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Carnation and the Eccentricity of Painting John Sallis As to color it seems that Hegel never wavered. From the time of the first cycle of lectures he gave on aesthetics, there is remarkable constancy regarding color, regarding the decisiveness of color for painting. Throughout the entire Berlin period, throughout the four cycles of lectures he presented on aesthetics (1820–21, 1823, 1826, 1828–29), Hegel seems never to have faltered in his view that painting is little else than a matter of color.1 Always then he is on the verge of saying: color and nothing but color—that painting is color and nothing but color. In the first lecture cycle Hegel declares that color is what “first genuinely makes a painter a painter.”2 In the second cycle he is recorded to have said without qualification: “Color is the element of painting.”3 And in the text that H. G. Hotho composed on the basis of various sources from the various cycles, Hegel is—posthumously—made to say: “It is therefore color, coloring, that makes a painter a painter.”4 So then, not just color (Farbe) but also, even primarily, coloring (Kolorit) is what constitutes painting, is what makes it painting and makes the painter a painter. Hegel is only slightly less constant about the various consequences of his rigorous orientation of painting to color, about the manifold transformation of the very determination of painting that is brought about by—or at least is coordinate with—his insistence on the all-decisiveness of color and coloring. The decisiveness of color is especially consequential as regards form and as regards the drawing (Zeichnung) that, independently of color, could inscribe form. Hegel’s position is that what counts for painting, what accounts almost entirely for it, is not form and drawing but color and coloring . Hegel could hardly have inverted more thoroughly the order laid out in the Critique of Judgment. Kant says explicitly that “in painting, . . . drawing [Zeichnung] is what is essential”; and that, in drawing, what counts for taste is “what we like because of its form [was durch seine Form gefällt].” Color, on the other hand, belongs to mere charm and can at best serve 90 only “to make the form intuitable more precisely, determinately, and completely .” Color cannot make an object beautiful but rather is usually severely restricted by “the requirement of beautiful form.”5 Hegel’s inversion of this order has the effect, at least from a Kantian perspective, of reorienting painting to sensation, of granting to sense as such a constitutive function in painting and hence an indispensable role in the judgment of taste that would assess the beauty of a painting. To be sure, Kant opens, even if cautiously, the possibility of according such a function and role to sensation, and he opens it at two different levels of analysis. In the one instance, this possibility depends on the assumption that in sense perception there is not only sense reception but also, through a reflection intrinsic to sense, an apprehension of the form constituted by the regular play of sensations. In this instance, color would not be a congeries of mere sensations but, says Kant, would “already be the formal determination of the unity of a manifold of these.”6 In the other instance, this possibility would be linked to the purity of a simple kind of sensation, to its being uniform and uninterrupted by any other sensation. This very purity would constitute a formal moment within—and yet distinct from— the sensible as such. Such purity, says Kant, “pertains only to form, because there we can abstract from the quality of the kind of sensation in question (as to which color . . . is presented).” Kant concludes that it is because of this moment that “all simple colors, insofar as they are pure, are considered beautiful.”7 Thus, in both instances Kant’s strategy is the same: sense can be regarded as pertinent to beauty only insofar as within sense there is a purely formal moment distinguishable from sense as such, from the mere sense in sense. This same strategy, much more elaborated, is in play in the main analysis of judgments of taste: though with respect to the object of such judgment what is apprehended is sensible, it is a formal sensible, a formal aspect within the sensible presentation of the object ; and its apprehension requires accordingly not just sense but also, even primarily, imagination. It is this formal sensible, this sensible form...


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