History Of Each Of The Arts
( Originally Published Late 1800's )
The correctness of the several principles here adduced may be best evinced, and will be fully illustrated, by reference to the history of the rise and progress of the arts in any country, and by that of each of the arts alike; all being swayed by the same important events, and being regulated by the same general principles, they proceed onward together, and the same causes regulate and influence them all. Corresponding characteristics also mark the particular career, and the same stages in the career of each. Every true history of them will bear witness to this fact; and perhaps the best proof of the correctness of such a history will be afforded by this criterion.
In each country, moreover, this is the same. Examples have already been afforded as regards the condition of art during its infancy. What we now have to review is the condition which it exhibits while advancing, and as it changes from one state to another, until it reaches the culminating point of its career; and the phases that it displays during the various stages of its progress. As regards these latter mutations, it may be compared to a lake, whose aspect alters but slightly with the changes of the weather, and of the seasons. The fluctuations exhibited in the condition of art during its advancement may be assimilated to the course of a river which varies at each turn, from its rise to its merging into the sea. Indeed, not only the history of art, and of each school alike, might be referred to, to test the truth of the theory here enunciated; but a reference to the general history of civilization in each country, and, indeed, of society, and of mankind at large, may be appealed to in confirmation of what has been advanced.
As regards, however, the rise of the arts themselves, the progress of art of each kind may be accurately traced from the various specimens extant, as clearly and regularly and consecutively, through all its different stages, as the growth of any other pursuit or branch of knowledge. Thus, in painting, sculpture, architecture, and poetry, as also in music, the drama, and costume, the advancement of each of them is exhibited, as are also the characteristics which I have pointed out, as those that distinguished each stage of their growth; and it is discernible whether these arose from the natural progress of the art contemporaneously with that of civilization, or through the influence of genius in a foreign nation which was more enlightened than our own. In each of these arts, moreover, the talent of an individual artist occasionally displays itself, and rays from this bright planet pierce through the general gloom with which art in general is overspread.
In all countries and in all ages, the arts have ever been analogous to growth in the natural world, slow and gradual in their progress. In Egypt and in Greece, about a thousand years were occupied in their advancement from their primitive to their most perfect state.
Whether in Greece or in Rome, in England or in France, in Germany or in America, the history of art in all these respects will be the same, will narrate the sanie tale, and from it the same moral must be drawn. In each country, indeed, and in every age, it is nevertheless, in reality, not so much art as human nature that is ever the same, and all whose operations are in each case exerted according to the same unerring and fixed principles. And in each of the arts, and at each stage of their progress, are these results seen.
The general history of each of these arts will, moreover, exhibit the diseases and deleterious influences of various kinds by which art has been, from time to time, affected. At no period, indeed, is the similarity of causes operating on art evinced more lucidly than during their infancy, and their decline ; and as like diseases affect them, so corresponding causes occasion their decay.
Architecture, probably more than any other art, exhibits in its rise the various causes which influence art generally, and the multifarious modes of that influence. Thus, wealth, religion, politics, foreign intercourse, luxury, and the introduction of different usages and customs, alike act upon the character of architecture, and in various ways tend to the creation of certain forms, to the development of particular styles, and to the invention of new orders.
The style of architecture in each country, on the first development of the art, is, indeed, as has already been observed,* necessarily moulded and influenced to a great extent by the quality of the materials which presented themselves for use, and the nature of the country where particular buildings are erected. And the original peculiar features of each style continue to affect and to influence the manner and character of the art through successive ages. For instance, in countries where the earliest temples were constructed out of caverns, and in those where trees were first used as their pillars, the general form to which these materials would tend continues to be pre-served in the style of their architecture to the remotest period, as may be seen in those of Egypt and Greece.
Architecture also, equally with the other arts, reflects during its progress, and at successive periods, the character of the people among whom it is cultivated,—intellectual, moral, and physical; their taste, their ingenuity, their turn of thought, their feelings, and their habits, are each exhibited here.
Of all the arts, however, costume is probably that which most accurately and most forcibly evinces the character of the people by whom it is adopted, and that not only of an intellectual, but also of a moral and physical kind. In-deed, not merely their taste and their ingenuity, but their whims and frivolities, as also their physical requirements are here chronicled. Simplicity and luxury, ignorance and cultivation, vigour and refinement, each leave their impress on the art whose features they have had such influence in moulding. It would appear, in fact, that none of the arts are so directly and so extensively affected by the taste of the age as is that of costume ; and, on the other hand, no art, equally with costume, exercises so extensive an influence on the taste of the age. Costume affords the fullest and the most varied opportunities for the display of artistical skill ; and efforts in this art being more generally and more minutely observed than is ordinarily the case with artistic performances, they produce more effect on the character and feeling of the people. The character of the national costume at each period in the history of a nation supplies, moreover, a sure index to the condition of art in those corresponding epochs.