The meaning of art explained | Sunday Observer

The meaning of art explained

13 August, 2023

Reviewed by R.S. Karunaratne

Title: Kalawe Theruma Kumakda?
Translator: Senarathna Weerasinghe
Prabha Publishers, Veyangoda
Price: Rs. 2750

Since its first appearance in 1931, Herbert Read’s introduction to the understanding of art has established itself as a classic of its kind. The book provides a basis for the appreciation of paintings, sculpture and art objects of all periods by defining the elements that went into their making.

The book was also a compact survey of the world’s art, from primitive cave drawings to Jackson Pollock. The author explains the persistence of certain principles and aspirations that existed throughout the history of art and summarises the essence of such movements as Gothic, Baroque, Impressionism and Surrealism.

Senarathna Weerasinghe’s Kalawe Theruma Kumakda? is the first authentic Sinhala translation of Herbert Read’s monumental work The Meaning of Art which persuades us to consider fundamental terms such as beauty, harmony and pattern so as to make sure that we use them with precision in our judgments. The author examines the complicated mental processes involved in the contemplation of a work of art.

The word ‘art’ has wide-ranging meanings. It encompasses the use of paintings, drawings and sculpture or represents ideas of beauty. Art also means the ability or skill involved in doing or making something. However, Herbert Read is primarily interested in paintings, drawings and sculpture. Being a serious student of fine arts, the translator is singularly qualified to translate the book which is full of modern concepts.

The book is divided into three segments. The first part deals with definition of art, sense of beauty, art as intuition, classical ideal, art and aesthetics, patterns, empathy, sentimentality and psychological values of art. It provides guidelines for art students and critics with clear explanations of a work of art discussing line, colour, form, unity and structural motives.

The second part of the book deals with primitive art, Bushman paintings, geometrical art, peasant art, the Pyramids, Chinese art, Persian art, Renaissance art, realism, naturalism and landscape paintings.

The author has introduced well-known artists such as William Blake, Turner, Constable, Renoir, Cezanne, van Gogh, Gauguin, Picasso, Salvador Dali and Henry Moore. The third part of the book explains complex theories such as an artist’s point of view, art and society and the ultimate values of art.

The book comes with attractive illustrations, plates and very rare photographs relating to art. What is more, the translator has thought it fit to include a glossary of terms used in art in English and Sinhala. The hard-bound book is bound to be a collector’s item.