Modern Art: Being a Contribution to a New System of Aesthetics - Vol. 1

By Julius Meier-Graefe; Florence Simmonds et al. | Go to book overview

TRADITIONS

PAINTING is the art of charming the eye by colour and line; sculpture charms the eye by means of form in space.

As the eye, in common with every other organ of sense, has a tendency to reflect its perceptions on the understanding, i.e., that accumulation of experience which checks new perceptions by those already accepted, and, as it resists every illusion that might jeopardise its earlier acquisitions, the charm of art cannot be summarily explained as illusion. Were this otherwise, susceptibility to its influence would presuppose defective powers of understanding, and this is contradicted by actual facts. Though persons of high attainments have lived all their lives ignorant of the charm of art, it is not, on the other hand, to be denied that the keenest thinkers have been very susceptible to artistic influences. To explain this, we must assume the existence of certain brain-parts having peculiar functions; these, in some individuals, act simultaneously with the parts on which the concentration of the understanding devolves. When a beautiful new flower meets the eye, the senses announce it to the understanding as a botanical specimen; in certain spectators, the other portion of the brain-will be simultaneously occupied solely with the form and colour of this new thing, regardless of the question whether these qualities belong to a flower, ie., to a familiar species, which, as such, may suggest all sorts of extra-æsthetic--for instance, utilitarian--considerations. It may be presumed that all men are provided with this brain-power more or less, that it may be cultivated or allowed to dwindle, and that not only individuals but whole races are more richly endowed with it than others. Like the other brain, it has its store of experiences, and the conscious sum of such experiences known as logic in the one, is called æsthetics in the other. This, like logic, is enlarged by every new experience, by every new enjoyment, and thus enriches not only itself, but every individual enjoyment.

So far, all is simple enough. The difficulty arises from the undeniable relations between the two brains. The great question nowadays is, whether the one can work without the other. It is at least certain that perfect results will not be achieved, either in logic or æsthetics, if the two are divorced. Artistic enjoyment may be promoted or hindered by these relations; there may be works, that set both in motion, that act as a strong stimulus not only to the æsthetic, but also to the intellectual apparatus, and call all the powers of the mind into play. There are works that do not merely impress as beautiful;--they may even do this to a comparatively slight degree--but with their beauty, they combine a depth of experience that goes beyond all experience achieved by intellectual processes, and gives the soul an instantaneous sense of enlargement and enrichment. Such works were not vouchsafed to the classic age of art, superior as it was to ours in beauty of form. They first became possible, when traditions relaxed somewhat, and permitted an isolated genesis of artistic genius, under circumstances that were even opposed to the spirit of the age: Michelangelo--Rembrandt.

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Modern Art: Being a Contribution to a New System of Aesthetics - Vol. 1
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Illustrations vii
  • Illustrations in Text x
  • Book I the Struggle for Painting xi
  • The Mediums of Art, Past and Present 1
  • Traditions 12
  • The Rise of Painting 15
  • The First Florescence of Painting 27
  • The Empire 33
  • Ingres 36
  • German Art 40
  • England's Contribution 45
  • From Delacroix to Courbet 144
  • Book II the Pillars of Modern Painting 217
  • Gustave Courbet 219
  • Manet and His Circle 257
  • Cézanne and His Circle 266
  • Degas and His Circle 277
  • Renoir and His Circle 287
  • Book III Colour and Composition 299
  • I. Colour *
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