Art Theory - Originative Auxiliaries
( Originally Published 1869 )
As in the invention of the arts, so in imaginative composition and in artistical invention, accident will not only occasionally aid us, but will sometimes even effect what contrivance has failed to achieve. An invention of this kind by an accident, may, moreover, to a certain extent, be regarded as the product of nature. By skilfully availing ourselves of the hint thus given to us, we are entitled to call the conception our own.
The auxiliaries to imaginative representation correspond with those in artistical design and composition. The imagination, and especially the application of the supernatural, are, more-over, in many cases, as lately shown, as much aided by the colouring or style, as by the design itself, which should of course be suitable to the subject, and in which an extensive departure from ordinary nature, under proper regulations, may be allowed.
The shapes and figures apparently visible in clouds rocks and stones may also be studied both to aid and to originate the creation of - new forms and features by the operation of the imagination. Indeed, the greater variety of resorts and of materials which any artist has, the richer and more original ought we to expect will be his imaginative conceptions and efforts. It may be questioned, however, whether the suggestions obtained from the observance of the forms of shadows and of clouds, and the shapes produced by stains on a wall, are not in reality more calculated to add to the copiousness and variety of our designs, than actually either to set in operation, or to aid the imagination. These exercises are in fact material in their nature, while imagination is in its essence fully and absolutely immaterial. These forms constitute the body, to which imagination supplies life and spirit. They may, therefore, be observed and resorted to without the imagination being to any extent exerted in the task ; but unless in this operation the aid of the imagination is called in, the undertaking alluded to is a wholly useless one ; the frames lie lifeless without any souls being communicated to them. The effort in question is, indeed, strictly an attempt not to aid the imagination, but to supersede it; to supply its place by some other means.
In the case of the poetry of Chaucer and Spenser, the antique, quaint rhyme in which it is composed, and the constant associations called forth with an age and state of things which have long passed by, conduce to throw an air of romance, and, indeed, of imagination over the entire narration, and to create an atmosphere around it of a congenial nature; analogous to the mode in which the antique frame and dark hues of an old picture, or the crumbling walls and clustering ivy about an old castle, serve to give them an air of veneration, alike suitable and characteristic, and adding extensively to their effect. Considerable variety, freshness, and originality, may also be some-times infused into poetry from the cultivator of the art resorting to productions of an age and a country quite different from his own, and by which ideas of a character and order altogether dissimilar from those with which he and his readers are most familiar may be suggested. In this respect certain of the productions of the old Sanskrit poets might be of great use as aids to originative efforts, independent of the spirit and beauty by which they are distinguished.