Invention, And The Origin Of The Arts
( Originally Published Late 1800's )
These different arts, although the origin of each of them is in the mind, and is derived through the operation of the faculties and the feelings which I have described, seem, nevertheless, in their earliest stages to be endowed with little or nothing that is calculated to produce this effect, as regards in any degree the excitement of beautiful sensations or ideas, such as we perceive to be called forth by more finished performances in them. Hence it may appear at first sight to be a paradox to assert that these refined capacities and emotions were the font from which the arts originally sprang, when in the days of their infancy they were characterized by little or no-thing which could mark their paternity.
It must, however, be recollected that, although in the first instance the arts originated in the mind, through the exercise and excitement of the faculties and feelings which it possesses for the reception of beautiful or grand ideas and sensations, and to represent or imitate which it was that they were first invented; yet until great mechanical skill, by long exercise and experience, had been attained in the pursuit of them, their dormant energies would not be aroused; and it is only when they have received a high degree of cultivation that their powers are fully displayed. As these arts gradually rise to maturity, their capacities become developed, an exemplification of which will be afforded in the following chapter.
It may further be remarked that, although early efforts in art of each kind are rude and uncouth, and may be thought scarcely deserving of the name of artistical works, and to possess but little of that power of exciting noble and refined ideas which constitutes the most important characteristic in performances of this kind ; yet it should be borne in mind, on the other hand, that although the representation is roughly executed, the artist may have had in his mind, perhaps equally with those who bring forth very finished performances, the ideas of grandeur, and beauty, and sublimity, existent in the object in nature which he is aiming to imitate ; and that the defect in the work itself may be owing, not to any want of taste or of refinement, or of capability in perceiving the true end of art, in the mind of the designer, but to a want of practical skill in the mechanical department, excellence in which is attained rather by science than by art. Thus the idea of the artist may be perfect, but in the execution of his design he may be altogether deficient, and consequently unable to give birth to his conception.
Hence, while the origin of these arts is (as I endeavoured to show in the preceding chapter) in the refined faculties of the mind, the invention • of them is an effort of a grosser and less exalted nature ; the one is the conception, the other the production of the being. It is only when art attains maturity, that its resemblance to the parent from which it sprang can be traced ; but which, during its infancy, from the features not being as yet moulded into their perfect form, we are unable to discover.