James Pyle Wickersham.

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there is a natural difterence among, men in their
ability to do particular kinds of work. All men
would not make equally good mechanics, equally
enterprising merchants, equally skilful physicians.
For each man there is an appropriate sphere — some-
thing he can do better than anything else, if not
better than anybody else. Of these differences
education must take account.

Ingenuity in making things can be cultivated in
childhood. Blocks can be used in building little
houses, towers, bridges, &c. Very beautiful models
of objects can be made of terra cotta. A great
variety of things can be cut from pasteboard and
paper. Suitable tools with suitable material to work
upon may be given to children.

Imitation is a faculty largely used in executing


all works of Art. Exclusive dependance ought not
to be placed upon it, but, working side by aide with
the understanding, it is a valuable auxiliary in attain-
ing success in Art. The child should have models
in learning to draw, write, or sing, and so in all
other Arts. The best model, however, is a skilful
workman. Pupils who see work well done will be
apt to do it well ; but if the teacher be a bungler,
his pupils will not be likely to excel him.

The maxim, "Practice makes perfect," was de-
signed to apply to the execution of works of Art.
There may be a well-defined end before the mind's
eye, the scientific principles involved in the accom-
plishment of it may be understood, his powers of
imitation may be active, and still, unless a pupil
enjoy ample opportunity of practice, he will most
likely be wanting in skill. Skill in Art is attained
by a training rather than a teaching process. Pupils
in our schools are probably not allowed to do enough.
Sufiicient practice is denied them. The argument
seems strong in favor of combining work and study.
Knowledge applied will be remembered. It is by
doing that character is formed. Life makes the man,
not study.

2. Instruction in the Rational Arts.

The Pational Arts are the free productions of our
ideals of perfection. A generalization of these
ideals of perfection gives us the True, the Beautiful,
and the Good; and the Rational Arts admit, doubt-
less, a corresponding three-fold division. He who


constructs a system of Philosophy or of Ethics for
the purpose of realizing his ideas of truth or good-
ness, is not less an Artist than one who bodies forth
his ideas of beauty on canvas, or in marble. Either
may work for an end of utility, but in that case the
production belongs to the Empirical, and not to the
Rational Arts.

In what is to be said, here, however, we shall
mainly keep before our mind's eye the Arts which
are expressions of the beautiful, usually called
Fine Arts — Gardening, Architecture, Sculpture,
Painting, Music, and Poetry; not forgetting that
everything may be made, in the language of another,
" The basis of an exquisite Art, for Art being uni-
versal disdains no field of ministration however
humble, but avouches its redeeming virtue most
in descending to w^hat is lovely, and exalting that
which is despised. It sheds a divine splendor over
the meanest things, and glorifies the infinite riches
of its resources in the exact ratio of the intrinsic
poverty of its materials."

What we have to say concerning methods of
teaching the Rational Arts may be said under heads
similar to those adopted in treating of the Empir-
ical Arts : 1, End ; 2, Means ; 3, Execution.

1. Their End. — The end of the Rational Arts is
the expression of ideals of perfection in concrete
forms — is the production of things of beauty.

To those who use only the senses which acquaint
them with material objects, to those who so mix up
in the world's afi:air3 that their hearts become dead


to all that is beautiful, an end that cannot be meas-
ured by some practical standard is counted as of
little worth. But as we rise above mere animal
wants and are freed from their pressure, our higher
nature begins to seek expression in forms that fitly
embody its ideals of perfection. It is thus Angels
act. It is thus God creates. The soul has interests
as well as the body, and the educator ought not to
overlook them.

No one can be an Artist who has not born within
him an ideal of beauty. It is this ideal which he
paints on canvas, chisels out of marble, expresses
in tones, or writes in measured words. It is his
model. It is his light. It is what he struggles to
body forth. Every work of Art is a new birth.
iN'o thing can emanate from emptiness. Up from
the depths of the soul comes this image, and we
fitly call its coming inspiration, and can say no more.

2. Their Means. — We seek now the means of
expressing the ideals of perfection born in the soul.

There must be a suitable body. It may be form,
color, tone, word, but there can be no Art without
a body. Without it, the image might exist in the
mind, but it could not be expressed. 'Nor is the
relation between the ideal and the body used to ex-
press it a matter of indifference.. An Artist may
exhibit exquisite taste in the selection of his forms,
his colors, his tones, his words.

There must be appropriate accessories. The
central thought of a master of Art cannot be pene-
trated at a glance. It , is a study, and can only be


approached by steps. There must be an adjustment
of surrounding details each co-operating to heighten
the general effect, or to make more impressive the
main design.

There must be a knowledge of scientific principles.
An Artist cannot dispense with certain principles
. of the Rational Sciences, for from this source he
•^must draw all his knowledge concerning the pure
ideas under whose inspiration he works and the
criteria by which he judges in matters of taste.
All the rules of Art and canons of criticism are
the deductions of Rational Science. Artists are
aided, too, by a knowledge of the Empirical Sci-
ences. The Architect needs to know the strength
of materials and the laws of mechanics ; the Sculp-
tor should understand Anatomy ; the Painter, the
properties of pigments and the effects of light and
shade ; and the Musician the laws of Harmony.

There must be genius. Rules of Art do not
make Artists. By long practice, men can become
mechanics, imitators ; but Art requires originality,
invention, the poet's fire, genius.

3. Their Mode of Execution. — Young Artists
usually seek the studio or the shop of some famous
master of the Art they wish to acquire, that they
may study his style and imitate his models. For
the same purpose they visit collections of pictures,
galleries of statues, concerts and rehearsals, and
study poems and compositions. This is all very
well, but it can never supply the want of genius or
of acquaintance with the works of nature. Per-


haps, something has been lost to Art by the practice
of imitating the style of the masters. All men can
work in themselves better than out of themselves.
No Artist can execute like another. All attempts
to do it will prove failures. Each must be himself
or nothing. A work of Art is a growth, the vital
force of which exists in the Artist's mind, and ex-
traneous influences may nourish but must not con-
strain it.

It is earnestly maintained by some that all Art is
an imitation of nature — that it is by the study of
nature alone that the true Artist can find instruction.
Ruskin gives the following advice to young Artists :
"They should go to nature in all singleness of
heart, and walk with her laboriously and trustingly,
having no other thought but how best to penetrate
her meaning; rejecting nothing, selecting nothing,
and scorning nothing." Doubtless all the elements
of beauty are found expressed in the works of
nature, and the first part of Ruskin's sentiment is
worthy of acceptation, that young Artists " should
go to nature in all singleness of heart, and walk
with her laboriously and trustingly." But Art is
not simply an imitation of nature. The grapes
painted by Zeuxis that the birds came and pecked at,
were a work of high Art, but there is a higher.
The Artist has an ideal of beauty in his own mind,
the presence of beautiful objects is necessary for its
manifestation, but when manifested it becomes a
criterion by which nature herself can be criticised.
The capacity of conceiving the beautiful exists in
every mind; it needs only that a spark from the


outer world should light it up, and all things he-
come illuminated in its blaze. Cousin quotes Plato
as follows : " The artist, who, with eye fixed upon
the immutable being, and using such a model, repro-
duces its idea and its excellence, cannot fail to
produce a whole whose beauty is complete, whilst
he who fixes his eye upon what is transitory, with
this perishable model will make nothing beautiful."
And Cicero, to the same effect : " Phidias, that great
artist, when he made the form of Jupiter or Minerva,
did not contemplate a model a resemblance of
which he would express ; but in the depth of his
soul resided a perfect type of beauty, upon which
he fixed his look, which guided his hand and his
art." God gave man Eeason ; and the word of the
Reason becomes the flesh of Art, the latter only
finds its nourishment on earth, the former looks to
Heaven for its inspiration.

Success in Art is not likely to be reached without
much practice in efforts to express the ideal. A
divine image may struggle for utterance in the soul,
nature may be full of forms, colors, sounds, motions,
symbols suited as a body to its expression, but to
free the one by finding the other generally requires
practice and patience. The Sculptor may see his
ideal in the rough block of marble before him, but
how many the trials, how great the toil, before the
breath of beauty is breathed into the dead stone.
The Painter may see his ideal on the dull canvas,
but tired hand and aching head are his before that
canvas will speak like a voice from Heaven to listen-
ing worshippers. Fairer ideals dance before the


Poet's imagination than he has ever been able to
clothe in the drapery of words, and richer sympho-
nies swell in the ear of the Musician than were ever
sung save upon the harps of angels. From this
cause, a true Artist is seldom satisfied with his pro-
ductions. He feels capable of more than he has
accomplished. More perfect ideals dazzle him with
their beauty, and seem to challenge his powers of
expression. Fired with poetic frenzy, he works and
works on, with chisel, with pencil, with pen, but to
find repeated, at the end of every struggle, the same
longing to touch that higher beauty which still lies
beyond his reach.

It may be in place to say here, that all true Art is
pure and truthful. Out of the idea of the beautiful
nothing unchaste or false could come, for otherwise
the child would destroy the parent. All the Arts
have been turned to base uses, as sin dragged down
the angels from Heaven, but their mission is to
promote virtue among men. From a love of the
beautiful to a love of the good there is but a single

In the highest sense, Art is universal in its end.
It aims to dignify all that is low, to beautify all that is
deformed, to make all labor a delight, to lift up the
world from sin and ignorance to holiness and light.
Says Ruskin : " Remember that it is not so much
in buying pictures, as in being pictures that you en-
courage a noble school. The best patronage of art
is not that which seeks for the pleasures of senti-
ment in a vague ideality, nor for beauty of form in
a marble image ; but that which educates your chil-


clren into living heroes, and binds down the flights
and fondness of the heart into practical duty and
faithful devotion."

The highest of all Arts is the Art of living well.
Beyond the beauty of Sculpture, or Painting, or
Music, or Poetry, is the beauty of a well-spent life.
Here all can be Artists. Every man can be a hero.
Obedience to the command, " Be ye perfect even as
your Father in Heaven is perfect," would ally man
to God, and make earth a Paradise.



Online LibraryJames Pyle WickershamMethods of instruction .. → online text (page 31 of 31)