"What is Art For?" by Eli Siegel / July 27, 1977

Aesthetic Realism sees the purpose of art as, from the beginning, the liking of the world more....It is well to look at an American history of world art to ascertain whether art puts into action the deepest desire of man, with that desire being to like the world....more

"The Opposites Theory" by Eli Siegel / published in a series of TROs beginning February 21, 2007:

In this issue we begin to serialize The Opposites Theory, a work Eli Siegel wrote in the late 1950s. It is a discussion, scholarly and vivid, of the explanation of beauty on which Aesthetic Realism is based—the principle that "All beauty is a making one of opposites, and the making one of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves." ...more

Art Tells of—and Criticizes—Sadness / Number 1940, November 16, 2016

...This final section [of Mr. Siegel's 1975 class on Music and "Questions for Everyone"] is casual, conversational. But it’s about a tremendous matter: that what may trouble us most is present in art in a way that makes for beauty. And the beauty comes not because the artist has somehow decorated the trouble, but because he or she has seen it truly. What makes for every instance of art, Aesthetic Realism explains, is this: something is seen truly, in its specificity and relatedness; and so the world itself as structure—the oneness of such opposites as rest and motion, order and freedom, continuity and change—is felt, seen, heard. That is true whatever the art—and whatever the subject, from a rose to a bad mood....more

This issue includes:

There Are Music & the Sinister / Number 1939, November 2, 2016

...In the part of the discussion [on Music & “Questions for Everyone”] published here, Mr. Siegel has reached question 7: “Have I suddenly wanted other people to feel bad? or to be unlucky?” And in keeping with his purpose, he looks at the feeling asked about—not in terms of its cause—but in relation to music. Meanwhile, because that 7th question is about something so ordinary, yet also about some of the largest brutality in history—the inflicting of pain on other human beings—I’ll comment a little on the question in terms of people’s lives....more

This issue includes:

Everyone's Confusion—& Music / Number 1938, October 19, 2016

...The section [of the 1975 class by Eli Siegel on Music & “Questions for Everyone”] included here is much about a pair of opposites that are together beautifully, mightily, in all good art: the known and the unknown. Yet these opposites trouble people immensely in life. And so, by means of introduction, I’ll comment on some of the tumult about them....

Millions of people right now feel insulted by the unknown; fear it; even hate it. They feel humiliated and angry that they don’t understand themselves, and deeply outraged that they can’t make sense of someone close to them, and life as such. For instance, husbands and wives have a tendency, foolish and also mean, to think they’re authorities on their spouse; then they’re annoyed, even furious, when something occurs making it clear that there are things in the person they’re close to that they don’t understand....more

This issue includes:

Music Is about Your Life / Number 1937, October 5, 2016

...[The subject of the paper published in this issue, criticism and kindness,] has tormented people—because they have seen criticism as unkind, and have seen kindness, really, as an evasion of their own intellect and personal need. That is, people have felt that to be kind to someone they had to put aside what they might question about him or her, and also put aside their own desire to take care of themselves. Aesthetic Realism grandly and mercifully shows that this view of things is incorrect.

It happens that this human matter of kindness and criticism is related to the technical art matter Mr. Siegel speaks of here: concord and discord. Both pairs of opposites are forms of the big primal opposites For and Against....more

This issue includes:


"Do You Want to Be Like Music?" / Number 1935, September 7, 2016

It is an honor to begin a serialization of Music & “Questions for Everyone,” a class of 1975, taught by Eli Siegel. “Questions for Everyone: To Be Thought about and Discussed” was published early in the history of Aesthetic Realism, in 1949. It contains 27 questions, and they are beautiful—kind and critical: they get to what most troubles people inwardly. In the class we’re serializing, Mr. Siegel comments on the first ten—in relation to music. All 27 are reprinted in issue 750 of this journal:

...Eli Siegel is the critic who showed that art is essential to what every human being is, including people who think they’re not interested in art. That’s because, in order to make sense of who we are and to be as we truly hope to be, we need to see how art does what we’re trying to do: how it makes opposites one....more

This issue includes:

What & Who Are Important? / Number 1856, August 28, 2013

[In the lecture by Eli Siegel being serialized here,] he shows that every new movement in art arises from the sense that the world has not been seen with enough justice; things have not been valued; their meaning has not been brought forth! We’re ashamed, we have guilt, when we’re unjust. And an artist welcomes the guilt and feels, I must give to these misseen, undervalued things the form, the beauty, they deserve!

Never was such a feeling stronger than during the romantic movement, at the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th centuries. Romanticism said: The ordinary things you take for granted have wonder! Things you consider distant from you, strange, even grotesque, can tell you about yourself! People who have been thought lowly have importance, dignity, even grandeur! ...more

This issue includes:

Confusion & Clearness about Praise / December 26, 2007

This issue contains a short essay by Eli Siegel about beauty. It seems to be of the late 1950s, and is written as a letter to author Waldo Frank, who, it appears, had asked Mr. Siegel about what beauty is....more

Art versus Ill Nature / Number 1617, June 30, 2004

Eli Siegel wrote the work printed here, “With Acting in Mind,” on January 27, 1961—the same month that he wrote “Remarks on Acting” and “Acting,” published in issues 1585 and 1531 of this journal. The ten points that comprise “With Acting in Mind” are about the very fabric of acting—they’re technical—yet they’re also about the feelings of everyone, actor or not. And the writing’s style is beautiful; it has charm and depth....more

This issue includes:

Art and Anger / Number 1585, August 20, 2003

We’re honored to print “Remarks on Acting,” by Eli Siegel. They were written in January 1961, in a notebook he kept, about the same time he wrote “Acting,” the 22 great, humorous instances for actors to perform which we published last year in TRO 1531. These shorter “Remarks” are beautiful—they present both the grandeur and the factual, workmanlike quality of acting at once....

Part of what makes the knowledge of Aesthetic Realism so important and needed is what [the article included here is] about: Aesthetic Realism shows that anger, and other large emotions—such as fear, hope, like, dislike—each has two forms, one good and one bad....more

This issue includes:

The Best in Us—and the Worst / Number 1256, April 30, 1997

...Aesthetic Realism, greatly, shows that, with all the various purposes human beings have—to succeed in a career, find love, dress well, be entertained—there are two central, warring purposes that all the other purposes are about. One of these two purposes is the best thing in humanity; the other is the worst: and everybody has both. Until we understand these purposes and can love that best thing and criticize that worst thing in us, we will be mixed up about all our other purposes and never know or get clearly what we want. The best and deepest purpose of everyone, Mr. Siegel showed, is “to like the world on an honest basis.” This purpose, become intensely impelling, wide, rich, deep, is the drive to art. “Art,” Mr. Siegel writes, “goes for justice to all that is and all that lives. It welcomes subtly. It welcomes universally.”...more

This issue includes:

Hardness and Softness—in Art and Ourselves / June 21, 1989 (reprinted 2012)

Here is “The Drama of Hardness and Softness in Painting,” by Eli Siegel. This beautiful essay, inestimably important in art criticism, is a presentation of the greatest single idea there is: “All beauty,” Eli Siegel showed, “is a making one of opposites, and the making one of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves.” All people need to study Aesthetic Realism—to study that principle—in order to like themselves, be kind to other people and fully alive. Let us take the opposites Mr. Siegel writes of here:

Children don’t respect a parent who is “soft,” who goes along uncritically with what a child does; and they don’t respect a parent who is tough, doesn’t want to see the feelings of a child. There is distress in the homes of America because parents have not been able to put these opposites—hardness and softness—together... more

The Greatest Gift: Authentic Criticism / December 21, 1988 (reprinted 2007)

We publish here the great essay "Art as Criticism," by Eli Siegel. Written in the 1950s, it is an exemplification of the fact that Aesthetic Realism has explained what beauty is, and what the human self is. In the essay, Mr. Siegel is writing about the thing every person needs and wants most, however much a person seems to go after something else. That most needed thing is criticism....

[Mr. Siegel writes:] "When an artist paints a picture, he is saying that the thing he has painted is good for himself and good for other people. Every picture, then, is a criticism of the world, or things, and is a favorable criticism. The painter is saying that if this and this were seen right, and I am trying to see it right, this and this would have a good effect on people, and would praise the meaning of the world. Every painting, then, is a work of criticism and devotion."...more

[Includes a discussion of the Cave paintings of Lascaux, Goya, Degas, and early Roman sculpture.]

"All the Arts" by Eli Siegel / Number 212, April 20, 1977

Aesthetic Realism has tried to make two things clear, both of value to the life of man. The first of these is that all the arts, at their beginning, have something in common; and that this common thing in all the arts is the oneness of opposites, felt and worked with by an individual mind....more

[Includes discussion of Byron, Beethoven, Delacroix, and Michelangelo.]

"As We Were Saying" by Eli Siegel / Number 85, November 13, 1974

As Aesthetic Realism sees it, the oneness of opposites is the main or decisive thing in all the arts; and in every instance of art. This is so because the world itself is the oneness of opposites....more

The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known online:

*Current Issues: The most recent issues in which Aesthetic Realism explains the news, happenings in people's lives, events in history, and some of the most moving works in literature.

*National Ethics: What honest criteria can we use to be good critics of ethics on the national and international levels? Aesthetic Realism looks at ethics as to loyalty, international affairs, & more.

*Literature / Poetry: Discussing many great works of poetry and prose. Criticism, wrote Eli Siegel compactly, is showing "a good thing as good, a bad thing as bad, and a middling thing as middling."

*Love: How Aesthetic Realism describes the purpose of love—"to like the world honestly through another person." Discussion of what interferes with having real love—today and in history.

*Racism—the Cause & Solution: The Aesthetic Realism understanding of contempt as the cause of racism, and the place of aesthetics in respecting, pleasurably, people different from oneself.

*The Economy: Why our economic system has failed to meet the needs of the American people, and the Aesthetic Realism understanding of good will as the basis for successful and fair economics

*Education: The success of the Aesthetic Realism Teaching Method in having students learn to read and write—learn science, social studies, art, every subject—and be kinder, less angry, less prejudiced.

*Eli Siegel Day in Baltimore: Talks given on August 16, 2002, Eli Siegel's Centenary, placing Mr. Siegel and Aesthetic Realism, his work, in terms of world culture and history.

*Art: "Aesthetic Realism sees the purpose of art as, from the beginning, the liking of the world more..."

*Archives: The rich education provided by Aesthetic Realism in issues of The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known which are online.

Aesthetic Realism Foundation online

The most comprehensive source of information about Aesthetic Realism is the website of the Aesthetic Realism Foundation—and the sites connected to it, including this one. You can start, for instance, at the Foundation's home page. Then, go on to biographical information about Eli Siegel, who founded Aesthetic Realism in 1941. You will see how the education he began teaching in those years continues now in Aesthetic Realism consultations and in public dramatic presentations and seminars at the Aesthetic Realism Foundation—as well as in the Foundation's Outreach Programs for seniors, young people, libraries, teachers. Meanwhile in the schools of New York, the dramatically effective Aesthetic Realism Teaching Method has enabled students to learn, to love learning, and to pass standardized examinations for three decades. And artists since 1955 have exhibited at the Terrain Gallery for which many have written commentaries (including on their own works), based on the philosophic principles of Aesthetic Realism. You can read about Ellen Reiss, Aesthetic Realism Chairman of Education online, as well as about every person on the faculty of the Foundation. As editor of TRO her commentaries are in every issue (see, e.g., "Nature, Romanticism, & Harry Potter"; "Clothing and Emotion"; and "Jobs, Discontent, and Beauty"). In the Aesthetic Realism Online Library, you'll find the largest single repository of reviews, articles in the press, lectures, poetry; and The Right of Aesthetic Realism to Be Known. In 2002, Eli Siegel' s centenary, the Governor of Maryland and the Mayor of Baltimore, the city where he grew up, wrote on the meaning to America of Aesthetic Realism and its founder. So did the former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, in the U.S. Congressional Record.

Selected Resources online

People in America's diverse professions—the humanities, the arts, education, the social sciences, medicine, labor—have written on the value of Aesthetic Realism. They describe the way Aesthetic Realism teaches people how to understand themselves more accurately; how the ability to be just to other people is enhanced; how one's professional attainments are augmented. Language arts teacher Leila Rosen, for example, writes on the Aesthetic Realism teaching method. Anthropologist Arnold Perey writes on the way Aesthetic Realism opposes prejudice and improves international understanding. And there are many others. Historically, new knowledge has often been met unjustly. This was true about the new, innovative thought of Louis Pasteur and John Keats, Beethoven and William Lloyd Garrison, Jonas Salk and Isaac Newton. And it has been true about Aesthetic Realism. Documenting and opposing this, the website "Friends of Aesthetic Realism — Countering the Lies," written by more than 60 individuals, refutes the falsehoods of the few persons who have attacked Aesthetic Realism and lets the facts speak for themselves. People who want to express their opinion of Aesthetic Realism, and have the knowledge to back it up, have created blogs and websites and have written numerous articles. See, for example, composer and educator Edward Green; essayist Lynette Abel; photographer Len Bernstein; teachers Ann Richards, Christopher Balchin, and Alan Shapiro. Others are listed in "What People Are Saying." The education of Aesthetic Realism enables a person to understand oneself more exactly than has been possible before, and to like the world honestly, authentically.

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