Academic journal article Journal of Evolutionary Psychology

But It Is Impossible in Such Hurried Visits to Immortal Works, to Give an Adequate Idea of Their Character

Academic journal article Journal of Evolutionary Psychology

But It Is Impossible in Such Hurried Visits to Immortal Works, to Give an Adequate Idea of Their Character

Article excerpt

"Character," upon which Sophia Hawthorne's art appraisals focused, spawned many of the critical responses imprinted in her "Roman Journal" (1858), sculptures, and architectonic constructs imprinted in her "Roman Journal" (1858). Not only did her probings reveal an ingrained sense of esthetics, a historical understanding of the artists and the periods treated; but most intriguing were her glimpses into her inner topography: her idealizations, happy, and somber mood swings. Understandably, then, did her verbal distillations range from rationally and meticulously controlled to flamboyant, lyrical, and excitable assessments. Her melding of ethics paved the way for ideological strayings which, on occasion, took her far afield from the constricting guidelines of her time. Such flights encouraged her to see into line, form, and rhythmic sequences, transforming her "Roman Journal" into a living document of the soul.

Sophia's art critiques disclosed a uniquely personal feel for figures and objects, which not only expanded the scope of her original intent, but endowed the segments of the canvas that caught her eye with life and breath. It may be averred that when deeply moved by a visual image, she became possessed by it, unleashing a flow of insights which struck deep into the heart of the artist's creative impulses--and by extension her own spirited energies.

Immensely qualified to pursue a vocation of art criticism, Sophia who had been drawing and painting since the age of eleven, accomplished her undertaking with exacitude and dexterity. Indeed, Thomas Doughty and Washington Allston had been so impressed with the copies she had made of their canvases, that the latter artist suggested she go to Europe and "devote herself to art" (J. Hawthorne, 1968. Nathaniel Hawthorne and his Wife. I, 64ff.).

Significant as well was the joy she seemed to have in the composition of the "Roman Journal." Orchestrated within these pages were her finely trained pictorial talents, her complex, and at times confidential ideological notions, and, yes, her bodily reactions to the sensory experience aroused in her by the art object per se. "How I like to write down the illustrious names of what I have all my life long so much desired to see! I cluster them together like jewels, and exult over them" (S. Hawthorne, 1869, Notes in England and Italy, 98). Indeed, the power of Sophia's projections onto an image may even have helped her come to terms with certain latent, but troubling feelings that the work had constellated in her psyche.


The word character derives from the Greek--charakter, to engrave, indicating a distinctive sign. Sophia's art appreciations encompassed not only the beauty, ugliness, and drama she saw in the linear forms before her, but the behavioral patterns locked into the artists' designs and tonalities as well. In this regard, her typological assessments may be identified with C.G. Jung's archetypes (from the Greek, archi, beginning, and typos, stamp, or original form in a series of variations). Archetypal or primordial images, which emerge from the profoundest layers of the unconscious, are contained in the "suprapersonal and non-individual" collective unconscious. Although "inaccessible to conscious awareness," the contents of the collective unconscious are the archetypes and their specific symbolic representations, archtypal images" (E. Edinger, Melville's Moby-Dick, 147). Archetypes are experienced in universal motifs, such as the Great Mother, the Spiritual Father, and so forth.

To be noted in our discussion of Sophia's "Roman Journal" are her annotations and frequent emphases on archetypal images revolving around the anguish of martyrdom, and various types of mother, father, and maiden/parthenos figures. In many cases, her reactions seem to strike a powerful note with her, disclosing certain magnetic fields and/or energy centers in her psyche, which in turn cause her to project more intensely onto the images under scrutiny. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed


An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.