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Subconscious Action In Art

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

What is it to be affected by the "zeit geist," the "spirit of the times, " of which we so often hear? What is it to be "the spokesman of one's age" ? What is it to be able, in the particular individualizations of art, to express the universal?

What is it to be able, while depicting the phases of the present, to foretell the unfoldings of the future? All these things, every one admits to be characteristic of the great artist. But what are they all, except so many proofs of his possessing a subconscious mind, delicately susceptible to influences exerted by other minds surrounding him, and moving forward with him,—possibly, as in cases of prevision, already. borne beyond him? Finally, what is the very substance of the art-product which we term a work of imagination? What is it but a result, the general outlines of which are taken from real objects or events in the external world, yet the significant substance of which is built out of the well-nigh infinite variety of material which has been stored in the subconscious mind? And when we consider the forgotten experiences that have invariably been brought to light, in order to be combined into the result, we have no difficulty in recognizing that art is not nature, but nature as mirrored in the mind,—mainly in the subconscious rather than in the conscious,-a fact which will be perceived to be true both of the simplest elementary exercise of comparison in which a single thing perceived reminds one of another single thing previously perceived, and equally true also of that more complex and most difficult exercise of constructive imagination in which a composite series of things perceived reminds one of another composite series previously perceived.—The Representative Significance of Form, VII.


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