« EelmineJätka »
in natural scenery, to produce emotions of beauty, which is in agreement with the general judgment of mankind.
Suppose further, that the same individuals, in the course of their journey, stop to examine a gallery of paintings. One of them in looking round on the different pictures, selects a painting which he pronounces beautiful. The attention of the others being called to it, they express the same opinion, and again they unite in calling the individual who has pointed out the painting, a man of taste. Here, as in the former case, all that is implied, is, that the individual called a man of taste, is able to judge of the fitness of works of arts to produce emotions of beauty.
But let us now suppose, that instead of speaking of the individual who pointed out the painting to their notice, they are led to speak of the work itself, and to call it a work of taste. This might be said of a work of art, though not of a scene in nature; for in this expression reference is evidently had to the artist by whom the work was executed, and we never think of the Creator as guided by taste in the work of creation. All that is here implied also, is, that the artist has shown by the design and execution of his work, that he is able to judge correctly as to the fitness of objects and scenes to produce emotions of beauty. But to show more fully the nature of taste, and to point out its connection with the imagination, I shall here describe the manner, in which it guides the artist in designing and executing his work; and in doing this, I shall confine the attention to works in the art of Painting, since the mind conceives most easily and distinctly objects of sense.
Connexion of taste with the imagination. Let us first suppose, that the scene or object represented by the painter, is an exact imitation of some scene or object in nature. In this case, we might be pleased with
the work and say that it discovers good taste. We might be pleased, because the original scene is one fitted to excite emotions of beauty, and we might ascribe good taste to the painter, for his having selected a scene of this kind to be represented. Besides, we might be gratified with the skill that is shown in the execution of the work. Emotions of beauty might be excited at closeness of the imitation, the justness of the colouring, and the truth of the perspective; and we might say, that taste has guided the artist in his exhibition of what are usually called secondary beauties of painting.
But the most admired works in the art of painting are not exact imitations. They are the creations of the painter, and have no archetype in nature. And it is in designing these original works, that the presence of taste is most needed, and its influence felt.
With the purpose of showing in what way taste guides the artist in designing his work, I shall here introduce an account given by Cicero, of the course pursued by Zeuxis, when employed by the Crotonians to paint the picture of a beautiful female. The city of Crotonia was celebrated for the beauty of its females. Zeuxis requested, that those esteemed most beautiful might be assembled at the same place. From these he selected five, who, in his estimation, excelled all others in beauty, and by combining in his picture the most striking traits of beauty in each of these five, he executed the task assigned to him.
Now, in the whole of this process, taste was evidently the guide of the artist. The selection of the five most beautiful virgins, the choice of the most beautiful traits in each, are both instances of judgment, founded on the experience of past emotions. But this is only the preparation for his work. What has been thus selected must now be combined together, and so combined, as to produce one harmonious effect. Instead of an assemblage
of beautiful limbs and features, an air and proportion must be given to the form, and a cast to the countenance. Here is exercise for the designing powers of the artist, and over this part of the work taste must also preside. Different modes of combination present themselves before his “ mind's eye,” and of these different combinations, one is to be selected as most beautiful. The making of this selection is evidently an instance of judgment, founded on the experience of past emotions of beauty. Zeuxis was familiar with forms of beauty, and had fixed in his mind those principles of judging, which enabled him to decide with readiness and correctness. Hence, no doubt, his celebrity as a painter of the female form,
From this example, we learn, why the most admired productions of the painter are not exact representations of objects and scenes in nature. In natural objects and scenes, that which is suited to excite emotions of beauty, is mingled with objects of indifference and disgust. The artist, under the guidance of taste, collects together these scattered fragments of beauty, and combining them in one view with harmonious effect, presents to us objects and scenes more beautiful than those which can be found in nature.
But it is by no means the case, that the artist is confined to objects and scenes of nature for the materials of these new combinations. It is here that the office of imagination and its connexion with taste, may be seen. By this faculty of the mind, the objects of past sensations are inodified and combined anew, and images of objects and scenes, that exist only in this airy creation, rise up before our view. But while gazing on these visionary things, the same grateful emotions of beauty are excited, as when the objects before us have more of reality. Hence, when the artist would represent to us a scene, which shall strongly excite our emotions of beauty, he calls in imagination to his aid. She brings to his view a bright assemblage of forms of beauty. She presents them in different lights ; combines and modifies them variously. And while these shifting scenes are flitting before him, he selects, under the guidance of taste, the most beautiful forms and happiest combinations, and fixes them on the canvass for our view.
From these united efforts of imagination and taste, the artist presents to us models of excellence, superior to what can be found in works of nature, or in the productions of artists that have preceded him. By the efforts of genius, he is enabled to make such combinations as others have never made; and taste, by exercising itself in the study of these visions of the mind, reaches a degree of perfection, to which it could never have attained in the study of existing models, or of the scenes of nature. But if imagination thus assists in the cultivation and improvement of taste, taste in return repays the assistance of imagination, by acting as a director in the new creations which she forms. Imagination might be furnished with a thousand different forms of beauty, as the materials of her work, and unite them in ten thousand different combinations; but without taste to preside and direct, she could never reach that harmoniousness of effect, and that unity of expression, to which nature often attains.
Value of models of excellence in the arts. From this analysis of the manner in which works in the fine arts are produced, the assistance, which the artist must derive from the study of models of excellence in the arts, may be learnt. Here he sees presented before him, the representations of those beautiful forms of nature, the knowledge of which, without this assistance, he could have obtained only by frequent and tedious processes of observation and analysis. The beau ideal is delineated to his view, and he forms his taste from the
contemplation of perfect forms of beauty, instead of those imperfect forms where beauty is mingled with deformity. He sees also the most happy combinations of these forms. He has before him the results which others have made, and is thus placed in advance of those, who are not favoured with similar means of improvement.
The man, who is thus permitted to form his taste from models of excellence around him, may be said to exist in a new creation. He lives, where the sun sheds a brighter day, where the clouds are skirted by more brilliant colours, and where nature's carpet shows a richer green. Angelic forms are about him. He ever stands on some chosen spot, and each new scene that presents itself, gives but a varied hue to the emotions of beauty that he feels.
Explanation of the word Picturesque. We may learn also in this connexion, and by the aid of the principles which have been stated, what is meant, when it is said of some countries, that they present scenes more picturesque than those found in others. This epithet, when applied to natural scenery, relates primarily and principally to the harmoniousness of effect produced on the mind, and implies such a prominence and combination of objects as give an expression or character to the scene.
Nature seems in such instances to perform that work of combination, which, when represented to us on canvass by the skilful painter, we say he has designed by the aid of imagination and taste. The view may or may not present surpassing forms of beauty. We look not at objects individually, but regard them as grouped together and exerting a combined influence. Neither is it implied that the prospect is extensive, and that it embraces numerous and varied objects. On the contrary, picturesque scenes are most frequently those