Conjuction And Co-operation Of Elements In Representations Of Each Class
( Originally Published Late 1800's )
Although, in order the better to analyse and distinguish them, I have in the present chapter treated the different principles or orders, and elements of the picturesque as though they were generally found existent separately in particular subjects; yet, in most cases, they will be seen to be each more or less combined in the various objects which excite our taste or our feelings.
It is very remarkable, moreover, how the same elements of grandeur and beauty conduce to their proper result in each of the arts exactly alike, which beyond anything affords proof of their power, and of the close connection and affinity between these different arts. Although these various orders and elements may be united together in the same composition, they should be united harmoniously, so as, like the notes of different musical instruments in one particular tune, all to accord together, and each to aid the operation of the whole. By this means, instead of in any way counteracting, they may add extensively to the effect of one another.
As in works of nature these opposite orders are united in the same object, so must it necessarily be in works of art; and the result in each case will be the same. And as in nature we see many different and even varying qualities in the same subject, and however contrary they are the one to the other, all acting harmoniously together, and each contributing to the completion of the whole system ; cold and heat, sweet and bitter, light and dark, magnitude and minuteness, all combined, and all alike in operation : so in artistical design, the orders and elements of grandeur and of beauty, of pathos and of ridicule, will frequently be found blended together in the same composition, and each contributing,—even where they counteract the direct and immediate effect and operation of certain others,—to the general vigour and efficiency of the whole.
Probably, too, the more perfect and exalted is the work of art, and the nearer it accords with nature, the more extensively shall we find this feature prevalent in its composition. It is especially the case with the cartoons of Raphael, and with the tragedies of Shakspeare, which, although differing so essentially one from another, are each founded on the same principles, and each owe their effect as regards their picturesque qualities, to the same elements of this nature being infused into each. Grandeur, beauty, and also pathos, are here alike displayed, and all in full vigour, without materially deteriorating from the effect of either.
Ridicule, in its nature and operation differing so widely from the other orders of the picturesque, is less frequently employed in union with them, although occasionally this is the case, and is to be observed even in some of the most perfect works both of art and of nature.
On certain occasions therefore we may observe that ideas suggestive of grandeur, beauty, pathos, and even ridicule, are collected together in the same composition, as we frequently find in an oration, where they are of course selected with due discrimination and care according to their nature ; just as in the material composition of a painting, different colours are made use of. So also as regards expression and character, a due variety of these must not only be employed, but those of several kinds will be applied in each particular case. Hence, although grandeur and beauty are so opposite to each other, and in certain cases the effect of one in any object tends to destroy, or at any rate to diminish that of the other ; yet it not unfrequently hap-pens that the two are united, and perhaps in equal proportions in the same composition, whether one of nature or of art. This is I think especially the case with the Swiss Alps, which, doubt-less, afford some of the most charming views in nature. In fact, it is but seldom that either grandeur or beauty exist in any high degree, without some share of the other. Probably, the ultimate result of this adulteration is to lessen the effect of the leading order, in proportion to the admixture of elements of the other orders with it; while the actual power of the object itself upon the mind, although in a different direction and mode, may be the same. Hence, therefore, picturesque effect may be produced and extensively heightened, not only by a number of elements of a suitable character of the same nature or class, but by those of a totally different kind. In an analogous manner, in the case of scenery, grandeur and beauty result from an assemblage of objects of this description, which are perceived by the eye; while the effect of the landscape is extensively added to by the excitement of ideas and emotions through the other senses ; as by the singing of birds, the fragrance of flowers, and the genial feeling of the air, sensations which we experience through the lower senses of hearing, and feeling, and smelling.
So also with regard to the different efforts of the mind that are capable of being exercised in the production of works of art, which should, in a corresponding manner, be exerted and blended together, and made to aid one another. Thus imitation and origination co-operate together. Genius so adapts to its own ends, whatever it embraces, as to convert them to its own property ; or rather by its fire melts down and recasts the ideas which it obtains. Thus even in the case of the commonest scenes, the application of this power invests them with originality.
What we ordinarily term magnificence results from the union together, or combination into one subject or object, and the co-existence there to a large extent, of the elements both of grandeur and beauty; as we see in the case of the starry firmament, where we know not which most to admire.
In mountain scenery, the wildness and raggedness and appearance of desolation add much to its grandeur; as in fertile scenery, the variety of the tints, the luxuriance of the foliage, and the verdure of the plains combine to produce a beautiful effect. In the former case a sense of danger contributes to aid the result ; in the latter, one of comfort and tranquillity. The emotion caused by the first is allied directly to pain; that produced by the other is allied directly to pleasure. Pleasure, or perhaps rather gratification, is, as has already been observed, indirectly produced by the former also.
In natural scenery, as in works of art, grandeur and beauty may aid the effect of each other, both by contrast and by setting off each other. To a certain extent also, grandeur and beauty may be combined in the same subject, as has already been demonstrated; and although both may be efficient here, yet in some degree they ordinarily impede each other, more especially as distinct emotions in the mind are excited by them. Thus a great mountain, as the Wengern Alp, is of itself an object of grandeur. When the rays of the setting sun are reflected upon it, it becomes an object rather of beauty than of grandeur. Yet no one can deny that its total effect is rendered more striking by the glories with which it is then illumined, Perhaps, however, the sentiments which it excites are less sub-lime and elevated than those with which it was beheld by day. On the other hand, the novelty and singularity of the scene con-tribute much to the sensation which its appearance occasions ; and, as already observed, astonishment is one of the elements of grandeur. Astonishment is, however, no conducive to beauty.
Not only different arts, but different branches of the same art should be followed together, and which aid and illustrate one another. Thus landscape-painting might advantageously be studied in conjunction with the pursuit of the epic style, by which a closer acquaintance with nature, with her various features and operations and characteristics, will be acquired, and something of her spirit may be caught. The grandeur and dignity of mountain scenery should also be resorted to to animate the painter of history. The action of the storm may assist in the description of passion. And the infinite variety, harmony, and beauty, which every prospect in nature displays, may serve as a directing principle, illustrated by the most perfect example, to be observed in each of the other arts.
If any instance in nature should be demanded, where these different elements and principles may be seen to be in an especial manner developed together, and are productive of the most extensive effects, we might refer at once to the human countenance. Here, however, grandeur and dignity are the characteristics of the male, as beauty and grace are of the female. In the case of each, moreover, the several elements may be observed to contribute their share in causing the development of these various orders of the picturesque.
Pathos and ridicule, considered in this light, might be said mainly to belong to particular characters and conditions of mind, which are occasionally displayed by those of each sex.
This combination of the orders of the picturesque, corresponds therefore with the combination in their exercise of the intellectual faculties, through which these orders and elements are availed of. And it is alike, and perhaps equally, in works of nature and in those of art, that this admixture and application of different principles and powers may be observed.