Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 18.djvu/84

This page has been validated.
74
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

taught, of projecting a mental picture upon a piece of paper, and of holding it fast there, so that it can be outlined with a pencil. The Bush-boy of whom I spoke must have had something of this faculty.

We may now foresee that education is likely to accomplish much, for most of the more important peculiarities of which I have spoken are naturally present in a high degree in at least one person out of sixteen. It can hardly be doubted that any of these might be developed by education to a useful amount in, say, twelve out of the remaining fifteen (thus raising all who ranked above the lowest quartile to at least the level of the highest sub-octile).

The forms of the visualizing faculty which we ought to aim at producing appear to me to be as follows:

The capacity of calling up at will a clear, steady, and complete mental image of any object that we have recently examined and studied. We should be able to visualize that object freely from any aspect; we should be able to project any of its images on paper and draw its outline there; we should further be able to embrace all sides of the object simultaneously in a single perception, or at least to sweep all sides of it successively with so rapid a mental glance as to arrive at practically the same result. We ought to be able to construct images from description or otherwise, and to alter them in whatever way we please. We ought to acquire the power of combining separate, but more or less similar, images into a single generic one. Lastly, we should learn to carry away pictures at a glance of a more complicated scene than we can succeed at the moment in analyzing.

There is abundant evidence that the visualizing faculty admits of being largely developed by education. The testimony on which I would lay especial stress is derived from the published experiences of M. Lecoq de Boisbaudran, late Director of the École Nationale de Dessin, in Paris, which are related in his "Éducation de la Mémoire Pittoresque."[1] He trained his pupils with extraordinary success, beginning with the simplest figures. They were made to study the models thoroughly before they tried to draw them from memory. One favorite expedient was to associate the sight-memory with the muscular memory, by making his pupils follow at a distance the outlines of the figures with a pencil held in their hands. After three or four months' practice, their visual memory became greatly strengthened. They had no difficulty in summoning images at will, in holding them steady, and in drawing them. Their copies were executed with marvelous fidelity, as attested by a commission of the Institut, appointed in 1852 to inquire into the matter, of which the eminent painter, Horace Vernet, was a member. The present Slade Professor of Fine Arts at University College, M. Légros, was a pupil of M. de Boisbaudran. He has expressed to me his indebtedness to the system, and he has assured me of his own success in teaching others in a similar way.

  1. Republished in an 8vo, entitled "Enseignement Artistique." Morel et Cie. Paris, 1879.