Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 17.djvu/95

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85
THE PLEASURE OF VISUAL FORM.

sistibly calls up a vague consciousness of artistic finish. The peculiar charm of all smaller and more delicate forms rests in part on this vague feeling of fine workmanship. So, too, all perfect regularity and symmetry satisfies this feeling for perfection of handicraft. And, on the other side, departures from regularity, when they suggest the idea of bad workmanship, are, as I have already remarked, distinctly unpleasant.

In addition to these widespread abstract associations with form, there are more circumscribed and concrete associations depending on a vague resemblance to some agreeable natural form. Of these associations the suggestions of human form constitute the most valuable aesthetic element. The supreme interest of the human presence makes us ever ready to see analogies to the human attitude and mode of movement in inanimate nature, and so we fall into the habit of attributing a quasi-human interest to the drooping plant, the stalwart tree rejoicing in its battles with the wind, and the venerable mountain looking down on our lower earth with an expression of Jovian calm. Art, when not distinctly imitative, owes something to these vague suggestions. Thus, we are disposed to transform supporting columns into caryatides before art itself transforms them for us. Next to the human figure, other of the more beautiful organic forms may furnish such associations to the eye. Thus, the Corinthian capital, and forms frequently found in ornamental design, please the eye in part through a vague feeling of their plant-like character.

The reader may perhaps expect us to assign the relative values to these various factors in agreeable form. But psychology is not yet a quantitative science; and, this being so, aesthetics must be content with enumerating the elements, without seeking to measure exactly their relative values. I have insisted on the presence of a direct sensuous element in visual form apart from the pleasures of light and shade. In daily experience we may not be aware of the pleasure which ocular movement in its real or ideal form is fitted to yield, just because our eye usually attends to these movements only as signs of important objective facts. But, when this significance is withdrawn, as in a decorative arabesque design, we may easily become aware of the pleasurable character of such movement. And it must be supposed that this element enters as a very appreciable factor into the whole delight which sculpture and architecture afford us. Even though not a considerable pleasure in isolation from other modes of enjoyment, it may contribute a valuable factor to such a compound aesthetic impression.[1]

But, though emphasizing these elementary motor experiences of the eye as a factor in agreeable form, I would not exaggerate their importance. It must be remembered that the experiences of touch and

  1. According to Fechner's principle of æsthetic support, "Vorschule der Æsthetik," p. 50, et seq.