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cannot say that our age is markedly deficient in intellectual activity, nor is it conspicuously lacking in the moral sense. Quite the contrary. But what about Art and Beauty, how do we compare with the men of Greece, the men who built the mediaeval Cathedrals, the men who made the Art of Italy?
This then is our theme; and the endeavour is by a series of pictures, as it were, to bring home the fact that Art is the thing that we lack, and further, that it is the lack of this art and love of beauty that indirectly has affected our other activities and injured our life as a whole.
“Let him that hath two loaves go sell one and buy therewith the flowers of the Narcissus, for as bread nourisheth the body, so do the flowers of the Narcissus nourish the soul.”
I. B. STOUGHTON HOLBORN,
New York City, April, 1915.
The Need for Art in Life
HE need for art in life is a fact generally admitted but rarely realized. Art
perhaps, is regarded by many as a necessity, but a necessity of a minor order, not one that is woven into the foundation warp of existence. It is then my hope to show something of the extraordinary importance of beauty in life, and so show why I firmly believe that the lack of art and beauty is really the main cause of what is wrong with our civilization, not the only cause by any means, but the most fundamental.
Now it may sound a little startling to say that the main cause of the social evils of to-day is a want of art-appreciation; yet I not only believe that it is the case, but believe that it can be proved and that we shall never get true social reform and never conquer the evils of our times until a national love of beauty has been brought about.
There are many ways of approaching the subject. We might, as some of you have
heard me do, diagnose the effect upon the individual of the presence of artistic development in greater or lesser degree and see how our different modern pursuits and activities are influenced by the presence or absence of art.
Or again we might make a searching analysis into the nature of beauty as such, and, by a similar analysis of truth and goodness, arrive at the basic relation of these things, and so determine scientifically what must be the part that they each play in relation to life.* This is perhaps the best way, although by far the most difficult; and indeed there are strong reasons why another method should be used first and prepare the way for a more metaphysical treatment.
It is therefore my intention to turn to the great art-epochs in our western civilization, Greece, the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, and, by a survey of these, arrive at some conclusion as to the part that beauty and art must play in life. We shall find that whereas the secret of the success of Greece, and the dominant position that she occupies in the history
* The lecture on The Relation of Beauty to Goodness and Truth, was delivered before Yale University and will be published in a companion volume to this.
of past civilization, is due to her breadth of outlook and her all-round grasp of life, both the Middle Ages and the Renaissance failed to see life clearly and see it whole, and suffered seriously in consequence. When we turn to our own age, is not this lack of comprehensiveness and due balance of parts again evi-. dent; do we not suffer likwise, and is not the part, that in our case is missing, the national and all permeating love of art and beauty, even in the meanest objects of life?
In approaching our subject it will be helpful to say a word as to the manner of that approach. I intend to draw a series of mental pictures, and the attitude of mind that I want to evoke is one somewhat foreign to our age and therefore difficult of attainment. It is, as we shall see, the attitude of the artist and the judgments and arguments depend in the main upon the merits or demerits of the pictures in themselves and have little or nothing to do with the relation of these pictures to actuality.
It is what I might term the method of art as distinct from the method of science. This will become more apparent as we proceed; indeed the whole is an appeal for the artistic outlook and its supreme value for this age.
We may say that the artist judges the picture as a thing in itself, just indeed as he would judge actuality.
The picture is not judged as related to anything. The artist judges actuality the same way. Its 'reality affects the judgment neither one way or another. The sunset is excellent within itself. Whether it has any real existence is immaterial. Its relations to light, to vibration, to physical laws are equally inconsequent.
Further we may say that the arguments of art, its proofs, its judgments are not the arguments, the proofs, the judgments of science. The strictly scientific method is almost helpless in the domain of art. To appreciate the value of a work of art by pure scientific method is as unsatisfactory as to try and produce emotion by the calculations of pure reason.
It is not in the least that they are contradictory or antagonistic. They are, if we may so phrase it elements in a wider whole. They may in a sense be regarded as supplementary; but the passage from the emotional to the rational, or from the artistic to the scientific, involves a transition to the fundamentally different.
A simple illustration may help at the outset,