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Artists Vs. Artisans

( Originally Published Early 1900's )



It is wellnigh universally recognized that the poet is not a reporter, nor the painter a photographer, nor any artist at all entitled to the name, a mere copyist. For this reason it is felt that while, in the main, he is a careful observer of outward appearances, he, too, as well as the workman in so-called useful art, must have ability to penetrate in some way to something underlying these; that pathos in ballads, part of the effect of the waves as a whole. This is the condition corresponding to that of music. A little farther inward, the floating ice covers the waves. We see mainly the ice, but it is moving, and its movement indicates that of the water under it. This is the condition found in poetry. Still farther inward, the portions of broken ice, crowded together by the force of the waves, begin to offer manifest resistance. Up to this point one could hardly distinguish from a distance the ice from the waves. Here it becomes almost impossible to confound the two; for at one place the weight on the surface is seen crushing down the surf, and at another the surf is seen breaking through and above the surface. This is the state of things in painting and sculpture. Last of all, at places nearest the shore, the force of the waves seems to be crushed out completely, yet the effects produced by them are abundantly apparent in the great moveless heaps of ice resting against the water-line. This represents the condition in architecture. Let us now notice whether this order of development in the relations existing between the influence from without and the possessions within the mind has any basis in facts; first in physical facts, afterwards in mental facts. To begin with, are there any physical facts which justify us in comparing the action of outer effects upon the mind to that of waves upon something stationary; and if so, is there any reason why these waves, at their greatest, can be represented in music, and, at their least, in architecture? To both these questions we can give an affirmative answer. Physicists tell us that the acoustic nerve is surrounded by a fluid back of the drum of the ear; also that the optic nerve is surrounded by a corresponding humor back of the crystalline lens of the eye. They tell us that when-ever sounds or sights reach intelligence, they are conveyed to it because, as a fact, these nerves are physically shaken through the influence of waves from without which strike the ear drum or the crystalline lens. So much for the first question; now for the second. Physicists tell us also that the waves vibrating to shake the acoustic nerve are so large that, at the least, about sixteen of them, and at the most, about forty thousand, can move in a second of time; but that, on the other hand, the waves shaking the retina are so minute that, at the least, about four hundred and eighty-three trillions, and, at the most, seven hundred and twenty-seven trillions, can move in a second. These assertions indicate that the sensation of being most shaken, shaken by the largest waves, or when the influence has most force, can be represented or communicated better—and any nervous mother with half a dozen small boys will confirm the statement from her own experience—through sound than through sight. Whether we consider quantity or quality, there is more of sound represented in music than in poetry. By consequence, of the two arts, the former represents better the first effect of a motive per se; i. e., the most powerful, the least exhausted effect of any influence from without, considered merely as an influence. Oratory appeals to sight as well as to hearing. For this reason it represents a later effect than poetry. Of those arts which, because they appeal to sight alone, represent effects in sight still later than oratory, painting evidently comes first. It uses more brilliancy and variety of color, necessitating larger vibrations—the largest of all, for in-stance, producing extreme red—and also greater dependence upon everything conditioned directly by influence of this kind than does either sculpture or architecture. Essentials of 'Esthetics, IX.

In its lack of the imitative element, and therefore in having forms that recall nature more by way of association than of comparison, architecture resembles music. Madame de Stael termed it "frozen music"; and with our present view of the subject, we may perceive the appropriateness of her metaphor. In music, the influence coming from without moves so rapidly and freely that, as contrasted with it, the mind is hardly conscious of its own ideas. In architecture, on the contrary, this influence seems so slight that of it the mind is hardly conscious. That which flows in the one art may be said to be congealed in the other, and the artistic representation of each state of consciousness evinces this. The medium of music moves; that of architecture stands. Because of the lack of balance in both arts between the consciousness of the influence from without and that of the ideas within, the connection between influence and ideas is not, in either art, always apparent. Many, in fact, fancy that music represents no ideas, and architecture no influences derived from the forms of nature. But the truth is that, without both arts, the representations of the different phases of consciousness, developing, one after another, as has been shown, would be incomplete. The two arts are expressive respectively of the two extremes of this,—of those misty border lands of apprehension where external influence appears and where it disappears. Between these two extremes, the motive from without and the ideas within are more evenly balanced. The effect in the intellect (inter and lego), as jointly influenced by both, leads, when the consciousness of the influence from without exerted upon the emotions is the stronger, to comparison, tending, as in poetry and oratory, to identifying the two; and, when the consciousness of the ideas within, deliberately modifying by reflection the influence from without, is the stronger, to comparison also, but with more realization of a contrast between the two, as is the case in landscape gardening, painting, and sculpture. Taken together, the arts that have been mentioned represent every possible effect produced in the mind as emotions, intellect, and will successively receive and modify the influence that the audible or visible forms of nature exert upon it. The expressional series is complete all the way from where, in music, we heed the roaring of the waves of influence as they dash upon apprehension, to where, in architecture, we perceive the spray that congeals in fairy shapes above the place where their force has been spent.—Art in Theory, XIX.

In the moods represented in music and poetry, the influence from without is recognized in consciousness mainly because the thoughts move with it. This movement, there-fore, is appropriately represented in musical tones and poetie words that follow one another in time. In the moods rep-resented in painting, sculpture, and architecture, however, the mind is prompted to conceive of the influence as separate and different from the ideas; frequently, indeed, as offering a contrast to them. The influence from without is recognized in consciousness mainly because, as contrasted with the influence, the thoughts are relatively, though not absolutely, stationary. Consider now how these facts must be represented. If one wish to give expression to a consciousness of an external source of influence which is separate and different from the ideas within his mind, he can do this effectively only through using an external medium which alone is clearly separate and different from them. Again, a contrast is always revealed most clearly when objects are viewed not one at a time, but two or more at a time.

If one wish, therefore, to represent a consciousness of contrast, especially in connection with that of a continuation of a difference between the external world and his own ideas of it, he can best do this through using a medium that presents objects not in succession, like the words of a poem, but side by side in space like the forms on the canvas of a picture. And if he wish, again, to represent the fact that his own ideas, though affected by the influence, are not swept away or onward by it; but that whatever effects are produced are confined to suggestions prompted by the objects in nature that continue to stand immediately before him, he can best represent this fact too through using a medium that will stay thought like a scene rather than hurry it on like a story.—Idem, XIX.

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