Formalism

An aesthetic and critical theory of art which places emphasis on form — the structural qualities instead of either content (sometimes called literal or allegorical qualities) or contextual qualities. According to this point of view, the most important thing about a work of art is the effective organization of the elements of art through the use of the principles of design. Also known as structuralism, in the 1960s and early 1970s formalism was so entrenched as the most powerful critical approach, that artists frequently produced works that were particularly attentive to it, and even now some think of modernism as more or less synonymous with formalism. Critic Clement Greenberg (see flat) is frequently cited as an instigating force, but formalism can be traced back through many artists, including J. A. M. Whistler (American, 1834-1903. See aestheticism, art for art's sake, and fin de siècle) to the philosopher Immanuel Kant. (Artlex.com)

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