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Art Appealing To The Sympathies

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

Plays and novels that make us spend hours with people such as we never meet, or meet only to avoid; and statues and pictures equally objectionable, do not represent for us real life as we know it, and cannot appeal, therefore, to our sympathies as art should.—Essay on Art and Morals.


One who is to preserve his own originality, and yet, at the same time, derive from the forms and suggestions of nature the same conceptions that others derive from them; one who is to have the personal force to incorporate in a form peculiar to himself that phase of truth, natural or spiritual, which most readily commends itself to all, must evidently be a man of sensibility, as well as of rationality, a man able to sympathize as well as to infer. . .

Only such a man can be controlled by his surroundings, and yet manifest the freedom from control which is essential to that play of the mind which is characteristic of all imaginative results.—The Representative Significance of Form, XIV.


As human beings, men crave sympathy not merely with the voluntary movements of their minds but often with the involuntary. But the universe which surrounds them is a constant mystery and source of speculation. They believe that there are causes for its forms and movements, spiritual meanings back of its material symbols. Yet these are apprehended only vaguely, looming dimly, as they do, from the regions of the unseen. Accordingly when a work of art, produced by one whose subconscious or hidden intellection is able to commune with these regions, embodies these vague views of men in material forms, appealing in such ways as to reveal to each one's consciousness the truthfulness of his previous unformed apprehensions, it is inevitable that his soul should experience intense satisfaction. He feels that his own views have been confirmed by another's intellect not alone but, at the same time, have been felt also by another's heart. This recognition of the sympathetic appeal of art gives us one reason why those susceptible to its influence—and who would trust the critical insight or appreciation of any man who was not ?—are often, especially in early life, so completely mastered by the significance of certain art-products. Sometimes, in wandering through a gallery, they come upon some painting or statue, and are so wonderfully thrilled by it that they sit and watch it till the tears come, and the room grows dim, and hours pass by, of which they are unconscious; and when, in the end, they arouse them-selves and leave the place, they wish for no further sight, each other seeming vulgar and profane beside that holy thing with which, for the time, they seem to have come in contact. Idem.


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