 (April 26, 1972)
• Nothing is more humbling than to look with a strong magnifying glass at an insect so tiny that the naked eye sees only the barest speck and to discover that nevertheless it is sculpted and articulated and striped with the same care and imagination as a zebra. Appparently it does not matter to nature whether or not a creature is within our range of vision, and the suspicion arises that even the zebra was not designed for our benefit.
Ibid., p. 160 (July 19, 1972)
• The initials “OK” were the signature of Oskar Kokoschka. Every time I use the two letters to mark my approval of my editor’s changes on the galleys of my next book, I sneakily credit myself with the small creative act of impersonating one of my favorite painters.
Ibid., p. 346 (July 10, 1985)
• [To set foot in America] was, first of all, the end of exile. In a land of immigrants, one was not an alien but simply the latest arrival. Rather than be asked to abandon one’s own heritage and to adapt to the mores of the new country, one was expected to possess a treasure of foreign skills and customs that would enrich the resources of American living. The foreign accent was a promise, and indeed, all over the country, European imports added spice to the sciences, the arts, and other areas. What one had to give was not considered inferior to what one received.
To the Rescue of Art, p. 241
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