Arts - Corresponding Utility In Their Respective Spheres
( Originally Published Late 1800's )
It is also to be observed, as an additional bond of union between all the various branches of the arts, that they each of them in their respective spheres are of corresponding utility, although this utility may be very different in its nature and operation among these different arts. As already mentioned,* each of these arts aims at the same object as regards its effect in refining and ennobling the mind, in aiding the progress of knowledge, and the general advancement of civilization, both as respects man individually and men collected into a nation.
It is remarkable, indeed, how various arts the most remote from one Another in their general nature, are similarly applicable in this respect. Here alone they all unite their forces, and at this point concentrate their energies. Thus painting and poetry and gardening, which are in their quality and the mode of following them as widely different as any pursuits can be, exactly coincide as regards their ennoblement of the mind, and storing it with pure and beautiful ideas. Music and costume, which are in their kind equally dissimilar, also alike contribute to the refinements and the enjoyments of civilized life.
Each of these arts may differ, indeed, as to the extent to which they are individually able to effect the refinement and ennobling of the mind at which they all alike aim, and also as to the peculiar mode in which they attain that end. But they all agree in this essential point, that they each do contribute to its promotion; and although they vary as to the mode, they each coincide as to the means by which they accomplish it, being the excitement of grand and poetical ideas, and the exaltation of the higher and purer feelings of the soul, with the corresponding mortification of those which are gross and sensual. As all the arts are the same as regards their power to produce these great effects, and as regards their utility to the mind from their production, the fact of their difference as regards the material in which they exist, as already alluded to, only renders the coincidence now being considered the more remarkable.
It may be further observed, as regards the corresponding utility of the different arts in their respective spheres, that these several arts constitute not only the best illustrations, but the most complete correctives one of another. They serve to stimulate each other in this manner where either is wanting, and the example of one maintains and illustrates the principle put forth in another ; perhaps, indeed, the more widely different they are as regards their actual nature, the more essentially is this the case. They also assist the rise of one another, each contributing alike to produce that condition and temper and taste in the public mind, which is favourable to the growth and progress of art, and which in fact constitutes the essence of the common bond of their utility.
Each of the arts, moreover, acts extensively and constantly upon the other, and upon the various intellectual and moral pursuits contemporaneous with them, correspondingly with the mode in which each of these pursuits acts upon and influences the arts. Indeed, the joint study of different arts, especially of those which are most nearly allied, cannot fail to be of service to those who follow them in aiding their cultivation in various ways. Thus the knowledge of form acquired through modeling for sculpture is of extensive use to the painter; and the experience of light and shade obtained by practice in painting is of no less advantage to the sculptor. To both of them an acquaintance with costume is of considerable benefit, and the student of costume is equally indebted to the other arts for excellence in his own.
As I have remarked that a knowledge of music aids the poet in the regulation of his strains, as it does also the orator in the intonation of his periods, while the musician derives advantage from his capacity for poetic composition ; so among the greatest masters in the arts, we find that Michael Angelo, and Leonardo da Vinci, and Albert Dürer, were at once poets, painters, and sculptors; Shakespeare, too, was both an actor and a poet.
It will also be found that one of the surest ways of avoiding mere servile imitation, is to endeavour to improve the mind in one art through the medium of another; as, for instance, by enlarging and refining the ideas for the production of great works in painting, by the study of corresponding efforts in poetical composition ; and by resorting to the latter also in the cultivation of eloquence. At any rate, by thus inspiring the mind, and filling it with ideas of sublimity and beauty, we shall be less likely to be content with servilely copying those models of excellence in painting or sculpture to which we resort for instruction and guidance, which latter purpose is indeed the only legitimate use to which they should be applied.
Arts the most remote one from another as regards their nature and mode of cultivation, will, moreover, occasionally assist each other in the most important manner; thus, the designer of ornamental grounds may obtain very essential aid from the study of landscape composition in painting, alike as regards the grouping of trees and shrubs, the disposition of the water, the balancing of colours, the arrangement of light and shade, the distribution of different objects, the undulation of the ground, and in various other respects. Poetry, from its descriptions, will also aid here, as will also architecture and sculpture, from the assistance which they directly afford in supplying subjects to adorn and give effect to the composition.
Moreover, as general learning and art and science mutually correct and improve each other, and on this account ought to be followed contemporaneously together, like the different elements of civilization, if civilization is to be fairly carried out, and to attain its legitimate end ;* so, in a corresponding manner, do the different branches of the arts respectively co-operate together, and ought each to be studied and to be followed at once, both by the same professors and the same students of either. Every art tends alike to improve, to enlarge, and to invigorate both the pursuit and the principles of its contemporaries and coadjutors.