The book of Daniel Boorstin “The Creators, A History of Heroes of the Imagination” is devoted to the issues of the destiny of the most famous and widely-known creations of the human artistic activity, as well as the role of art in human life in general, the sense of creation in terms of its meaning in history and contemporary reality.
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The first topic to be discussed is the primary opinion of the author about the meaning of the works of art in understanding the history of humanity and the way of thinking, the flow of events it could reflect. The good example chosen by the author is the story about Stonehenge – one of the most remarkable historic monuments of the past situated on the territory of contemporary Great Britain. It was at first considered to belong to the era of the dawn of European history – created by the Mycenae culture. However, the innovative methods of investigation of the historical age of monuments indicated the creation of Stonehenge as long ago as 2000 B.C. The newly discovered truth changed the whole attitude to the subject:
The enduring monuments of primeval architecture, then, were no longer witnesses to the outreaching power of Mycenae. Instead, they revealed man’s irrepressible creative powers everywhere and democratized the history of man the creator (Boorstin, 1993).
From these words it is seen that the power of human creation and art as a type of human activity has no relation to time or space – it is grand and eternal, contradicting with the basic rules and human considerations. Boorstin argues that art is called to conquer time and arises from the wish of man to conquer death and achieve eternal life (Boorstin, 1993).
The author finds the basis for his assumptions in the fact that sculpture was not purely a type of activity for people but the way of expression, a certain ideology, proving the point by many examples – the Greek temples built in strict order as compared to streets of towns built in a disorderly manner to misguide enemies; their attention to exterior features as compared to the Roman obsession with the interior, etc. (Boorstin, 1993).
One more implication of architecture is in its technology revealing the philosophy and culture of the nation, e.g. Western reliance on stone and Eastern worshipping nature thus using wood (Boorstin, 1993).
The history of images in art is also rich and deeply reflected in the religious, philosophical, and cultural profiles of the chronological and territorial type. The author attributes much attention to the history of the evolution of images in the history of the civilization making the astounding discovery that man created something even before he learned to write – this can be witnessed from the ancient statues and miniatures of animals made by pre-historic people found by archeologists (Boorstin, 1993). Later on, the culture that had the heaviest influence on the reproduction of a human being was the Egyptian one; Greeks learned from Egyptians, but in contrast to Egyptians obsessed by statics Greeks were cultivating dynamics. This can be justly explained by the philosophy of developing sports and bodywork for the sake of raising good warriors – thus, Greeks devoted their artistic effort to creating monuments dedicated to the ideal of proportions. The Greek culture became famous for worshipping and idealizing the human body (e.g. the works of Polyctitus) (Boorstin, 1993).
The author also emphasizes the main difference that existed in the Greek and Roman tradition of making human images – while Greeks were concentrated on creating an ideal, Romans sought to create the maximum resemblance with the poser to make him/her eternal in the course of history, thus paying tribute not to the human being in general but particular powerful people of their age.
Religious influence on creating images also proved to be enormous – it is enough to mention the long-lasting tradition in Christianity of avoiding the image of humans in connection with their resemblance to the image of God; Islam, in general, forbids to re-create the human image as pictures are considered sinful in a house (Boorstin, 1993).
Boorstin, Daniel J. (1993). The Creators: A History of Heroes of the Imagination. Vintage, 832 pp.