Fine Arts. We have spoken of art as nature working through man's intention. It has also been defined as the doing, making or putting together of things by human skill to fit the purpose intended.

The definition of the useful and the fine arts has often been attempted by a contrasting of the meanings of the words fine and useful. This method may, however, leave opportunity for the interpretation that all fine arts are useless arts or that all useful arts are inferior arts. Modern thinking does not, however, admit of the fineness of useless things nor of the inferiority of useful ones. From what we have determined above, and what we know of the meaning of the word useful, we may easily define the useful arts as those doings, makings or puttings together, by which man supplements nature in providing the things which he knows he needs. The useful arts must, therefore, address themselves to and spring from man's reasoning power. Now it is quite possible, when all is said and done, that the fine arts deal with things no less important to man than those of the so-called useful arts. The distinguishing characteristic, however, which we observe in the case of the fine arts, is that here the doings, makings or puttings together address themselves to man's emotions — that they spring from his instincts or impulses rather than from his intellect. In the useful arts man is conscious of the need he is endeavoring to satisfy; in the fine arts he knows only that he is impelled to sing or dance or paint. It is quite conceivable that the only difference between these two forms of art is that they knock at different doors.

Man shudders with the cold and rain, or suffers from the sun's heat, and builds a roof and four walls within which to live. He has produced a work of useful art — the useful art of architecture. His house expresses his need of protection from the elements by tacitly meeting that need. But suppose he makes his roof project, so that a deep shadow will fall upon the walls when the sun shines, and that he makes the chimneys large, so that the house will not only be but seem to be a place of shelter and of warmth; and suppose that his columns be made broad at the base and lightened with decoration at their tops so that they seem to prefer to stand on end, as they do, and support the roof that is above them; then the house does more than merely withstand the elements, it goes so far as to celebrate its triumph over them. This is the fine art of architecture. Here we see architecture as a form of emotional expression — a language of the feelings. This very theme of triumph, it may be observed, has been sung, not in this art alone, but in every form of fine art. From the first aboriginal song and dance down to the days of the Sousa March, triumph has found expression in the fine art of music. In the days of the Romans and before and since it has been celebrated in the fine art of sculpture. In the days of the Egyptians as in our own the theme has been voiced through the fine art of painting; and in all times the fine art of poetry has made it the burden of its lay. So the common ground of the fine arts is the expression of the emotions.

Fine art may well be defined as a species of universal language. The joy, pain, devotion, scorn, patriotism, defeat or triumph which the poet felt who wrote the sonnet is felt again by the person who reads the sonnet. Fine art in other words, means a doing or acting, not on the part of the artist alone, but on the part of the appreciator as well. This is exemplified in dancing, which is a form of musical appreciation, and in which the listener becomes very evidently a part of the performance — coworker with the composer. Arthur B. Davies says: “When I paint a wave I am that wave.” True. And it is quite as true that when you look at his painting of the wave you are that wave. When he sweeps his brush up over the canvas, he feels himself doing just what the wave is doing — he becomes, as he says, a sort of conscious wave; when you sweep your eye over the lines where his brush has led, you too, become a sort of acting, conscious wave. Ruskin describes a wave as “a flint cave — a marble pillar — a passing cloud.” Here we have the principle which has just been stated, applied to poetry. We find ourselves, as we read, living the life of the wave, sharing its bygone past, its rushing present and its unknown future. When we hear Shakespeare's Hamlet into which, as we know, the author introduced many variations from historical fact, we, by reason of those very changes and interpolations, live the thing ourselves and slip into the emotions of its characters, as it were, so that they are our own emotions. When we read an unadorned statement of the historical facts upon which Shakespeare based his play, we get a far more positive knowledge of the precise things which did take place. We contemplate causes and effects, and make psychological or sociological deductions from them. We study the affair in an unprejudiced manner and wholly from without. And now we have described the two great forms of truthtelling. The first addresses itself to the senses or the feelings, springs from the emotion, and is comprehended by a reliving of it. This is fine art. The second is expressed in terms of reason, in terms of the intellect, and is understood through contemplation — a weighing and measuring of it. This is science. Neither one is the whole truth, neither one is devoid of truth. “Science is the knowing; art is the doing.”

The scientist, we have said, measures, compares, expresses things in terms of each other, establishes the relations of things one to another. In answer to your question: “What is a wave?” he will tell you that a wave is the result of certain causes and principles; he will show you the materials that compose the wave; and, if your curiosity is still unappeased, he will separate those materials into their elements. He will show you the effects of conditions upon them, and he may continue, showing cause and cause of cause to the beginning of the world; or, in the other direction, he may deal with effect upon effect to the end of it. He always leads you into the relations of the wave to all other things and always away from the wave itself.

The artist on the other hand forces your attention to the wave, ignoring in his picture the fact that anything else exists. “The real work of art — its way leads nowhere and its frame ends the world.” (Münsterberg). He bends all lines of attention to the thing in hand, fills the consciousness with it, excluding all other things, and uses it as a means of bringing you into the mood which he has experienced. Sleep is said to be the most agreeable experience of which we can know. It relieves us, for the time being, from all responsibility and the need of making any sort of choice or discrimination. Fine art brings us into a somewhat similar condition of repose or of absorption. It leads us, as it were, by making captive first our sense of seeing or of hearing or our imagination, and thence, through the unity and intensity of its interest, our whole consciousness, until like the children of Hamelin we forget all else and follow. But our enjoyment of fine art differs from our enjoyment of sleep. The enjoyment of fine art is the enjoyment of repose, it is true, but even in this repose there are a sort of activity and a full consciousness. When we are enjoying a lyric or a musical rhapsody or a symphony of color, we are living as intensely as at any other time, but our life is being led, and is simply free of the conscious effort of living.

The scope of this essay is to make clear the nature of fine art. It is not its purpose, however, to rehearse any justification of it. Fine art, it is true, does not appear to minister to any of the primal needs of food, raiment or shelter. We cannot here discuss the question as to whether or not man has any real needs other than these three, which, to be sure, he shares with all the higher animals. True it is, however, that the oldest relics of man's handiwork that have come down to us are examples of his fine art, and true it is that he has never ceased to paint and sing nor to admire and listen even to this day.