Greek Sculpture: Its Spirit and Principles

By Edmund Von Mach | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VIII
PHYSICAL EFFORT AND PLEASURE OF LOOKING AT EXTENDED COMPOSITIONS

There is a great difference between looking and seeing. One often sees in spite of one's self; but it takes a certain degree of mental and physical energy to look at an object. If a statue be placed in one's way, one cannot help seeing it. To understand its thought may imply a certain mental effort, but it would be improper to speak of a physical effort on the part of the spectator. An extended composition in either high or low relief, on the other hand, cannot be seen at a casual glance; one must look at it. The eye is focused on the relief; it is kept there and follows the lines which the sculptor has carved, up and down and from side to side, until the entire relief has been surveyed. This requires a very decided physical effort on the part of the spectator, who will quickly weary of his task unless the artist, by making use of all possible devices in his power, succeeds in rendering this task easy and pleasurable. The attention of the spectator, moreover, ought not to be centered in the exercise of his physical faculty of sight, because that would impede his understanding the thoughts of the artist.

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