Creation Ex Nihilo: André Malraux and the Concept of Artistic Creation

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One might naturally suppose that philosophers of art would take a strong interest in the idea of creation in the context of art. In fact, this has often not been the case. In analytic aesthetics, the issue tends to dwell on the sidelines and in continental aesthetics a shadow has sometimes been cast over the topic by the notion of the “death of the author” and by the claim, as Roland Barthes put it, that the author is only ever able to “imitate a gesture that is always anterior, never original”. This paper explains the understanding of artistic creation developed by the French art theorist André Malraux in his well-known book The Voices of Silence. Malraux argues that the true artist is involved in a creative act in the full sense of the term – creation ex nihilo – despite the debt he or she often owes to other artists. The paper also comments briefly on possible reasons why traditional post-Enlightenment aesthetics has said so little about the topic in question.
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