Germ Of Each Art Exists In The Mind
( Originally Published Late 1800's )
From the foregoing considerations, we come to the conclusion that the origin of all the arts, whether of painting, sculpture, poetry, eloquence, architecture, or music, acting, costume, or gardening, is in the mind; that it is derived from those two powers or endowments of it already mentioned, the one being passive, the other being active; the one rendering us liable to be affected by certain subjects or their ideas, which cause sensations in the mind of a beautiful, or grand, or ex-citing kind, according to their qualities or their powers ; and the other enabling us to effect combinations such as I have described. And thus we perceive that all these arts, however varying in their nature one from another, have each of them this one common origin, and also one common object; all being derived from the effects and powers which are produced upon and exerted by the mind in the manner I have stated, and all aiming to excite within us pleasing and ennobling sensations.
For, as I shall endeavour to point out in some of the following chapters, although the arts owe their invention to many very different, and very remote causes, and are applied for many different purposes, yet they all alike originate in the power of the mind to be excited by sensations of this sort, and to create ideas of this description; and the final end of all works of art of whatever kind, is to produce in the mind feelings of the nature before described.
Hence the germ of each art is in the mind. But although it is in the mind, and in the mind alone, that the arts of each kind have their origin and germinate, yet, as has already been shown, both the operations of the senses, and the agitation of the emotions, conduce to their formation, or rather to the production of those states of being from which art springs.
Art, as contradistinguished from the manual occupations on which it is ordinarily grafted, and with which it is often con-founded, may consequently be defined to be that pursuit, or branch of any pursuit, which applies itself to our capacities of taste and origination, and contributes to render such occupation or object ornamental and pleasing, instead of merely practically useful.
I am, indeed, well aware that the theory which I have here propounded as to the origin of art in general, is not at all in accordance with certain modern views ; and that of late years, by some writers, the principles and the data on which my system is based have been discountenanced and declared erroneous. To truth and to nature, however, I appeal in support of a theory which is grounded upon them, and deduced alone from the principles of human nature. Philosophy has little to fear from fashion, in a matter where reason and experience stand as her witnesses and her protectors.
Art, moreover, consists, as regards its essence, in the embodiment and development of the most refined and pure and noble ideas that spring from, or are called forth in the soul. What was before only a mystic nothingness, it reduces to a reality; and what was latent and hidden from all view, it brings into open day. This is true as regards each of the arts alike; and it is on this ground that all the arts may be said to germinate in the mind.
All the arts have their origin, as we have seen, in nature ; and as Plato observes in his ` Phædrus,' all the great arts require a subtle and speculative research into the law of nature. Thus, the arts of poetry and eloquence, which engage the loftiest capacities of the mind, originated in the operations, and in the fiercest passions of the soul ; and what the most refined ages only serve to perfect, the rudest scenes of violence and bloodshed in a barbaric era, called first into being.
Each of the operations of the mind which have reference to artistical pursuits, are finally resolvable into two main efforts, which we ordinarily term imitation and invention, and the precise nature of which I propose to consider in the two following sections.