Defining Art Historically  

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"A work of art is a thing intended for regard-as-a-work-of-art: regard in any of the ways works of art existing prior to it have been correctly regarded." --"Defining Art Historically", 1979, Jerrold Levinson


"By the end of Levinson’s article, is that artworks are things that are intended to be regarded in the same way that previous artworks have been regarded, something that, I trust it will be agreed, can hardly be called an epiphany."-- "Family Resemblances, Relationalism, and the Meaning of 'Art'" (2007) Daniel A. Kaufman

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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.

"Defining Art Historically"” (1979) is an essay by Jerrold Levinson which attempts to define art. It proposes a variation on the Institutional theory of art with considerable emphasis on the author's intent.

For Levinson, "a work of art is a thing intended for regard-as-a-work-of-art: regard in any of the ways works of art existing prior to it have been correctly regarded" (1979, p. 234). Levinson further clarifies that by "intends for" he means: “[M]akes, appropriates or conceives for the purpose of'" (1979, p. 236). Some of these manners for regard (at around the present time) are: to be regarded with full attention, to be regarded contemplatively, to be regarded with special notice to appearance, to be regarded with "emotional openness" (1979, p. 237). If an object isn't intended for regard in any of the established ways, then it isn't art.

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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Defining Art Historically" 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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