Hegel on Fine Art

I am by no means a Hegel expert, but I like this definition he gives of Fine Art in his Introductory Lectures on Aesthetics. When he calls fine art free, I think he means not having a practical purpose but serving deeper and higher and more noble ends: ‘what we mean to consider, is the art which is free in its end as in its means’. In our age of pragmatism and the death of artistic beauty, it is worth revisiting Hegel’s high view of the place of art in our culture and society.

Fine art is not real art till it is in this sense free, and only achieves its highest task when it has taken its place in the same sphere with religion and philosophy, and has become simply a mode of revealing to consciousness and bringing to utterance the Divine Nature, the deepest interests of humanity, and the most comprehensive truths of the mind. It is in works of art that nations have deposited the profoundest intuitions and ideas of their hearts; and fine art is frequently the key – with many nations there is no other – to the understanding of their wisdom and of their religion.

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel