Zhijing Wu


While Picasso and Stravinsky are renowned in their respective fields for their primitivism, Adorno’s evaluation of them seems to be in sharp contrast, with one being endorsed and the other repudiated. His criticism of Stravinsky, in particular, has been under attack as well. It is thus necessary to explore the dialectical reasoning and critical engagement underlying Adorno’s antithetical judgement as well as its justification. Based on the dialectic of enlightenment, Adorno regards Picasso’s primitivism as a strong return of the ugly in modern art, which can be traced to the primitive fear. It is also regarded as a critique of enlightenment as well as an inherent need for the spiritualization of art and artistic autonomy. In contrast, regarding the primitive elements and expression of ugliness and discord in Stravinsky’s art, Adorno denounces them as regressive, a fabrication of new myths, and even complicit with fascist ideology. Such a view is relevant to Adorno’s critique of the collective unconscious in psychoanalysis and authenticity in phenomenology, an extension of his critique of identity in art. In contrast to his positive evaluation of Picasso, Adorno’s negation of Stravinsky should not be regarded as mere denigration and demonization. The alienation and falsehood expressed in Stravinsky’s primitivist music is indeed avant-garde as its truth content. Adorno’s “negation” of Stravinsky, therefore, should also be considered as dialectical.


Adorno, Picasso, Stravinsky, primitivism, avant-garde

First Page


Last Page