An Outline of Pasteur’s The Concept of Art

Art is a broad spectrum of human activities including visual art, literature, music, dance, cuisine, and architectural creation. It has existed since the earliest days of recorded history. The word comes from the Greek words years, meaning “skill” and bios, meaning “to shape.” The entire concept of art can be seen as an expression of human creativity, sometimes using tools such as paintbrushes, chalks, and sculptures. The process of creation may be a form of magic, an attempt to create something new and appealing, a means for social expression, or simply a means for observation and enjoyment.


A number of disciplines have attempted to define art. For example, the influential French philosopher Louis Pasteur’s definition of art was framed around the importance of his study of plant and animal anatomy and his theories regarding how they could provide the means for man to perceive the world around him. He argued that art and beauty were closely connected because both were a matter of physical stimuli picked up by the senses. In his view, art had to be a medium for his study of plant and animal physiology and his attempts to explain the variations in behavior based on these two major forms of stimuli.

Many critics have disputed the extent of Pasteur’s involvement with science in his studies of art. According to them, his theories concerning the physical nature of the visual art were too abstract and were in fact mere opinions. Others point out that his focus on the relation between art and the senses in his “The Decay of Lilies” helped him to expand the scope of the definition of art. It was his belief that all art was basically a matter of the ability of the human eye to distinguish one color from another, regardless of their hues of presentation. In this way, his ideas about the relationship between art and science grew to include all forms of art, including sculpture, painting, and music.

Since the turn of the twentieth century, however, Pasteur’s ideas have had some followers who have sought to incorporate some of his scientific concepts into the study of art. One such person is Kenneth Clark, who has come to see the art not as merely an impulse that expresses an individual’s imagination but as a process that can be studied scientifically. According to Clark, art is merely a particular form of communication developed especially by man in order to create a reaction among other people.

According to him, art has two general concepts: one is physical and the other is mental. In his ideas about the physical aspects of art, Pasteur divided art into two general types: real art and imaginary art. Real art is the art that we can see, touch, smell, and taste, while the imaginary art is that art which cannot be seen, touched, smelled, or tasted. In his theory of evolution, he divides art between the various forms and phases of physical culture.

According to him, the real art is the expression of the spiritual truthfulness of life, whereas the imaginary art is an indirect expression of the material culture of the society in which the artist lives. Furthermore, according to him, art exists between the two stages of evolution: between the animal and the human being. Art between the two states is purely physical and serves only to refresh and enliven the mind. On the other hand, art that exists between the animal and man is spiritual and serves as an important factor in the spiritual evolution of man.

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