How important is intent in art?

Vincent Van Gogh, Wheatfield with Crows

Vincent Van Gogh, Wheatfield with Crows


These musings were initiated, in part, by the article 5 Insane Theories That Change How You See Great Works Of Art on Cracked.com.

How important is intent in art?  Are the striking visuals of Van Gogh’s paintings any less meaningful were we to discover he was colorblind?  Do the creations of an autistic individual count for less, simply because their creator cannot express meaning in a way most of us can comprehend?  There is no indication that Fernando Pessoa ever intended for his great trunk full of seemingly random musings to be seen by outside eyes, yet assembled posthumously as The Book of Disquiet, they are his most well-known and enduring work.

Image by Tom Foot

Image by Tom Foot


Visual works crafted by non-human animals are generally controversial in the pretentious art world, largely because we cannot ask their creators, “But, what did you mean by that?”  The works of street artist Mr. Brainwash are often criticized by his detractors as uninspired, devoid of originality, the products of mimicry and rote repetition, largely due to a perceived lack of depth that comes across in his dialogue.  But, does this make work from either of these worlds any less expressive, any less worthy of study or appreciation?

Who besides the artist themselves can pretend to know the mental processes involved in the creation of a visual or aural work?  Is specificity of intent or purpose even a prerequisite — or should it be — for a thing to be worthy of appreciation as a piece of “art”?

Artwork by Sam Kieth (yes, the comic book artist)

Artwork by Sam Kieth (yes, the comic book artist)


© Ryan Scott Sanders and Dharma and Belligerence: Mad Rants from a Free-Range Buddhist Hooligan, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Ryan Scott Sanders and Dharma and Belligerence: Mad Rants from a Free-Range Buddhist Hooligan with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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