Arts – Each Effects Its End By The Same Means

In all the arts alike, however apparently remote one from the other, precisely the same process is pursued in the calling forth of ideas, and in exciting certain feelings in the mind, although the instrument actually used for this purpose by various arts is necessarily quite different. The same line of country is traversed, but in each case by different vehicles. Each of the arts imitates nature; and although each effects this imitation by its own peculiar method, yet in each the end aimed at is reached, and is also attained by similar means. Thus a grand oratorio, such as the ‘ Messiah’ or the ` Israel in Egypt’ of Handel, closely corresponds with an epic composition in painting, as in both the noblest, and consequently the same ideas relating to the subject are sought to be excited while affording a representation or description of it; and in both grandeur and beauty are blended together, while a great and important historical event is that which is alike fitted for both.

Imitation and imagination are the mental operations which are effected and pursued by each of the arts alike ; while, on the other hand, these processes are employed in artistic efforts only. Painters, sculptors, poets, and orators, moreover, resort not only to the same principles and the same elements of art, but to the same objects in nature for giving effect to their compositions. The clouds, the rocks, the various appearances in the external world, are employed alike in the service of all the arts ; on the other hand, it is in the service of the arts only that their application is available.

But although all the arts effect their object by the same general means, they each have, as already remarked,* particular methods of their own for attaining their ends,—means which it is desirable should be exercised distinctly and independently. The mode of representation or description resorted to by an orator or a poet, although very different to, may be as effective as that of a painter or sculptor. Moreover, the manner of a painter is what idiom is to the poet or orator; skill in rhyming in poetry, and in expression and turn of language in eloquence, correspond with mechanical dexterity in painting and sculpture.

In the case of each of the arts, the object or transaction is depicted in the mind by means of certain ideas which are communicated to it direct from the subject itself. Painting, sculpture, poetry, eloquence, and acting aim to convey the impressions of the events which they represent, immediately to the mind; or rather they communicate to the mind certain ideas of those subjects, having first imbibed them from the subjects themselves. But in all the arts, the mode of entering the mind, of affecting the soul, are alike. These ideas, although received through different processes, and springing from different sources, are the same when they have reached their destination ; like chemical ingredients which are extracted from very different materials, but are essentially identical when resolved into their first original elements.

In addition to this, the different arts, as lately observed, extensively aid each other by their union, and by their cultivation together; as a musical ear in guiding the orator in the intonation of his voice; a correct taste generally, which will lead him to arrange properly his periods, and a knowledge of the principles of acting, for regulating his manner and pronunciation. Poetry and eloquence also assist one another in many ways.

It is, indeed, most important here to bear in mind what I have already hinted at, that in nature all the arts are, as it were, united in one object; and this is one of the chief advantages that nature possesses over art in representing any particular scene. Thus, while in artistical description of any kind, a single art only is ordinarily resorted to, to represent a transaction ; in. nature all the arts are, as it were, availed of in each case for the description of the same scene, as painting and sculpture for its form, eloquence and music for its sound, acting for its motion. And in each case of artistical representation, the more arts that are made use of, the more complete and the nearer to nature it becomes.

Nevertheless, not only painting, but poetry and music, and all the other arts are exercised rather by selecting from nature, and affording representations of her in her choice features, than by endeavouring to reflect her generally without any such discrimination. We see this also in gardening, where nature is corrected and trained, not in order to thwart or check her exuberance, but to direct it in a right path, and to set it off to the fullest advantage. So is it also in representing the passions and feelings of mankind.

On the whole, therefore, we may conclude (as I contended in the first section contained in this chapter), that if arts differing widely in their nature effect a particular end by the same means, are each attracted by a similar force to one point; the greater is the distance at which they were originally placed from this point, in a proportionable ratio must be the extent of the attractive force which was able to draw them to this common centre.