The writings of Catholic philosopher and refugee from Nazi Germany Dietrich von Hildebrand have long been a touchstone for sacred artist Gwyneth Thompson-Briggs. Last spring she and her husband Andrew read Dietrich von Hildebrand’s two-volume Aesthetics, recently translated and published for the first time in English by the Hildebrand Project.
The son of sculptor Adolf von Hildebrand, Dietrich grew up in a supremely artistic household in the supremely artistic milieu of fin-de-siècle Florence. As a philosopher, Hildebrand focused largely on ethics, but his Aesthetics, written late in left and never perfected, amount to 1,000 pages in translation.
Andrew wrote a review of both volumes, “Good Taste May Save the World,” for The University Bookman, the book review founded by Russell Kirk in 1960 and published by the Russell Kirk Center. Here are some excerpts:
Formation in beauty requires theoretical study, but also immersion in beautiful things. For this, one needs guides who not only recognize that beauty is important, but who also have good taste. This quality—partly a gift, partly cultivated—is very much on display in the Aesthetics of Dietrich von Hildebrand (1889–1977) . . .
For Hildebrand, perception as such is not yet aesthetic, and we must perceive that something is true or good before we can perceive that it is also beautiful. . .
If Hildebrand is correct, the beauty of holiness is not perceptible to the unbeliever. The beauty of art is.
Read the whole review at The University Bookman.
Hildebrand’s Aesthetics also inspired Andrew to write an essay, “Two Hundred Years of Strangulation: Reviving Form in a Formless Age,” published on OnePeterFive. Here are some excerpts:
[Hildebrand’s] Aesthetics are valuable not only because of the ideas he expresses, but also because of the judgments he renders on cultural artifacts and because of his recollections of beautiful, lost situations. . .
These recollections shine against the ugliness of modern life, reminding us of the beauty of the old world. By reminding us of desirable lost things, they enable their retrieval at some wiser moment — as the ball scene in Visconti’s The Leopard may serve as the exemplar for a new ball when the culture has recovered sufficiently to mount a ball again. . .
Authentic cultural objects do not appear out of nothing like the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey or the Nabisco products that litter the Cambodian tributaries of the Mekong. Authentic cultural objects emerge from their own time and place like children: begotten, not made. Hildebrand calls this “organic rootedness.”
Read the whole essay at OnePeterFive.