Formalism

A concept associated with modernism, especially by the British critics CLIVE BELL (1881-1964) and ROGER FRY (1886-1934), and the American CLEMENT GREENBERG.

In response to a developing interest in non-European art in the first decades of the 20th century, Fry and Bell attempted to formulate a semi-scientific system in which visual analysis of the formal characteristics of art took precedence over the artist’s intentions and its social function.

Formalist approaches were also applied to post-World War II criticism, particularly by Greenberg, in relation to abstract expressionism. By the 1960s its importance as a critical concept gave way to alternative methodologies.

Formalism may refer to:

  • Form (disambiguation)
  • Formal (disambiguation)
  • Legal formalism, legal positivist view that the substantive justice of a law is a question for the legislature rather than the judiciary
  • Formalism (linguistics)
  • Scientific formalism
  • Formalism (philosophy), that there is no transcendent meaning to a discipline other than the literal content created by a practitioner
    • Religious formalism, an emphasis on the ritual and observance of religion, rather than its meaning.
    • Formalism (philosophy of mathematics), or mathematical formalism, that statements of mathematics and logic can be thought of as statements about the consequences of certain string manipulation rules.
    • Formalism (art), that a work’s artistic value is entirely determined by its form
      • Formalism (music)
      • Formalist film theory, focused on the formal, or technical, elements of a film
      • Formalism (literature)
        • New Formalism, a late-20th century movement in American poetry – sometimes called simply “Formalism”
        • Russian formalism, school of literary criticism in Russia from the 1910s to the 1930s
      • New Formalism (architecture), a mid-20th century architectural style, sometimes abbreviated to Formalism

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