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Art Philosophy

( Originally Published Early 1900's )



ART.

Nature made human, or nature re-made by the human mind, is, of course, a very broad definition of art—one that scarcely begins to suggest all that is needed for a full under-standing of the subject. But it is one that all can accept, and therefore it will serve as a starting-point for what is to follow.—A rt in Theory, I.

ART, Aesthetic (see also 'ESTHETICS, MEANING OF).

-Aesthetic Art is the use of natural forms that seem beautiful for the expression of human thoughts and emotions; or, as we may say, it is natural beauty adapted to the formulation of human sentiment. Notes Taken in a Lecture.

AEsthetic art, when possessed of the finest and highest qualities, from its first conception in the mind to its last constructive touch in the product, is a result of a man's imagination giving audible or visible embodiment to his thoughts or emotions by representing them in a form traceable to material or human nature, which form attracts him on account of its beauty, and is selected and elaborated by him into an artistic product in accordance with the imaginative exercise of comparison or of association, modified, when necessary, so as to meet the requirements of factors which can be compared or associated in only a partial degree.—The Essentials of 'Esthetics, XVIII.

ART, ITS GENERAL EFFECTIVENESS.

Other products of men, products that are not distinctively works of arts, sometimes have marvellous effects. A machine, a galvanic battery, can electrify a body just bereft of life into movements for a moment almost deceiving the senses into surmising life's return. But what are such effects to those of art? men ask. What else but it can put such spirit into matter which never yet had life that the vitality can remain forever?—More than this, what else can reach outside the forms in which it is embodied, and electrify all beings that have souls? And when one yields to arts of this kind, the highest homage that can be bestowed upon the products of intelligence and skill, to himself, at least, he seems to do so, recognizing not alone that the finest and most distinctive qualities of mind have been expended on them; not alone that they have issued from an intellect exerting all its power, throned in the regal right of all its functions; not alone that they have involved activities of mind at the sources of the useful and of the ornamental arts combined. But he does so, because he feels that such activities, when exercised conjointly, adjusting thought to form and form to thought, necessitate, even aside from any other consideration, a quality of action that is not the same as that manifested by either of these activities, when not combined. Gunpowder and a match give neither of the two, nor both. No wonder then that mental possibilities, united as in art, suggest a force and brilliancy different in kind from that exhibited in any other sphere. "I tell you," said King Henry VIII. to a nobleman who had brought him an accusation against the painter Holbein, "I tell you, of seven peasants I can make as many lords, but of seven lords I could not make one Holbein."—Art in Theory, VII.

ART, ITS HUMANIZING EFFECTS (see under CULTURE).

What a rebuke to the bigotry and the cruelty of the Middle Ages are the countless products of the arts of those periods, pleading constantly to the eye against the savage customs of the times for the sweet but little-practised virtues of justice and charity! Within our own century, too, notwithstanding the traditions of society, the state, and the church, which have often exerted all their powers to up-hold and perpetuate slavery, aristocracy, and sectarianism, recall how the modern novel chiefly, but assisted largely by the modern picture, has not only changed the whole trend of the world's thought with reference to these systems, but has contributed, more, perhaps, than any other single cause, to the practical reorganization of them, in accordance with the dictates of enlightened intelligence.—The Representative Significance of Form, XI.

ART VS. NATURE.

In the degree in which significance is thus introduced into a painting, it necessarily calls attention to something that could not be suggested by the objects if depicted merely as they exist in nature. This something is an effect of rearrangement in accordance with a mental purpose. The objects as reproduced in art are thus made representative of the artist, of man; and, therefore, it is that, in a true sense, the result may be said to belong to the humanities. If we could imagine a picture in which the imitation was so accurate that no one could tell the difference between it and nature, we should have a result that, on the surface would not reveal itself to be the product of a man. The effect would be indistinguishable from that of nature. But art is different from nature; and, interesting and desirable as is success in imitation, clever deception is not synonymous with artistic skill. It must not be forgotten that, beyond imitation, and not at all interfering with it, something else needs to be superimposed before the art-product can be crowned with that which is indicative of its having a right to the highest rank. Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture as Representative Arts, XIV.

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