« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
to be stated. But all this study is only preparation for art. It is learning to play the scales, but it is not music. It is acquiring the language, not writing poems. Bel. You differ from the principles laid down by Mr. Ruskin, who seems to think that a perfect reproduction of anything physical before you will constitute an admirable work of art. Mal. Oh, I don't believe he would accept such a rendering of his thought and teaching. He has done an immense deal of good by his writings. He has stimulated the mind to think. He has brought art over from vague generalities to a real study of nature, which is the true basis of excellence in sculpture and painting. But it is not the end. We cannot idealize anything by omitting its peculiarities and slurring over its facts; but only by mastering them, and then subjecting them to the idea to be represented. Besides this, he is a poet, and his descriptions of nature in landscape are wonderfully true and subtle. But in his statement of principles he is vague, contradictory, and unphilosophical. The principles he lays down dogmatically in one chapter, he controverts and refutes in the next, so that it is impossible to understand what his real principles are. He has no system, but very many just observations; no metaphysical accuracy, but a high poetic and critical faculty. He has changed his view in regard to many of the great painters in the most remarkable way,+now decrying them as comparatively worthless, and at a later time praising them with equal vehemence. It always seems to me as if he were learning his lesson aloud, and correcting his impressions before the public. Still, he speaks as authoritatively when he is beginning to study his lesson, as afterward when he has advanced to a position where he finds what he said is untrue. But he has one great merit. He is honest, bold, and in earnest. Bel. His observations of nature always strike me as particularly admirable and close, and his descriptions are so poetic and rich in expression and style that they carry one away with their eloquence. But you were saying that imitation is a mere means and not an end of art. You are speaking, I suppose, more in relation to sculpture and painting than in relation to poetry and music Mal. I have been speaking of art in
general, and not of art as confined to any particular form. Undoubtedly, in sculpture and painting, imitation must properly be carried further than in music or poetry. Music, which is the most ideal of all the arts, at once wrenches itself entirely from imitation, and seeks to stir the emotions by fiery sallies into the upper nature which overbroods the lower nature of facts, forms, and incidents, as the sky over the earth. In landscape, for instance, the material facts are etherealized and transfigured by air, light, and color, so as to lift them out of prose facts, and the true artist should seek the sentiment as well as the facts. It is by the imaginative sense that he subdues the prosaic facts to the emotion and idea to be conveyed in his work, and thus fuses the literal into poetry. Round every form there hovers an essence that spiritualizes it, and it is this which the true artist should seek to appropriate as well as the form, for without it the form is vacuous. Nature is plastic to the soul. There is no stock, or stone, or weed which a great emotion in the heart will not spiritualize. Nature is not a dead repertory of facts—it is a living keyboard for the imagination to play upon, out of which infinite combinations of harmony or melody may be produced. But nature must be played by the artist in the key of the emotion to be embodied, and the modulations must follow the creative energy, or only consecutive sounds will be evoked, and not music. Bel. That is what we mean in common parlance when we say of a work that it may be very clever, but it has no feeling, —that it shows great skill and technical mastery, but does not touch us. Nothing, I suppose, ever does touch us, unless it has come from a deep feeling. Unless the artist profoundly feels his own work, and infuses into it his own spirit, how can he expect to move any one Mere mechanical dexterity will not evidently suffice. How many works, despite their technical merit, seem to us hard, cold, or clever : while other works, despite their manifest defects and incompleteness, delight us But I did not mean to interrupt you, though you require, perhaps, to be taken down from your high horse once in a while, lest you go out of sight and lose yourself in the clouds. But go on. Mal. Look at poetry, and you will see how little imitation has to do with it. The poet will never evoke the simplest scenery by enumerating its facts, but he condenses into a single phrase the whole spirit of the scene, and makes it live again in the sympathetic mind of the reader. He leaves out the barren and waste details which do not of necessity belong to his emotion, and without falsifying, reproduces nature as a garment to his thought. In music, too, the composer does not imitate the sounds of the natural world, though he summons it up to you by the tones in which he embodies it. So it should be, though in a less degree, with the painter and with the sculptor. He cannot say all, and he must select. What is not necessary in art is impertinent. Each work has its one word to say, its one blow to strike, and if that be missed, all the rest is rubbish. If the artist have a real and sincere intent, a living idea and thought, let him subordinate all to that, rejecting the unnecessary, however pleasing in itself, and making his work in all its details converge to one point, and cry out with one voice. But to do this, he must have an imperious conception to which all must yield. He must learn the virtue of renunciation. What is left undone is as necessary to a true work of art as what is done. In each of the arts too much is as fatal as too little. A suggestion is often better than a statement. The imagination is always ready to be beckoned, but rebels against being drilled or driven. Bel. I have a modern picture in my mind now, which justifies all you say. It was painted with very great technical skill—all the parts were carefully finished, and it showed great talent. But it had no central point of interest. Each detail was emphasized as if it were essential, and the artist seemed to have given as much love to each bit as to the whole. Indeed the whole was lost in the parts. When I first saw it, the impression it made on me I cannot better express than by saying, that it seemed to me as if I entered a room where everybody was talking at once —each claiming my attention, and each saying his word as loud as he could. Apparently the artist was afraid of not being true to every part in detail, and thus lost his grasp on the essential one thing to be said. The public was delighted with the care with which everything was done; but the whole picture seemed to me a mistake, and a waste of talent. Notwith
standing its skill, it left no real impression upon me. Mal. Art is now a slave or servant of the age, and no longer a leader and master. Yet this is not its true function. It is born to command, and its life is Freedom. But the necessities of the time, the follies of fashion, and the public desire for illusion and imitation, pull it down from its pedestal, and drag it in their train. It goes creeping along to swell the pageant of wealth and utility. But art does not sing well in a cage. It is only in the fulness of freedom that it does its best. As Schiller says in his “Letters on the AEsthetic Education of Man,” “Man only plays when in the fullest sense of the word he is man ; and he is then only truly man when he plays.” What is mere truth is only the mechanics of art. It is of the earth, earthy. But inspiration and imagination have the spirit of what Schiller calls play. They are rejoicing and self-sufficing, and freely play with the materials that work has collected. So long as Qur art is mere work, it is a vulgar drudge. It is only when imagination lends it wings that it soars into its true sphere of the ideal, and becomes the master and not the slave of Nature. Let me read you a passage from Schiller on this subject. He says—“The current of events has given the genius of the age a bias, which draws it further and further from the art of the Ideal. This must abandon actualities, and lift itself with becoming boldness above mere necessities. For art is the daughter of freedom, and from the urgency of the spirit, not from the necessity of the matter, must its conceptions spring. But necessities now rule, and bow fallen manhood under her tyrannical yoke. Utility is the great idol of the age, which all powers serve, and to which all talent does homage.” Bel. There is no doubt truth in all this, though it is a little vague in expression. Yet between the claims of the ideal on the one side and of practical adherence to nature on the other, the artist seems to have as difficult a course to steer as between Scylla and Charybdis. In the past generation we had the Ideal school, which, by endeavoring to lift itself above nature, became vague and untrue and phantasmical. Now we have the Realistic school, which sins as much on the other side, and becomes literal and prosaic in its slavery to imitation. Taking to avoid Scylla, we have fallen on Charybdis. Mal. The true mean is of course difficult. If art were easy, and its path strictly drawn, it would cease to be the problem it is. But listen again to Schiller : “Matter without Form” (he uses Form in the highest sense of imaginative shaping) “is only a half possession, for the most royal knowledge is buried when dead treasure in a mind, which knows not how to give it its shape. Form without matter, again, is only the shadow of a possession, and the utmost dexterity of art in expression is useless to him who has nothing to express.” Bel. All very true, but is it not also self-evident 2 Mal. I suppose it is ; but in discussions upon art, one has often strongly to insist upon principles which seem to be almost self-evident. Bel. Let us go back a little to what you were saying about Imitation not being the end of art. In music and in poetry, one sees at once that it is not. The ear has a science for its art, but unfortunately the eye has not. There is no absolute harmonic scale of color, and still less of form. And we must therefore depend on our natural instincts, as we have no definite positive rules. Mal. That is undoubtedly true to a certain extent ; but I have no doubt that there is a real science of harmony to the eye as well as to the ear, only we have not yet discovered and formally established it; and so we blindly work in the one, while our way is comparatively clear in the other. I spent a good many hours at one time in endeavoring to make a thoroughbass of color, but it foiled me, and after many experiments I gave it up. But sounds and colors are closely connected, and the harmonies of one are as absolute as those of the other. The blind feel this perhaps more than those who see, and certain sounds represent to their minds a corresponding color. You remember the blind man who said that the sound of the trumpet seemed to him scarlet. Do we not all feel that he was right ! It may be fanciful, and of course it is, but most of the instruments represent to me colors. Bel. You may well say this is fanciful. I do not follow you at all. . They represent nothing of the kind to me ; and even if what you say were true, I suppose to
each different mind the effect would be different, and it would be difficult, if not impossible, to establish any agreement. Mal. I dare say it would. I merely threw out a hint. But the common use of the words “tone” and “harmony,” as applied to color, indicate that there is a subtle connection between sound and color, however dim and intangible. Certainly some colors clash together, and produce the same mental impression as discords in music. So also harmonies of forms and lines are felt to be allied to music, though we cannot explain the relation. Proportion is harmony ; symmetry is nothing but the harmonious relations of measures, and I have no doubt they have an absolute mathematical relation, as much as the pulsations of strings. It is because we do not scientifically know these relations that we are always groping in the dark ; and having only an empirical knowledge, gained from practice, we are never sure of anything, and so cannot lift ourselves above imitations of what we see and feel to be agreeable ; and this brings me back to what I was saying. In art, servile imitation means ignorance. Take sculpture, for instance. This, as I have said before, is at once the most positive, the most restricted in its means, and the most requiring in its end. If in this art mere imitation be not required as of necessity, it would seem to be required in no form of art. Yet it is precisely because of its literal imitation that sculpture in the modern days is defective. It has no style. It is not nature, it is the individual model ; it is Lisette or Antoine. When compared with the best antique work, though it is far more elaborate in its execution, and more finished in its details, it is far inferior in character, dignity, and style. In the antique the forms are scientifically disposed, according to a certain established scale or harmony of proportion, and the details are subordinated to that distribution. The type is never lost sight of ; it dominates all the parts. The Greek artist in his ideal works never suffered himself to be seduced by any accidents of the model from principles established by long study of the varying forms of nature, and reduced to system. His art has, like music, a thorough-bass, a scientific standard of proportion which is absolute. He permits himself no extravagance of gesture or form, but he seizes on
the characteristic, works it boldly out, and knows what he is doing. All the ancient sculpture has a style of its own ; whether the individual work be good or bad in execution, it is founded upon a distinct and scientific distribution of parts, —upon a system which the artist has learned, and knows as if it were a multiplication-table. Modern sculpture, on the contrary, is full of accident. It is domineered over by the model. It is founded on no system and on no scientific basis. It has no absolute standard of proportion for the human form, it is governed by no law, and seeks through imitation of the individual model to supply this want. Part by part it is worked out, but without any understanding of the whole, and without any style. Imitation is its bane, because the imitation is carried out without principles and without selection, and what is seen in the model is copied and taken as absolute. Bel. Do you say the ancients had a mathematical and scientific standard of proportion to which they always adhered Mal. Undoubtedly. No one can carefully examine the ancient statues without being struck by that. They are all marked by the same characteristics of proportion, and even their poorest works are blocked out on a regular system. Bel. Would not such a rule limit the sculptor exceedingly, and tend to render his work mechanical ? Mal. Certainly not, if the standard was just. Nothing would help him more than an absolute rule of mean proportion. He might vary it in any figure, if he chose, for a special effect, but in so doing he would always know how far he strayed, and would be careful not to exaggerate. Besides, small variations produce great differences ; and, after all, he must be careful to keep to the real proportions of the human figure, whatever he do. Does grammar prevent us from being poets : Does the exact science of thorough-bass limit the range of music * Does not the imagination play with the utmost freedom within its bounds ! Is the result of its strict rules, monotony of character among different composers ? Is there any resemblance between Beethoven and Rossini ? Yet they both worked within the same absolute rules of thorough bass; and if at times Beethoven chose for effect, contrary to rule, to make consecutive fifths, he vio
lated the rule consciously, while he recognized it as in ordinary cases just. Bel. Was the rule of proportion the same through all ages of Greek art Mal. No. The first scientific and absolute standard of the proportion of the human figure was established by Polycleitus, who wrote the famous treatise on the canons of proportion, celebrated in antiquity, and who embodied its rules in the statue of the Doryphorus, which was called the Canon. After him Euphranor introduced a variation, by lengthening the lower limbs in proportion to the torso ; and still later, Lysippus increased this variation. But all recognize the necessity of a standard of proportion for the formalization of their work. This in nowise restrained their inventive powers, or limited the range of their imagination. How could it ! Bel. I do not see how it could. I merely asked the question, because I remember an article written upon a treatise of proportion, where the critic objected to any elaborate system or standard of proportion upon the ground that it restricted the artist's powers, left him no free play in his art, and tended to render his work mechanical. Mal. Nonsense. Such a critic could have had little idea about art to entertain such a notion. He must have supposed that a sculptor could do nothing better than to set a model before him, and copy as accurately as possible what he saw. But such a method as this would never result in excellence, except by chance. A model should serve an artist only as a grammar or dictionary of reference, to supply gaps in his knowledge of special facts and nothing else. It would be impossible to take from one the soul of his work,nay, even the pose of it, for the artist must use it in reference to a fixed notion of movement and expression in his own mind, and modify it to that. No model can take even the pose of the statue you are making, as you wish it to be ; and some fixed notion you must have, otherwise, as the model constantly changes, not only in pose but even in parts, according to her changes of movement, his work would require constant changes to correspond, and he would never end. Bel. Besides, no model can ever enter, I suppose, into the feeling of the artist, and assume the true movement he seeks.
Mal. Never ; and therefore it becomes necessary for the artist to have a fixed conception, and a thorough knowledge of what is just and proper to express it, taking only from the model what suits his idea, and rejecting or modifying the rest. And here the Greeks are our great masters. They sought for style, and not for minute imitation of details. The details came in subordinated intelligently to the masses, and they formalized their statues to a scientific standard of proportion. Too minute an imitation was by them considered a defect. Callimachus, for instance, on account of his exceeding devotion to detail, was nicknamed karatnātex vog—the over-refiner or niggler—and he was criticised by Quinctilian as “nimius in veritate.” Lysippus, indeed, was celebrated for the great finish of his works (argutiae operum), but in his standard of proportions he was more ideal than any of his predecessors, and he worked upon a peculiar system of his own, saying that “men should be represented, not as they were but as they ought to be.” Yet in his day the grand school was already on the wane, and soon began to decline into eclecticism, over-refinement, and delicacy, and to betake itself to portraiture and the making of Venuses and Cupids—just as the best style of the great Italian painters declined and became academic in the time of the Caracci. In the grand school of Phidias, the details were completely subordinated to the masses. Nature was thoroughly understood and treated with great mastery, but minute detail was avoided.
Bel. Mr. Ruskin would seem to trace back to imitation of nature even the forms of arabesque, and has endeavored to account for the pleasing effect of certain lines and combinations by the suggestion that they are taken from natural products, as leaves and flowers, and are therefore beautiful. This seems to me to be an utterly untenable position. Forms and lines, and combinations of these, are not beautiful because they are to be found in nature, but simply because they are beautiful—that is, because there is an inborn sense of harmonious relations in the human mind to which they respond. Certain forms and certain proportions please the sense of beauty—and there is the end of it. A line does not please us because it may be found on the outline of a leaf,
—for the outline on the leaf would not please us merely because it was found in nature, but because simply it pleases us. Both please us for the same reason. The combinations of harmonious and melodioustones in music are not taken from nature. They do not owe their charm to any imitation of nature's sounds, but to the inward sense of man. And the same is the case with arabesque. Certain combinations are agreeable, and others are not, whether they may be found in nature or not. It is idle to tell me I ought not to like the Greek fret, because there is no such form to be found in nature, and it is an imitation of nothing; and that I ought to like the honeysuckle pattern, because it is taken from the flower. I answer that this has nothing to do with the reason why I like or dislike either pattern. All forms in nature are not necessarily or equally beautiful, otherwise we might as well copy in arabesque one thing as another. Mal. It was only this morning that I read a passage from Mr. Ruskin which bears upon this very question, and which is a famous specimen of his autocratic style and his inconsequential argumentation, or rather affirmation —which he deems philosophy. Here it is : “I have repeated again and again” (how imperious !) “that the ideas of beauty are instinctive, and that it is only upon consideration and in a doubtful and disputable way that they appear in their typical character.” This would seem to agree with the notions you have just expressed. But mark how he continues: “While I assert positively, and have no fear of being able to prove, that a curve of any kind is more beautiful than a right line, I leave it to the reader to accept or not the only reason for its agreeableness that I can at all trace —namely, that every curve divides itself infinitely by its change of direction.” Can there be a more extraordinary contradiction of sentiment than is exhibited in this passage? First, he asserts that the ideas of beauty are instinctive, and appear in a doubtful and disputable way; then that he can prove that a curve is more agreeable than a right line; and then the only proof that he can offer is a suggestion, which the reader may accept or not. How can you prove anything which is doubtful and disputable by a suggestion that in itself is admitted to be questionable !