Transcendentalism and Abuse In Art

newmusicbox November 20, 2007


Self-images based on transcendence can lead to behavior ranging from insensitivity to horrific violence, and that they are often incompatible with empathy. 


Ryan Tanaka has summarized the problem well in his article “Transcendentalism and Materialism: Classical Music and Improvisation in the United States ”:


“For some, the paradoxes engrained within Modernist ideologies would prove itself to be

too much. Arshile Gorky, a seminal influence on the Abstract Expressionist movement, hanged himself in 1948 after a series of traumatic events, including his wife and children leaving him after seven years of marriage. Jackson Pollack, who was well known for his alcoholism, died in an accident while driving drunk in 1956. [Ed. Note: A young admirer he had recently met was with him and was also killed.]  In 1970, Mark Rothko was found dead in his studio after slashing his veins with a razor blade. According to some of Rothko’s friends, part of the suicide might have been motivated by the fact that he wasn’t able to “cope with the contradiction of being showered with material rewards for works which ‘howled their opposition to bourgeois materialism.’”


Is the image of the artist as transcendentally inspired and internally conflicted changing as modernism declines?  All thoughts are welcome.


William Osborne