Art Talk Tuesday - Sentimentality

[sen-tuh-men-tal-i-tee] noun

falsely emotional in a maudlin way [syn: mawkishness] 
extravagant or affected feeling or emotion
induce an emotional response disproportionate to the situation

In the art world sentimental art was not a good way for one's art to be described. Here is a quote that sums up, quite accurately, how the art community views sentimental art.

"....blameworthy because it simplifies the object of our attention. Sentimentality depends upon quick, predictable, and familiar reactions. Such reactions are....shallow, trite, or clichéd, and moreover they become habitual, routinized. Sentimentality makes no demand on us, requires no struggle, involves only a narrow range of feelings, arouses no thought or feeling about the real world, and both contributes to and is supported by a general failure of the imagination. Sentimentality prefers the obvious and avoids the ambiguous. A sentimental response is somehow unsophisticated, unlearned, undisciplined....sentimentality leads us away from active, cognitive engagement with the ambiguities and complexities of the real....toward the over-simplified, the distorted, the falsified, the fantasized, the fictional. Sentimentality encourages complacency....[and] it transforms the aesthetic into the anesthetic." Nick Capasso quotes Deborah Knight http://www.tfaoi.com/aa/5aa/5aa192a.htm

Here are some other words that you might hear someone use when describing sentimental art: sweet, quaint, precious, polite, idealized, nostalgic, cliche, softer emotions, victorian, anti-intellectual, emotional lies, or synthetic emotion.

One such artist in this camp is Norman Rockwell. I happen to like Rockwell.


The Perry Family said...

Does this word have the same application outside of the art world
I hope none of my comments have come across as sentimentality, if they have, better just chalk it up to being uniformed and uneducated in the arts.

Shannon said...

Sometimes the implication is in literary circles but I don't think other than that. I kinda think those people who have never experienced certain levels of familial contentment with any longevity or have been severely disappointed or disillusioned by family tend to believe that any real form sentimentality doesn't exist. I happen to disagree with them. And I like Norman Rockwell.