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Artistic style

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-M039-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved October 27, 2021, from

Article Summary

Artistic style is a problematic notion in several ways. Sometimes the term refers to style in general, as it does in ‘Good style requires good diction’. Sometimes it refers to style as a particular, as in ‘Van Gogh’s style’ or ‘the Baroque style’. In antiquity, style was a rhetorical concept referring to diction and syntax; consequently style is very often identified with the formal elements of a work of art as opposed to the content. However, the kind of subject matter an artist chooses may itself be a significant feature of style. One way of thinking about style is as a set of recurrent features of works of art that identify them as the product of a particular person, period or place. This may be adequate for some purposes, but it ignores the fact that a style has a unified ‘physiognomy’ or expressive character. The relation between style and expression is complex. A period style is often thought to express the cultural attitudes of the period, but it cannot do so in a very direct way. What a style expresses is a function of where it occurs in the history of style. Similarly, a work of art in an artist’s individual style will be expressive only in the context of the possibilities of that style. According to the Romantic tradition, individual style is a genuine expression of the artist’s self. But according to others, style is simply a construction by readers, viewers and listeners.

Citing this article:
Robinson, Jenefer M.. Artistic style, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-M039-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2021 Routledge.

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