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Art And The General

( Originally Published 1912 )



HOMERIC laughter I fancy ripples through the halls of Olympos whenever a mortal—be he philosopher or the latest military critic -- presumes to prognosticate the future. Nevertheless, I dare to prophesy that when the art of the end of the nineteenth century comes to be studied as an historical epoch of the past, it will appear that its character is at present undergoing a gradual, but none the less radical, transformation, of which we, because of too great familiarity, are hardly conscious. The change which began some time ago and promises to continue in the future, is not superficial, affecting merely the externals of art, as post-impressionism, cubism and futurism have affected painting, ruffling the surface and distracting attention for a moment without stemming the force of the current beneath. It is, on the contrary, an alteration in the very nature of art, an artificial dam unexpectedly flung across the downward flowing stream. So slowly has the retaining wall been built, that its usefulness, even its necessity, has hardly been questioned. The few petulant voices that in recent years have been raised in denunciation are already forgotten. And for once the judgment of the majority has been right — clearly, indubitably right. It is better, far better, to go backwards than downwards. The dam is necessary, vital for the salvation of art; for it is the only possible means of preventing the trickling stream from drying up. It is therefore well that work upon the masonry has proceeded.

The only serious divergence of opinion has been as to how high the cross-wall should be raised. Some, building consciously or un-consciously upon the postulate that " the history of art is the history of a decline which begins with Duccio," have tried to place their petite sensation at the level of the pre-Giotteschi sources; others have tried to back up the stream as far as the Quattrocento, the Cinquecento, the French Renaissance. But it is only a question of degree. On the fundamental issue of backing up there is universal agreement. And in the placid and serene, if also slightly stagnant, waters of academicism our artists swim about, revelling in the nude, or plume themselves upon the banks in the sunshine of a romantic landscape.

The dam is the systematic training of artists.

As the force of the waters has gathered, it has been found necessary to reinforce this first with a second wall, systematic training of the public to appreciate. Work, especially upon this newer part, is far from completed; indeed, has only been well begun. Nevertheless it has already produced a perceptible effect upon the art of our time, quite enough to supply data for an estimate of the probable result when, and if, the wall be carried higher. The question is one of no light moment. We are dealing with a matter basic and fundamental, liable to affect radically the sensibilities, indeed the happiness, of our children and our children's children. It is therefore not merely a matter of academic interest to inquire whether or not there be hope that, by means of training the public to enjoy, art may be turned from its perverse channel into the unobstructed and natural course from which, unhappily, it was long ago diverted.

The newer part of the dam may best be studied in connection with the older portion, to which it is closely related. That artists should be trained, fortunately no longer requires demonstration. Technical schools are no experiment. They have been tried and tested, their utility proved. It must not be forgotten that the systematic training of artists is a modern idea. In the good old days, painters, sculptors and architects served a period of apprenticeship under masters, after which they became themselves masters. There were no regular courses, no examinations, no degrees. Their education was hand-made, variable, not standardized. In modern times, the curriculum and prescribed course of study have supplanted the old method. This is to some extent true in all the arts, but has been carried to the greatest extreme in architecture. The trained—I almost said machine-made — architect, armed with his diploma and carefully planned education, is a product of the modern age. His beginnings cannot be traced further back than the seventeenth century in France, and only about the middle of the nineteenth century did his right to existence come to be generally recognized. The utility of the school for training the architect has now, however, been acknowledged as a necessity both by the profession and by the public.

The fact remains that our present-day art created by men with special training is in many respects by no means superior to the art of bygone ages created by men who enjoyed no such advantages. The statement may not pass unchallenged, but is, I believe, true. In fact, one finds it tacitly admitted on all sides. Mr. Cram contributed to a recent number of the "Atlantic" an article of extraordinary significance. This illuminating piece of criticism proves a fact of which the author himself was probably unconscious — that the creative artist of to-day is mistrustful of contemporary art. Despite the restraint necessarily imposed when speaking of other artists who are doubtless also his personal friends, it is only too evident that Mr. Cram looks upon the general course of American architecture with something very like despair in his heart, relieved only by a forced optimism for the future. We have, therefore, admittedly one of the greatest of our living artists feeling that his times are sadly out of joint, looking upon the great mass of work by his contemporaries as stale, flat and unprofitable. Nor is this attitude con-fined to Mr. Cram. Few practising architects would seriously maintain that their modern constructions rival the ancient master-pieces they attempt to reproduce. The new movements in painting originated because of well grounded dissatisfaction with current pictorial standards. The reactionary magazine, " The Art World," has been the most powerful agency in America for gaining converts to the extreme forms of futurism.

Never before have artists been so openly dissatisfied with the tendencies of their own time. We can hardly imagine Leonardo denouncing the art of the Cinquecento, Villard de Honnecourt exalting the Romanesque at the expense of the Gothic,, nor Bernini scolding at the Barocco. One age has frequently pointed the finger of scorn—usually quite without justification — at earlier periods. Vasari never wearied of patronizing the Tre- and even the Quattrocento, but to him his own age was always sacred, whatever it may seem to us. The Renaissance centuries derided the mediæval, but never doubted that they themselves had rediscovered the true secrets of classic beauty. In fact, I fancy the instinct is deeply rooted in every man to consider all things good or bad, estimable or despicable, in measure as they resemble or fail to resemble himself. That modern artists should actually show symptoms of being dissatisfied with their own art, gives grave reason to fear that it has indeed fallen into a parlous state.

It is not difficult to see that, in fact, the evolution of the trained artist has but barely counterbalanced a tendency towards degeneration inherent in the nineteenth century. It is particularly evident in the case of architecture that the art would have undergone a precipitate and alarming decline, had it not been, by a happy chance, that the appearance of the trained architect in some measure compensated for the falling off in general taste which took place in that unhappy time. Scientists have, I am told, pointed out that in the doctrines of evolution and of the survival of the fittest, there is no explanation to be found why appreciation of the beautiful should continue to exist in the race. The æsthetic sense cannot be accounted for by the material needs of the struggle for existence. That during the materialistic nineteenth century this god-given quality was not evolved out of existence, that something was saved of the artistic sense with which humanity was once endowed, was due to the schools of art. In architecture, immediately technical schools were created, although it was the darkest hour of the Victorian age, conditions improved. Effect never followed cause more swiftly, more unmistakably. The same thing happened, somewhat less obviously, in the other arts.

We too seldom, I think, stop to consider the strength of the forces arrayed against art in our modern America. The wonder is, not that feeling for the beautiful has languished, but that it survives at all. There is a crushing strength in the tyranny of the majority, a force which withers and kills him who will not conform to current standards. We have witnessed in recent years the slang catch-word "high-brow" do incalculable harm to the cause of sweetness and light, turn from their convictions, by fear of ridicule, even those who should have fought in the front ranks against the powers of darkness. For me, Washington is the most deeply tragic spot in America. This city of magnificent vulgarity is the cemetery of genius. Buildings, sculptures and paintings bear witness to the battle which has been waged between ideals on the one side and commercialism, materialism, opportunism on the other; and how many, how pathetically many, show art crushed by the weight of flesh-pots; how many show the man of fine perceptions vanquished by the tobacco-spitting politician; how many bear branded on their face a dreadful record of the Great Refusal! The word " Copy-right" placarded on the mural decorations of the Congressional Library is the epitaph of American art. It is strangely refreshing to escape to the pre-commercial atmosphere of Mount Vernon after having breathed the suffocating air of the capital. Yet the sad fact must be faced that the city of Washington is typical of our country and of our age. The campaign against refinement, against intellectuality, against beauty, which has there been waged, has been carried on throughout the land. This is the spirit with which art has had to contend.

It must also, I think, be recognized that the cosmopolitanism so characteristic of the modern age is curiously fatal to art. It almost inevitably deprives the artist of that leisure, of that opportunity for introspection and thought, of that seclusion from practical affairs which most temperaments imperatively need in order to achieve their fullest intellectual development. Nulle nature ne peut produire son fruit sans extrème travail, voire douleur. The bitter epigram of Palissy is not without its grain of eternal truth. Cosmopolitanism which always tends to force the artist into the excitement of social inter-course and of active affairs, may make his life more pleasant, but inevitably distracts his energies from what should be not only the supreme, but the single purpose. Henry James's " The Lesson of the Master " is vastly significant, because written by a man who knew thoroughly both the great world and artistic creativeness.

Art has, indeed, generally flourished best in provincial cities. In the time of the Renaissance, Rome, the cosmopolitan city of Italy, exerted a very unhappy influence upon artists. She called to herself the greatest that the smaller towns produced, but she gave birth to almost none. It is precisely this that our cosmopolitan American cities have done, especially in the case of musicians. With the hope of gain, we entice to ourselves from all over the world the most celebrated virtuosi, but we ourselves produce very few. Moreover, Rome seldom failed to exert a baneful influence upon the artists who came to her. Michel Angelo produced the Sistine ceiling when he was fresh from Florence, but as he lived in Rome his powers steadily declined. Raphael's art deteriorated so rapidly in the capital, that it is happy indeed for his reputation he was cut off by an early death. Neither Signorelli nor Ghirlandaio nor Botticelli nor even Bartolommeo della Gatta was able to give of his best in the Roman environment. It seems that our American cosmopolitanism exercises something of the same withering power.

The forces drawn up against art in the nineteenth century were therefore no mean ones. Had her existence depended, as in the past, upon untrained individuals, she must necessarily have succumbed. It was the trained artist who kept the divine spark afire, it is in the conscience of the trained artist that hope for the future lies. But that his victory may be complete he needs reinforcement; he needs the help of a public trained to appreciate the best in art.

In olden times the race got along very well without instruction in the appreciation of art. Ancient Greece was not absolutely with-out its critics, but it is hardly open to doubt that the Athenians studied their masterpieces with much less assiduity than we of today bring to the same works. Yet their instinctive enjoyment was more valuable than our conscious and somewhat laboured appreciation. The people of the thirteenth century in France must have brought to the Gothic cathedral, without any instruction, a feeling for its beauty and an intelligent comprehension of its content which a two-hour course would be quite inadequate to give even the most intelligent modern collegian. The appreciation of art, which was a natural heritage in the past, the present generation can acquire only by conscious effort.

The same thing has happened with literature. The English of the time of Elizabeth doubtless enjoyed and to a certain extent appreciated Shakespeare's plays without being taught them. To-day in our schools and colleges we find it necessary to teach Shakespeare. If we did not, the great majority of our students would never rise to sufficient intellectual heights to appreciate the plays, and the literary culture of the race would thereby be impaired. It is equally necessary that the public should be instructed in art, or it will no longer be able to enjoy the great masterpieces which were formerly enjoyed without instruction.

Moreover, it is evident that the character of an art depends primarily and fundamentally upon the character of the people who produce that art. No genius, however exalted, could have built the cathedral of Reims in the Florence of the fifteenth century. Had Michel Angelo lived in the age of Giotto he would undoubtedly have painted great things, but not the works he did actually create. No man can avoid the spirit of his time. It is necessarily the environment which creates art. To educate artists therefore is not sufficient. It is even more vital to create sympathetic and stimulating surroundings for the artist. Failure to perceive this fact, it cannot be too solemnly emphasized, is the fundamental fault with existing conditions in America.

The influence of environment upon the artist is exerted in two ways. The first is by the economic law of supply and demand. The artist must place his wares. More than that, he must be stimulated by demand and appreciation to produce the best of which he is capable. He must have an audience able to understand. The super-artist can never be until there is created a super-public to comprehend.

The public also affects that artist in a more subtle, intangible manner. In art, as in all things else, heredity and environment exert a vital influence upon character. In the Middle Ages and the Renaissance son generally succeeded father in the calling of artist, and thus might both inherit and absorb from his environment the influence so necessary for his development. With us, the future artist has too often already been coarsened by adverse heredity and adverse environment before his professional training begins. We can hardly return to the mediæval system of guilds and apprenticeship, but by educating the public we may enormously improve both the heredity and environment of our artists to come.

If the desirability of raising the taste of the general be, then, granted, some doubt may not unreasonably be entertained as to how, and whether, this end can be attained. Any idea of a single and universal panacea must be at once discarded. The submarine cannot be worsted in a day nor by one weapon.

Courses on art in schools and colleges form the most obvious and doubtless also the most effective method of attack. It must never be forgotten, however, that such courses have their distinct limitations. If the history of art were a required study in every school and every college of the country, as I should like to 'see it, if it were made a subject of equal importance with spelling, reading and arithmetic, the battle would still not be entirely won. We should have to be on our guard lest the study of art should become too academic, should lose its freshness, that art should in fact become a sort of dead language, such as teaching of the wrong sort has made of that most living of tongues, the Greek. It is not enough that the people should know art, they must love art, they must absorb art. It must enter into their daily lives as vitally as the language which they speak.

Moreover there has been, I admit it, a great tendency in America to overestimate the value of instruction. Courses have become a sort of fetish; people who ought to have been doing have been studying, and when they have finished studying they have been found incapable of doing. He who really tries, as a general thing, does. The value of experience as a teacher can hardly be overestimated, and it may be doubted whether the pupil does not as a rule learn more by an actual attempt than by any quantity of theory.

When all is said and done, however, we must acknowledge it is vitally important that art should be taught in schools and colleges. The same arguments are equally cogent against the teaching of any subject — history, geography, grammar — as against the teaching of art. Yet it would be manifestly absurd to abolish all schooling. That we are obliged to acquire the ability to read by being taught, does not prevent that ability from being highly useful and even pleasurable. When the race learns the alphabet of art as an essential part of its education along with the alphabet of letters, when the existence of art is called to the attention of our youth (instead of being concealed from them as is too often the case at present), it is almost certain that there will result a radical change in the attitude of the public.

The work of education in art has already been taken up in scholastic institutions. Fashionable girls' schools have for some time been teaching the history of art, probably not more incompetently than other subjects. In the public schools, where standards are higher, much still remains to be done, but the entering wedge has been driven. Finally, at our universities the study of art has at last been put nearly on a plane with that of machinery, journalism and law. The first department of art in an American college was established at Harvard by Charles Eliot Norton nearly a half century ago; one by one the other great universities and even the fresh-water colleges have followed this example. The importance of such educative work is exceedingly great. The college-men are on the whole, perhaps, the most influential class in the country. If they can be reached, and reached vitally, in their formative years, there is good hope that the back of Philistinism may be broken. It is, therefore, of the deepest importance that the system of instruction in art already initiated in our colleges be extended and developed to the utmost. It is lamentable that at present the great majority even of college graduates goes out into the world completely ignorant of art. In the seventeen and more years devoted to the education of our children, too often not a single moment is found for the subject which is capable of adding more than any other to their happiness. This neglect is especially to be deplored in America, where artistic influences can less readily than elsewhere be absorbed from environment. Even the minority of students reached is (barring a few exceptionally enlightened institutions like Harvard) allowed to elect art only in junior and senior years, that is to say, too late. Thus do we deprive our youth of the heritage of joy that is their inalienable right. We send them out into the world æsthetically castrated. It is absurd to restrict knowledge of art, as it would be knowledge of reading, to the few who capriciously may choose to take up the subject in the last years of their education. Courses in art must be brought down from junior into sophomore year; from sophomore into freshman year; from the colleges into the preparatory and high schools; from the high schools into the elementary schools; and from the elementary schools into the kindergartens. Indeed, the appreciation of art, like spoken languages, can often be acquired only, and always be acquired best, if the foundations are laid in infancy. Foreign tongues and the more thoughtful study of art are subjects that might to advantage be substituted for the vapid sentimentality that absorbs so large a place in the system of Froebel.

A second method of affecting the public is through criticism. There is, unfortunately, considerable disposition to look askance at this most useful weapon, even on the part of those who should most benefit by its use.

Mr. Cram, in the article to which I have already referred, has cleared up the reasons for this. He has pointed out that the present-day artists, or at least those of them who possess great reputation, wield an almost unprecedented authority over their clients. The artists are able to force upon the public their own standards of what is good and what is not good, to bully their clients into accepting what pleases them, the artists. This state of affairs is in some ways hopeful, in some ways discouraging. It is hopeful in so far as the artists are probably better judges of their own work than are clients. It is discouraging in that the docility of the public argues an ignorance upon which the charlatan is often able to impose. Besides, it is obvious that a man who really loves art must have his own taste.

Not content with wielding this despotic and unprecedented power over their clients, modern artists have even reached farther and frequently claimed the right to exemption from criticism except by one of their own number. They maintain that no one who is not an artist can possibly understand the work of an artist. There has thus arisen a sort of freemasonry of artistic appreciation. The initiated hold zealously the secrets, to which no profane person may be admitted. Art is not for the public, but for the artist. The layman is to enjoy that which the artists tell him is right. Great scorn is heaped upon any adventurous spirit who dares lift his head, not being of the inner circle.

The position would scarcely be worth serious discussion, were it not that by force of banality it has acquired a sort of authority. If we except Vasari, Berenson has certainly done more to clarify our ideas of Italian art than all the painter-critics put together. So far as I know, Ruskin never erected a building; yet notwithstanding obvious deficiencies, I suppose him to have been the greatest architectural critic who has lived. If the reader takes exception to the statement, let him try to name another book which has exerted as great, and on the whole as beneficent, an influence as the " Seven Lamps." But very few of the scholars and critics of Homer have been poets. Yet I never heard anyone claim that they were for this reason disqualified as interpreters. Indeed, it may fairly be doubted whether the creative artist be not by that very fact at a certain disadvantage as a critic. If he be a real artist, if he be sincere, he must believe intensely in his own vision, in his own manner of doing things. This many times precludes sympathy with, and understanding of, another vision, another method, which, nevertheless, may be capable of yielding equal delight to the public. The critic who is not an artist may frequently possess greater breadth of view. To cite obvious examples, I have seen few creative painters who comprehended the primitive painting of Italy, and still fewer creative architects (Mr. Cram is a notable exception) who understood Gothic architecture. These archaic arts must almost necessarily remain sealed to a person creating in the present styles. It may be granted that the critic occupies an office lower than that of the artist. Bernard Shaw's epigram might be amended to read " he who can, does; he who can't, criticizes." None the less, he who can't may peradventure criticize better than the man who can. The professional critic is apt to possess greater competence than the artist who takes up criticism in an amateur capacity.

The present education of the public by artists is a proven failure. The great majority of men never comes in contact with artists at all, and for those that do, habits of bad taste have already become too inveterate for real education to be possible. The proverbial tired business man may feel his own insufficiency, may submit to being bullied and cowed by his architect or sculptor, but he can rarely give the latter that intuitive sympathy which is essential. We can only teach our people to love art by reaching them before they are too old to learn.

At present, our criticism of contemporary art is deplorably weak. Indeed, as far as regards architecture, it is practically non-existent. Neither our public nor our architects have the advantage of seeing buildings through others' eyes. The trade journals are discreetly laudatory of all they publish. The lay newspapers and magazines avoid all mention of architectural art, as carefully as a cat avoids wet feet. A vital and important method of education is thus lost. There can be little doubt that the criticisms in our news-papers have played an important, and on the whole very beneficial, rôle in forming popular taste in music. The same result might readily be attained in the other arts. Exhibitions of painting and sculpture do, it is true, receive considerable notice, but our public monuments are usually passed by in silence. We owe, to Mr. Barnard's " Lincoln " a deep debt of gratitude for having roused the public for once from its habitual apathy into heated discussion. One clever cartoonist caricatured the supercilious lions of the New York Public Library with the lorgnettes they so clearly lack; but it is unfortunately rare for humorists to seek inspiration in art which might be for them so fertile a field. The educational value of such witticism is incalculable, for it has the power of impressing the lay mind more than columns of prose. In its absence our public is too often lethargic. The pediment statues of the same library would still have been meekly accepted, had not the indignant sculptor disclosed their real value in a law-suit. America could not be so gullible if there were criticism. Not a protest is raised when our cities are disfigured by inexcusable monuments, like that not so long ago erected to Verdi in Sherman Square, New York, or the Soldiers' and Sailors' Memorial in New Haven (I almost wrote the Soldiers' and Sailors' Memorial in any city), Where large prices tempt to politics and corruption, with us the intriguer is too apt to succeed in crowding out the genuine artist. Were there free and general discussion, it would hardly be possible for Boston to ruin her State House by sacrilegious additions in which the real marble and poor architecture contrast so strangely with the poor materials and real architecture of the original building; or to place a subway kiosk on axis with the false entrance in the north elevation of the Public Library, so that this entire monumental composition leads up impressively to a hole in the ground. A few writers of wit might soon succeed in casting into discredit some of the most glaring faults in our contemporary architecture and decoration. Thus the pen of the critic, which is denounced only by those who find profit in the ignorance of the public, should be of inestimable value to the cause of art.

Criticism has even greater possibilities for service in interpreting the meaning of the artist, and awakening interest in his more subtle productions. It may exert a most beneficial power in leading the public away from the meretricious by making comprehensible that which is of finer grain. The poetic and deeply illustrative statue of Nathan Hale on the Yale campus is highly esteemed by a small circle particularly interested in art; but the great majority of an exceptionally enlightened community is probably still unaware that this is a work of extraordinary merit. Miss Hyatt's " Jeanne d'Arc " triumphs gloriously even over her Victorian Gothic pedestal, but her victory is unacclaimed. The days when the Sienese populace carried the Duccio " Maiestà " in procession through the streets are evidently long past. The church at Bryn Athyn is an epoch-making masterwork of architectural art, created with joy, full of artistic conscience. Less important certainly, but to my way of thinking almost as far in advance of its age, is the quadrangle built for Mr. Miller in New Haven and recently acquired by Yale. These two together raise our national architecture to a new level of intellectual and artistic attainment. Yet the New Haven structure, and even 'the Bryn Athyn church, if not entirely unknown, are certainly far less spoken of than many quite commonplace buildings. If we had adequate criticism, the value of such works would be at once recognized, and encouragement thereby given for the production of others inspired by equally high ideals.

In addition to formal teaching and criticism, the cause of popular education in art may be advanced by the influence of museums. Such institutions, indeed, offer the most direct method of calling to the attention of the public the best in art. Nothing in America is to me more inspiring, nor fills me with such great optimism for the future, as the rapid development of our museums in recent years. Two decades ago the Metropolitan in New York, as an artistic force, was negligible. To-day, both by the intrinsic merit of the objects it possesses and the hold it has obtained upon the people, it is the greatest single power making for artistic culture in our land. The Boston Museum in only less important. Many similar institutions in other cities — Chicago, Worcester, Cambridge, New Haven, Brooklyn, Minneapolis, Cleveland — are carrying forward on a more modest scale the same admirable work. Mistakes have inevitably been made. The collections are weak in many directions where they might and should be strong. Nervous prosperity frequently appears in the accumulation of great numbers of objects of minor importance. Even more discouraging is the tendency to divert funds from the purchase of works of real art to the construction of showy and unnecessary buildings. All told, nevertheless, the advance of our museums has been thrilling, .and is full of good omen for the future.

An educative influence may also be exerted through books on art considered from an archæological or historical standpoint. Such literature supplements formal teaching, but has a more restricted scope. It presupposes an intellectual training seldom found in the general public or even among creative artists. Those unable to understand archæology are apt to think it dry and uninteresting, little perceiving it is the most intensely alive of modern sciences. It is distinctly gratifying that there is now a much wider public reading books on the history of art, even those of real merit, than formerly. This can only mean that the highly intellectual pursuit of archæology is making progress. It would be Utopian to imagine it could ever appeal to the crowd. The wider the circle of intellectuals interested in such a subject, however, the greater will be the influence it exerts. Ideas will filter through in time, although often in perverted form, to the general public. The influence of archæology upon creative art in the past has been very powerful. Great movements like the Greek and Gothic Revivals must be laid to its credit or discredit. At the present time architects are adopting construction in lines which are not straight in consequence of the archæological discovery made nearly a half a century ago by Mr. Goodyear that mediæval buildings were so erected. The influence of archæology upon architecture cannot now, even were it desirable, be eliminated. It is, therefore, well that this influence should be exerted as finely and thoughtfully as possible. Happily not only is the quantity of our American archæology increasing, but its quality is being raised. The extent of this improvement may be illustrated by the fact that a very few years ago a director of the Metropolitan Museum in New York, for reasons apparently of pure caprice, consistently falsified the provenance of his archaeological finds. The same director, for convenience in shipping, habitually cut off the heads of ancient statues, throwing the torsi away. Such things would to-day obviously be unthinkable. The progress scored in the science of archæology cannot fail in the long run to exert a favourable influence upon art.

Much effort has been expended in attempts to instruct the public in art by means of illustrated lectures. It is my impression that the educative value of this particular form of amusement, like that of moving pictures, has been exaggerated. The prejudice of the Anglo-Saxon against pedantry has wrought irreparable harm to our scholarship and our intellectual life, and I fancy we have here a by-product of its pernicious workings. Lecturers, through striving to be unintellectual, have become merely dull. However this may be, the fact remains that lectures, as a rule, do not appeal to the intellectually alert. The audiences are apt to be exceedingly poor in spirit. This is the more unfortunate, because it is extremely difficult even for a person trained to close application to retain without notes for any length of time a clear impression of an hour's talk. On the other hand, lectures at least do no harm, and reach many people whom it would be impossible otherwise to touch. Any crumbs of information or enthusiasm the lecture-going public may pick up, must be considered pure and unexpected gain. A vitalizing of the technique of lecturing and the maintenance of a higher standard in the personnel of the lecturers might make the weapon more effective.

The education of the public should be carried out not only along positive, but also along negative, lines. Certain subtle, insidious conditions must be eradicated. The mania for advertisements is deeply rooted and backed by powerful interests. I believe it is among the most serious of all existing evils. The deleterious effects of the dreadful lettering, the God-awful colours, the vulgar drawing of the display signs, can hardly be over-estimated. Even worse are the electric puerilities that make night hideous in our cities.

The control of all this lies in the hands of the public. If there could be founded a league of sufficiently powerful numbers, which would agree to patronize such firms or goods of which the display signs are artistic, it might be possible to substitute very quickly for the competition in vulgarity which at present exists a competition in loveliness. A beginning in this direction has already been made; certain posters produced in recent years are distinctly works of art. The Italian Renaissance gives a hint of what might be possible. In those days the state felt it necessary to advertise the fate which awaited conspirators and malefactors by hanging up in public places the bodies of those who had been executed. Pisanello's fresco at S. Anastasia gives a vivid idea of the practical workings of .this custom, which must have been almost as unpleasant as our modern commercial advertisements. Art, however, was soon called to the rescue; the disintegrating and putrefying bodies were supplanted by paintings of corpses by artists. Castagno, Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci through their genius raised the motive of the impiccati to the highest artistic level. It was found that their masterpieces attracted more attention than rotting bodies had ever done, and thus was served not only the cause of art, but also the practical one of publicity.

At all events, as the public becomes educated in art, the present style of advertisement must come to an automatic end. It depends for its existence upon the power of the ugly to strike the untrained eye and attention. It is not the sight of ugliness but of beauty which haunts the memory of a person whose eyes have been opened. No one would be quicker to realize this psychological fact than the advertisers. Imagine the difference in our cities, in our lives, if each advertisement were a work of art. What an outlet for decoration and artistic expression might be found!

The mass of the people must no longer be divorced from art. The fact that the majority has no comprehension of beauty is the reason that ugliness surrounds us on all sides. And this ugliness in turn degrades the people still further. It is because art is patronized chiefly by the wealthy that it has lost both its intellectual character and its sincerity. Like Christian Science, it is often made merely a sauce of spirituality, served at the table of the idle rich, to whet jaded appetites for the feast of materialism. Thus has come about the undue influence wielded by dealers. Our ignorant rich often learn the little they know from this usually uncultivated class whose interests are apt to lie more in the direction of mystification and obscuritanism than of instruction and truth. The most elaborate hocus-pocus is practised, especially in the more costly Fifth Avenue shops, to impress customers with their own ignorance and foster a belief in the importance and pretended erudition of the dealer. The ritual of certain of these establishments is delightfully reminiscent of that of the medical profession in the seventeenth century as satirized by Molière or Le Sage. By lackies in gold braid, ceremonial worthy of a court, elaborate fittings, an impressive manner, technical terms, the names of great clients skilfully dropped, the dealer browbeats our millionaires into paying many times what an article of the same merit would fetch elsewhere. That the purchaser is cheated, is less a matter for regret than that the unintellectual and commercial dealer should play this large part in forming the taste of the nation. He sets the fashion in antiques ac-cording to the supply and prospects of profit, just as the Paris dressmaker sets the styles in women's clothing. Even objects of great intrinsic beauty lose their power to inspire when dragged through this slough of commercialism and fashion.

The fact that art has been the prerogative of the wealthy has also been responsible for the importance assumed by the hotel in modern decoration. The opening of each important new caravansary in New York has marked a period of architectural style. After the Ritz we had an epoch of Adam; after the Biltmore, an era of Sloane. Nothing to as great an extent as the hotel has fostered the American love of new paint and varnish. In this the architecture of the twentieth century has sunk even lower than that of the nineteenth. Compared with our modern hotels, the mediæval exteriors and wholly evil interiors of Richardson appear models of refine-ment and even of intellectuality, and the influence of the psuedo-Romanesque was certainly less baneful.

The art of appreciating art is, therefore, not merely the passive occupation which it seems. It is in a very large measure creative also. He who appreciates art, creates art by causing a demand which inevitably by some means or other will be satisfied. If the public appreciates the best in art, the best will be produced by the artists. The task of the teacher and the critic is after all not so mean a one. To teach our people to enjoy art will be a long task, a difficult task. Many battles will have to be fought and many enemies — enemies powerful and entrenched behind earthworks of social position and wealth — overcome. The final result, however, I firmly believe is not open to doubt. The great forces in human destiny are above the individual, above accident. The Renaissance would inevitably have blossomed in Italy, even had Brunelleschi never been born. The Renaissance would inevitably have swept into France, even had no French king ever set foot south of the Alps. The war of 1914 may be the spark which will kindle the art-hating Kultur of the nineteenth century, but the structure was already doomed. There had come a tide in the affairs of men, and waters which had been receding for long centuries had even before the war turned and begun to advance. It seems certain that they must continue to rise with ever-increasing force until the hated materialism, individualism and Philistinism of the nineteenth century are forever washed away by a new art which shall be at once nation-wide and — intellectual!



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