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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 70.djvu/437

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433
THE CLASSIFICATION OF THE ARTS

consideration. They have been the instruments of trade and gain, rather than the ministers of joy and life. They have thus been degraded. They are the Cinderella of the household of art. None the less they are noble; and when clothed in beauty, as some day, let us hope, they will be, they will win their full share of admiration and devotion. The repulsion which some profess to feel toward the machine arts is based upon a misconception. It is not these arts which should excite disdain: it is the purpose for which they are employed and the conditions under which they are practised. They could free men from drudgery if properly used; they outrank the genii of fable in serving their master; and they are not in themselves incompatible with pleasure and beauty. But as industrial conditions are to-day, men are not the masters of the machine. They are enslaved by it. Machinery has more slaves than any dominant class ever possessed. Thus it has been, and thus it will be as long as men are 'an appendage to profit-grinding.' Once free men from the machine, give them leisure and culture, and the machine arts will become fine arts. Under normal conditions the element of the beautiful would manifest itself in all work, mechanical or manual, because man is a beauty-loving animal.

It appears, then, that the arts now known as the fine arts must, in our present classification, be distributed among the handicrafts and the mechanical occupations, since they have been selected out because of their idealistic character. They are physical arts, because, like all such arts, they realize the ideal by the exercise of manual or mechanical operations upon brute matter. The artist who paints a picture employs pigment and canvas and brush. To be sure he is supposed to 'mix his paint with brains,' but there is nothing essentially unique in this. Mortar should be so mixed—and dough. The sculptor uses stone and a chisel. The mechanical part of his work is turned over to the machine, from which he himself is free. His art differs in no inherent and absolute respect from that of the industrial artist. Carving a statue to please the eye ought not to differentiate the 'artist' from the laborer who carves a chair to relieve us of 'that tired feeling.' If the one act is accompanied by pleasure, and a manifestation of the beautiful, while the other is not, it is due to factitious circumstances.

It is not to be denied, of course, that the fine arts are the most highly cultivated of all the arts. Their possibilities have, perhaps, been more completely realized than those of the other arts. Certainly this is true with respect to the vital and the social arts. They have drawn to themselves much of the talent freed from the grosser forms of labor. They have touched the highest levels of skill in execution, and of idealistic conception. Zeuxis, it is said, imitated nature so successfully that the birds pecked at his painted grapes, while Parrhasius, his Athenian rival, deceived with his pictured curtain even the practised eye of