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Individuality And Art

( Originally Published Early 1900's )


One difference between the prosaic and the poetic, as respectively illustrated in these passages, lies in the fact that the former is devoid of any formative influence upon the details mentioned produced by the intervening human mind through which it has come to us, whereas of the latter the contrary is true. The same should be true of all products purporting to be those of art. No men are great painters merely because they accurately repro-duce the shapes or hues of nature; or great sculptors, merely because they remould some ancient masterpiece, or merely imitate in marble some modern living model. It is the individuality of the effect characterizing the new product that gives it artistic soul and life. In what consists the difference between the artists living in Rome to-day and the artisans who do their chiselling for them? Is it not in this ?—that the artists give form to their own conceptions, while the artisans give form to the conceptions of their employers?—The Representative Significance of Form, XIV.


The truth of art is surmised and embodied according to the methods of imagination and expression peculiar to the temperament of one man; and it becomes the property of all mainly on account of the individual influence of this man whose intuitive impressions have been so accurate as to recommend themselves to the aesthetic apprehensions, and to enlist the sympathies, of those about him.—Idem.


A moment's thought will enable us to recognize that that which constitutes one's individuality often lies in traits of which he is unaware. Or, if through a study of him-self or of the opinion of the community he have become aware of them, they are even then expressed, as a rule, involuntarily. A man is never more thoroughly himself than when so interested in something else as to forget him-self. The Christ said that "he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it." Wherefore should not art affirm the same ?—Idem.


An art-product appeals to a man as distinguished from an animal. If so, the appeal must be made to that which distinguishes him from the animal. This, of course, is his intellect, together with the character and amount of intelligence ascribable to it. But if this be so, an increase of intelligence must increase his capacity for recognizing the appeal of art. As applied to a particular art-product, an increase of his intelligence with reference to either its form or subject, must increase his capacity for enjoying it. Nor need it make any essential difference whether this intelligence be the result of his general information, or of special information with reference to the object immediately before him, such as he can derive from a guide book. A man with a knowledge of history, how-ever derived, will certainly take more interest in a painting like Raphael's "School of Athens". . . than will one ignorant of history; and a student of the Bible will take more interest than will one ignorant of it in a painting like " The Death of Ananias. ". The degree of beauty is often increased in the degree in which the number of effects entering into its generally complex nature is increased. This is true even though some of these effects, as in the case of forms conjured before the imagination by a verbal description, may come from a source which, considered in itself, is not aesthetic. It must not be overlooked, however, that all beauty whatever is a characteristic of form; and that intellectual effects, like these explanations, to have an aesthetic influence, must always be presented to apprehension in connection with an external form with which they can be clearly associated. For this reason, though they may add to the aesthetic interest, where it already exists, they cannot, of themselves, make up for a lack of it.. . . A picture cannot be all that a work of art should be, unless, without one's knowing what the explanation is designed to impart, the drawing and coloring can, in some degree, at least, attract and satisfy aesthetic interest... .

But the knowledge that we may get with reference to the subject of a picture, enlarging, as this must do, its associations and suggestions, can add immensely to our distinctively aesthetic enjoyment. In what consists the worth of art except in the effects that it arouses in the emotions and, through them, conjures in the imagination? But by what is the reach of imagination determined, except by the amount of information present in the mind with reference to that by which the emotions have been influenced?—Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture as Representative Arts, XV.


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