I see what you mean. I think we are talking about slightly different approaches.
For the reasons you give I don't believe that art necessarily has to be separated from the artist. If I find something worthwhile in a work of art despite it being produced by an artist whose worldview is alien to my own then it tells me that the artist in question has an especial ability to communicate; a level of excellence in their personal artistic approach that stands above moral judgement and has to be respected no matter what. And if the price of an excellent artistic experience is temporary emotional complicity then so be it.
Graveland: of course, but at the same time no analysis of an artist and their work is complete without a good understanding of intention, context and history of that artist and their outlook re: their art.
As Lzdking suggests, it can be argued that great art can be produced by those we find morally questionable, but it depends: is something great art if you can divorce it entirely from its creator? Surely their intention and their outlook is vital to a work's constitution and worth? I can take something beautiful or thrilling from a piece of art, and I can know the creator was someone I might despise, and it works. But is it right to do such a thing, when their beauty, their thrill, their 'good', might be so alien to mine? Surely a work where the artist is more sympathetic to you is a 'better' piece of work? Is aestheticism the opposite to morality?
The Nazis are a really difficult case: German romanticism in the widest possible sense, had a lot to offer us. Sadly, the Nazis used a lot of it.
I would say, however, that it's possible for an artist to admire Romanticism, folklore, mythology, willpower and the rest, without using Nazi iconography et al - if they so wished.
I've found that I seem to be able to brush aside these issues with greater ease than most. I suppose that I don't suffer through cognitive dissonance as much as some do. If I were only able to draw value from art produced by artists whose beliefs overlapped with my own then I expect I would feel existentially kitsch, so to speak.
You are suggesting a broader conception of difference between artist and 'consumer' (urgh). A great artist is one that makes you feel and 'see' things that you have no experience of, or little knowledge about, or, perhaps, cannot articulate at all. I quite agree with you. I like reading Arthur Koestler even though he was an absolute bastard to women. You use the word 'alien' - and that is morally neutral, to me, so I can accept it.
If, however, Koestler had been a Nazi, I wouldn't feel so happy about it - and I have qualms anyway. I think my conception focuses more on the political (in this discussion at hand: more broadly I might be closer to your opinion, perhaps). If I know someone is venerating Nazi ideals, for example, I'm not going to hop on board - I can't. I don't think the art would entice me against my will - I have never felt that happen. There has to be an emotional and/or intellectual acceptance of the art, and that is very open, very willing to give itself, but it will stop dead at anything I consider deeply immoral, and I mean immoral in the strictest terms (not Mary Whitehouse et al). If I know that Wagner, on the other hand, is not entirely sympathetic to me but has been sometimes co-opted by scum, it doesn't ruin the opening of Das Rheingold, for instance.
It's also a question of the historical meaning of art (see Socialist Realism, Nazi art. I don't think Koestler would have been as a good a [political] writer if he had been a Nazi, bla bla bla), but that's a different area.
Lzd - could you give some examples of artists you can get on with, even when you dislike much about them? I'd be interested to see, as it'd help ascertain whether we are talking from two ends of the same book, or two different books entirely!
Edited by RedSparrows at 14:06:34 29-04-2013