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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/849

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831
THE ORIGIN OF ART.

It is doubtful whether we could give more evident proofs of the entirely special significance attributed by the savage to drawing, regarded by him as an instrument of power over another. While the examples we have cited relate particularly to man, it is logical to assume that the same process—that is, the figurative representation of animals—plays a like part in the struggle of the savage against his natural enemies. There exist other facts that confirm this hypothesis.

According to Mr. Tanner, the North American Indians, to assure success in their hunts, made rude drawings of the animals they pursue, with arrows sticking through the place of the heart, believing that they will by this means obtain power to cause the game they seek to fall into their hands. The Australians, according to an observer quoted by Tylor, make a figure of the kangaroo of grass in order to become the masters of the real kangaroos in the bush. When an Algonkin Indian wanted to slay an animal, he made a grass figure of it and hung it up in his lodge. Then, having named it several times, he shot an arrow at the image. If he hit it, it was a sign that he would kill the animal on the morrow.

In the same way, if the hunter, after he had touched the wand of a wizard with his arrow, strikes the track of an animal with the same arrow, the animal will be stopped in its flight and held till the hunter can catch up with it. The same result, according to the aborigines, can be easily secured by drawing the figure of the animal on a piece of wood, and praying to the image for success in the hunt.

Here, then, we have, in substance, the origin of the part played by drawing. An Indian song expresses this part admirably in the words, "My picture makes a god of me," and it is really doubtful whether faith in the powerful significance of the art of drawing as an instrument by the aid of which primitive man could obtain a supernatural power over his enemy or his game could be more powerfully expressed.

If we now consider the works of the cave men in the light of these facts, we shall recognize that the object that inspired them had really few points in common with the sense of beauty or the tendency to imitation; and it is clear that if there existed in the mind of primitive man a material relation between a being and its shadow or its image, that man would believe that the same relation was preserved between that being and its image transferred to any object. The purpose sought was to possess one's self of the shadow of the desired object, and the only way of doing that was to fix the silhouette of the shadow on some article. This, in our opinion, was the primary purpose of drawing, and consequently of painting.