Arts Capacities Expand As Its Growth Advance
( Originally Published Late 1800's )
As it is in the natural, so is it also in a corresponding manner in the artistical world, that according as the arts severally advance in their career and become expanded by growth, their development is perfected, and their capacities are enlarged. And on the other hand, as the nation itself, and the people among whom they are followed, advance forward in the cultivation of these arts, and become more civilized and elevated by them, they are able to perceive and duly to estimate and to appreciate as they deserve, the high and noble ends for which the arts are capable of being applied.
And as in the case of the growth of animal bodies of different kinds, the whole frame not only increases in size, and the separate organs become each successively and completely developed, and they severally acquire new capacities and powers, by means of which the full-grown being is one of a totally different nature to what it was while in its infant state; so is it also in a corresponding manner with each of the arts, that, in a variety of ways, their energies expand, and their vast powers become clearly, though for the first time, exhibited, as their growth proceeds. This is true, and equally true, as respects all the arts alike, however great the mutations it may involve in their very nature and operation as their progress advances. Thus, painting and sculpture from being merely and solely imitative arts, are then discovered to be adequate, not only for simply portraying the outward resemblance of individuals, but for representing with becoming grandeur and effect, those glorious transactions which have largely contributed to the renown of a nation. They are then, for the first time, found to be capable of calling forth the most vivid feelings, and of exciting in the mind the noblest ideas. Their ideal and imaginative as well as imitative powers become then fully known.
Poetry also is then used not only simply to record any particular event, but it is found to possess the power of describing the noblest transactions with becoming dignity, analogous to what we see effected by painting and sculpture in their advanced stages; and to be capable of exciting the strongest emotions by the ideas it can convey, and of animating with the sublimest reflections the mind of the reader.
Each art will in a corresponding manner develope its marvellous capabilities, and give proof of the innate powers that it possesses, as its growth advances, and the mighty form expands, spreading forth its branches, shooting out its leaves, and ere long betokening the rich fruit which shall adorn its boughs.
Art of each kind, will, however, develope itself in the mind of every person, according to the peculiar faculties that he possesses, and according to the particular circumstances by which he is surrounded. Thus, in the case of one man, poetry, in that of another eloquence, in that of another painting, in that of another music, in that of another architecture is the art which he will be stimulated to cultivate; and as regards each of these, both the capacity of his mind, and the condition in which he is placed, must largely and directly operate to guide alike his choice and his career.
Changes and revolutions of an important kind take place in the character of these arts during the period of their advancement, owing to many external causes; in the same way as in our own career we are much affected during our growth to maturity by various circumstances, such as the separation from our parents and home, the parting of friends, the dividing of families, the loss of valued and generous relations. So in the arts, the disuniting them one from another, and the allotting them particular pursuits separately, as in the case more particularly of painting and sculpture, and also of poetry and music, effect great alterations in their whole condition and nature. But this is not the case with these latter arts only, as poetry and eloquence were also thus originally united, and with them was music also occasionally conjoined, and sometimes even painting and sculpture, as well. Yet, although all thus at one time blended together, they each eventually parted, and proceeded onwards singly and independently.
Poverty consists not in being free from debt, but in not possessing property. A man of wealth may have many liabilities, and a beggar may not owe a farthing. So in regard to intellectual and artistical wealth, it is not freedom from defects that will constitute a work of genius, but the actual presence of positive merits.
Nevertheless, during the early stages in the progress of art of each kind, more especially that of painting and poetry, it may often be observed, as already remarked, that the followers of it had an adequate notion of the efforts of which it was capable, but wanted only the mechanical skill to realize their ideas. At a later period in the history of art, and especially at the present day, it frequently happens that men possess all the mechanical skill required for developing their conceptions, but that those conceptions are so barren and feeble as to be hardly worth developing.