Art Technique

In the degree in which he comes to take an interest in his work, he will begin to perceive the fascination that there may be in the study of form as form; and no man ever became an artist or able to appreciate art in any department, until he had begun to perceive this. The young seldom perceive it. They are more apt to feel suppressed than stimulated by talk with reference to fine discriminations in the selection of words, or artistic ingenuity in the arrangement of them. Always ready to admit in a general way the value of style, in trying to detect its qualities for themselves they are apt to use tools too big and bungling to discover any except superficial excellences. Like the savage, they stand agaze at the huge, the loud, and the coarse; they fail to notice the delicate, the gentle, and the fine. They believe in the realm of the telescope, not of the microscope; in that which can wing itself among the clouds, not in that which must watch and walk while keeping the motive power of flight alive. They forget that the eagle has eyes, as well as pinions; and that the keenness of his sight does not prevent him from soaring, but prevents him, when he soars, from losing himself.—Essay on the Literary Artist and Elocution.


When technique is mastered, and its results become automatic, they, themselves, though not those of nature in its primary sense, become those of a second or acquired nature; and, in this condition, the highest compliment possible for them, as well as the highest tribute to their success, is given when they are termed natural.-Essay on the Function of Technique.


When one enters a gallery, the work of the great master is most likely to be that which, at first glance, might be mistaken for a mirror reflecting nature outside the window; in other words, a work, in which technique, however perfect in itself, has been carefully subordinated to the requirements of representation.—Idem.


It is not strange that one who has thoroughly at command the resources of the music of verse like Swinburne, or of suggestive ellipses like Browning, or of picturesque details like Morris, should occasionally, in the heat and exuberance of his creative moods, push his peculiar excellence altogether beyond the limits of legitimate art; but it is strange that the critics who make it their business to form cool and exact estimates of literary work, should so seldom have sufficient insight to detect, or courage to reveal, wherein lie the faults that injure the style of each, and how they may be remedied. How can criticism be of any use except so far as in a kindly way it can aid in the perfecting of that on which it turns its scrutiny? And yet it is doubtful whether, amid all the eulogy and abuse which have greeted all the works of Robert Browning, any one, in private or in print, has ever told him plainly what those faults are-all so easy to correct,—but for which the man with the greatest poetic mind of the age would be-what now he is not—its greatest poet. And if criticism of this kind is needed by authors who have attained his rank, how much more by those who, with the imitative methods of inexperience, are always prone to copy unconsciously, and usually to exaggerate, the weak rather than the strong points of the masters ! Many a young writer, doing this at that critical period of his life when a lack of stimulus and appreciation may wholly check one’s career, has failed, notwithstanding great merits. All his ability in other directions has not compensated for his ignorance of the requirements of poetic technique.—Poetry as a Representative Art, XIV.