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the ideal and the practical. In all true art it is the thrilling power that tells. The mechanical side, the organ of expression, must, of “Not imicourse, be made as perfect as possible, but creationis
tation but not the absolutely accurate performer is the the aim."
“Essay on true artist. No! great technical skill alone Art. only leaves us cold, comfortless, and unsatisfied. Emerson. But he is the master, the musician who stirs us to the hidden depths of our nature and calls the tears to our eyes — the orator who plays on his hearers as on the strings of a harp — the painter who makes us feel!
Strange as it may appear, it seems that, as has been alluded to in the beginning of this chapter, there must always be two views of this matter, one that of many artists, and the other that of the observers, both honestly held, yet apparently contradictory. The recognition of this may help to throw light on the question. It is generally the artist, and usually one completely taken up with the more practical side of art, that is, one who is studying to find the perfection of form and colour and to acquire the skill to reproduce them, and occupied wholly with striving to reach his ideal
in his pictures, who has little time to analyse his thoughts and feelings and thinks not of these things, it is he who holds, as a rule, the art for art's sake theory in its extreme form. And it is hardly to be wondered at. For as he works unconsciously, in so far as regards revealing himself, he must think and believe that he is working altogether for art's sake. It is not to be supposed that he could say to himself, as he commenced to paint any scene, “Now I will show how my feelings are affected by what I see.” Such posing would be fatal.
No, he thinks he is working solely for art, and trying as far as possible to give a true and faithful account of nature, and he uses all his knowledge and craftsmanship in doing it. For him, so he thinks, the ability and skill he can acquire to reproduce exactly what he sees are the all-important matters. And so he believes thoroughly in the art for art's sake theory, and is very intolerant of any criticism of it from those outside the pale, who know nothing of the technical difficulties that have to be overcome before an artist can produce even a picture whose only merit, in
its way a great one, is perfection of technique. If this were all that art could give there would be nothing more to be said about it.
But the other view holds that it is only a part of the truth that artists of this way of thinking see. The observers, from careful study of the masterpieces of painting (and artists are apt to forget how much non-technical but very important knowledge and information can be acquired in this manner), get a broader and more general outlook. They are able to distinguish from all other work, that of the artist who honestly holding this view, yet does more than he dreams of, and gives unconsciously the true essence of the scene before him, tinged with his own personality. They look not only for fine technical skill and colour, but in addition to these they want to find something of the thought that inspired the man as he worked. They consider that this is a higher view of art and that it contains the lower in it. As regards the merely technical part of the painting, they cannot be as good judges as the artists themselves, but they may often be very well able to form a
truer opinion of the real greatness of the picture.
It is not a question as to whether there should be fine technique and colour and design. The artist is inclined to imagine that the ordinary observer neither knows nor cares about these things, and so he accentuates unnecessarily their value. There may be some truth in his idea as to the indifference of the public, but he should remember that it is the opinions of the few who know, that, gradually filtering through society, in the end influence the public and form its judgments. And so people generally come to have right views about pictures, even if they do not fully understand the reasons of their belief, nor why they should admire both Rembrandt and Whistler, Turner and Daubigny, Terburg and Degas, Watteau and Monticelli. All who think seriously about it are fully aware of the importance of the matters the artist lays such stress on, only they believe that, while these are undoubtedly essential elements of a picture, there are others as necessary, if not more so, and that sufficient attention is not paid to them. It is quite right for the artist to hold that he should paint decorative pictures, and fill the space at his disposal with graceful design and fine colour, and those on the other side entirely agree with him about this, only adding that it is not the whole truth and so does not go far enough. This decorative treatment should be seen in all good paintings. They should all be beautiful in line, form, and colour. But if they are to rise to greatness they must “Il serait inhave, besides these, a subject of interest, one un excellent
utile d'être that has stirred the thought of the artist and esprit, et
un grand fired his imagination, and at last been recorded peintre, si by him on his canvas in such a way that it
et it l'on ne met
tait dans has the mysterious power of communicating son ouvre the feelings that animated him to others who are in sympathy with his mood. In painting la réalité
n'a pas. in this way he is usually quite unconscious c'est en that he is doing more than recording the scene quoi
l'homme est before him to the best of his ability; and the plus intelli
gent que le personal feeling and originality expressed in
soleil, et j'en these records depends just upon his ability remercie
Dieu.” or, in other words, his genius.
E. FromenIf we consider the works of the greatest tin. painters among the old masters, such as