Against Affective Formalism: Matisse, Bergson, Modernism by Todd CronanAgainst Affective Formalism: Matisse, Bergson, Modernism by Todd Cronan

Against Affective Formalism: Matisse, Bergson, Modernism

byTodd Cronan

Paperback | April 1, 2014

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For nearly fifty years the humanities have been confined by a series of critiques: of the subject, of representation, of the visual, of modernism, of autonomy, of intention, of art itself. In their place various “materialities” have appeared: signs, identities, bodies, history, and works. Against Affective Formalism challenges these orthodoxies.

“What I am after, above all, is expression,” Henri Matisse declared. Matisse believed that through the careful arrangement of line and color he could transmit his feelings directly to the minds and bodies of his viewers. Yet Matisse continually struggled with the reality that his feelings were misunderstood—or simply ignored—by viewers of his art. Matisse oscillates between a desire for expressive command over the viewer and a sense of the impossibility of making himself known.

Against Affective Formalism confronts modernism’s dissatisfactions with representation. As Todd Cronan explains, a central tenet of modernist thought turns on the effort to overcome representation in the name of something more explicit in its capacity to generate bodily or affective experience. Henri Bergson was one of the most influential advocates of the antirepresentational impulse; his novel theories of memory and freedom gripped a generation of writers, philosophers, psychologists, and artists. Matisse and Bergson worked within and against the context of form and expression that remains in force today.

Writing in opposition to prevailing theories and assumptions about the relation of intention and form—most of which accept the “death of the author” as a basic fact of interpretation—Cronan argues that the beholder’s response to art, outside a framework of intentionality, is irrelevant to a work’s meaning. Intentions are not a matter of method at all: no letter, biography, document, archive, or key will recover an intention. What matters is that intentions make works of art different from objects in the world.

Todd Cronan is assistant professor of art history at Emory University.
Title:Against Affective Formalism: Matisse, Bergson, ModernismFormat:PaperbackDimensions:336 pages, 10 × 7 × 1.1 inPublished:April 1, 2014Publisher:University of Minnesota PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0816676038

ISBN - 13:9780816676033


Table of Contents



List of Illustrations

Introduction: Modernism against Representation

1. Painting as Affect Machine

2. Freedom and Memory: Bergson’s Theory of Hypnotic Agency

3. The Influence of Others: Matisse and Personnalité

4. Matisse and Mimesis

Conclusion. From Art to Object: The Case of Paul Valéry



Editorial Reviews

"Matisse knows that sensations belong to - or alas have been detached from - particular human occasions, ways of being, forms of life. But the exacerbation of colour in Matisse speaks, dialectically, to the lack of particularity that makes us 'modern'. This to and fro of contraries is dealt with powerfully in a new book by Todd Cronan, Against Affective Formalism: Matisse, Bergson, Modernism. Colour, for Matisse - pure sensation, the stuff of the senses - will make, will be, a form of life. And at the same time it will enact the extremity - the uncanniness - of the wish."- T. J. Clark, "The Urge to Strangle," The London Review of Books