The Relation of Art to Use
97. Our subject of enquiry to-day, you will remember, is the mode in which fine art is founded upon, or may contribute to, the practical requirements of human life.
Its offices in this respect are mainly twofold: it gives Form to knowledge, and Grace to utility; that is to say, it makes permanently visible to us things which otherwise could neither be described by our science, nor retained by our memory; and it gives delightfulness and worth to the implements of daily use, and materials of dress, furniture and lodging. In the first of these offices it gives precision and charm to truth; in the second it gives precision and charm to service. For, the moment we make anything useful thoroughly, it is a law of nature that we shall be pleased with ourselves, and with the thing we have made; and become desirous therefore to adorn or complete it, in some dainty way, with finer art expressive of our pleasure.
And the point I wish chiefly to bring before you to-day is this close and healthy connection of the fine arts with material use; but I must first try briefly to put in clear light the function of art in giving Form to truth.
98. Much that I have hitherto tried to teach has been disputed on the ground that I have attached too much importance to art as representing natural facts, and too little to it as a source of pleasure. And I wish, in the close of these four prefatory lectures, strongly to assert to you, and, so far as I can in the time, convince you, that the entire vitality of art depends upon its being either full of truth, or full of use; and that, however pleasant, wonderful or impressive it may be in itself, it must yet be of inferior kind, and tend to deeper inferiority, unless it has clearly one of these main objects,--either _to state a true thing_, or to _adorn a serviceable one_. It must never exist alone--never for itself; it exists rightly only when it is the means of knowledge, or the grace of agency for life.
99. Now, I pray you to observe--for though I have said this often before, I have never yet said it clearly enough--every good piece of art, to whichever of these ends it may be directed, involves first essentially the evidence of human skill and the formation of an actually beautiful thing by it.
Skill, and beauty, always then; and, beyond these, the formative arts have always one or other of the two objects which I have just defined to you--truth, or serviceableness; and without these aims neither the skill nor their beauty will avail; only by these can either legitimately reign. All the graphic arts begin in keeping the outline of shadow that we have loved, and they end in giving to it the aspect of life; and all the architectural arts begin in the shaping of the cup and the platter, and they end in a glorified roof.
Therefore, you see, in the graphic arts you have Skill, Beauty, and Likeness; and in the architectural arts, Skill, Beauty, and Use; and you _must_ have the three in each group, balanced and co-ordinate; and all the chief errors of art consist in losing or exaggerating one of these elements.
100. For instance, almost the whole system and hope of modern life are founded on the notion that you may substitute mechanism for skill, photograph for picture, cast-iron for sculpture. That is your main nineteenth-century faith, or infidelity. You think you can get everything by grinding--music, literature, and painting. You will find it grievously not so; you can get nothing but dust by mere grinding. Even to have the barley-meal out of it, you must have the barley first; and that comes by growth, not grinding. But essentially, we have lost our delight in Skill; in that majesty of it which I was trying to make clear to you in my last address, and which long ago I tried to express, under the head of ideas of power. The entire sense of that, we have lost, because we ourselves do not take pains enough to do right, and have no conception of what the right costs; so that all the joy and reverence we ought to feel in looking at a strong man's work have ceased in us. We keep them yet a little in looking at a honeycomb or a bird's-nest; we understand that these differ, by divinity of skill, from a lump of wax or a cluster of sticks. But a picture, which is a much more wonderful thing than a honeycomb or a bird's-nest,--have we not known people, and sensible people too, who expected to be taught to produce that, in six lessons?
101. Well, you must have the skill, you must have the beauty, which is the highest moral element; and then, lastly, you must have the verity or utility, which is not the moral, but the vital element; and this desire for verity and use is the one aim of the three that always leads in great schools, and in the minds of great masters, without any exception. They will permit themselves in awkwardness, they will permit themselves in ugliness; but they will never permit themselves in uselessness or in unveracity.
102. And farther, as their skill increases, and as their grace, so much more, their desire for truth. It is impossible to find the three motives in fairer balance and harmony than in our own Reynolds. He rejoices in showing you his skill; and those of you who succeed in learning what painter's work really is, will one day rejoice also, even to laughter--that highest laughter which springs of pure delight, in watching the fortitude and the fire of a hand which strikes forth its will upon the canvas as easily as the wind strikes it on the sea. He rejoices in all abstract beauty and rhythm and melody of design; he will never give you a colour that is not lovely, nor a shade that is unnecessary, nor a line that is ungraceful. But all his power and all his invention are held by him subordinate,--and the more obediently because of their nobleness,--to his true leading purpose of setting before you such likeness of the living presence of an English gentleman or an English lady, as shall be worthy of being looked upon for ever.
103. But farther, you remember, I hope--for I said it in a way that I thought would shock you a little, that you might remember it--my statement, that art had never done more than this, never more than given the likeness of a noble human being. Not only so, but it very seldom does so much as this; and the best pictures that exist of the great schools are all portraits, or groups of portraits, often of very simple and no wise noble persons. You may have much more brilliant and impressive qualities in imaginative pictures; you may have figures scattered like clouds, or garlanded like flowers; you may have light and shade, as of a tempest, and colour, as of the rainbow; but all that is child's play to the great men, though it is astonishment to us. Their real strength is tried to the utmost, and as far as I know, it is never elsewhere brought out so thoroughly, as in painting one man or woman, and the soul that was in them; nor that always the highest soul, but often only a thwarted one that was capable of height; or perhaps not even that, but faultful and poor, yet seen through, to the poor best of it, by the masterful sight. So that in order to put before you in your Standard series, the best art possible, I am obliged, even from the very strongest men, to take portraits, before I take the idealism. Nay, whatever is best in the great compositions themselves has depended on portraiture; and the study necessary to enable you to understand invention will also convince you that the mind of man never invented a greater thing than the form of man, animated by faithful life. Every attempt to refine or exalt such healthy humanity has weakened or caricatured it; or else consists only in giving it, to please our fancy, the wings of birds, or the eyes of antelopes. Whatever is truly great in either Greek or Christian art, is also restrictedly human; and even the raptures of the redeemed souls who enter, "celestemente ballando," the gate of Angelico's Paradise, were seen first in the terrestrial, yet most pure, mirth of Florentine maidens.
104. I am aware that this cannot but at present appear gravely questionable to those of my audience who are strictly cognisant of the phases of Greek art; for they know that the moment of its decline is accurately marked, by its turning from abstract form to portraiture. But the reason of this is simple. The progressive course of Greek art was in subduing monstrous conceptions to natural ones; it did this by general laws; it reached absolute truth of generic human form, and if this ethical force had remained, would have advanced into healthy portraiture. But at the moment of change the national life ended in Greece; and portraiture, there, meant insult to her religion, and flattery to her tyrants. And her skill perished, not because she became true in sight, but because she became vile at heart.
105. And now let us think of our own work, and ask how that may become, in its own poor measure, active in some verity of representation. We certainly cannot begin by drawing kings or queens; but we must try, even in our earliest work, if it is to prosper, to draw something that will convey true knowledge both to ourselves and others. And I think you will find greatest advantage in the endeavour to give more life and educational power to the simpler branches of natural science: for the great scientific men are all so eager in advance that they have no time to popularise their discoveries, and if we can glean after them a little, and make pictures of the things which science describes, we shall find the service a worthy one. Not only so, but we may even be helpful to science herself; for she has suffered by her proud severance from the arts; and having made too little effort to realise her discoveries to vulgar eyes, has herself lost true measure of what was chiefly precious in them.
106. Take Botany, for instance. Our scientific botanists are, I think, chiefly at present occupied in distinguishing species, which perfect methods of distinction will probably in the future show to be indistinct;--in inventing descriptive names of which a more advanced science and more fastidious scholarship will show some to be unnecessary, and others inadmissible;--and in microscopic investigations of structure, which through many alternate links of triumphant discovery that tissue is composed of vessels, and that vessels are composed of tissue, have not hitherto completely explained to us either the origin, the energy, or the course of the sap; and which however subtle or successful, bear to the real natural history of plants only the relation that anatomy and organic chemistry bear to the history of men. In the meantime, our artists are so generally convinced of the truth of the Darwinian theory that they do not always think it necessary to show any difference between the foliage of an elm and an oak; and the gift-books of Christmas have every page surrounded with laboriously engraved garlands of rose, shamrock, thistle, and forget-me-not, without its being thought proper by the draughtsman, or desirable by the public, even in the case of those uncommon flowers, to observe the real shape of the petals of any one of them.
107. Now what we especially need at present for educational purposes is to know, not the anatomy of plants, but their biography--how and where they live and die, their tempers, benevolences, malignities, distresses, and virtues. We want them drawn from their youth to their age, from bud to fruit. We ought to see the various forms of their diminished but hardy growth in cold climates, or poor soils; and their rank or wild luxuriance, when full-fed, and warmly nursed. And all this we ought to have drawn so accurately, that we might at once compare any given part of a plant with the same part of any other, drawn on the like conditions. Now, is not this a work which we may set about here in Oxford, with good hope and much pleasure? I think it is so important, that the first exercise in drawing I shall put before you will be an outline of a laurel leaf. You will find in the opening sentence of Lionardo's treatise, our present text-book, that you must not at first draw from nature, but from a good master's work, "per assuefarsi a buone membra," to accustom yourselves, that is, to entirely good representative organic forms. So your first exercise shall be the top of the laurel sceptre of Apollo, drawn by an Italian engraver of Lionardo's own time; then we will draw a laurel leaf itself; and little by little, I think we may both learn ourselves, and teach to many besides, somewhat more than we know yet, of the wild olives of Greece, and the wild roses of England.
108. Next, in Geology, which I will take leave to consider as an entirely separate science from the zoology of the past, which has lately usurped its name and interest. In geology itself we find the strength of many able men occupied in debating questions of which there are yet no data even for the clear statement; and in seizing advanced theoretical positions on the mere contingency of their being afterwards tenable; while, in the meantime, no simple person, taking a holiday in Cumberland, can get an intelligible section of Skiddaw, or a clear account of the origin of the Skiddaw slates; and while, though half the educated society of London travel every summer over the great plain of Switzerland, none know, or care to know, why that is a plain, and the Alps to the south of it are Alps; and whether or not the gravel of the one has anything to do with the rocks of the other. And though every palace in Europe owes part of its decoration to variegated marbles, and nearly every woman in Europe part of her decoration to pieces of jasper or chalcedony, I do not think any geologist could at this moment with authority tell us either how a piece of marble is stained, or what causes the streaks in a Scotch pebble.
109. Now, as soon as you have obtained the power of drawing, I do not say a mountain, but even a stone, accurately, every question of this kind will become to you at once attractive and definite; you will find that in the grain, the lustre, and the cleavage-lines of the smallest fragment of rock, there are recorded forces of every order and magnitude, from those which raise a continent by one volcanic effort, to those which at every instant are polishing the apparently complete crystal in its nest, and conducting the apparently motionless metal in its vein; and that only by the art of your own hand, and fidelity of sight which it develops, you can obtain true perception of these invincible and inimitable arts of the earth herself; while the comparatively slight effort necessary to obtain so much skill as may serviceably draw mountains in distant effect will be instantly rewarded by what is almost equivalent to a new sense of the conditions of their structure.
110. And, because it is well at once to know some direction in which our work may be definite, let me suggest to those of you who may intend passing their vacation in Switzerland, and who care about mountains, that if they will first qualify themselves to take angles of position and elevation with correctness, and to draw outlines with approximate fidelity, there are a series of problems of the highest interest to be worked out on the southern edge of the Swiss plain, in the study of the relations of its molasse beds to the rocks which are characteristically developed in the chain of the Stockhorn, Beatenberg, Pilate, Mythen above Schwytz, and High Sentis of Appenzell, the pursuit of which may lead them into many pleasant, as well as creditably dangerous, walks, and curious discoveries; and will be good for the discipline of their fingers in the pencilling of crag form.
111. I wish I could ask you to draw, instead of the Alps, the crests of Parnassus and Olympus, and the ravines of Delphi and of Tempe. I have not loved the arts of Greece as others have; yet I love them, and her, so much, that it is to me simply a standing marvel how scholars can endure for all these centuries, during which their chief education has been in the language and policy of Greece, to have only the names of her hills and rivers upon their lips, and never one line of conception of them in their mind's sight. Which of us knows what the valley of Sparta is like, or the great mountain vase of Arcadia? which of us, except in mere airy syllabling of names, knows aught of "sandy Ladon's lilied banks, or old Lycaeus, or Cyllene hoar"? "You cannot travel in Greece?"--I know it; nor in Magna Graecia. But, gentlemen of England, you had better find out why you cannot, and put an end to that horror of European shame, before you hope to learn Greek art.
112. I scarcely know whether to place among the things useful to art, or to science, the systematic record, by drawing, of phenomena of the sky. But I am quite sure that your work cannot in any direction be more useful to yourselves, than in enabling you to perceive the quite unparalleled subtilties of colour and inorganic form, which occur on any ordinarily fine morning or evening horizon; and I will even confess to you another of my perhaps too sanguine expectations, that in some far distant time it may come to pass, that young Englishmen and Englishwomen may think the breath of the morning sky pleasanter than that of midnight, and its light prettier than that of candles.
113. Lastly, in Zoology. What the Greeks did for the horse, and what, as far as regards domestic and expressional character, Landseer has done for the dog and the deer, remains to be done by art for nearly all other animals of high organisation. There are few birds or beasts that have not a range of character which, if not equal to that of the horse or dog, is yet as interesting within narrower limits, and often in grotesqueness, intensity, or wild and timid pathos, more singular and mysterious. Whatever love of humour you have,--whatever sympathy with imperfect, but most subtle, feeling,--whatever perception of sublimity in conditions of fatal power, may here find fullest occupation: all these being joined, in the strong animal races, to a variable and fantastic beauty far beyond anything that merely formative art has yet conceived. I have placed in your Educational series a wing by Albert Duerer, which goes as far as art yet has reached in delineation of plumage; while for the simple action of the pinion it is impossible to go beyond what has been done already by Titian and Tintoret; but you cannot so much as once look at the rufflings of the plumes of a pelican pluming itself after it has been in the water, or carefully draw the contours of the wing either of a vulture or a common swift, or paint the rose and vermilion on that of a flamingo, without receiving almost a new conception of the meaning of form and colour in creation.
114. Lastly. Your work, in all directions I have hitherto indicated, may be as deliberate as you choose; there is no immediate fear of the extinction of many species of flowers or animals; and the Alps, and valley of Sparta, will wait your leisure, I fear too long. But the feudal and monastic buildings of Europe, and still more the streets of her ancient cities, are vanishing like dreams: and it is difficult to imagine the mingled envy and contempt with which future generations will look back to us, who still possessed such things, yet made no effort to preserve, and scarcely any to delineate them: for when used as material of landscape by the modern artist, they are nearly always superficially or flatteringly represented, without zeal enough to penetrate their character, or patience enough to render it in modest harmony. As for places of traditional interest, I do not know an entirely faithful drawing of any historical site, except one or two studies made by enthusiastic young painters in Palestine and Egypt: for which, thanks to them always: but we want work nearer home.
115. Now it is quite probable that some of you, who will not care to go through the labour necessary to draw flowers or animals, may yet have pleasure in attaining some moderately accurate skill of sketching architecture, and greater pleasure still in directing it usefully. Suppose, for instance, we were to take up the historical scenery in Carlyle's "Frederick." Too justly the historian accuses the genius of past art, in that, types of too many such elsewhere, the galleries of Berlin--"are made up, like other galleries, of goat-footed Pan, Europa's Bull, Romulus's She-Wolf, and the Correggiosity of Correggio, and contain, for instance, no portrait of Friedrich the Great,--no likeness at all, or next to none at all, of the noble series of Human Realities, or any part of them, who have sprung, not from the idle brains of dreaming _dilettanti_, but from the head of God Almighty, to make this poor authentic earth a little memorable for us, and to do a little work that may be eternal there." So Carlyle tells us--too truly! We cannot now draw Friedrich for him, but we can draw some of the old castles and cities that were the cradles of German life--Hohenzollern, Hapsburg, Marburg, and such others;--we may keep some authentic likeness of these for the future. Suppose we were to take up that first volume of "Friedrich," and put outlines to it: shall we begin by looking for Henry the Fowler's tomb--Carlyle himself asks if he has any--at Quedlinburgh, and so downwards, rescuing what we can? That would certainly be making our work of some true use.
116. But I have told you enough, it seems to me, at least to-day, of this function of art in recording fact; let me now finally, and with all distinctness possible to me, state to you its main business of all;--its service in the actual uses of daily life.
You are surprised, perhaps, to hear me call this its main business. That is indeed so, however. The giving brightness to picture is much, but the giving brightness to life more. And remember, were it as patterns only, you cannot, without the realities, have the pictures. _You cannot have a landscape by Turner, without a country for him to paint; you cannot have a portrait by Titian, without a man to be portrayed._ I need not prove that to you, I suppose, in these short terms; but in the outcome I can get no soul to believe that the beginning of art _is in getting our country clean, and our people beautiful_. I have been ten years trying to get this very plain certainty--I do not say believed--but even thought of, as anything but a monstrous proposition. To get your country clean, and your people lovely;--I assure you that is a necessary work of art to begin with! There has indeed been art in countries where people lived in dirt to serve God, but never in countries where they lived in dirt to serve the devil. There has indeed been art where the people were not all lovely--where even their lips were thick--and their skins black, because the sun had looked upon them; but never in a country where the people were pale with miserable toil and deadly shade, and where the lips of youth, instead of being full with blood, were pinched by famine, or warped with poison. And now, therefore, note this well, the gist of all these long prefatory talks. I said that the two great moral instincts were those of Order and Kindness. Now, all the arts are founded on agriculture by the hand, and on the graces, and kindness of feeding, and dressing, and lodging your people. Greek art begins in the gardens of Alcinous--perfect order, leeks in beds, and fountains in pipes. And Christian art, as it arose out of chivalry, was only possible so far as chivalry compelled both kings and knights to care for the right personal training of their people; it perished utterly when those kings and knights became +demoboroi+, devourers of the people. And it will become possible again only, when, literally, the sword is beaten into the ploughshare, when your St. George of England shall justify his name, and Christian art shall be known as its Master was, in breaking of bread.
117. Now look at the working out of this broad principle in minor detail; observe how, from highest to lowest, health of art has first depended on reference to industrial use. There is first the need of cup and platter, especially of cup; for you can put your meat on the Harpies', or on any other, tables; but you must have your cup to drink from. And to hold it conveniently, you must put a handle to it; and to fill it when it is empty you must have a large pitcher of some sort; and to carry the pitcher you may most advisably have two handles. Modify the forms of these needful possessions according to the various requirements of drinking largely and drinking delicately; of pouring easily out, or of keeping for years the perfume in; of storing in cellars, or bearing from fountains; of sacrificial libation, of Panathenaic treasure of oil, and sepulchral treasure of ashes,--and you have a resultant series of beautiful form and decoration, from the rude amphora of red earth up to Cellini's vases of gems and crystal, in which series, but especially in the more simple conditions of it, are developed the most beautiful lines and most perfect types of severe composition which have yet been attained by art.
[Footnote 10: Virg., _AEn._, iii. 209 _seqq._]
118. But again, that you may fill your cup with pure water, you must go to the well or spring; you need a fence round the well; you need some tube or trough, or other means of confining the stream at the spring. For the conveyance of the current to any distance you must build either enclosed or open aqueduct; and in the hot square of the city where you set it free, you find it good for health and pleasantness to let it leap into a fountain. On these several needs you have a school of sculpture founded; in the decoration of the walls of wells in level countries, and of the sources of springs in mountainous ones, and chiefly of all, where the women of household or market meet at the city fountain.
There is, however, a farther reason for the use of art here than in any other material service, so far as we may, by art, express our reverence or thankfulness. Whenever a nation is in its right mind, it always has a deep sense of divinity in the gift of rain from heaven, filling its heart with food and gladness; and all the more when that gift becomes gentle and perennial in the flowing of springs. It literally is not possible that any fruitful power of the Muses should be put forth upon a people which disdains their Helicon; still less is it possible that any Christian nation should grow up "tanquam lignum quod plantatum est secus decursus aquarum," which cannot recognise the lesson meant in their being told of the places where Rebekah was met;--where Rachel,--where Zipporah,--and she who was asked for water under Mount Grerizim by a Stranger, weary, who had nothing to draw with.
119. And truly, when our mountain springs are set apart in vale or craggy glen, or glade of wood green through the drought of summer, far from cities, then it is best to let them stay in their own happy peace; but if near towns, and liable therefore to be defiled by common usage, we could not use the loveliest art more worthily than by sheltering the spring and its first pools with precious marbles: nor ought anything to be esteemed more important, as a means of healthy education, than the care to keep the streams of it afterwards, to as great a distance as possible, pure, full of fish, and easily accessible to children. There used to be, thirty years ago, a little rivulet of the Wandel, about an inch deep, which ran over the carriage-road and under a foot-bridge just under the last chalk hill near Croydon. Alas! men came and went; and it did _not_ go on for ever. It has long since been bricked over by the parish authorities; but there was more education in that stream with its minnows than you could get out of a thousand pounds spent yearly in the parish schools, even though you were to spend every farthing of it in teaching the nature of oxygen and hydrogen, and the names, and rate per minute, of all the rivers in Asia and America.
120. Well, the gist of this matter lies here then. Suppose we want a school of pottery again in England, all we poor artists are ready to do the best we can, to show you how pretty a line may be that is twisted first to one side, and then to the other; and how a plain household-blue will make a pattern on white; and how ideal art may be got out of the spaniel's colours of black and tan. But I tell you beforehand, all that we can do will be utterly useless, unless you teach your peasant to say grace, not only before meat, but before drink; and having provided him with Greek cups and platters, provide him also with something that is not poisoned to put into them.
121. There cannot be any need that I should trace for you the conditions of art that are directly founded on serviceableness of dress, and of armour; but it is my duty to affirm to you, in the most positive manner, that after recovering, for the poor, wholesomeness of food, your next step towards founding schools of art in England must be in recovering, for the poor, decency and wholesomeness of dress; thoroughly good in substance, fitted for their daily work, becoming to their rank in life, and worn with order and dignity. And this order and dignity must be taught them by the women of the upper and middle classes, whose minds can be in nothing right, as long as they are so wrong in this matter as to endure the squalor of the poor, while they themselves dress gaily. And on the proper pride and comfort of both poor and rich in dress, must be founded the true arts of dress; carried on by masters of manufacture no less careful of the perfectness and beauty of their tissues, and of all that in substance and design can be bestowed upon them, than ever the armourers of Milan and Damascus were careful of their steel.
122. Then, in the third place, having recovered some wholesome habits of life as to food and dress, we must recover them as to lodging. I said just now that the best architecture was but a glorified roof. Think of it. The dome of the Vatican, the porches of Rheims or Chartres, the vaults and arches of their aisles, the canopy of the tomb, and the spire of the belfry, are all forms resulting from the mere requirement that a certain space shall be strongly covered from heat and rain. More than that--as I have tried all through "The Stories of Venice" to show,--the lovely forms of these were every one of them developed in civil and domestic building, and only after their invention, employed ecclesiastically on the grandest scale. I think you cannot but have noticed here in Oxford, as elsewhere, that our modern architects never seem to know what to do with their roofs. Be assured, until the roofs are right, nothing else will be; and there are just two ways of keeping them right. Never build them of iron, but only of wood or stone; and secondly, take care that in every town the little roofs are built before the large ones, and that everybody who wants one has got one. And we must try also to make everybody want one. That is to say, at some not very advanced period of life, men should desire to have a home, which they do not wish to quit any more, suited to their habits of life, and likely to be more and more suitable to them until their death. And men must desire to have these their dwelling-places built as strongly as possible, and furnished and decorated daintily, and set in pleasant places, in bright light, and good air, being able to choose for themselves that at least as well as swallows. And when the houses are grouped together in cities, men must have so much civic fellowship as to subject their architecture to a common law, and so much civic pride as to desire that the whole gathered group of human dwellings should be a lovely thing, not a frightful one, on the face of the earth. Not many weeks ago an English clergyman, a master of this University, a man not given to sentiment, but of middle age, and great practical sense, told me, by accident, and wholly without reference to the subject now before us, that he never could enter London from his country parsonage but with closed eyes, lest the sight of the blocks of houses which the railroad intersected in the suburbs should unfit him, by the horror of it, for his day's work.
[Footnote 11: Osborne Gordon.]
123. Now, it is not possible--and I repeat to you, only in more deliberate assertion, what I wrote just twenty-two years ago in the last chapter of the "Seven Lamps of Architecture"--it is not possible to have any right morality, happiness, or art, in any country where the cities are thus built, or thus, let me rather say, clotted and coagulated; spots of a dreadful mildew, spreading by patches and blotches over the country they consume. You must have lovely cities, crystallised, not coagulated, into form; limited in size, and not casting out the scum and scurf of them into an encircling eruption of shame, but girded each with its sacred pomoerium, and with garlands of gardens full of blossoming trees and softly guided streams.
That is impossible, you say! it may be so. I have nothing to do with its possibility, but only with its indispensability. More than that must be possible, however, before you can have a school of art; namely, that you find places elsewhere than in England, or at least in otherwise unserviceable parts of England, for the establishment of manufactories needing the help of fire, that is to say, of all the +technai banausikai+ and +epirretoi+, of which it was long ago known to be the constant nature that "+ascholias malista echousi kai philon kai poleos sunepimeleisthai+," and to reduce such manufactures to their lowest limit, so that nothing may ever be made of iron that can as effectually be made of wood or stone; and nothing moved by steam that can be as effectually moved by natural forces. And observe, that for all mechanical effort required in social life and in cities, water power is infinitely more than enough; for anchored mills on the large rivers, and mills moved by sluices from reservoirs filled by the tide, will give you command of any quantity of constant motive power you need.
Agriculture by the hand, then, and absolute refusal or banishment of unnecessary igneous force, are the first conditions of a school of art in any country. And until you do this, be it soon or late, things will continue in that triumphant state to which, for want of finer art, your mechanism has brought them;--that, though England is deafened with spinning wheels, her people have not clothes--though she is black with digging of fuel, they die of cold--and though she has sold her soul for gain, they die of hunger. Stay in that triumph, if you choose; but be assured of this, it is not one which the fine arts will ever share with you.
124. Now, I have given you my message, containing, as I know, offence enough, and itself, it may seem to many, unnecessary enough. But just in proportion to its apparent non-necessity, and to its certain offence, was its real need, and my real duty to speak it. The study of the fine arts could not be rightly associated with the grave work of English Universities, without due and clear protest against the misdirection of national energy, which for the present renders all good results of such study on a great scale, impossible. I can easily teach you, as any other moderately good draughtsman could, how to hold your pencils, and how to lay your colours; but it is little use my doing that, while the nation is spending millions of money in the destruction of all that pencil or colour has to represent, and in the promotion of false forms of art, which are only the costliest and the least enjoyable of follies. And therefore these are the things that I have first and last to tell you in this place;--that the fine arts are not to be learned by Locomotion, but by making the homes we live in lovely, and by staying in them;--that the fine arts are not to be learned by Competition, but by doing our quiet best in our own way;--that the fine arts are not to be learned by Exhibition, but by doing what is right, and making what is honest, whether it be exhibited or not;--and, for the sum of all, that men must paint and build neither for pride nor for money, but for love; for love of their art, for love of their neighbour, and whatever better love may be than these, founded on these. I know that I gave some pain, which I was most unwilling to give, in speaking of the possible abuses of religious art; but there can be no danger of any, so long as we remember that God inhabits cottages as well as churches, and ought to be well lodged there also. Begin with wooden floors; the tessellated ones will take care of themselves; begin with thatching roofs, and you shall end by splendidly vaulting them; begin by taking care that no old eyes fail over their Bibles, nor young ones over their needles, for want of rushlight, and then you may have whatever true good is to be got out of coloured glass or wax candles. And in thus putting the arts to universal use, you will find also their universal inspiration, their universal benediction. I told you there was no evidence of a _special_ Divineness in any application of them; that they were always equally human and equally Divine; and in closing this inaugural series of lectures, into which I have endeavoured to compress the principles that are to be the foundations of your future work, it is my last duty to say some positive words as to the Divinity of all art, when it is truly fair, or truly serviceable.
125. Every seventh day, if not oftener, the greater number of well-meaning persons in England thankfully receive from their teachers a benediction, couched in those terms:--"The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Love of God, and the Fellowship of the Holy Ghost, be with you." Now I do not know precisely what sense is attached in the English public mind to those expressions. But what I have to tell you positively is that the three things do actually exist, and can be known if you care to know them, and possessed if you care to possess them; and that another thing exists, besides these, of which we already know too much.
First, by simply obeying the orders of the Founder of your religion, all grace, graciousness, or beauty and favour of gentle life, will be given to you in mind and body, in work and in rest. The Grace of Christ exists, and can be had if you will. Secondly, as you know more and more of the created world, you will find that the true will of its Maker is that its creatures should be happy;--that He has made everything beautiful in its time and its place, and that it is chiefly by the fault of men, when they are allowed the liberty of thwarting His laws, that Creation groans or travails in pain. The Love of God exists, and you may see it, and live in it if you will. Lastly, a Spirit does actually exist which teaches the ant her path, the bird her building, and men, in an instinctive and marvellous way, whatever lovely arts and noble deeds are possible to them. Without it you can do no good thing. To the grief of it you can do many bad ones. In the possession of it is your peace and your power.
And there is a fourth thing, of which we already know too much. There is an evil spirit whose dominion is in blindness and in cowardice, as the dominion of the Spirit of wisdom is in clear sight and in courage.
And this blind and cowardly spirit is for ever telling you that evil things are pardonable, and you shall not die for them, and that good things are impossible, and you need not live for them; and that gospel of his is now the loudest that is preached in your Saxon tongue. You will find some day, to your cost, if you believe the first part of it, that it is not true; but you may never, if you believe the second part of it, find, to your gain, that also, untrue; and therefore I pray you with all earnestness to prove, and know within your hearts, that all things lovely and righteous are possible for those who believe in their possibility, and who determine that, for their part, they will make every day's work contribute to them. Let every dawn of morning be to you as the beginning of life, and every setting sun be to you as its close:--then let every one of these short lives leave its sure record of some kindly thing done for others--some goodly strength or knowledge gained for yourselves; so, from day to day, and strength to strength, you shall build up indeed, by Art, by Thought, and by Just Will, an Ecclesia of England, of which it shall not be said, "See what manner of stones are here," but, "See what manner of men."
This work published before January 1, 1923 is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.