Jan Łukasiewicz  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

In Rome, these Greek concepts were partly shaken. Horace wrote that not only poets but painters as well were entitled to the privilege of daring whatever they wished to ("quod libet audendi"). In the declining period of antiquity, Philostratus wrote that "one can discover a similarity between poetry and art and find that they have imagination in common." Callistratos averred that "Not only is the art of the poets and prosaists inspired, but likewise the hands of sculptors are gifted with the blessing of divine inspiration." This was something new: classical Greeks had not applied the concepts of imagination and inspiration to the visual arts but had restricted them to poetry. Latin was richer than Greek: it had a term for "creating" ("creatio") and for "creator," and had two expressions — "facere" and "creare" — where Greek had but one, "poiein." Still, the two Latin terms meant much the same thing.

A fundamental change, however, came in the Christian period: "creatio" came to designate God's act of "creation from nothing" ("creatio ex nihilo"). "Creatio" thus took on a different meaning than "facere" ("to make"), and ceased to apply to human functions. As the 6th-century Roman official and literary figure Cassiodorus wrote, "things made and created differ, for we can make, who cannot create."

Alongside this new, religious interpretation of the expression, there persisted the ancient view that art is not a domain of creativity. This is seen in two early and influential Christian writers, Pseudo-Dionysius and St. Augustine. Later medieval men such as Hraban the Moor, and Robert Grosseteste in the 13th century, thought much the same way. The Middle Ages here went even further than antiquity; they made no exception of poetry: it too had its rules, was an art, and was therefore craft and not creativity.

All this changed in modern times. Renaissance men had a sense of their own independence, freedom and creativity, and sought to give voice to this sense of independence and creativity. The philosopher Marsilio Ficino wrote that the artist "thinks up" ("excogitatio") his works; the theoretician of architecture and painting, Leon Battista Alberti, that he "preordains" ("preordinazione"); Raphael, that he shapes a painting according to his idea; Leonardo da Vinci, that he employs "shapes that do not exist in nature"; Michelangelo, that the artist realizes his vision rather than imitating nature; Giorgio Vasari, that "nature is conquered by art"; the Venetian art theoretician, Paolo Pino, that painting is "inventing what is not"; Paolo Veronese, that painters avail themselves of the same liberties as do poets and madmen; Federico Zuccari (1542-1609), that the artist shapes "a new world, new paradises"; Cesare Cesariano (1483-1541), that architects are "demi-gods." Among musicians, the Dutch composer and musicologist Jan Tinctoris (1446-1511) demanded novelty in what a composer did, and defined a composer as "one who produces new songs."

Still more emphatic were those who wrote about poetry: G.P. Capriano held (1555) that the poet's invention springs "from nothing." Francesco Patrizi (1586) saw poetry as "fiction," "shaping," "transformation."

Finally, at long last, someone ventured to use the word, "creation." He was the 17th-century Polish poet and theoretician of poetry, Maciej Kazimierz Sarbiewski (1595-1640), known as "the last Latin poet." In his treatise, De perfecta poesi, he not only wrote that a poet "invents," "after a fashion builds," but also that the poet "creates anew" ("de novo creat"). Sarbiewski even added: "in the manner of God" ("instar Dei").

Sarbiewski, however, regarded creativity as the exclusive privilege of poetry; creativity was not open to visual artists. "Other arts merely imitate and copy but do not create, because they assume the existence of the material from which they create or of the subject." As late as the end of the 17th century, André Félibien (1619-1675) would write that the painter is "so to speak [a] creator." The Spanish Jesuit Baltasar Gracián (1601-1658) wrote similarly as Sarbiewski: "Art is the completion of nature, as it were a second Creator..."

By the 18th century, the concept of creativity was appearing more often in art theory. It was linked with the concept of imagination, which was on all lips. Joseph Addison wrote that the imagination "has something in it like creation." Voltaire declared (1740) that "the true poet is creative." With both these authors, however, this was rather only a comparison of poet with creator.

Other writers took a different view. Denis Diderot felt that imagination is merely "the memory of forms and contents," and "creates nothing" but only combines, magnifies or diminishes. It was precisely in 18th-century France, indeed, that the idea of man's creativity met with resistance. Charles Batteux wrote that "The human mind cannot create, strictly speaking; all its products bear the stigmata of their model; even monsters invented by an imagination unhampered by laws can only be composed of parts taken from nature." Luc de Clapiers, marquis de Vauvenargues (1715-1747), and Étienne Bonnot de Condillac (1715-1780) spoke to a similar effect.

Their resistance to the idea of human creativity had a triple source. The expression, "creation," was then reserved for creation ex nihilo (Latin: "from nothing"), which was inaccessible to man. Second, creation is a mysterious act, and Enlightenment psychology did not admit of mysteries. Third, artists of the age were attached to their rules, and creativity seemed irreconcilable with rules. The latter objection was the weakest, as it was already beginning to be realized (e.g., by Houdar de la Motte, 1715) that rules ultimately are a human invention.

In the 19th century, art took its compensation for the resistance of preceding centuries against recognizing it as creativity. Now not only was art regarded as creativity, but it alone was so regarded. When later, at the turn of the 20th century, there began to be discussion as well of creativity in the sciences (e.g., Jan Łukasiewicz, 1878-1956) and in nature (e.g., Henri Bergson), this was generally taken as the transference, to the sciences and to nature, of concepts proper to art.

The start of the scientific study of creativity is sometimes taken as J. P. Guilford's 1950 address to the American Psychological Association, which helped popularize the subject.

Other students of creativity have taken a more pragmatic approach, teaching practical creativity techniques. Three of the most well-known are Alex Osborn's "brainstorming" (1950s to present), Genrikh Altshuller's Theory of Inventive Problem Solving (TRIZ, 1950s to present), and Edward de Bono's "lateral thinking" (1960s to present).




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Jan Łukasiewicz" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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