Amazing articles on just about every subject...

Culture And Art

( Originally Published Early 1900's )


Art, in all its phases, is merely a compend of lifelong studies in nature and in human conditions, reported by those with exceptional powers of perception, insight, and inference. If men are to become wise, they must have experience. If they cannot travel and become personally acquainted with different parts of the world, and its inhabitants, they must derive their experience from those who can do so. There is no more efficient way of deriving this than from the pictures, poems, dramas, and novels of great artists. But the effects of art are so subtle, they depend upon so many complex causes, that one can derive comparatively little from it, until he has learned to do so. And when he has learned this, the result is so connected with everything in his whole complex constitution, with both mind and soul, that not only his intellectual but his spiritual experience is enlarged almost beyond measure.—Essay on Teaching in Drawing.


A scientific specialist with any amount of learning, if it be merely learning, may not give any suggestion of what is meant by culture. A man may study science all his life, and never do it—which fact is the one irrefutable argument against an entirely scientific course in our universities. But it is impossible for one to be a student of art—a dabbler is not meant now, but a student—and not begin to have some culture, and this for the simple reason that he is obliged—a statement which cannot be made so absolutely with reference to any other department of study—to experience some of the results of practice. It will be found, too, that the degree of his culture will often depend upon the degree of the thoroughness with which he has studied some art in some of its phases.—The Representative Significance of Form, XV.


The age is scientific, and the country's aims are directed toward material progress. Both facts cause us to emphasize the real rather than the ideal, the substance rather than the suggestion, that which is held in the hand rather than that which is conceived in the brain. In such conditions, the phase of the play-impulse that prompts to art cannot tend to give expression to its highest possibilities. A cowboy of the West could take little pleasure in the Seventh Symphony, the "Excursion," the "Sistine Madonna, " the " Dying Gladiator," or Roslyn Chapel; and, for this reason, no artist of the Western plains would be stimulated to produce its like. But taste in appreciation or production can be cultivated; and, in the degree in which it is cultivated, a new realm of thought will open for a man, and with it a recognition, hitherto not experienced, of those almost infinite correspondences between spiritual and material relationships which every great product of art manifests. Thus gradually the mind will enter a region of thought in which the play-impulse, which, at first, is satisfied to expend its energies upon the merely apparent and superficial, will care for more than a fife and drum, a jingle of rhyme, a dash of color, a trick of chiselling, or an incongruous pile of stone and mortar. The mind will not be satisfied unless, at times and often, music, poetry, painting, sculpture, and architecture suggest the profound and the sublime; in fact, unless the humanities have had their perfect work, and art has become humanizing in all of its relations. To open such a region to the mind, has been the object of the work of which these volumes contain the records. Proportion and Harmony of Line and Color, XXVI.


What, according to the conceptions of men in general, is a man of culture? Does not the following describe him? He is one who has been educated in the sense of having been trained; who has not only a brain but a working brain; who is prepared therefore to deal not only with information but with suggestion ; a man whose aims in study—to express his condition in terms to accord with the general thought presented in this volume—have regarded duly both the conscious and the subconscious powers of mind; a man whose memory is able to recall from his own experience and that of others, from history current and past, from books and life, the scores and hundreds of associated facts and fancies teeming about, and through, and beyond the immediate object of consideration; a man whose sphere of thought belongs, therefore, not to the small but to the great, not to the single but to the universal ; a man whose whole nature is open to the cur-rents of tendency moving in upon him from all directions, and is prepared both to apprehend and to comprehend, to appreciate and to appropriate whatever truth may loom from any quarter.—The Representative Significance of Form, XV.


Home | More Articles | Email: