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not bear out Whistler's theory that nothing is of importance except the temperament of the artist. It shows, on the contrary, that there are times in the lives of nations when a genuine and general feeling for art arises, after the people have successfully passed through some great crisis. The time in which their endurance was tested, and their ability to cope with opposing circumstances proved, is followed by a period of intense mental vigour and of material prosperity. A general feeling for art, which may have been lying dormant, awakens, and great writers, painters, and sculptors appear about the same time, and are called, for want of a better term, a school.
Such a spirit is found in Greece after the great struggle between culture and liberty on the one hand, and barbarism and slavery on the other, resulting in the overthrow of Persia, and the rise of Athens to supreme power, when those mighty works of art that are still the wonder of the world were produced by Pheidias and the other artists of the bril liant age of Pericles. Such a period is seen in Italy after the dark ages, when the revival of learning spread through the land and the long line of artists from Cimabue to Tintoretto was its chief glory. Later, in the north, came the fight for freedom of thought, when Caxton was setting up his printing press, when Luther was struggling for liberty, and Columbus discovered a new world; and again there is a similar period under the leadership of Durer and Holbein. And in Holland, Rembrandt, Ruysdael, and Hals appear after the years of patriotic endurance and courage shown in the war with, and the defeat of, the mighty power of Spain.
Similarly we see in England that its greatest artistic period when Reynolds, Gainsborough, Romney, Turner, and Constable were painting their masterpieces, followed the expansion of the empire after the war which resulted in the rise of Prussia, and the conquest by England of Canada and India; a time when the victories of Minden, Quiberon, Quebec, and Plassey were fresh in the memory, when the nation was inspired by the grand spirit that animated Chatham, and had imbibed his ardent belief in its destiny.
Again in France, after the upheaval of the Revolution and the conquests of Napoleon, we find the protest against classicism made by Delacroix and the other leaders of the Romantic movement, and the appearance of the remarkable “men of 1830,” or the “Barbizon” school, Corot, Millet, Daubigny, Rousseau, and Troyon, and the modern Dutch artists, inspired by the same ideals, followed shortly after.
It is not easy to trace the history of art in China, but there is no doubt that beautiful porcelain has been produced there for a long time and at frequent intervals, and the artistic environment must have helped to form those outbursts of supreme art which occurred after the conquests of the Han, Sung, and Yuan Dynasties. Certainly one of the greatest periods was that of Khang-hi (1662–1723), shortly after the great war in which the Ming rulers were overthrown.
It thus seems to be the case that art makes its appearance often in certain conditions of national life, usually after a period when a people has by a victorious struggle produced