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Hairy wolf 07-24-2019 01:25 AM

Kitsch, “high art”, “low art”
Who deems what is or is not kitsch, what is or is not high art, what is or is not low (popular?) art?
A serious question asked by our own StLukesguild

Here is “Kitsch” as defined in Wikipedia:
Kitsch (/kɪtʃ/ KITCH; loanword from German),[a] also called tackiness, is art or other objects that, generally speaking, appeal to popular rather than "high art" tastes. Such objects are sometimes appreciated in a knowingly ironic or humorous way.[1][2][3] The word was first applied to artwork that was a response to certain divisions of 19th-century art with aesthetics that favored what later art critics would consider to be exaggerated sentimentality and melodrama. Hence, 'kitsch art' is closely associated with 'sentimental art'. Kitsch is also related to the concept of camp, because of its humorous and ironic nature.

Kitsch art may often contain palatable, pleasant and romantic themes and visuals that few would find disagreeable, shocking or otherwise objectionable; it generally attempts to appeal to the human condition and its natural standards of beauty on a superficial level. It may also be quaintor "quirky" without being controversial.

To brand visual art as "kitsch" is generally (but not exclusively) pejorative, as it implies that the work in question is gaudy, or that it serves a solely ornamental and decorative purpose rather than amounting to a work of what may be seen as true artistic merit. However, art deemed kitsch may be enjoyed in an entirely positive and sincere manner. The term is also sometimes applied to music or literature, or indeed any work.[4]

Obviously, individual tastes have much to do with this issue: what makes one person want to throw up in disgust may be a tremendous delight for another.
Opinions and examples would be appreciated.

Hairy wolf 07-24-2019 01:31 AM

Re: Kitsch, “high art”, “low art”

These are but few examples that are defined as kitsch online

ianuk 07-24-2019 04:54 AM

Re: Kitsch, “high art”, “low art”
The problem I have with 'kitsch' is that when I have heard the word used in a sentence, I tend to find it makes the person using the word, as kitsch as the object they are describing. It's such a tacky word.

brianvds 07-24-2019 05:44 AM

Re: Kitsch, “high art”, “low art”

Originally Posted by Hairy wolf

These are but few examples that are defined as kitsch online

I have no particular opinions on what kitsch "really" is, and neither do I care, to be honest. But as an aside, something that strikes me about Kinkade's paintings is that few people would object to such a scene in real life; most would find it quite breathtaking. It's kind of weird that something that would be considered beautiful in reality strikes us as vulgar when it is in a painting.

The opposite is also true: something that is disturbing in real life (say, a mass execution) can make for a lovely painting (e.g. Goya's Third of May).

snoball 07-24-2019 08:01 AM

Re: Kitsch, “high art”, “low art”
I really don't care to hang any definition on art. I like what I like, no matter the style, the technique, the era, or the type.

DaveCrow 07-24-2019 08:29 AM

Re: Kitsch, “high art”, “low art”
With Kinkade, I think part of it is that he just carries it a bit beyond what real life would present. It's not just the scene, it's the colors and the lighting, and you just know the smell of something yummy cooking is wafting out of that cottage...

For my tastes it gets a little saccharin. But I can see why many would find it comfort food. I think that may be a part of what kitsch is. It's a comfort food, or a junk food treat. We know it's not deep or ultimately fulfilling, but in the moment it is fun and pleasurable.

Kitsch may be "solely ornamental and decorative" but that is not necessarily a bad thing. As Paul McCartney says in Silly Love Songs "What's wrong with that? I'd like to know."

Artyczar 07-24-2019 10:18 AM

Re: Kitsch, “high art”, “low art”

I also think of Kean:

Artyczar 07-24-2019 10:21 AM

Re: Kitsch, “high art”, “low art”
Maybe I have to read your definitions again, but "low art" is "popular" art? How so? And what is considered "low art?" exactly? Maybe I need to google it? I know what lowbrow is, and Lowbrow as far as the official "Lowbrow Movement" goes, but what is "low art?"

EDIT: Never mind. I looked it up:

From this article: ...https://www.therapidian.org/high-and-low-art:

Most people are aware of a distinction between high and low art. High art is appreciated by those with the most cultivated taste. Low art is for the masses, accessible and easily comprehended. The concept of high and low can be traced back to 18th century ideas about fine art and craft. . .

La_ 07-24-2019 11:10 AM

Re: Kitsch, “high art”, “low art”
Calvin gets it



musket 07-24-2019 11:22 AM

Re: Kitsch, “high art”, “low art”
La beat me to it.

snoball 07-24-2019 12:08 PM

Re: Kitsch, “high art”, “low art”
Love Calvin and he is spot on this time.

caldwell.brobeck 07-24-2019 04:31 PM

Re: Kitsch, “high art”, “low art”
I tend to lean in Roger Scruton’s (and Milan Kundera’s, and Oscar Wilde’s ) direction on this:

The Czech novelist Milan Kundera made a famous observation. "Kitsch," he wrote, "causes two tears to flow in quick succession. The first tear says: How nice to see children running on the grass! The second tear says: How nice to be moved, together with all mankind, by children running on the grass! " Kitsch, in other words, is not about the thing observed but about the observer. It does not invite you to feel moved by the doll you are dressing so tenderly, but by yourself dressing the doll. All sentimentality is like this — it redirects emotion from the object to the subject, so as to create a fantasy of emotion without the real cost of feeling it. The kitsch object encourages you to think, "Look at me feeling this — how nice I am and how lovable." That is why Oscar Wilde, referring to one of Dickens's most sickly death-scenes, said that "a man must have a heart of stone not to laugh at the death of Little Nell".

From his The strangely enduring power of kitsch

Most of the article rehashes things Scruton has expressed before, but he also goes on to talk about “preemptive kitsch”, which is an interesting notion.

FWIW, I actually like doing the occasional (ok, more than occasional :) )kitschy or “chocolate-box” painting. People should feel free to paint as they please.


musket 07-24-2019 05:09 PM

Re: Kitsch, “high art”, “low art”
Personally, I think Kundera was so full of himself when he said that, he was a model of kitsch. "Look at me feeling this--how smart I am, and how jaded!"

Really, how would this little observation apply to an Elvis on velvet? About as kitsch as it gets.

caldwell.brobeck 07-24-2019 10:33 PM

Re: Kitsch, “high art”, “low art”
I would think there’s actually a pretty close connection between the velvet Elvises and the Communist kitsch that infested Kundera’s native Czechoslovakia. Is there any great difference between the social implications of a velvet Elvis and some work of Socialist Realism? It’s been 30 years since I read his The Unbearable Lightness of Being, maybe I’ll restart that next week.

Hairy wolf 07-25-2019 01:29 AM

Re: Kitsch, “high art”, “low art”
Hey Chris, never read The unbearable lightness of being, but loved the movie!
Two great actors: Juliette Binoche and Jeremy Irons.

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