Art Theory Of The Meaning

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A Fourth Theory of Meaning

When it comes to examining art, there are many debates as to what determines the meaning of the piece. Several distinct theories attempt to explain how to conclude the true meaning of a work of art, including the theory of intentionalism, the reader response-theory, and the formalist theory. Intentionalism focuses on the idea that an artist’s original intentions when creating the piece determines its correct meaning, while the reader-response theory outlines a belief that meaning is realized by the viewers of the artwork. Formalists are different in that they believe the meaning of the work of art is based on the art alone, despite original intentions of the artist. All three theories are backed by strong arguments, however, they are each faulty in that there are still counterarguments that make it difficult to regard any single theory as the ultimate explanation for what determines the meaning of a work of art. A simple counterargument for intentionalism is one in which an artist fails to successfully convey his true intention. A sculptor, for example, intends to create a stone female figure, yet his lack of skill results in a tree shaped piece. The artist has failed to communicate his message therefore it cannot be understood that this tree sculpture is a woman. Reader-response theory is downplayed by the belief that if everyone is able to determine his own meaning, then no piece of art can ever be misunderstood. Formalism cannot stand alone, for it is faulty in that there are times when the artwork presented cannot be taken literally. Much of the art in this world is abstract and represents a greater idea that cannot be established by observing only what the piece is without regard to the artist’s meaning. By combining the theories of intentionalism, reader-response, and formalism, a better theory is created in which the meaning of
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