“A Superior Order of Beings” – Public Taste & the Arts

The present generation appears to be composed of a new, and, at least with respect to the arts, a superior order of beings.  Generally speaking, their thoughts, their feelings, and language on these subjects, differ entirely from what they were sixty years ago.  No just opinions were at that time entertained on the merits of ingenious productions of this kind.  The state of the public mind incapable of discriminating excellence from inferiority, proved incontrovertibly, that a right sense of art in the spectator, can only be acquired by long and frequent observation, and that without proper opportunities to improve the mind and the eye, a nation would continue insensible of the true value of the fine arts.

– Joseph Farrington, from “Memoirs of Reynolds,” circa 1813

3 replies
  1. drea
    drea says:

    Hmmm…. I can’t decide what I think this is saying exactly, but I’m pretty sure, at least in as much as I understand, that I disagree with the use of the phrase ‘superior order of beings’.

  2. tja
    tja says:

    I think by ‘superior’, Mr. Farrington is suggesting an evolution (for the better) of public taste and intelligence. Though, I suspect a good question to ask him might be: are the keen-sighted and sharp-witted ‘superior’ to the ignorant?

  3. drea
    drea says:

    I feel that your final comparative question is irrelevant. Someone, of course, can be keen-sighted and sharp-witted, but still be ignorant on whatever topic, in this case Fine Art, is at hand. The author must be alluding to the rampant availability of visual material and opinion forming articles/blogs/etc. concerning Fine Art and the pathways it opens for discussion. But in terms of Public Taste, which relies so much ( I believe) on Popularity, media, money, politics and so on, I don’t believe we are in anyway more superior than previous generations, we just have a much more effective and quicker means of circulating trends. People (ignorant?) are still told be others (not or less ignorant?) what is good and what isn’t.

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