On Experience and Appreciation

It is a matter of common experience that it is possible for a man to devote a whole life time to the study of art, without having once experienced aesthetic emotion: “historical research” as Croce expresses it, “directed to illumine a work of art by placing us in a position to judge it, does not alone suffice to bring it to birth in our spirit,” for “pictures, poetry, and every work of art produce no effect save on souls prepared to receive them.” Visvanatha comments very pertinently on this fact when he says that “even some of the most eager students of poetry are seen not to have a right perception of rasa.”The capacity and genius necessary for appreciation are partly native (‘ancient’) and partly cultivated (‘contemporary’): but cultivation alone is useless, and if the poet is born, so too is the rasika, and criticism is akin to genius.

~ Ananda Coomaraswamy, in The Dance of Śiva: Fourteen Indian Essays, The Sunwise Turn Inc, New York, 1918. Print. Reference to Benedetto Croce.

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