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Nietzsche and Art

Anthony M. Ludovici

Constable & Co. Ltd.

"Rien n'est beau que le vrai, dit un vers respecté; et moi, je lui réponds, sans crainte d'un blasphème: Rien n'est vrai sans beauté." — Alfred de Musset.

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"We philosophers are never more delighted than when we are taken for artists." 1

        In this book, which embodies a course of lectures delivered in a somewhat condensed and summarized form at University College, London, during November and December, 1910, I have done two things. I have propounded Nietzsche's general Art doctrine, and, with the view of illustrating it and of defining it further, I have also applied its leading principles to one of the main branches of Art.
        As this has not been done before, either in English or in any Continental language, my book is certainly not free from the crudeness and inadvertences which are inseparable from pioneer efforts of this nature. Nevertheless it is with complete confidence, and a deep conviction of its necessity, that I now see it go to print; for, even if here and there its adventurous spirit may ultimately require modification, I feel certain that, in the main, time itself, together with the help of other writers, will fully confirm its general thesis, if I should be unable to do so.
        Sooner or later it will be brought home to us in Europe that we cannot with impunity foster and cultivate vulgarity and mob qualities in our architecture, our sculpture, our painting, our music and

        1 Friedrich Nietzsche's Gesammelte Briefe, vol. iii, p. 305.

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literature, without paying very dearly for these luxuries in our respective national politics, in our family institutions, and even in our physique. To connect all these things together, and to show their inevitable interdependence, would be a perfectly possible though arduous undertaking. In any case, this is not quite the task I have set myself in this work. I have indeed shown that to bestow admiration on a work of extreme democratic painting and at the same time to be convinced of the value of an aristocratic order of society, is to be guilty of a confusion of ideas which ultimately can lead only to disastrous results in practical life; but further than this I have not gone, simply because the compass of these lectures did not permit of my so doing.
        Confining myself strictly to Nietzsche's æsthetic, I have been content merely to show that the highest Art, or Ruler Art, and therefore the highest beauty, — in which culture is opposed to natural rudeness, selection to natural chaos, and simplicity to natural complexity, — can be the flower and product only of an aristocratic society which, in its traditions and its active life, has observed, and continues to observe, the three aristocratic principles, — culture, selection and simplicity.
        Following Nietzsche closely, I have sought to demonstrate the difference between the art which comes of inner poverty (realism, or democratic art), and that which is the result of inner riches (Ruler Art).
        Identifying the first with the reflex actions which respond to external stimuli, I have shown it to be

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slavishly dependent upon environment for its existence, and, on that account, either beneath reality (Incompetence), on a level with reality (Realism), or fantastically different from reality (Romanticism). I have, moreover, associated these three forms of inferior art with democracy, because in democracy I find three conditions which are conducive to their cultivation, viz. — (1) The right of self-assertion granted to everybody, and the consequent necessary deterioration of world-interpretations owing to the fact that the function of interpretation is claimed by mediocrity; (2) the belief in a general truth that can be made common to all, which seems to become prevalent in democratic times, and which perforce reduces us to the. only truth that can be made common to all, namely Reality; and (3) a democratic dislike of recognizing the mark or stamp of any particular human power in the things interpreted, and man's consequent "return to Nature" untouched by man, which, once again, is Reality.
        Identifying Ruler Art, or the Art of inner riches, with the function of giving, I have shown it to be dependent upon four conditions which are quite inseparable from an aristocratic society, and which I therefore associate, without any hesitation, as Nietzsche does, with Higher Man, with Nature's rare and lucky strokes among men. These conditions are — (1) Long tradition under the sway of noble and inviolable values, resulting in an accumulation of will power and a superabundance of good spirits; (2) leisure which allows of meditation, and therefore of that process of lowering pitchers into

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the wells of inner riches; (3) the disbelief in freedom for freedom's sake without a purpose or without an aim; and (4) an order of rank according to which each is given a place in keeping with his value, and authority and reverence are upheld.
        In the course of this exposition, it will be seen that I have to lay realism also at the door of Ruler Art; but I am careful to point out that, although such realism (I call it militant realism in respect to the art both of the Middle Ages and of the later Renaissance, as well as of Greece) is a fault, of Ruler Art which very much reduces the latter's rank among the arts; it is nevertheless above that other realism of mediocrity which, for the want of a better term, I call poverty realism. (See Lecture II, Part II, end.)
        In order firmly to establish the difference between the Ruler and Democratic styles I ought, perhaps, to have entered with more thoroughness than I have done into the meditative nature of the one, and the empirical nature of the other. This, apart from a few very unmistakable hints, I have unfortunately been unable to do. I found it quite impossible to include all the detail bearing upon the main thesis, in this first treatise; and, though I have resolved to discuss these important matters very soon, in the form of supplementary essays, I can but acknowledge here that I recognize their omission as a blemish.
        The wide field covered by this book, and the small form in which I was compelled to cast it, have thus led to many questions remaining inadequately answered and to many statements being

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left insufficiently substantiated. In the end I found it quite impossible to avail myself even of a third of the material I had collected for its production, and I should therefore be grateful if it could be regarded more in the light of a preliminary survey of the ground to be built upon, rather than as a finished building taking its foundation in Nietzsche's philosophy of Art.
        With regard to all my utterances on Egypt, I should like the reader kindly to bear only this in mind: that my choice of Egyptian art, as the best example of Ruler Art we possess, is neither arbitrary nor capricious; but, because it is neither arbitrary nor capricious, it does not follow that I regard a return to the types of Egypt as the only possible salvation of the graphic arts. This would be sheer Romanticism and sentimentality. "A thousand paths are there which have never yet been trodden; a thousand salubrities and hidden islands of life. Unexhausted and undiscovered is still man and man's world " (Z., I, XXII.).
        It is rather the spirit which led to this Egyptian Art, which I regard as so necessary to all great achievements, either in legislation, art, or religion; and whether this spirit happens to be found on the banks of the Nile, in the Vatican, or in Mexico. I point to it merely as something which we ought to prize and cherish, and which we now possess only in an extremely diluted and decadent form. It is the spirit which will establish order at all costs, whose manner of exploiting higher men is to look upon the world through their transfiguring vision, and which believes that it is better for mankind to

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attain to a high level, even in ones, twos, or threes, than that the bulk of humanity should begin to doubt that man can attain to a high level at all.
        This spirit might produce any number of types; it is not necessary, therefore, that the Egyptian type should be regarded as precisely the one to be desired. I do but call your attention to these granite and diorite sculptures, because behind them I feel the presence and the power of that attitude towards life which the ancient Pharaohs held and reverenced, and which I find reflected in Nietzsche's Art values.

*        *        *        *        *        *        *

        In quoting from German authorities, where I have not been able to give reference to standard English translations, I have translated the extracts from the original myself, for the convenience of English readers; while, in the case of French works, I have deliberately given the original text, only when I felt that the sense might suffer by translation.
        I should now like to express my deep gratitude to Dr. Oscar Levy, who has always been ready to place his valuable time and wide knowledge at my disposal whenever I have expressed the smallest desire of consulting him on any difficult point that may have arisen during the preparation of these lectures. And I should also like to acknowledge the help afforded me by both Mr. J. M. Kennedy and Dr. Mügge, — the one through his extensive acquaintance with Eastern literature, and the other through his valuable bibliography of works relating to Nietzsche's life and philosophy.

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        It only remains for me to thank the Committee and the Provost of University College, Gower Street, for their kindness, and for the generous hospitality which they have now extended to me on two separate occasions; and, finally, to avail myself of this opportunity in order to express my grateful recognition of the trouble taken on my behalf by Professor Robert Priebsch and Mr. Walter W. Seton of London University, on both occasions when I had the honour of delivering a course of lectures at their College.
Anthony M. Ludovici.
February 1911.

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Lecture I

Part I
Anarchy in Modern Art

The State of Modern Art 7
The Fine Arts:—
        1. The Artists 15
        2. The Public 19
        3. The Critics 25
        4. Some Art-Criticisms 28

Part II
Suggested Causes of the Anarchy in Modern Art

1. Morbid Irritability 37
2. Misleading Systems of Æsthetic 41
3. Our Heritage:—
        (a) Christianity 43
        (b) Protestantism 47
        (c) Philosophical Influences 53
        (d) The Evolutionary Hypothesis 57

Lecture II
Government in Art — Nietzsche's Definition of Art

Part I
Divine Art and the Man-God

1. The World "Without Form" and "Void" 66
2. The First Artists 75
3. The People and their Man-God 81
4. The Danger 86
5. The Two Kinds of Artists 90

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Part II
Deductions from Part I — Nietzsche's Art Principles

1. The Spirit of the Age incompatible with Ruler Art 98
2. A Thrust parried. Police or Detective Art defined 103
3. The Purpose of Art Still the Same as Ever 111
4. The Artist's and the Layman's View of Life 117
5. The Confusion of the Two Points of View 121
6. The Meaning of Beauty of Form and of Beauty of Content in Art 125
7. The Meaning of Ugliness of Form and of Ugliness of Content in Art 133
8. The Ruler-Artist's Style and Subject 136

Part III
Landscape and Portrait Painting

1. The Value "Ugly" in the Mouth of the Dionysian Artist 146
2. Landscape Painting 150
3. Portrait Painting 165

Lecture III
Nietzsche's Art Principles in the History of Art

Part I
Christianity and the Renaissance

1. Rome and the Christian Ideal 172
2. The Pagan Type appropriated and transformed by Christian Art 176
3. The Gothic Building and Sentiment 183
4. The Renaissance 190

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Part II
Greece and Egypt

1. Greek Art 198
        (a) The Parthenon 204
        (b) The Apollo of Tenea 207
        (c) The Two Art-Wills of Ancient Greece 210
        (d) Greek Painting 213
2. Egyptian Art 215
        (a) King Khephrën 215
        (b) The Lady Nophret 226
        (c) The Pyramid 232

List of Illustrations

Sekhet (Louvre) Frontispiece
To face page
The Marriage of Mary, by Raphael (Brera, Milan) 123
Saskia, by Rembrandt (Dresden Royal Picture Gallery) 166
The Canon of Polycleitus (Rome) 189
The Apollo of Tenea (Glyptothek, Munich) 207
The Medusa Metope of Selinus (Palermo) 211
King Khephrën (Cairo Museum) 216
The Lady Nophret (Cairo Museum) 226

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Abbreviations Used in Referring to Nietzsche's Works 1

        E. I. =     The Future of our Educational Institutions.
        B. T. =     The Birth of Tragedy.
        H. A. H. =     Human All-too-Human.
        D. D. =     Dawn of Day.
        J. W. =     Joyful Wisdom.
        Z. =     Thus spake Zarathustra.
        G. E. =     Beyond Good and Evil.
        G. M. =     The Genealogy of Morals.
        C. W. =     The Case of Wagner and Nietzsche contra Wagner.
        T. I. =     The Twilight of the Idols.
        A. =     Antichrist.
        W. P. =     The Will to Power.

        1 The English renderings given in this book are taken from the Complete and Authorized Translation of Nietzsche's Works edited by Dr. Oscar Levy.



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