It’s Art Depreciation Day for Homeschoolers, as we learn from our 10th-Grade textbook, World History and Cultures In Christian Perspective. After polishing off the dangerous liberal fads of “philosphy” and “education” last week, we’re now ready to learn all about how godless liberals tried to wreck culture through their pernicious effects on the arts!
The trouble all started with the Impressionists, you see. Mostly a bunch of Frenchies, they were “influenced by empiricism and positivism” which led them to try to create art that captured
momentary, fleeting “impressions” received by the physical senses; to many impressionist artists, such impressions were the only reality. Trying to show the ever-changing reality of a particular moment, impressionist artists emphasized minute details through the effect of changing light
Astonishingly, the textbook doesn’t quite go so far as to condemn the Impressionists for relying on their human senses instead of the orderly artistic precepts contained in the Bible, possibly because there’s nothing about art in the Bible at all, excepting the ban on graven images. Even so, the editors do work up a good head of steam about those morally suspect cubists and their dangerously subjective versions of reality:
By the 20th century many artists had accepted the liberal philosophies of the age and rejected absolute values; and the works of such artists reflected their attitude. For example, in the style known as cubism, artists such as Spanish painter Pablo Picasso emphasized random geometric forms and perspectives in their works, hoping to create a new “reality” in the viewer’s mind.
Oh, but it gets much worse, children. There’s the craziness of abstract art, with all that chaos and emotion, and even worse!
The liberal philosophies of existentialism and Freudianism held a strong influence over modern art. For example, in the style known as dadaism, artists believed that the universe was controlled totally by chance. Thus, the Dadaists promoted paintings, sculptures, and poetry that delighted in the fantastic, the absurd, and the random; to the Dadaists, God, man, and reason are all dead.
Needless to say, the textbook includes no actual reprints of these decadent insults to order and good sense.
Happily, while Europeans were throwing toilets into art museums, good Protestants know what sells, and so we get this strange explanation of what really counts in aesthetic judgment:
In spite of the many movements in modern art, the general public has been the final judge in art, and the styles of art that have won a place in the hearts of most people have been the traditional forms to which people can easily relate.
Precious Moments™, anyone? Those little statues are just adorable! Strangely, when it comes to art, the book suggests that popularity is equal to decency and quality, a notion it happily abandons if Bad Things become popular, because man’s sinful nature often leads majorities to choose badly.
Illustrators have had an especially strong conservative influence in modern art. For example, British artist Beatrix Potter wrote and illustrated the beloved Tale of Peter Rabbit, the first modern picture book….. French artist Jean de Brunhoff created the delightful “Babar the Elephant,” a character that has entertained children for decades.
World History sadly misses the opportunity to point out that the Babar books showed how beneficial and benign colonialism could be, taking those naked pagan elephants and giving them the delights of modern civilization.
The ultimate conservative artist, of course, was Norman Rockwell, whose
illustrations warmly portrayed those things that are often most dear to people: their homes, their children, their towns. His “homespun” characters and humorous scenes of American life appeared on over 300 Saturday Evening Post covers.
With the strange myopia typical of these guys, the editors make no mention of Rockwell’s dangerously progressive thoughts on race-mixing, or his near-treasonous suggestion that southern American conservatives were sometimes a bit less than Christ-like.
We get a brief discussion of 20th-Century music, learning that “the influence of liberal philosophies” led music to lose “beauty as well as form,” and that jazz, while rhythmically pleasing, also “became associated with those who revolted against traditional standards.” The text appears to consider “conservative” any 20th-century composer whose music sounds pretty — it lists Aaron Copland among “conservative” composers, even though he was gay and his politics were leftish enough that Joseph McCarthy investigated him in 1953. The title and themes of “Fanfare For the Common Man” were inspired by a 1942 speech by super-progressive Henry A. Wallace, who was endorsed by the CPUSA in his run for the presidency in 1948. But Copland’s music had recognizable melodies, so yeah, conservative.
And finally, on to literature. The section heading here describes “liberal” 20th Century writing as a “Flight From Reality,” which is an odd thing to say about fiction anyway. But they do manage to find sinfulness in the very stylistic choices of some writers, let alone the content:
Flight from reality. Like the liberal art and music of the first half of the 20th century, much of the literature of the same period also reflects modern man’s rebellion against God and absolutes and his flight from objective reality toward subjective relativism. For example, many 20th-century writers developed from the theories of Freud a writing technique called “stream of consciousness” — an attempt to forge a spontaneous flow of subconscious thoughts, memories, wishes, and impressions into a single narrative.
As examples, we get Proust and of course Joyce, so good Christian boys and girls will be dissuaded from reading a 7-volume novel or the pun-packed musings of a filthy Irish sex perv. But wait, there’s more!
Freudianism greatly influenced other modern writers, such as D. H. Lawrence of England and Franz Kafka of Germany; many of these writers demonstrated Freud’s influence by revolting against traditional values and writing novels that glorified immoral lifestyles.
Ah, yes, Kafka and his glorifying of immorality. How well we remember looking for all the dirty parts of The Trial with lust in our hearts. And with that, we’re largely finished with 20th Century fiction, apart from some fuming at Sinclair Lewis’s unjust suggestion that conservative religions leaders were ever hypocrites, and a brief mention of the writers who went to Paris out of an ungrateful rejection of “the ‘bourgeoisie’ [sic] morality” of England and America — here, the book redefines a basic term of the era, insisting that these writers
became known as the “Lost Generation” because of their restless rebellion against traditional morality.
How’s that for a flight from reality? The rest of the sins of literary liberals are mostly laid at the feet of early 20th Century writers who were blinded to the awfulness of Stalin, with no mention of any liberals who later changed their views or condemned him from the start, because apparently that never happened. We also get a brief slam of H.L. Mencken, of course, because he “attacked America’s cherished traditional morality” and mocked Christianity.
Among the conservative literary heroes who bravely “expressed the wisdom of maintaining traditional standards and morality,” we get G.K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, and J.R.R. Tolkien, whose fantasy trilogy “taught people to long for truth and goodness;” the editors of World History seem not to share most modern Christianists’ fear that reading about a wizard will instantly lead young people to start summoning demons. Malcolm Muggeridge gets a whole sidebar of his own for renouncing his early socialist leanings and embracing Christianity.
And we learn that George Orwell must be ranked with conservative literary heroes because he “graphically portrayed the horrors of the totalitarian state in his novels Animal Farm and 1984,” so the conservative literary pantheon somehow manages to include a writer who fought in the Spanish Civil War with a communist (but anti-Stalinist) militia and remained a socialist all his life, although the book sends these inconvenient facts down the Memory Hole. Lucky for Orwell that he chose the right faction!
Next Week: The 20’s and the Great Depression. We bet all those soup lines resulted from a rejection of Biblical morality!