Chapter 13. "Art Expresses the Universal" by Friedrich Wilhelm von Schelling

Table of Contents
Ideas of Interest from Über das Verhältnis der bildenden Künste zu der Natur
The Reading Selection from Über das Verhältnis der bildenden Künste zu der Natur
Related Ideas
Topics Worth Investigating

Friedrich Wilhelm von Schelling Projekt Gutenberg-DE

About the author …

Friedrich Schelling (1775-1854), born in Baden-Würtenberg, and as a wunderkind studied at the University of Tübingen at the age of 15. During the course of his life he was a popular lecturer and became acquainted with most of the major philosophers in Germany at that time including Höderlin, Schiller, Fichte, and Hegel. Schelling is credited with originating Naturphilosophie— the doctrine that all of nature is ultimately derived from one initial force or principle. He intuited that light, heat, magnetism, and electricity were all aspects of the same original force. Schelling's philosophy views nature in process—the Absolute is seen as composed of the opposites of nature (objectivity) and Universal Spirit (which can only be known through artistic creation). His philosophy is sometimes labeled an "æsthetic idealism," since art is, for Schelling, the objective rendering of subjectivity.

About the work …

Schelling rejects the imitation theory of art in his Über das Verhältnis der bildenden Künste zu der Natur,[1] Instead, he believes art reveals a "higher truth" than what is actual. Artistic activity, for Schelling is both an unconscious and a conscious creation of a product which synthesizes Self with nature. In other words, a work of art is the objectification of mental activity and consequently reflects the unity of unconscious and conscious, the identity of the real and the idea, and, of course, the objective and the subjective. This identification of subject and object is the essence or finite manifestation, symbolically realized, of the infinite Absolute, itself. Thus, the world of art may be seen as world of symbols, and artistic symbols are neither universal nor particular but, he argues, both at the same time. In the same vein, Schelling held that the Absolute is "indifferently" both real and ideal.

Ideas of Interest from Über das Verhältnis der bildenden Künste zu der Natur

  1. On what basis does Schelling reject the imitation theory of art?

  2. What does Schelling mean by "the creative principle in the forms of things"?

  3. Explain the reasoning leading to Schelling's conclusion that art represents what is actual in nature, but does not imitate the form of nature.

  4. Characterize what Schelling means by the essence, idea, or the "indwelling sense of nature" in beautiful works of art.

  5. Why does Schelling believe that the works of art are appreciated independently of time—in a kind of "eternal now"?

  6. Explain what Schelling means by "character" in art.

  7. Is the soul in nature an impersonal ego, according to Schelling? What does Schelling say about the soul of the artist?

  8. Explain Schelling's evolution of gradation in art from mythology to sculpture and finally to painting in terms of grace and the forces of soul and nature.



Friedrich Wilhelm von Schelling. Über das Verhältnis der bildenden Künste zu der Natur. In J.E. Cabot. The German Classics. New York: German Publication Society. 1913.