Reference Entry

Plekhanov, Georgy

V. S. Turchin

in Oxford Art Online

ISBN: 9780192807007
Published online January 2003 | e-ISBN: 9781884446054 | DOI:
Plekhanov, Georgy

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(b Gudalovka, nr Lipetsk, Dec 11, 1856; d Terioka, nr Petrograd [now St Petersburg], May 30, 1918).

Russian philosopher and theorist. His grasp of Marxist dialectic made his works useful in the ideological battle with enemies both within and outside the Russian Social Democratic Party. This was perfectly understood by Lenin, who maintained a working relationship with Plekhanov from 1895 until 1903. Plekhanov’s disbelief in the victory of the proletariat compelled him to diverge from Lenin, who nevertheless continued to recommend Plekhanov’s works. Plekhanov paid considerable attention to questions of aesthetics. His view was that the scientific theory of aesthetics should develop on the basis of a ‘materialist understanding of history’. He suggested that art is born of people’s labour and that an aesthetic sense develops out of practical experience in the course of social development. At the same time he criticized all other theories about the origins of art. While not denying the individuality of the artist, mainly expressed in the treatment of form, he suggested that the content of art is the result of the differences in consciousness of distinct social classes. He was critical of contemporary art, considering it to be, with rare exceptions, ‘bourgeois’. For Plekhanov, quality was a matter of moral and social principles, which led him to divide creative work into the ‘artistic’ and the ‘intellectual’....

Reference Entry.  245 words. 

Subjects: History of Art ; 19th-Century Art

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