- Schelling und die bildende Kunst. Zum Verhältnis von kunstphilosophischem System und konkreter Werkkenntnis by Von Arne Zerbst
With this contribution on Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling’s philosophy of art, Arne Zerbst seeks to correct an imbalance and strives to empirically link art history and the theory of art to Schelling’s philosophy as articulated in his Philosophie der Kunst and a number of other writings. Together they constitute—in Zerbst’s opinion—a unique permeation of philosophy and art, the first such attempt and one that could arguably be seen as the origin of the discipline of art history (cf. Regine Prange, Die Geburt der Kunstgeschichte, 2004). Whereas the existing research on the topic emphasizes Schelling’s idealism, only a few recent studies seek to locate Schelling within the context of art history and the theory of art. In his introductory review of research, Zerbst refers specifically to Lothar Knatz who is among the first to lament the aforementioned discrepancy. Consequently Zerbst efficaciously examines, now from the viewpoint of art, artists and their works of art that are decisive for Schelling’s philosophy of art.
Central to this study is Schelling’s Philosophie der Kunst, his 1802/1803 and 1804/1805 lectures on the philosophy of art, published posthumously as the fifth volume of the Sämtliche Werke (SW) in 1859. Zerbst frames this investigation with a few letters and an 1817 remark on art history, and divides his investigation into three sections, starting with an “Auftakt” that discusses two of Schelling’s letters to his parents and the “Dresden” letter. The Philosophie der Kunst is addressed in the main section (“Hauptstück”), complemented by the famous Akademierede, “Über das Verhältnis der bildenden Kunst zu der Natur” (1807). In the concluding section (“Nachklang”) Zerbst discusses affinities of Schelling’s art theory to modernist artists and art theorists such as Paul Klee and evaluates Schelling’s bond to the tradition of imitation theory and contemporary taste in art, specifically classicism.
Zerbst follows Schelling’s writings on art diligently and chronologically. In the “Auftakt,” using the letters to the parents, he illustrates not only Schelling’s early perception of architecture, but more importantly his taste in art: “Stilistische Gegensätze besitzen für Schelling offenkundig keine bereichernde, sondern eher eine irritierende Wirkung” (30). In his evaluation of Schelling’s opinion on art and architecture, Zerbst objectively differentiates between Schelling’s and contemporary [End Page 500] perceptions of particular works of art and their significance today. Finally Zerbst analyzes Schelling’s critique of “aufgeklärter Kunstpädgogik” (55) and his discussion regarding the role of the universities for art: “Der Ausweg, welcher sich […] Schelling eröffnet, ist derjenige der Spekulation” (74).
In the “Hauptstück” Zerbst begins by explaining Schelling’s speculation about the capability and nature of art and beauty. This first “general” section of Schelling’s Philosophie der Kunst is arguably the least accessible, likewise Zerbst’s discussion on the topic. According to Schelling a philosophical approach to art must inquire into the ground of artistic creativity, both in that which is ideal and that which is real; it must investigate that which is incomprehensible and absolute in art; consider models and topoi for artistic activity; and finally, determine a philosophical grounding of art. Zerbst summarizes Schelling’s ideas as well as his criticism, from Plato and the necessity of religion for art and art’s need for “Christian legends” (81) to the importance of appreciation and judgment of art and that of beauty and truth. Schelling then turns toward the lack of receptiveness for art in the general public and the ruling class.
Art for Schelling differs not only from religion, literature, or the natural sciences, but also from nature. This is in my opinion one of the most productive aspects of Schelling’s texts, and Zerbst returns repeatedly and appropriately to the relationship of nature and art. An example is Zerbst’s discussion of the organic character of plants as it relates to Schelling...