Selection In Art Work
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
One of the most interesting things in this world is an ant-hill. We come upon it in a grass-plot, or a rocky waste, or a field of loam of a certain hue or texture, and it usually consists of a gathering together, grain by grain, of materials and colors not interesting in themselves, yet made so by being selected from surrounding ones. Man has a way of making things interesting through an exercise of a similar natural limitations to art which such a double relationship necessarily involves.—The Representative Significance of Form, Preface.
Depending partly upon outward form, which mainly requires a practice of the method pursued in classic art, and partly upon the thought or design embodied in the form, which mainly requires a practice of the method pursued in romantic art, these artistic effects appeal partly to the outward sensed and partly to the inward mind; and only when they appeal to both are the highest possibilities of any art realized. Art in Theory, In.
We judge of others by ourselves. We judge of their art by the art which is possible to ourselves. While great art requires great breadth of view and distance of aim, the majority of men are not great. Their views are narrow, and their goals are near them. When their attention is directed to significance, they forget to attend to the requirements of form; and when attention is directed to form, they forget about significance. That which they themselves do, they naturally suppose that everybody must do. Human nature being what it is, they naturally come to think too that this is what everybody ought to do. For, unless they are to admit that they, themselves, are not entitled to rank with artists of the foremost class, what can be allowed to determine excellence in art except their own standards? At periods like the beginning of the nineteenth century, or in countries like England or Germany, where value in art is mainly thought to be determined by significance, this is that for which they aim; and in the degree in which they are forced to recognize that there can be no accurate re-production of appearances without thorough study of the methods of the best artists, and facility acquired by persistent practice, they will be anxious to convince them-selves and to persuade others that mastery in significance can compensate for a lack of mastery in technique. On the other hand, at a period like the present, and in countries like France and our own, where value in art is mainly thought to be determined by success in reproducing appearances, they will aim to do this; and, in the degree in which they are forced to recognize that significance cannot be given to an art-product without great constructive exercise of imagination and invention, they will be anxious to believe for themselves, and to persuade the world, that success in technique can compensate for success in rendering the product significant. . . . But is it a fact that attention to significance is inconsistent with an equal degree of attention given to form? Why should this be the case? In poetry a metaphor or simile is not less but more successful in the degree in which to the representation of the thought involved it adds fidelity to the scene in nature by a comparison with which this thought is represented. Painting, Sculpture, and Architecture as Representative Arts, XIII.