Arts Influence In Promoting The Study Of Nature
( Originally Published Late 1800's )
The actual practical value of each of the arts has a very extensive scope in the case of every individual, as regards the capability which they confer upon us for admiring nature, for viewing her in all her real splendour and beauty, and thus having in every object around us something to dwell upon and delight in. In imbuing the mind with the first principles of art, we are led to analyse each separate element of beauty in nature, as the variety and various tints of foliage, the many hues of a landscape, the different forms and shapes of objects presented to us ; and our attention is called to several picturesque scenes which we should otherwise pass unheeded, but which, having thus studied them, we are induced to look for, and dwell upon, and admire. We become habituated to trace them out, and the pursuit is one of constant delight and satisfaction.
As the most perfect study of art is that which is effected with the aid of nature, so the most perfect study of nature is that which is followed by the direction of art. The painter sees beauties in each form and each tint, which the unartistical student of nature does not and cannot perceive. Nature her-self, however, appears not only to have fitted all alike for the enjoyment of this study, but to have afforded to all, in the grandeur and beauty and variety of the scenes she displays, the richest stores of poetic lore, and requires no learning or superior skill to enjoy and admire her sublimities and glories; although the more the mind has been refined and cultivated, in which each of the arts contributes its aid, the more it is alive to the admiration of these scenes. To all persons, therefore, of every rank and class, this pursuit is alike and equally adapted and advantageous.
The representation of human nature is, however, after all, the noblest end for which the arts are capable of being applied. This is effected by portraying man under different circumstances, and exhibiting the various passions and emotions and affections which excite him. The description of the greatest transactions which have attracted the attention of mankind is one of the highest and most important purposes in which the arts of painting, sculpture, poetry, eloquence, and acting can be exerted. In these particular branches of art, the delineation of character—as it is displayed in the various scenes and enterprises in which men engage, and in the workings of the feelings and passions of the mind—is the most noble and most important department of study connected with this subject. Hence the arts, as will be seen on a full investigation of their claims in this respect, are fully and justly entitled to be considered as representing human nature in its general and practical operations, and hence also are really entitled to hold that high and intellectual rank among those branches of learning which have occupied the attention of mankind, that they claim to possess. This is indeed the highest branch of the study, as its object is the highest and noblest to which the arts can attain. And indeed the true knowledge of our nature is the most valuable prize which learning of any kind can secure to us. To this aim, moreover, as we shall hereafter see, the greatest of our artists devoted their principal study; and to their acquaintance with and success in this, many of the most renowned alike among painters and poets and actors have owed their fame. By these means a great variety of characters and passions is presented to our observation ; opportunities for studying human nature are, moreover, constantly afforded in numberless varieties.