L’art pour l’art.
Why is art here? For the sake of the good, the true, and the beautiful? For its own sake? Victor Cousin, attributed with the first use of the phrase, explains it thus, “We must have religion for religion’s sake, morality for morality’s sake, as with art for art’s sake…the beautiful cannot be the way to what is useful, or to what is good, or to what is holy; it leads only to itself.”
Art history is the foundation on which the artist stands, whether or not he or she likes it. Not contained by the walls of museums, art history fills our visually based culture. It will only benefit one to learn to understand art history, as it is as present at the written word. Within its line and contrast, it holds not the history of art, but history through art. It is a record keeper of world events, philosophy, religion, politics, deaths, births, culture, and fashion. George Sand disagrees with Cousin, writing to a friend, “Art for art’s sake is an empty phrase. Art for the sake of the true, art for the sake of the good and the beautiful, that is the faith I am searching for.” Whether you agree with Cousin or Sand as to its purpose, the by-products of art include the good, true, and beautiful. For art!