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And besides, the wonderful natural endowments of the Hellenic
race were such that the most cultivated of modern minds, a
Goethe, a Matthew Arnold, a Sainte-Beuve, will to the end find
in Greek literature and art a freshness, simplicity, and charm
which may be sought in vain elsewhere,

Matthew Arnold, with his usual insight, has observed that it
is in sense and in intellect that the Greek is supreme. The
eyes and ears of the ordinary Greek man may not have been
so acute in observing minute or distant detail as the senses of
the savage, whose whole living depends upon their efficiency.
But in delicacy of aesthetic perception, of the relations of
parts to a whole, of the value of a curve, of the suitability of a
musical note, they excelled beyond compare. And in sheer
intelligence, in logical power, and a perception of the relation
of means to ends, the Greeks are found to be supreme. It was
mainly through clearness and taste that literature, philosophy,


sculpture, painting, rose among them not merely to a level quite
beyond comparison with that of ancient peoples, but to a
height which has in some ways scarcely been reached by the
most gifted nations of modern times.

I find it necessary, to my great regret, to confine my atten-
tion, in this book, to the art of autonomous Greece, between the
rise of Hellenic civilization and the days of Alexander the
Great. At this last point the history of Greece divides into
two. Until the time of Alexander she was occupied in forming
herself; afterwards her matured powers were devoted to the
education of the world, the eastern world and the western.
The latter half of this wonderful history is p)erhaps not less
interesting and important than the earlier. Ikit it is more
complicated; and we are unable to use for its study such
admirable guides as the histories of Herodotus and Thucydides.
In the matter of art, the regular course of evolution is in this
latter period crossed by many fresh tendencies, and divided
into a multitude of streams. A work on the art of the later
age of Greece, the age of Hellenism, is greatly needed. But
even if the later history of art were as clearly marked out as
the earlier, it would be impossible within the limits of the
present work satisfactorily to include an account of it. We
can only hope to discover the principles and tendencies of
Greek art in its various branches, by taking it up wdiile it is
comparatively free from foreign admixture, and unadapted to
the needs of the non-Greek races who became half Hellenized
during the three centuries which passed between the time of
Alexander and the beginning of the Christian era.

One cannot too strongly emphasize the fact that Greek art
was from first to last ideal. Some writers speak of the realism
of Lysippus or of the Pergamene sculptors, or even of the natur-


alism of some works of the fifth century. The reader is apt
to suppose that in some of the Greek schools there prevailed a
naturalism not unlike that which we find in some modern
schools. This is quite a false view. I must explain in w^hat
sense the ideality of Greek art must be taken.

It is not possible in painting to reproduce with literal pre-
cision the forms of nature, since man has two eyes and the
canvas is flat, since colour can never fully give the effect of
light, and so forth. In sculpture it is more possible closely to
follow nature, though even in the most naturalistic portraits
hair and beard and eyes have to be rendered without literalness.
But sculpture which merely closely follows ordinary types of
nature is so profoundly uninteresting that it has no valid
reason for existing. A precise copy in bronze of an ordinary
ass would be on the same level as a stuffed ass.

It is clearly proved by modern psychology how crude is the
notion of ''the man in the street" that what an artist has to do
is to look at a person, an animal, a scene, and then copy it on
his canvas. It is certain, as I shall show more at length in a
future chapter, that art originated not in the direct copying of
nature, but in a mental reconstruction, which has a basis of
observation. This reconstruction is, it is true, ordinarily quite
unconscious, but it occurs nevertheless. And the human and
subjective element which intervenes at the beginning of art
accompanies every phase of it to the end. Sometimes this
subjective element is individual. Thus there has always been
in art an element which we may term impressionism. Con-
scious impressionism is modern ; unconscious is very old.

I must not, however, allow myself to be led by the word
impress ioms7n into the deep places of art criticism. I will only
say that I cannot regard it as fair to appropriate the word to a
special school of modern painters, who have paid particular
attention to the effects of light. Dr. Wickhoff has main-


tained/ and I think with justice, that in the Roman art of the
Early Empire there is a good deal of impressionism. In Greek
art, as is natural from its thoughtful and consistent character,
there is less. I shall, however, conhne myself to speaking of
the two great tendencies which dominate the history of art
until recent times, naturalism and idealism, the objective and
the subjective spirit.

Naturalism or realism is an attempt to mimic the details of
visible things. This is an attempt which lies very much in the
way of a modern artist. Of the anatomist he learns the forms,
not of the outward appearance of man, but of the inner struc-
ture underlying that appearance. From photography he learns
the precise lines of natural objects, and carries them with him
into his studio. Instantaneous photography reveals the inti-
mate ways of motion so swift that observation cannot follow
it. So he is tempted to spend his life in struggling to learn
more and more of the details of nature, in order that he may
embody them in his art. Realism in art has in many schools
been carried to a great length. Some careful study of natural
fact is necessary as a basis for any great school of art. The
Assyrians carefully studied the lion and the wild horse, the
Greeks made most exact study of the human body in all
motions and poses, though without at first giving attention to
anatomy. The Japanese observe plant life, and some forms
of animal life, with astonishing minuteness and accuracy. The
artists of the early Renascence were also minute in their obser-
vation of plants, like the Preraphaelites of the last century.
But realism cannot be carried beyond a certain point, because
it then ceases to produce anything of interest, and a too pre-
cise study of fact brings with it dangers of its own. The
anatomist is apt to dull his sense of beauty and deformity.

1 Roman Art, translated by Mrs. Strong. I do not, of course, accept Dr.
"NVickhoff's views as to Greek art, of which he is altogeCher unappreciative.


If an artist copies the motion of liis horses from Mnybridge's
instantaneous photographs, he only produces attitudes which
in nature the eye never sees.

Now what is most interesting to man is man himself. What
is accurate to nature leaves the mind unimpressed and the
heart cold, unless there shine through it something which is in
relation to human life and activity. Hence there is also a
tendency in modern days to drift towards the other extreme, to
produce something pleasing or amusing without any real au-
thority in the world of fact. There seems no limit to the
variety of efforts made by artists to interpret visible things in
a way of their own, or to frankly set at naught the testimony
of the senses. Every man, so to speak, fights for his own hand,
often very effectively, but often also to a result which is con-
trary to sense and sanity.

The simplicity and regularity of Greek art saved it from
both of these extremes. The Greek artist was not tempted
into eccentricity and sensational attempts, because his public
would not have tolerated such attempts. And on the other
hand, naturalism, in the sense of a complete subordination to
the visible, was never a tendency of Greek art. It is true that
Greek men had a very keen sense of sight. And it is true that
some later statues, such as the fighter of Agasias in the Louvre,
show a minute and accurate study of the anatomy and actions
of the human body. But such works belong to the decline of
sculpture ; and moreover this study of the actual does not pass
beyond man to his surroundings, for it was of the essence of
the Greek genius to think far more of man than of non-human
objects. Socrates indelibly imprinted this character upon Greek
philosophy ; it deeply marks the poetry of Homer, the history
of Herodotus, even the pastoral poetry of Theocritus. And it
marks Greek art from first to last ; it is conspicuous even in
the Hellenistic days, when man's outlook upon nature grew
much wider.


Idealism starts from the human mind as realism starts from
the fact of nature. As the danger of realism is that it loses
interest, so the danger of idealism is convention. For it is
possible to accept the conventions of art as they exist, and
merely to work on that basis in the portrayal of nature ; and
the result is of course flat and unprogressive. Sucli, within
limits, is the art of Babylon and of Egypt.

But there is a higher idealism, which tries to pass beyond the
outward appearances of men and of things to their inner
nature. Nature, from our human point of view, seems seldom
wholly to succeed. The artist who idealizes tries, so to speak,
to see her purpose, to surprise her secret, and to carry it out
more perfectly than she has carried it out herself. In Platonic
language he may be said to contemplate the divine ideas, w^hich
are but partially embodied in visible things, and to portray
them in his work. When this is done in a very objective way,
so that the artist, almost seems to lose himself in nature, his
art might perhaps be called in a higher sense naturalist. When
the element of human purpose and emotion is very conspicuous
in his work, he might be called a humanist in art. In either
case, since he looks behind phenomena to thought and purpose,
he must be called an idealist.

I think there is a certain prejudice in many modern minds
against ideal art. It is supposed to be stiff, conservative, un-
real. In literature the romantic movement may in one sense
be considered as a return from the ideal to the actual. The
English Preraphaelite art of half a century ago was a laborious
attempt to return to nature from the conventions with which
the art of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries had overlaid
painting. And there is certainly some foundation for the feel-
ing, since ideal art tends to become fixed in convention as impres-
sionist art tends to chaos and naturalist art to ugliness. But
so long as man is man, and the world about us must be appre-


hencled by human senses and touched with human passions, so
long there must be a personal element, besides an element be-
longing to the school or the race, in all art. In fact the most
blankly realist art which fails to perish through want of human
interest has some ideal element in it. It has been well pointed
out that not only does each generation interpret for itself
nature and humanity in a somewhat different manner, but also
copies made in different periods and schools of actually the
same work of art vary greatly. If we trace a well-known
cathedral spire in a variety of drawings, we shall find that even
so simple a work as a spire can be variously interpreted. And
every archaeologist knows that forgeries or imitations of ancient
statues or coins greatly vary in character and type ; the imita-
tions of the Renascence are very different from those of the
seventeenth century, and those of modern days again differ.

The idealism of Greece differed from that of modern times
partly because its range of ideas was far narrower and its
methods more simple, partly because it was so frankly human-
ist. But there is also another difference which is striking.
Idealism in Greece is not individual, but social ; it belongs to the
nation, the city, or the school, rather than to this or that artist.

It is, in fact, impossible for any artist to escape the results
of his training and his personality. However fully resolved
he may be to represent precisely what he sees, yet he has to
see with eyes which accept knowingly or unconsciously a
number of conventions and customs wdiich are the results of
the history of art in the past, and which condition the art of
the present.

Yet an artist may take a line of individualism. He may
be content with the endeavour to express himself on canvas
or in bronze, to fully embody his own impressions and his
own way of regarding things. In such a case he cannot
wholly cut himself off from the stream of artistic activity,


but he may drift on one side toward individual genius, on
the other toward a petty egotism. In any case lie will tend
toward idiosyncrasy and artistic chaos. With such phenom-
ena we are quite familiar in modern days. But they are al-
most wholly absent from Greek art. The proof is that in
judging of Greek statues it is incomparably easier to assign
to them a date and a school than to attribute them to an
individual sculptor.

Greek art is thus not merely ideal, but generically ideal.
It not only seeks beauty, but it is engaged in a common search
for beauty, and any form of beauty recognized by an artist
becomes at once a part of the common stock. Naturally, on
similar principles, in portraying individuals it seeks below the
surface of the person for what is generic of the race, w^hat is
permanent rather than temporary, what is essential rather than
accidental. Thus it is in early times more occupied with the
production of types than of portraits ; and even the portraits
of later Greek art have in them much of the type.

Ideals may be supplied to art by a small school or society,
or by a race and country. Or they may come from a deeper
source still, human nature, or the subconscious life which lies
at the roots of human nature. If the ideals are narrow and
local, the art works only for a clique or coterie. If they are
broad and thoroughly human, the art works for a natiou, or
for the whole human race.

I have not spoken of a feature in art of which modern
critics make much, that it should be expressive and significant,
laying emphasis on those features of the object portrayed
which are really characteristic, and subordinating others — the
way of working which, in its lower form, tends to caricature.
This characteristic element is to be found more prominently
in the art of the Hellenistic age, and particularly in the mag-
nificent series of sculptured portraits which later Greece has


bequeathed to us. But it must be confessed tliat in expres-
siveness Greek art of the earlier age does not stand very high,
any more than it does in tlie art of carrying the mind of the
behokler beyond the visible to the invisible and spiritual.
Certain admirable qualities it has in the highest degree ; but
there are qualities for which we must go elsewhere.

The Greeks, by the universal confession of artists and stu-
dents of art, bore a message not only to their own time and
country, but to all men in all ages. Their art w^as classical,
that is, conformed to what is permanent and above criticism
in human life. It is for this reason that it must hold an im-
portant place in educatiou, the main object of which is, or
should be, to enable the learner to discern between good and
evil. But Greek art has definite and not wide limits : we
must consider it as concerned only with Unman forms. Some
animals which are closely connected with man, such as the
horse and the bull, it also idealized ; but external nature did
not appeal to the Greeks as it does to us. It is true that we
find in the decoration of their temples, their sarcophagi, and
their vases, some very beautiful architectural forms which are
ultimately based upon the forms of plants, developed out of
the lotus and the acanthus. But these are very strongly
stylized and adapted, and can scarcely be said to show an
appreciative study of the plants ; rather, they show a keen
sense of decorative beauty, though the variety of them is not

Thus all ages must owe a debt to Greece for the simple beauty,
the sanity, the healthfulness of the ideal element which she
introduced into art, making it for the first time in history a true
exponent of the human spirit.



I PROPOSE next to inquire what account of art is given by the
great Greek writers themselves. They have left us various
statements on the subject, and although compared with the
modern intellect that of the Greeks was uncritical, yet it can-
not be indifferent to us to know Avhat such masters of thought
as Plato and Aristotle and their followers thought of the sculp-
tors and painters who in their time were filling the temples and
stoas of Greece with works of supreme excellence. Of course
the most important ancient work for our purpose is the Poetics
of Aristotle^ ; and speaking generally, with the view taken by
Aristotle of the nature of fine art accords that set forth in the
present work.

It is natural that in the active and stirring ethical life of
Socrates there was not very much time for thought about art.
But Socrates in his youth had worked as a sculptor with his
father, Sophroniscus, and his strong and clear intelligence
pierced the surface in this, as in other matters. We have in
the Memorabilia- ^n account of two visits made by Socrates to
the painter Parrhasius and to the sculptor Cliton ; and some of
his observations on these occasions are well worthy of considera-

1 Professor Butcher's yolume, Aristotle's Theory of Poptry and Fine Art,\s
indispensable. 2 m,^ eli. 10.

c 17


tion. In speaking to Parrhasius, Socrates, according to Xeno-
phon, insists upon the necessity of combining the beauties of
various persons in order to produce an ideal type, since perfec-
tion of form is not found in a single individual. In a later chap-
ter (VII) we shall see that it was indeed thus that Greek art
proceeded. Socrates also dwells on the fact that what is beauti-
ful and charming is a more suitable subject for art than what
is ugly and displeasing ; and here again he touches what was
in Greece one of the most fundamental rules of the painter's
art. But in speaking to the sculptor Cliton, Socrates gives a
hint which modern archaeologists would have done well to take.
" I perceive and I know, Cliton," he says, " that you differen-
tiate^ in your art runners, wrestlers, boxers, and pancratiasts.''
Modern writers have very often been content to dub a Greek
statue " an athlete," and to assign it to this or that school ; they
have thought of style to the exclusion of subject. But it is
evident that athletes must have had, as Socrates observes, a
physique corresponding to the kind of exercise in which they
excelled ; and we have yet to examine the statues of ancient
athletes with a view to dividing them into classes on this basis.
Plato is far inferior to his master in knowledge and appre-
ciation of art. Like most strongly spiritual philosophers, he
had little sympathy with the mimetic arts. In the Repuhlic
he observes that these arts were occupied not with the reproduc-
tion of what were in his opinion the realities, the archetypal
forms of things, but only with their copies in the world of
sensible experience, and so ended only in copying the copy,
representing things as they seemed, producing a mimicry of a
phantasm. One is accustomed to this attitude of mind in
great philosophers. But in Plato it is especially to be regretted,
because it blinded him to the truth that Greek art is never con-

1 dXXoi'ovs TToteis. This passage has been made trivial by the adoption of the
reading Ka\ol ovs Troiets.


tent with the mere appearance, but is ever working back to the
idea, is, in fact, as idealistic as the Platonic philosophy itself.
In fact, idealism in art can best be justified by an application
of the language of the philosophy of Plato. It is based on the
desire to realize those divine ideas which have since tlie time of
Plato been spoken of in many schools of philosophy.

In some of his works, such as the Symposium, Plato speaks
of art in a somewhat different tone. So fine a stylist could not
be wholly indifferent to poetry ; and in some places Plato
speaks of the poet as an inspired madman. P)ut he scarcely
extends this semi-toleration from poetry to the plastic arts.
In the Laws,^ the Athenian stranger, evidently with Plato's
approbation, speaks admiringly of the art of Egypt because it
is stationary and fixed. That Plato should prefer the mummied
art of Egypt to the marvellous works of his own great contem-
i:»oraries in Greece is a fact which stimulates reflection. After
this, the less said of him as an art critic the better. With
Plato began the feud between the moralist and the artist which
is likely to be eternal.

Aristotle was far broader and more universal in his sym-
pathies than his predecessor. Looking on all things with clear
and steadfast eyes, he may be said to have ranged in pigeon-
holes the results of Greek thinking up to his time. His
Poetics is an attempt to frame a theory or philosophy of poetry
and fine art. But he does not seem to have known much
about painting and sculpture ; he takes poetry in general, the
epic and the drama of the Attic tragedians in particular, as the
type of art. No doubt most moderns would agree with him
that poetry is the highest and noblest of the arts. iUit that
fact does not make it fairly typical of the rest ; in fact, it

1 p. ()57.


differs in so many and so striking ways from plastic art that
only the most general propositions can be true of both. The
Greek drama, it is true, was a very clearly defined form of
poetry, a kind which was regulated by most exact laws, and
was written not to be read, but only to be exhibited on the
stage to the eyes and ears of an audience, much in the fashion
of a relief. The Greek drama was thus far nearer to plastic
art than is the modern drama. It is a pity that modern
writers have been led by the authority of Aristotle to take the
drama as the typical art, as they have been in some respects
misled by this selection.

On the whole, Aristotle's observations on sculpture and paint-
ing are slight and general. But his view is in the main the true
one, and some of the distinctions which he draws are very helpful
to us in the discussion of the principles of Greek mimetic art.

To begin with, though Aristotle regards sculpture and
painting as mimetic, imitative arts, he does not fall into
Plato's mistake of therefore despising them. For he realizes
that when they imitate nature, what they imitate is not mere
outward appearances, but the ideal which those appearances
partly conceal and partly reveal. "Mature in Aristotle," writes
Mr. Butcher, " is not the outward world of created things ; it
is the creative force, the productive principle, of the Universe."
For example, he observes of portrait painters^ that "they,
while reproducing the distinctive form of the original, make a
likeness which is true to life and yet more beautiful." This
reminds ns of Denneker's saying in regard to the figures in the
Parthenon Pediments, "they are as if modelled on nature, yet
I have never had the good fortune to see such nature."

We may thus claim Aristotle as setting forth the true view
of Greek art. Professor Butcher observes - that to him " a work

1 Poetics, XV., 8. Butcher's translation.

2 Aristotle's Theory of Poetry and Fine Art, pp. 153, 154.


of art is an idealized representation of human life — of charac-
ter, emotion, action — under forms manifest to sense. '^ "Imi-
tation, so understood, is a creative act. It is the expression of
the concrete thing under an image which answers to its true
idea. To seize the universal, and to reproduce it in simple
and sensuous form, is not to reflect a reality already familiar
through sense perceptions ; rather it is a rivalry of nature, a
completion of her unfulfilled purposes, a correction of her

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