"When an art reaches its peak..."

“When an art reaches its peak, it soon dies.”

This is a provocative quote I read some time ago and I have been thinking about it ever since. I don’t remember who wrote it and I don’t think the author of the quote is particularly well known.

It does seem that art has its own life-cycle, with different stages of growth. If an artists brings some particular style to explosive new heights, what else is there left to do after? For example, after Beethoven composed his 9th symphony, many composers believed it could not be topped and chose not to work in that form until later. Or, to use an example closer to home, American filmmaking has never recaptured the intensity and expression of the late 60’s, early 70’s-when many of our most cherished movies were made.

I am not implying i agree with the quote 100 percent, but I think it is a fascinating idea for debate.

Would any art history buffs, in particular, care to concur or demur?

That would say that sculpting the human figure died out with ancient Greece?

Art doesn’t die.
As is the case with everything, artforms become example and inspiration for the future generations.
Even when an artist performs in clear opposite with how something was done before, instead of building on it, he is influenced by the example he denounces in his own expressions.

So no, I would never agree with anyone who declare no matter which artform to have died.

Salaam. A.

Well, if it reaches it´s peak then it can progress further, according to the phrase, it´s like saying, after you reach a mountain peak you can´t climb higher. It´s called rethoric. :stuck_out_tongue:
Art is not linear, it evolves endlessly and in unforseeable paths.

Correction, instead of “Well, if it reaches it´s peak then it can progress further” should said “Well, if it reaches it´s peak then it CAN´T progress further”


Art has no intrinsic essence. Art has only a culture-derived measure of worth . As such it is subjective to an ever evolving set of parameters.

Art doesn’t “progress”, Art only “serves”.

I’m a firm believer in the cyclic nature of things. That includes art. Reactions to existing rules determine new rules which are then reacted to, etc., etc. Almost all art forms (painting, sculpture, architecture, fashion, music, literature, even history) exhibit this pattern. What goes around comes around. Over and over.

There is one saving grace to this, though. Nothing ever gets back to exactly the same place. There’s always a new wrinkle to the corresponding place on the cycle.

The cyclic nature of reality helps some to predict the next fad or phase. It just requires a bit of study of those patterns that repeat so well to gain that insight.

So, what would be an example of a “dead” art?

(Linkletter, Garfunkel, and Bell are all still kickin’.)



I concur. There are many examples.

As you say, classical music composition has deteriorated since the 18th and 19th centuries. No 20th century composer can compare to Beethoven, Bach, Mozart, Brahms, Schubert, Wagner,… American musical comedy reached a peak in the 1940’s and 1050’s. New musicals don’t remotely match up to Rogers and Hammerstein, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Frank Loesser, etc. Opera reached a peak in the 19th century. To my taste, today’s poetry doesn’t remotely compare with 19th century poetry.

I don’t know why these arts have deteriorated. One theory was propounded in an old science fiction book by Frederik Pohl & Cyril M. Kornbluth. I think it was The Space Merchants. They hypothesized that today’s most talented artists were sidetracked into producing advertisements. They may be right. Many advertisements show more talent than today’s arts.

To my taste, 19th century poetry doestn’ remotely compare with 17th, while 20th century poetry is better than 19th.

In any case, what time frame are you claiming as the “peak” for poetry, and are you saying poetry is “dead”?


Some people in art schools, some of the teachers and students, go around saying that “painting is dead”.

The ironic thing is that in our current culture, as soon as some new twist comes up you immediately have 500 people copying it (anybody wanna see a show about makeovers? remodeling? homosexuals?). So nowadays nothing can stay “alive”, that is fresh-new-exciting, for long.

Maybe for the next new twist we’ll be redefining what “dead” and “alive” mean.

I don’t know enough about the history of poetry to say when the peak was. I do know that New Jersey recently did away the position of state poet laureate, because the incumbant, Amiri Baraka, was an anti-semite. Aside from his bigotry, the bits of his poetry that I saw were terrible. They didn’t even deserve to be called “poetry.” Since Baraka is considered one of the country’s leading poets, I would have to suspect that poetry might be in bad shape today.

Politicians (the ones giving out titles like “Poet Laureate”) might consider LeRoi to be a leading poet. Poets of my acquaintance consider him a hack.

I think poets, and readers of poetry, have a better grasp of good poetry than politicians do.


December, I would have to suspect that you´re not reading much modern poetry this days. :wink:
I love 19th century poetry and literature, but you can`t expect poets and writers to keep writing with the same style for 3 centuries, at som point new ideas emerge and different trends are exploited; it would be very boring to only have Byron impersonators and Wordsworth clones this days. You may not dig into some styles, but that doesn´t mean that by and large poetry went down the gutter.