chapter  12
16 Pages

Freedom and Formula: An Inter-Cultural Problem of Western and Japanese Aesthetics

ByPeter Leech

A striking observation of the work of the New York School painters appeared in Paris early in 1959. In a review for Le Monde of the international touring exhibition, The New American Painting, the great French art historian and critic Andre´ Chastel wrote that ‘We are dealing with a kind of painting that seems to refuse any frame, any imprisonment; which no longer takes anything into consideration. And which will have the greater difficulties growing old.’2 Though not wholly disdainful of the work of the American painters – the review is curiously equivocal, with several instances of what Porter McCray referred to as European ‘back-handed compliments’3 – it is a plausible speculation that Chastel was, in the remark just cited, expressing a philosophical instinct over a profound and persistent aesthetic problem. The instinct, indeed, has no less august origin than Immanuel Kant’s remark in the Critique of Judgement (1790) that ‘not a few leaders of a newer school believe that the best way to promote a free art is to sweep away all restraint, and convert it from labour into mere play.’4