Not Just Art for Art's Sake

The phrase “art for art’s sake” comes from the French “l’art pour l’art,” coined by a French philosopher in the early 19th century.  Although it had slightly different interpretations, “art for art’s sake” represented the idea that art should be valued purely for its aesthetic qualities, separated from any political, social, or moral meanings.  It was a radical idea that challenged stifling moral and societal attitudes of the day. The philosophy applied not only to the visual arts but also to literature, music, performance, and other arts. 

Today, the phrase has evolved into the general idea that art should not serve any purpose beyond itself. Critics of the idea believe that art without purpose or meaning is but an empty shell. There are those who cannot help but to create from a place of deep knowing and truth within themselves that generates inherently meaningful works of art that shows us something about humanity, about life, and about the society we live in.  Aurore Dupin, a 19th century French novelist, wrote, “Art for art’s sake is an empty phrase. Art for the sake of truth…that is the faith I am searching for.” Walk a few steps in these artists’ shoes and discover something new and unfamiliar that you’ve never thought about or experienced.

The MPR Archive contains some content that may be harmful or difficult to view. These and all items across MPR’s history are preserved and made available to the public as a historical record. As a result, some of the materials presented here may reflect outdated, biased, offensive, and possibly violent views and opinions due to pervasive systemic intolerance. In addition, some interviews and recordings relate to violent, triggering, or graphic events which are preserved for their historical significance.

If you discover harmful or offensive language in catalog records and metadata on the Archive Portal, please contact us through the form above. The MPR Archive is committed to using inclusive, antiracist, non-derogatory language when creating catalog records and describing our collections. However, we acknowledge that some of our descriptions contain language that is euphemistic, racist, homophobic, sexist, ableist or that demeans the humanity of the people we describe. We are dedicated to correcting those records as we find them, and we ask you to contact us if you have encountered any harmful language in any of our catalog records.

We acknowledge that we are often describing communities of which we are not a part, and many of these communities are historically marginalized and underrepresented in the archives. We recognize our responsibility to describe our collections and their creators respectfully and carefully. We also recognize that we may sometimes fail and are committed to a process of constant learning, reflection, and improvement.

(This collection was curated by Judy K., Fall 2021 Archives Intern)

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