RUDOLF ARNHEIM QUOTES

German-born psychologist, philosopher & critic (1904-2007)

Would there be any truth in saying that psychology was created by the sophists to sow distrust between man and his world?

RUDOLF ARNHEIM, Parables of Sun Light

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Tags: psychology


Television is a new, hard test of our wisdom. If we succeed in mastering the new medium it will enrich us. But it can also put our mind to sleep. We must not forget that in the past the inability to transport immediate experience and to convey it to others made the use of language necessary and thus compelled the human mind to develop concepts. For in order to describe things one must draw the general from the specific; one must select, compare, think. When communication can be achieved by pointing with the finger, however, the mouth grows silent, the writing hand stops, and the mind shrinks.

RUDOLF ARNHEIM, Film as Art

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Tags: television


All perceiving is also thinking, all reasoning is also intuition, all observation is also invention.

RUDOLF ARNHEIM, Art and Visual Perception: A Psychology of the Creative Eye

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From building a fire one can learn something about artistic composition. If you use only small kindling and large logs, the fire will quickly eat up the small pieces but will not become strong enough to attack the large ones. You must supply a scale of sizes from the smallest to the largest. The human eye also will not make its way into a painting or building unless a continuum of shapes leads from the small to the large, from the large to the small.

RUDOLPH ARNHEIM, Parables of Sun Light

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But art not only exploits the variety of appearances, it also affirms the validity of individual outlook and thereby admits a further dimension of variety. Since the shapes of art do not primarily bear witness to the objective nature of the things for which they stand, they can reflect individual interpretation and invention.

RUDOLF ARNHEIM, Visual Thinking

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Some popular quotations smell of airless closets. They exhale the stale imagination of the intellectual lower middle class. "Suspension of disbelief" has become one of them. Dressed up as a scintillating double negation, it serves the pedestrian notion of art as illusion.

RUDOLF ARNHEIM, Parables of Sun Light

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Nothing is more humbling than to look with a strong magnifying glass at an insect so tiny that the naked eye sees only the barest speck and to discover that nevertheless it is sculpted and articulated and striped with the same care and imagination as a zebra. Apparently it does not occur to nature whether or not a creature is within our range of vision, and the suspicion arises that even the zebra was not designed for our benefit.

RUDOLPH ARNHEIM, Parables of Sun Light

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Tags: nature


The experienced physician, mechanic, or physiologist looking at a wound, an engine, a microscopic preparation, "sees" things the novice does not see. If both, experts and laymen, were asked to make exact copies of what they see, their drawings would be quite different.

RUDOLF ARNHEIM, Visual Thinking

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Tags: sight


Order is a necessary condition for making a structure function. A physical mechanism, be it a team of laborers, the body of an animal, or a machine, can work only if it is in physical order.

RUDOLF ARNHEIM, Entropy and Art: An Essay on Disorder and Order

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It would be most wholesome if for at least twenty years art historians were forbidden to refer to any derivations. If they were not allowed to account for a work of art mainly by tracing where it comes from, they would have to deal with it in and by itself--which is what they are most needed for.

RUDOLF ARNHEIM, Parables of Sun Light

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No longer can we consider what the artist does to be a self-contained activity, mysteriously inspired from above, unrelated and unrelatable to other human activities. Instead, we recognize the exalted kind of seeing that leads to the creation of great art as an outgrowth of the humbler and more common activity of the eyes in everyday life. Just as the prosaic search for information is "artistic" because it involves giving and finding shape and meaning, so the artist's conceiving is an instrument of life, a refined way of understanding who and where we are.

RUDOLF ARNHEIM, Art and Visual Perception: A Psychology of the Creative Eye

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Tags: art


A good documentary or educational film is not raw experience. The material has passed the mill of reason, it has been sifted and interpreted.

RUDOLF ARNHEIM, Film as Art

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A cloud can look like a camel, but a camel is unlikely to look like a cloud. This is so because the signifier must be able to stand for the whole category of the signified. The cloud looks like all camels, but no camel looks like all clouds.

RUDOLF ARNHEIM, Parables of Sun Light

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Today we no longer regard the universe as the cause of our own undeserved troubles but perhaps, on the contrary, as the last refuge from the mismanagement of our earthly affairs.

RUDOLF ARNHEIM, Entropy and Art: An Essay on Disorder and Order

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Tags: universe


Orderliness by itself is not sufficient to account for the nature of organized systems in general or for those created by man in particular. Mere orderliness leads to increasing impoverishment and finally to the lowest possible level of structure, no longer clearly distinguishable from chaos, which is the absence of order. A counterprinciple is needed, to which orderliness is secondary. It must supply what is to be ordered.

RUDOLF ARNHEIM, Entropy and Art: An Essay on Disorder and Order

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Variety is more than a means of avoiding boredom, since art is more than an entertainment of the senses.

RUDOLF ARNHEIM, Entropy and Art: An Essay on Disorder and Order

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No mature style of art in any culture has ever been simple. In certain cultures, an overall symmetry may conceal the complexity of the work at first glance.

RUDOLF ARNHEIM, Entropy and Art: An Essay on Disorder and Order

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It is good to live in a country where all are immigrants ... the newcomer is simply the latest arrival.

RUDOLF ARNHEIM, Parables of Sun Light

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Order is a prerequisite of survival; therefore the impulse to produce orderly arrangements is inbred by evolution.

RUDOLF ARNHEIM, Entropy and Art: An Essay on Disorder and Order

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Tags: order


Both art and science are bent on the understanding of the forces that shape existence, and both call for a dedication to what is. Neither of them can tolerate capricious subjectivity because both are subject to their criteria of truth. Both require precision, order, and discipline because no comprehensible statement can be made without these. Both accept the sensory world as what the Middle Ages called signatura regrum, the signature of things, but in quite different ways.

RUDOLF ARNHEIM, Visual Thinking

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