The social function of art

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Reviews the book, The social function of art by Radhakamal Mukerjee (1948). As implied by the title, the major thesis of this book is that art is intimately related to social values. The author, who is professor of economics and sociology at Lucknow University, India, regards art as an important means of intercultural understanding and urges that art forms be included in any study of the history of civilization or of comparative culture. To understand the art products of a people, we need to know the social backgrounds within which the art forms developed and flourished. Conversely, it is argued that art reveals social values and meanings more clearly than any other cultural product of a people. The author's own preferences in artistic, socio-political, and philosophical matters are made clearly evident throughout the book. The art of different cultures is not only considered in reference to its social background, but it is constantly evaluated in terms of the author's own standard of what is desirable in art. Such a standard inevitably reflects the culture in which it was developed. We thus find that, in all the comparisons made, Indian art consistently rates highest. On the positive side, one of the principal contributions of this book is its repeated emphasis upon the close relationship between the art of a people and other aspects of their culture. The comprehensive coverage of different art forms from many periods, countries, and “schools” of art is also an outstanding feature of the book. Moreover, the author gives a particularly thorough analysis of Indian art and Indian philosophy. This should provide a rich store of information for the social or differential psychologist and should aid in the understanding of other aspects of behavior in the Indian culture. Finally, from a purely artistic standpoint, a special value of this book is to be found in its many charming reproductions of Indian art. These include forty-one illustrations of sculptures and twenty-one of paintings, two of the latter being exquisite full-page color reproductions. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2006 APA, all rights reserved)

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