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Thursday, July 28, 2011

'On Non Objective Painting' & 'Popularity and Realism' : Bertolt Brecht

Neha Dhawan


Mapping of the essay

Bertolt Brecht, "On Non-Objective Painting"

Topic Sentence:

 I see that you have removed the motifs from your paintings.

Important words and Phrases:

No recognizable objects – communists – reconstruct a world which is not habitable – if you were not communists but subject spirits of the ruling class, I would not wonder about your painting- if  you were subject spirits of the establishment, you would do well to fulfil wish of your patrons by representations rather opaque, general and uncommitted – 'one must enjoy one's work, irrespective of what it accomplishes, of how it is to be done, or why'- 'one can enjoy a forest even if one doesn't own it' – most beautiful and important perceptions are composed of lines and colours - Strong emotions as love are lost if their living conditions are too bad – court painters – general, vague, unidentifiable perceptions- perpetual object of lines and colours – It is clear that motifs, recognizable objects in the painting, must, in our world of class conflict redeem the most diverse perceptions – profiteer – lackeys – 'differently' – as fits the thing - 'Master'- 'I am mastering'-   'With our tube of oils and our pencils, we can only reproduce colours and lines of the things, nothing more.' -  Nor should you say: 'There is much good in art which is not understood in its own time.' – Man in our times has been a wolf to other men and to say then: 'This will not be bought in our time' – Only the wolves have money to buy paintings in our times – Our paintings will contribute to seeing that it will not be.

Thesis Statement of the Essay: It is clear that motifs, recognizable objects in the painting, must, in our world of class conflict redeem the most diverse perceptions.


Mapping of the essay

Bertolt Brecht, "Popularity and Realism"


Paragraph I


Topic Sentence: Whoever looks for slogans to apply to contemporary German literature, must bear in mind that anything that aspires to be called literature is printed exclusively abroad and can almost exclusively be read only abroad.


 Popular as applied to literature - curious connotation - the prevailing aesthetic, the price of books and the police have always ensured that there is a considerable distance between writer and people. - Unrealistic, to view the widening of this distance as a purely "external"- upper layers - oppressors and exploiters - bloody battle - an open battle - "public."


Paragraph II


Topic Sentence: The demand for a realistic style of writing can also no longer be so easily dismissed today.


 Ruling classes- in view of the immense suffering of the masses- difficulties of little groups has come to be felt as ridiculous, contemptible.



Paragraph III


Topic Sentence: Therefore it is obvious that one must turn to the people, and now more necessary than ever to speak their language.


Ally against growing barbarism—the people – popular art and realism become natural allies.

- broad working masses- faithful image of life from literature -comprehensible and profitable to them—in other words, popular - The concept of popularity itself is not particularly popular - It is not realistic to believe that it is.


Paragraph IV


Topic Sentence: It is precisely in the so-called poetical forms that "the people" are represented in a superstitious fashion or, better, in a fashion that encourages superstition.


 A remarkable unity -tormenters and tormented, exploiters and exploited, deceivers and deceived - it is by no means a question of the masses of "little" working people in opposition to those above them.


Paragraph V


Topic Sentence: The history of the many deceptions which have been practiced with this concept of the people is a long and complicated one—a history of class struggles


Popular art - art for the broad masses - "the people themselves," the mass of producers who were for so long the object of politics and must now become the subject of politics- powerful institutions, artificially and forcefully gagged by conventions - the concept popular was given an ahistorical, static, undevelopmental stamp.



Paragraph VI


Topic Sentence: Our concept of what is popular refers to a people who not only play a full part in historical development but actively—usurp it, force its pace, determine its direction


 Aggressive concept of what is popular


Paragraph VII


Topic Sentence: Popular means: intelligible to the broad masses, adopting and enriching their forms of expression /assuming their standpoint, confirming and correcting it / representing the most progressive section of the people so that it can assume leadership, and therefore intelligible to other sections of the people as well / relating to traditions and developing them / communicating to that portion of the people which strives for leadership the achievements of the section that at present rules the nation.


Paragraph VIII


Topic Sentence: Now we come to the concept of realism.


Old concept- many people- many ends- cultural heritage by an act of expropriation - not cling to "tried" rules of narrative, venerable literary models, eternal aesthetic laws - we shall use every means, old and new, tried and untried, derived from art and derived from other sources, to render reality to men in a form they can master - literary criteria for realism - "atmosphere"- Our concept of realism must be wide and political, sovereign over all conventions.


Paragraph IX


Topic Sentence: Realistic means: discovering the causal complexes of society / unmasking the prevailing view of things as the view of those who are in power / writing from the standpoint of the class which offers the broadest solutions for the pressing difficulties in which human society is caught up / emphasizing the element of development / making possible the concrete, and making possible abstraction from it.



Paragraph X


Topic Sentence: These are vast precepts and they can be extended.


 Fantasy- originality- humour – invention- not stick to too detailed literary models- rigidly defined modes of narrative.


Paragraph X


Topic Sentence: Realism is not a mere question of form


 Sensuous mode of writing- realistic mode of writing - spiritual life of the characters - spiritual agitation of the heroes - Were we to copy the style of these realists, we would no longer be realists


Paragraph XI


Topic Sentence: For time flows on, and if it did not, it would be a bad prospect for those who do not sit at golden tables.


 Methods become exhausted; stimuli no longer work- Reality- modes of representation- the new comes from the old, but that is why it is new- oppressors do not work in the same way in every epoch.





Paragraph XII


Topic Sentence: Anyone who is not a victim of formalistic prejudices knows that the truth can be suppressed in many ways and must be expressed in many ways.


Paragraph XIII


Topic Sentence: I am speaking from experience when I say that one need not be afraid to produce daring, unusual things for the proletariat so long as they deal with its real situation.


People of culture - connoisseurs of art - "Ordinary people do not understand that." - the people will push these persons impatiently aside and come to a direct understanding with artists - agitprop art was a mine of new artistic methods and modes of expression – spiritual landscapes of bourgeois art - mistake to reject a style of representation because of a few unsuccessful compositions a style which strives, frequently with success, to dig down to the essentials and to make abstraction possible.


Paragraph XIV & XV


Topic Sentence: The criteria for popular art and realism must therefore be chosen both generously and carefully, and not drawn merely from existing realistic works and existing popular works, as often happens, by so doing, one would arrive at formalistic criteria, and at popular art and realism in form only.


Compare the depiction of life in a work of art with the life itself- formalistic procedure - do something for the intelligibility of new works - being popular - becoming popular.






Paragraph XVI


Topic Sentence: If we wish to have a living and combative literature, which is fully engaged with reality and fully grasps reality, a truly popular literature, we must keep step with the rapid development of reality.


Great working masses - industry and brutality of their enemies



Thesis Statement of the Essay: If we wish to have a living and combative literature, which is fully engaged with reality and fully grasps reality, a truly popular literature, we must keep step with the rapid development of reality.



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