Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Author's Department


First Advisor

Lynn E. Trank


Three essays make up the main body of the thesis. The essays, “Can Art Really Be Real?,” “The Artist's Role” and “The Artist's Role in Society, Part II; Silence,” each deal with specific subjects which when combined, explain the thesis' title, The Reality of Art.

The first essay, “Can Art Really Be Real?” is an attempt to clarify what is real from what is unreal in art. The essay deals first with representational realism (such as is found in the work of Thomas Eakins), and defines artists who strive for exact renderings of objects as being illusionistic and not realistic. They create an illusion of reality but not reality.

The importance of the artwork being a reality in itself is stressed. Artists such as Ad Reinhardt, Jasper Johns, Frank Stella and Joseph Beuys, are used to illustrate this point of the artwork being an object. Importance is also placed upon the idea that neither abstract or representational art is any more real than the other, but that both must create a new reality for the viewer. This new reality is stressed in the last paragraph of the essay, as an artwork which in some way presents the public with a novel way of comprehending their visual surroundings.

The second essay, “The Role of the Artist,” is a search for the artist's place in society. Society's attitude towards the artist, as well as the artist's attitude towards society, makes up the main thrust of the essay.

The artist who is aloof from the populace is regarded as being useless to society, thereby endangering his role in that society. But the artist who attempts to please and entertain the public is regarded as being no less dangerous. The artist's role is held to be that of an educator, one who attempts to spur society towards visual awareness. He cannot achieve this by divorcing himself from society, or by pleasing society, but only by working with the public and challenging them to raise themselves up to the artist's vision, instead of the artist lowering himself to the vision of the populace.

The third and final essay is an extension of the second essay. “The Role of the Artist, Part II: Silence,” deals with the artist's obligation towards the education of society. His role as mystic or medium is stressed as is his obligation of silence. This obligation is towards the viewer, who often seeks for explanations from the artist, to expedite his understanding. This is viewed as being detrimental to the total effect of the work, depriving the viewer of his own interpretation by substituting the artist's. This eliminates the element of creative thinking, which is viewed as being of primary importance to visual awareness and communication.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.