Classifaction Of Each Art
( Originally Published Late 1800's )
THE due and correct classification of each of the arts, as-signing to them severally their appropriate province, is a matter of the first consequence in the attainment of a complete know-ledge of the subject of this work ; and to this object the present chapter will be devoted.
Each art has not only its own proper and especial department, but in that particular department alone this individual art reigns supreme. As an individual man may be by nature peculiarly adapted for some one pursuit, and disqualified for another; so certain arts are fitted for one purpose, and unfitted for another. The powers of each may be extensive, but they are in each limited to their appointed spheres.
The province of each art I may define to be that particular department of it in which it is peculiarly qualified to effect the greatest purposes, and for which the subjects to which it is to be applied are especially adapted.
But although each of the arts lias its particular province, where, but where alone, it exercises entire sway ; yet this need not prevent it from ever entering into the dominion of any of the other arts, even should it there be admitted rather on sufferance than by right. To each is its allotted department assigned, and beyond that it has no legitimate power or rule. Occasionally, however, either by tolerance or usurpation, each exercises to some extent the authority of the other. Thus, arts the most remote in their nature, and the most different in their mode of operation, may sometimes trespass on each other's province. For instance, painting usurps the authority of poetry when it seeks to convey the thoughts and expressions of the individual portrayed beyond a general suggestion regarding them; although this may sometimes be done without encroaching upon the province of, and as it were by consent of the other. When in poetry, form and colour are minutely described, or a particular graphic representation is attempted, the territory of painting is more or less invaded.
As each art has its own peculiar province, so it is greatest in that province. Its success there is most complete, it flourishes there as in a climate most congenial to it ; but this affords no conclusive reason why it should never be exerted at all in the other provinces, when circumstances require that it should be so applied. Many of the most vigorous plants now growing in this country were not originally natives of the soil. But this consideration ought not to lead us to the opposite and equally erroneous conclusion, that because to some extent several arts may be exerted with equal success in the attainment of the same object, all the arts are equally capacitated for this purpose. This would be like asserting that because some plants bear transplanting to, and flourish in a foreign clime, all plants are adapted for all climes. Painting, sculpture, poetry, eloquence, and music, do not so much differ in their actual capacity for imaginative efforts, for example, as in the mode in which they exert them.
Art of each kind may have different objects in view as regards the subjects which it embraces ; as, for instance, it may be termed material when it aims at the representation of material objects moral when it aims at describing sentiments or feelings; mental when the results or workings of the mind are to be exhibited.
The portrayal of spiritual beings, when reduced to visual objects, must, however, belong to material depicted; as al-though they are spiritual in their nature, they are depicted as material, which is indeed the only mode in which they admit of actual representation.
As a general principle, it might perhaps be laid down that the visible arts, such as painting and sculpture, are best adapted for the representation of visible objects and actions, such as the forms of men and their bodily operations ; while the in-visible arts, such as poetry, eloquence, and music, mainly fitted for the description of invisible subjects, such as the workings of the soul in all its various modes.
It is occasionally difficult to mark out the division between sculpture and architecture; and where, especially in ornament, the one commences and the other leaves off. When the sculptor colours his statues, he intrudes into the province of the painter. When the poet or rhetorician, in order to give emphasis to his recitation, modulates his voice, he enters the province of music. And when the orator assumes passions and gestures symbolic of feelings which do not really animate him, he strays into the province of the actor.
It is, however, not only a matter of importance, but frequently one of great practical consequence, to maintain the proper separation and distinction between the different arts, and to keep each within its appointed and natural boundaries. This is especially seen in the case of poetry and eloquence, as when in the place of eloquence, the object of which is to adorn and add effect to argument, poetry is resorted to, mere tinsel is generally the result. So poetry, in a corresponding mode, is degenerated, when, instead of being tasteful or imaginative, it is rendered argumentative. Sculpture and painting become debased in like manner when they either of them aim at the efforts proper only for the other; as when perspective is endeavoured to be introduced into sculptural composition. In artistical as in animal nature, a mule and barren race is produced by the adulteration of those of different kinds.
Although the various arts resemble one another in many points of agreement, as I shall endeavour to point out in the chapter which follows the present; yet the differences between them are in every respect so great, so marked, and so essential, especially as regards their mechanical mode of operation, that it is unnecessary to dilate on this subject here. While they have all of them the resemblance which belongs to members of the same family, they have each of them the peculiar characteristics which distinguish from one another the different independent individuals of that family.
During the early ages of art, I have already in a previous chapter remarked that each of the arts were very frequently united, both as regards their being blended into one, or, when they remained distinct, their being exercised together.