Immagini della pagina

doctrine of the means of internal expression, a thing that is altogether inconceivable. And we know well the reason of its inconceivability; expression, considered in itself, is a primary theoretic activity, and as such precedes practice and intellectual knowledge which illumines practice and is independent alike of both. It aids for its part to illumine practice, but is not illuminated by it. Expression does not possess means, because it has not an end; it has intuitions of things, but it does not will and is therefore unanalysable into the abstract components of volition, means and end. Sometimes a certain writer is said to have invented a new technique of fiction or of drama, or a painter is said to have discovered a new technique of distributing light. The word is used here at hazard ; because the so-called new technique is really that romance itself, or that new picture itself and nothing else. The distribution of light belongs to the vision of the picture itself; as the technique of a dramatist is his dramatic conception itself. On other occasions, the word “ technique " is used to designate certain merits or defects in a work that is a failure; and it is euphemistically said that the conception is bad but the technique good, or that the conception is good but the technique bad.

On the other hand, when we talk of the different ways of painting in oils, or of etching, or of sculpturing in alabaster, then the word "technique” is in its place ; but in such a case the adjective

is used metaphorically. And if a dramatic technique in the æsthetic sense be impossible, a theatrical technique of processes of externalization of certain particular ästhetic works is not impossible. When, for instance, women were introduced on the stage in Italy in the second half of the sixteenth century, in place of men dressed as women, this was a true and real discovery in theatrical technique ; such too was the perfecting in the following century of machines for the rapid changing of scenery by the impresarios of Venice.

The collection of technical knowledge at the service of artists desirous of externalizing their expressions, can

" artistic

be divided into groups, which may be entitled theories Technical of the arts. Thus arises a theory of Architecture, com- different arts.

theories of the prising mechanical laws, information relating to the weight or resistance of the materials of construction or of fortification, manuals relating to the method of mixing lime or stucco; a theory of Sculpture, containing advice as to the instruments to be used for sculpturing the various sorts of stone, for obtaining a successful mixture of bronze, for working with the chisel, for the accurate casting of the clay or plaster model, for keeping clay damp; a theory of Painting, on the various techniques of tempera, of oil-painting, of water-colour, of pastel, on the proportions of the human body, on the laws of perspective; a theory of Oratory, with precepts as to the method of producing, of exercising and of strengthening the voice, of attitude in impersonation and gesture; a theory of Music, on the combinations and fusions of tones and sounds; and so on. Such collections of precepts abound in all literatures. And since it is impossible to say what is useful and what useless to know, books of this sort become very often a sort of encyclopædias or catalogues of desiderata. Vitruvius, in his treatise on Architecture, claims for the architect a knowledge of letters, of drawing, of geometry, of arithmetic, of optic, of history, of natural and moral philosophy, of jurisprudence, of medicine, of astrology, of music, and so on. Everything is worth knowing: learn the art and have done with it.

It should be evident that such empirical collections are not reducible to science. They are composed of notions, taken from various sciences and disciplines, and their philosophical and scientific principles are to be found in the latter. To propose to construct a scientific theory of the different arts would be to wish to reduce to the single and homogeneous what is by nature multiple and heterogeneous ; to wish to destroy the existence as a collection of what was put together precisely to form a collection. Were we to try to give scientific form to the manuals of the architect, the painter, or the musician, it is clear that nothing would remain in our hands but

[ocr errors]

the general principles of Mechanics, Optics, or Acoustics. And if we were to extract and isolate what may be scattered among them of properly artistic observations, to make of them a scientific system, then the sphere of the individual art would be abandoned and that of Æsthetic entered, for Æsthetic is always general Æsthetic, or rather it cannot be divided into general and special. This last case (that is, the attempt to furnish a technique which ends in composing an Æsthetic) arises when men possessing strong scientific instincts and a natural tendency to philosophy set themselves to work

to produce such theories and technical manuals. Criticism of But the confusion between Physics and Æsthetic has esthetic theories of

attained to its highest degree, when æsthetic theories of particular arts. particular arts are imagined, to answer such questions

as: What are the limits of each art? What can be represented with colours, and what with sounds ? What with simple monochromatic lines and what with touches of various colours ? What with tones, and what with metres and rhythms? What are the limits between the figurative and the auditive arts, between painting and sculpture, poetry and music ?

This, translated into scientific language, is tantamount to asking: What is the connexion between Acoustics and æsthetic expression ? What between the latter and Optics ?--and the like. Now, if there is no passage from the physical fact to the æsthetic, how could there be from the æsthetic to particular groups of physical

facts, such as the phenomena of Optics or of Acoustics ? Criticism of

The so-called arts have no ästhetic limits, because, in the classifica- order to have them, they would need to have also æsthetic tion of the

existence in their particularity; and we have demonstrated the altogether empirical genesis of those partitions. Consequently, any attempt at an æsthetic classification of the arts is absurd. If they be without limits, they are not exactly determinable, and consequently cannot be philosophically classified. All the books dealing with classifications and systems of the arts could be burned without any loss whatever. (We say this with the utmost respect to the writers who have expended their labours upon them.)


The impossibility of such systematizations finds something like a proof in the strange attempts made to carry it out. The first and most common partition is that into arts of hearing, sight, and imagination; as if eyes, ears, and imagination were on the same level and could be deduced from the same logical variable as fundamentum divisionis. Others have proposed the division into arts of space and arts of time, arts of rest and movement; as if the concepts of space, time, rest and motion could determine special æsthetic forms and possess anything in common with art as such. Finally, others have amused themselves by dividing them into classic and romantic, or into oriental, classic, and romantic, thereby conferring the value of scientific concepts upon simple historical denominations, or falling into those rhetorical partitions of expressive forms, already criticized above; or into arts that can only be seen from one side, like painting, and arts that can be seen from all sides, like sculpture -and similar extravagances, which hold good neither in heaven nor on earth.

The theory of the limits of the arts was perhaps at the time when it was put forward a beneficial critical reaction against those who believed in the possibility of remodelling one expression into another, as the Iliad or Paradise Lost into a series of paintings, and indeed held a poem to be of greater or lesser value according as it could or could not be translated into pictures by a painter. But if the rebellion were reasonable and resulted in victory, this does not mean that the arguments employed and the systems constructed for the purpose were sound.

Another theory which is a corollary to that of the Criticism arts and their limits, falls with them; that of the union of the theory

of the union of the arts. Given particular arts, distinct and limited, of the arts. it was asked : Which is the most powerful ? Do we not obtain more powerful effects by uniting several ? We know nothing of this : we know only that in each particular case certain given artistic intuitions have need of

definite physical means for their reproduction and other artistic intuitions of other means. We can obtain the effect of certain plays by simply reading them; others need declamation and scenic display: there are some artistic intuitions which need for their full externalization words, song, musical instruments, colours, statuary, architecture, actors; while others are quite complete in a slight outline made with the pen, or a few strokes of the pencil. But it is false to suppose that declamation and scenic effects and all the other things together that we have mentioned are more powerful than a simple reading or a simple outline of pen or pencil ; because each of those facts or groups of facts has, so to say, a different purpose, and the power of the means cannot

be compared when the purposes are different. Relation of Finally, it is only from the point of view of a clear the activity of and rigorous distinction between the true and proper to utility æsthetic activity and the practical activity of externalizaand morality. tion that we can solve the complicated and confused

questions as to the relations between art and utility and art and morality.

We have demonstrated above that art as art is independent both of utility and of morality, as also of all practical value. Without this independence, it would not be possible to speak of an intrinsic value of art, nor indeed to conceive an æsthetic science, which demands the autonomy of the æsthetic fact as its necessary condition.

But it would be erroneous to maintain that this independence of the vision or intuition or internal expression of the artist should be simply extended to the practical activity of externalization and communication which may or may not follow the æsthetic fact. If by art be understood the externalization of art, then utility and morality have a perfect right to enter into it ; that is to say, the right to be master in one's own house.

Indeed we do not externalize and fix all the many expressions and intuitions which we form in our spirit ; we do not declare our every thought in a loud voice, or

« IndietroContinua »