When applied to pictorial art, simplicity’s first appeal is a mental one. We are attracted by neither technique nor color, nor things problematic to the painter ; but by his mental attitude toward his subject. If we determine that the result has come of elimination, that to produce it, much has been thrown away and that the artist prefers what he has left at a sacrifice, to what might have been, acknowledgment for this condensation is coupled with respect. There is however a type of simplicity, the Simple Simon sort, or an indisposition to undertake difficult things, which leads to a selection of the easy subject in nature. Having found some modest bit of charm, the Simple Simon turns and twists it to attenuation, with the earnest declaration that there is no greater quality than simplicity; but purposeful emptiness lifts its hands in vain for the baptismal sanctification of the poetic spirit.
Where simplicity really serves the artist in his task is in those cases demanding the unification of many elements.
In painting, Rubens and Turner thus wrought, bringing harmony from an organ of three banks and a score of stops, setting themselves the task of strong men.
Whatsoever subject be projected, the quality of principality takes precedence over all others. This is the first step toward simplicity; some one thought made chief ; therefore some one object in the composition of quantities and some one light in the scheme of chiaroscuro dominant. With this determined, the problem which follows is, how shall principality be maintained and to what degree of sacrifice must all other objects be submitted. In the rapid examination of many works of art, those that appeal strongest will be found to be those in which the elements are simple, or, if complex, are governed by this quality through principality.