Art Theory - Inanimate Nature
( Originally Published 1869 )
In addition, however, to the representation of still life, inanimate nature, and inanimation,—by which I mean a description of real nature as she is seen in the world, although of that part of nature only which is destitute of animation, such as fruit and flowers and trees, and of objects wanting in life, and mountains,—require also to be portrayed. By far the largest portion of nature, indeed, is that which is inanimate, comprehending not only the landscapes of the earth, but the planets of heaven, and including some of the most glorious objects upon which the eye ever rests. Animation, indeed, does not by any means necessarily increase the artistical grandeur or beauty of any subject, although it generally renders it more exciting and affecting. Nature is, however, really and essentially as much nature when inanimate as when animate, al-though less striking as devoid of vitality, which calls forth our sympathy and excites our feelings more acutely than any inanimate scene could do. Inanimate objects are described just as nature presents them to us ; and as animation, more especially in its highest characteristics, such as intellectuality, is that which is the most difficult to represent efficiently in art, so inanimate nature is that which is the easiest to depict. The imitation of objects of this kind by painting, has in some instances been so exact as to be truly astonishing. But the description of inanimate nature by the other arts is in no respect effected with greater facility, and, therefore, with no greater perfection than those representations of a different order already alluded to.
There is sometimes, however, an appearance, a striking character about inanimate objects, which moves us nearly as much as do several representations of the most stirring scenes of life. The rocks and torrents of Salvator Rosa, appeal far more power-fully to the mind, than do the tragic scenes of many modern artists.
Of all the arts, gardening is that which is best adapted for efforts here, and inanimate nature is peculiarly that of which it is fitted to communicate ideas, although rather by reality than by representation. Painting next to gardening, and sculpture next to painting, is calculated so to be employed. Poetry, eloquence, and music represent it very imperfectly; costume and architecture scarcely do so in a sufficiently direct manner to enable them to attain success here. Acting may effect it, but as this art is mainly directed to higher efforts, it is but seldom for this purpose, and only incidentally, that its aid is sought.