Page images
PDF
EPUB

a

importance to a nation, so that Governments, that have plenty to do with the public money, find it absolutely necessary to forward art by every means in their power, and if all Governments are so doing now, it is the decorative side or aspect of art that needs to be insisted on. I distinguish “ decorative " from pictorial art in its way of treating nature, and I cling to decorative as distinguished from Gallery or Museum 'art, as being art, not in a formal posture, but as an every-day friend. Beauty all about our daily life, which we should miss if we did not find it.

To establish or revive this want of decorativeness is our great object. Of its important bearing on the other form of art we need not dwell at length.

Decorative art embraces everything that will bear decoration as its field. Hence an enormous expansion of artistic power. In proportion as we enlarge and vary our field of work are the resources our enlargement calls forth. It is because decorative art is so universal in its aim that it becomes so powerful an engine, not only in forming artists, but in acting on the minds of men. And here I meet the question I put at the beginning-Cui bono? What good is there in decoration ? Putting aside, then, all the material advantages to a nation, all the wealth that such powers may help to produce, which are not, I hold, the true end of art, but something beside that end, I look to that which really gives the faculty of art its rank. It is good in itself. It elevates men and nations. In so far as it gives them delight in something beyond mere necessity or mere utility, it sets before them something desirable, not for these baser reasons, but for

[ocr errors]

men.

itself, in that contemplation and value of beauty which is its object and out of which its powers arise. If beauty, if attractivenes, may be abused, this is the fault, not of the object, but of the shallowness or other imperfections of

Beauty may be called the subject-matter of the contemplative faculty, as it studies the face of the natural world—a perishable world, but exquisitely clothed, in order to be a perpetual symbol and image of that which cannot perish. As regards art, I apprehend that the International Exhibition has a special aim to encourage this broad character, and to elicit universal resources which I have tried to indicate by the term decorativeness. Science is, in one sense, the very opposite to art. Art is the produce of that faculty which observes and represents the beauty of the natural world. Science is the result not of external contemplation, but of dissection and examination. Science, indeed, discloses to us the wonders that lie below the surface of things, and gives immense delight from the comprehension of the wonders of that tremendous laboratory. When we apply the word beautiful to the order, ingenuity and resources we there behold, we mean by beautiful that which is astonishing and satisfactory to the mind rather than to the eye, and, strictly speaking, that is not beautiful. Art sees the living object, science requires its death. Not the less is science admirable and elevating, when wisely pursued, to the human mind, for we have faculties of different orders, and to know is part of our privilege as well as to see and to love. But there is a connection, practically spoken of, between science and art which we are apt to misunderstand—I mean the ways in which science produces results somewhat similar to art. Art, in fact, cannot be cheap, and cannot be got without labour and thought. Nor are scientific productions, when beautiful, art, or works of art. Let us take the crowning instance, photography. Are photographs works of art ? Certainly not, unless we credit the sun with a personality, a will, an intellect, and affections. I think no astronomers go to this amount of indulgence. The sun does with the chemicals just what it cannot help doing any more than the looking-glass. The reflections in that useful piece of furniture are just as much works of art as photographs; and I fancy if a personal character attached to that faithful servant it would not be allowed the familiarity in boudoirs and on toilet tables it now enjoys so freely. Photography has done one infinite injury to art—it has nearly driven miniature painting out of the field. Science, however, and art are and ought to be close allies. As a rule, art will occupy one vast field, which it must work upon and which it can never exhaust, and science another. To become really and soundly popular, it must assume that decorative character which shows itself in all great periods of art, and which educates artist workmen.

It would be an immense error to suppose that art can never be practised but by thoroughly educated hands. On the contrary, the large workshops of former days were those of a great master, whose pupils were a sort of family, and where help was required of very various kinds. And we have now an immense mine of ingenuity and very teachable love and taste for art amongst our higher artizans that needs only direction, and that

a

will not only do a vast deal, but give help to artists of a higher stamp, as well as take it from them.

Art is under a republic, in which as much ought to be done, and is done by pushing upward from below, as by disseminating from above; and a wide and universal pursuit of beauty that will not be satisfied without find. ing it everywhere, is the surest and safest source of sound art tradition.

NOTE.—This Lecture was illustrated by diagrams and drawings, to which reference was made during its delivery.

[graphic]

BERKELEY.

BY ISAAC BUTT, ESQ.

« PreviousContinue »