The Clare Spark Blog

March 22, 2013

“Traditionalists” on the culture front


Kinkade “Sunrise”

[This is the second blog that mentions Andrew Klavan. See part one of this series here:]

As if the “culture wars” had not already sown enough confusion and polarization, some “traditionalists” are now encouraging right-thinking conservatives to make popular art that would challenge what is seen as the Hollywood monopoly on popular entertainment—a mass culture with way too much sex and not enough religion. Some warriors are humorously grotesque, for instance Bill O’Reilly’s offensive on behalf of the Easter Bunny. But others on the right participate in this war against “secular progressives” while others scan high culture for salutary examples with potential to heal a sick “body politic.”  For instance, Andrew Klavan (a convert to Christianity, and an ex-liberal as well, see, who writes popular mysteries, also writes on culture regularly for Pajamas Media. Klavan deplores what he calls “moral relativism,” preferring Immanuel Kant, the ethical universalist, over godless Nietzschean Supermen and the dread (and misconstrued) “deconstructionists” whom he links to Nazism. (See his talk of March 18, 2013 at the David Horowitz Freedom Center:

In the high Renaissance, great artists limited their subject matter to either religious art or to naked goddesses that pleased the propensities of aristocratic patrons. Recall too that Shakespeare was a Catholic, an anti-puritan, and a proponent of the organic society.  The Reformation, then the Enlightenment, began the long road to (partial) independence for artists, and a freer choice of subject matter and (subtly limited) freedom of thought and expression.

It is my own view that any repressed human being will be unable to make anything that passes for “modern” art, and that the traditionalist artists and illustrators (like Thomas Kinkade or Andrew Wyeth that seemingly upheld either “Christian” (Kinkade) or rural values (Wyeth) may be popular among older conservatives and even among liberals nostalgic for representation, but in this age of mass media with its celebration of youth culture, the call for more conservative artists and writers will find few patrons to subsidize their neo-“puritanism” except among themselves. But then today’s “culture warriors” define themselves against “modernity” and the dissenting individual, even as they protest groupiness–those notions such as multiculturalism that are collectivist in nature. For many “libertarians” (Klavan), the goal in “speaking truth to power” is to demolish Big Government, not to criticize authoritarian institutions, whether these appear at the national, local or state level, let alone within the family. (Even moderates may call for a revitalized mass culture: see

Easter Bunny

Easter Bunny

We are all anticapitalists now. Modernism in the arts participated in the degeneration narrative, for these confusingly named “modernists,” the big corporation and technological pseudo-progress were agents of decadence, producing seductive consumer goods that vitiated class consciousness.  Along with celebrities, movie stars, and journalists, were the mobs unleashed by industrial capitalism, the New Woman, and the international Jewish conspiracy. Cain’s cities therefore were the site of hyper-sexuality, homosexuality, and all nervous anxieties, to be cured by a return to Nature and/or to order and anti-secular religion. The path to neoclassical safety would be mapped by primitivists and/or neo-medievalists from Left to Right seeking to renew paternal authority in the family. (On the dangers of cities see


Andrew Wyeth “Spring” (1978)


  1. […] Personally, I remain fond of Freudian concepts such as the distinction between neurotic vs. objective anxiety, the ambivalence inside ourselves in our primary attachments to parents, siblings, and other love-hate objects, a subject developed by such as John Bowlby and other attachment-theorists. And without understanding regression, we are helpless in the face of fairy tales, Oscars weekend, pornography, and popular culture in general (See But I am not so fond of Peter Gay, who failed to interrogate his own class position/careerism in writing this supposedly authoritative, no-holds-barred biography, intended to instruct a crossover readership in the life of Freud and of his polymorphous perverse sex-obsessed (?)  followers, modernist followers who are leading us into decadence and the abyss (see […]

    Pingback by Peter Gay’s “Freud” | YDS: The Clare Spark Blog — July 18, 2013 @ 8:42 pm | Reply

  2. I absolutely agree that an intentional effort by conservative or traditionalist artists is bound to fail and tends only to produce a shallow didacticism that no one beyond a certain age can seriously embrace. But I don’t think that means there cannot be a traditionalist/right leaning response to the problems of our age. I’m a practicing artist with a conservative/traditionalist mindset) and have been looking at this question for some time,. Unfortunately, I’m no aesthetic genius, and my process from ideation to finished work is frustratingly s . .l . . o. . .w. At this point I’m still working on gaining technical competence sufficient to the potential work. When I do free-associate images, I find contemporary elements appear unintentionally. I’ve resigned myself to the realization that as an artist, I’m a creature of my culture, even though I deeply suspect, and maybe even resent it.

    Another problem is that while an artist may value integrity, compassion, entrepreneurship, honor, and a respect for legitimate authority (hallmarks of a traditionalist worldview), and produce works inspired by those values, those on the avant-garde left tend to exert a large degree of control over how those images are interpreted.

    The best advice that I ever got (and which I repeat to my students) is to do the good work your life demands, and let the culture sort it out after you’re done.

    What I think we lack are not necessarily good artists willing to stand on the traditionalist side, but a cadre of thinkers who value and can interpret the truly conservative elements present in even the most transgressive contemporary artwork. After all, the simple act of joining the dialogue comes down to us as a time-honored tradition, and the place of the artist in that dialogue originates from pre-Kantian, maybe even pre-renaissance historical sources.

    It seems to me that even to call oneself an artist today in the west is to implicitly assume a radically conservative worldview at the most basic of levels.


    Comment by Terbreugghen — March 31, 2013 @ 8:58 pm | Reply

    • I think that the thrust of my own thinking was that to limit one’s imagination in any way is death to art. Repressed persons cannot make art. That is why I support, without reservation, the marketplace of ideas and prefer to be known as a classical liberal, with strong protective feelings for all those who must work for a living.

      Comment by clarespark — March 31, 2013 @ 9:03 pm | Reply

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