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Title: The Beautiful - An Introduction to Psychological Aesthetics
Author: Lee, Vernon, 1856-1935
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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[Note:  for this online edition I have moved the Table of Contents to
the beginning of the text and slightly modified it to conform with the
online format.  I have also made two spelling corrections:
"chippendale" to "Chippendale" and "closely interpendent" to
"closely interdependent."]



THE BEAUTIFUL

AN INTRODUCTION TO PSYCHOLOGICAL AESTHETICS

BY

VERNON LEE


Author of
"Beauty and Ugliness"
"Laurus Nobilis"
etc.


Cambridge:
at the University Press
New York:
G.P. Putnam's Sons
1913


[Illustration: title page]


_With the exception of the coat of arms
at the foot, the design on the title page is a
reproduction of one used by the earliest known
Cambridge printer, John Siberch,_ 1521



CONTENTS

       Preface and Apology                                 v
I.     The Adjective "Beautiful"                           1
II.    Contemplative Satisfaction                          8
III.   Aspects versus Things                              14
IV.    Sensations                                         22
V.     Perception of Relations                            29
VI.    Elements of Shape                                  35
VII.   Facility and Difficulty of Grasping                48
VIII.  Subject and Object, or, Nominative and Accusative  55
IX.    Empathy (Einfühlung)                               61
X.     The Movement of Lines                              70
XI.    The Character of Shapes                            78
XII.   From the Shape to the Thing                        84
XIII.  From the Thing to the Shape                        90
XIV.   The Aims of Art                                    98
XV.    Attention to Shapes                               106
XVI.   Information about Things                          111
XVII.  Co-operation of Things and Shapes                 117
XVIII. Aesthetic Responsiveness                          128
XIX.   The Storage and Transfer of Emotion               139
XX.    Aesthetic Irradiation and Purification            147
XXI.   Conclusion (Evolutional)                          153
       Bibliography                                      156
       Index                                             157



PREFACE AND APOLOGY

I HAVE tried in this little volume to explain aesthetic preference,
particularly as regards visible shapes, by the facts of mental science.
But my explanation is addressed to readers in whom I have no right
to expect a previous knowledge of psychology, particularly in its
more modern developments. I have therefore based my explanation
of the problems of aesthetics as much as possible upon mental facts
familiar, or at all events easily intelligible, to the lay reader. Now
mental facts thus available are by no means the elementary
processes with which analytical and, especially experimental,
psychology has dealings. They are, on the contrary, the everyday,
superficial and often extremely confused views which practical life
and its wholly unscientific vocabulary present of those ascertained
or hypothetical scientific facts. I have indeed endeavoured (for
instance in the analysis of perception as distinguished from
sensation) to impart some rudiments of psychology in the course of
my aesthetical explanation, and I have avoided, as much as possible,
misleading the reader about such fearful complexes and cruxes as
_memory, association_ and _imagination._ But I have been obliged
to speak in terms intelligible to the lay reader, and I am fully aware
that these terms correspond only very approximately to what is, or at
present passes as, psychological fact. I would therefore beg the
psychologist (to whom I offer this little volume as a possible slight
addition even to his stock of facts and hypotheses) to understand that
in speaking, for instance, of Empathy as involving a _thought_ of
certain activities, I mean merely that whatever happens has the same
result _as if we thought_; and that the processes, whatever they may
be (also in the case of measuring, comparing and co-ordinating),
translate themselves, _when they are detected,_ into _thoughts;_ but
that I do not in the least pre-judge the question whether the
processes, the "thoughts," the measuring, comparing etc. exist on
subordinate planes of consciousness or whether they are mainly
physiological and only occasionally abutting in conscious resultants.
Similarly, lack of space and the need for clearness have obliged me
to write as if shape-preference invariably necessitated the detailed
process of ocular perception, instead of being due, as is doubtless
most often the case, to every kind of associative abbreviation and
equivalence of processes.

          VERNON LEE
     Maiano _near_ Florence,_
          Easter_ 1913.



CHAPTER I

THE ADJECTIVE "BEAUTIFUL"

THIS little book, like the great branch of mental science to which it
is an introduction, makes no attempt to "form the taste" of the public
and still less to direct the doings of the artist. It deals not with
_ought_ but with _is,_ leaving to Criticism the inference from the
latter to the former. It does not pretend to tell how things can be
made beautiful or even how we can recognise that things _are_
beautiful. It takes Beauty as already existing and enjoyed, and seeks
to analyse and account for Beauty's existence and enjoyment. More
strictly speaking, it analyses and accounts for Beauty not inasmuch
as existing in certain objects and processes, but rather as calling
forth (and being called forth by) a particular group of mental
activities and habits. It does not ask: What are the peculiarities of the
things (and the proceedings) which we call _Beautiful?_ but: What
are the peculiarities of our thinking and feeling when in the presence
of a thing to which we apply this adjective? The study of single
beautiful things, and even more, the comparison of various
categories thereof, is indeed one-half of all scientific aesthetics, but
only inasmuch as it adds to our knowledge of the particular mental
activities which such "Beautiful" (and vice versa "Ugly") things
elicit in us. For it is on the nature of this active response on our own
part that depends the application of those terms _Beautiful_ and
_Ugly_ in every single instance; and indeed their application in any
instances whatsoever, their very existence in the human vocabulary.

In accordance with this programme I shall not start with a formal
definition of the word _Beautiful,_ but ask: on what sort of
occasions we make use of it. Evidently, on _occasions when we feel
satisfaction rather than dissatisfaction,_ satisfaction meaning
willingness either to prolong or to repeat the particular experience
which has called forth that word; and meaning also that if it comes
to a choice between two or several experiences, we _prefer_ the
experience thus marked by the word _Beautiful. Beautiful,_ we may
therefore formulate, _implies on our part an attitude of satisfaction
and preference._ But there are other words which imply that much;
first and foremost the words, in reality synonyms, USEFUL and
GOOD. I call these synonyms because _good_ always implies
_good for,_ or _good in,_ that is to say fitness for a purpose, even
though that purpose may be masked under _conforming to a
standard_ or _obeying a commandment,_ since the standard or
commandment represents not the caprice of a community, a race or a
divinity, but some (real or imaginary) utility of a less immediate
kind. So much for the meaning of _good_ when implying standards
and commandments; ninety-nine times out of a hundred there is,
however, no such implication, and _good_ means nothing more than
_satisfactory in the way of use and advantage._ Thus a _good_ road
is a road we prefer because it takes us to our destination quickly and
easily. A _good_ speech is one we prefer because it succeeds in
explaining or persuading. And a _good_ character (good friend,
father, husband, citizen) is one that gives satisfaction by the
fulfilment of moral obligations.

But note the difference when we come to _Beautiful._ A _beautiful_
road is one we prefer because it affords views we like to look at; its
being devious and inconvenient will not prevent its being
_beautiful._ A _beautiful_ speech is one we like to hear or
remember, although it may convince or persuade neither us nor
anybody. A _beautiful_ character is one we like to think about but
which may never practically help anyone, if for instance, it exists
not in real life but in a novel. Thus the adjective _Beautiful_ implies
_an attitude of preference, but not an attitude of present or future
turning to our purposes._ There is even a significant lack of
symmetry in the words employed (at all events in English, French
and German) to distinguish what we like from what we dislike in the
way of weather. For weather which makes us uncomfortable and
hampers our comings and goings by rain, wind or mud, is described
as _bad;_ while the opposite kind of weather is called _beautiful,
fine,_ or _fair,_ as if the greater comfort, convenience, usefulness of
such days were forgotten in the lively satisfaction afforded to our
mere contemplation.

_Our mere contemplation!_ Here we have struck upon the main
difference between our attitude when we use the word _good_ or
_useful,_ and when we use the word _beautiful._ And we can add to
our partial formula "beautiful implies satisfaction and preference"--the
distinguishing predicate--"_of a contemplative kind._" This
general statement will be confirmed by an everyday anomaly in our
use of the word beautiful; and the examination of this seeming
exception will not only exemplify what I have said about our
attitude when employing that word, but add to this information the
name of the emotion corresponding with that attitude: the emotion
of _admiration._ For the selfsame object or proceeding may
sometimes be called _good_ and sometimes _beautiful,_ according
as the mental attitude is practical or contemplative. While we
admonish the traveller to take a certain road because he will find it
_good,_ we may hear that same road described by an enthusiastic
coachman as _beautiful, anglicè fine_ or _splendid,_ because there
is no question of immediate use, and the road's qualities are merely
being contemplated with admiration. Similarly, we have all of us
heard an engineer apply to a piece of machinery, and even a surgeon
to an operation, the apparently far-fetched adjective Beautiful, or
one of the various equivalents, fine, splendid, glorious (even
occasionally _jolly!)_ by which Englishmen express their
admiration. The change of word represents a change of attitude. The
engineer is no longer bent upon using the machine, nor the surgeon
estimating the advantages of the operation. Each of these highly
practical persons has switched off his practicality, if but for an
imperceptible fraction of time and in the very middle of a practical
estimation or even of practice itself. The machine or operation, the
skill, the inventiveness, the fitness for its purposes, are being
considered _apart from action,_ and advantage, means and time,
to-day or yesterday; _platonically_ we may call it from the first great
teacher of aesthetics. They are being, in one word, contemplated
with admiration. And _admiration_ is the rough and ready name for
the mood, however transient, for the emotion, however faint,
wherewith we greet whatever makes us contemplate, because
contemplation happens to give satisfaction. The satisfaction may be
a mere skeleton of the "I'd rather than not" description; or it may be
a massive alteration in our being, radiating far beyond the present,
evoking from the past similar conditions to corroborate it; storing
itself up for the future; penetrating, like the joy of a fine day, into
our animal spirits, altering pulse, breath, gait, glance and demeanour;
and transfiguring our whole momentary outlook on life. But,
superficial or overwhelming, _this hind of satisfaction connected
with, the word Beautiful is always of the Contemplative order._

And upon the fact we have thus formulated depend, as we shall see,
most of the other facts and formulae of our subject.

This essentially unpractical attitude accompanying the use of the
word _Beautiful_ has led metaphysical aestheticians to two famous,
and I think, quite misleading theories. The first of these defines
aesthetic appreciation as _disinterested interest,_ gratuitously
identifying self-interest with the practical pursuit of advantages we
have not yet got; and overlooking the fact that such appreciation
implies enjoyment and is so far the very reverse of disinterested.
The second philosophical theory (originally Schiller's, and revived
by Herbert Spencer) takes advantage of the non-practical attitude
connected with the word _Beautiful_ to define art and its enjoyment
as a kind of _play._ Now although leisure and freedom from cares
are necessary both for play and for aesthetic appreciation, the latter
differs essentially from the former by its contemplative nature. For
although it may be possible to watch _other people_ playing football
or chess or bridge in a purely contemplative spirit and with the
deepest admiration, even as the engineer or surgeon may
contemplate the perfections of a machine or an operation, yet the
concentration on the aim and the next moves constitutes on the part
of the players _themselves_ an eminently practical state of mind,
one diametrically opposed to contemplation, as I hope to make
evident in the next section.



CHAPTER II

CONTEMPLATIVE SATISFACTION

WE have thus defined the word _Beautiful_ as implying an attitude
of contemplative satisfaction, marked by a feeling, sometimes
amounting to an _emotion,_ of admiration; and so far contrasted it
with the practical attitude implied by the word _good._ But we
require to know more about the distinctive peculiarities of
contemplation as such, by which, moreover, it is distinguished not
merely from the practical attitude, but also from the scientific one.

Let us get some rough and ready notions on this subject by watching
the behaviour and listening to the remarks of three imaginary
wayfarers in front of a view, which they severally consider in the
practical, the scientific and the aesthetic manner. The view was from
a hill-top in the neighbourhood of Rome or of Edinburgh, whichever
the Reader can best realise; and in its presence the three travellers
halted and remained for a moment absorbed each in his thoughts.

"It will take us a couple of hours to get home on foot"--began one of
the three. "We might have been back for tea-time if only there had
been a tram and a funicular. And that makes me think: Why not start
a joint-stock company to build them? There must be water-power in
these hills; the hill people could keep cows and send milk and butter
to town. Also houses could be built for people whose work takes
them to town, but who want good air for their children; the
hire-purchase system, you know. It might prove a godsend and a capital
investment, though I suppose some people would say it spoilt the
view. The idea is quite a _good_ one. I shall get an expert--"

"These hills," put in the second man--"are said to be part of an
ancient volcano. I don't know whether that theory is _true!_ It would
be _interesting_ to examine whether the summits have been ground
down in places by ice, and whether there are traces of volcanic
action at different geological epochs; the plain, I suppose, has been
under the sea at no very distant period. It is also _interesting_ to
notice, as we can up here, how the situation of the town is explained
by the river affording easier shipping on a coast poor in natural
harbours; moreover, this has been the inevitable meeting-place of
seafaring and pastoral populations. These investigations would
prove, as I said, remarkably full of interest."

"I wish"--complained the third wayfarer, but probably only to
himself--"I wish these men would hold their tongues and let one
enjoy this exquisite place without diverting one's attention to _what
might be done_ or to _how it all came about._ They don't seem to
feel how _beautiful_ it all is." And he concentrated himself on
contemplation of the landscape, his delight brought home by a stab
of reluctance to leave.

Meanwhile one of his companions fell to wondering whether there
really was sufficient pasture for dairy-farming and water-power for
both tramway and funicular, and where the necessary capital could
be borrowed; and the other one hunted about for marks of
stratification and upheaval, and ransacked his memory for historical
data about the various tribes originally inhabiting that country.

"I suppose you're a painter and regretting you haven't brought your
sketching materials?" said the scientific man, always interested in
the causes of phenomena, even such trifling ones as a man
remaining quiet before a landscape.

"I reckon you are one of those literary fellows, and are planning out
where you can use up a description of this place"--corrected the
rapid insight of the practical man, accustomed to weigh people's
motives in case they may be turned to use.

"I am _not_ a painter, and I'm _not_ a writer"--exclaimed the third
traveller, "and I thank Heaven I'm not! For if I were I might be
trying to engineer a picture or to match adjectives, instead of merely
enjoying all this beauty. Not but that I should like to have a sketch
or a few words of description for when I've turned my back upon it.
And Heaven help me, I really believe that when we are all back in
London I may be quite glad to hear you two talking about your
tramway-funicular company and your volcanic and glacial action,
because your talk will evoke in my mind the remembrance of this
place and moment which you have done your best to spoil for me--"

"That's what it is to be aesthetic"--said the two almost in the same
breath.

"And that, I suppose"--answered the third with some animosity--"is
what you mean by being practical or scientific."

Now the attitude of mind of the practical man and of the man of
science, though differing so obviously from one another (the first
bent upon producing new and advantageous _results,_ the second
examining, without thought of advantage, into possible _causes),_
both differed in the same way from the attitude of the man who was
merely contemplating what he called the beauty of the scene. They
were, as he complained, thinking of _what might be done_ and of
_how it had all come about._ That is to say they were both thinking
_away_ from that landscape. The scientific man actually turned his
back to it in examining first one rock, then another. The practical
man must have looked both at the plain in front and at the hill he
was on, since he judged that there was pasture and water-power, and
that the steepness required supplementing the tramway by a
funicular. But besides the different items of landscape, and the same
items under different angles, which were thus offered to these two
men's bodily eyes, there was a far greater variety, and rapider
succession of items and perspectives presented to the eyes of their
spirit: the practical man's mental eye seeing not only the hills, plain,
and town with details not co-existing in perspective or even in time,
but tram-lines and funiculars in various stages of progress,
dairy-products, pasture, houses, dynamos, waterfalls, offices,
advertisements, cheques, etc., etc., and the scientific man's inner
vision glancing with equal speed from volcanoes to ice-caps and
seas in various stages of geological existence, besides minerals
under the microscope, inhabitants in prehistoric or classic garb, let
alone probably pages of books and interiors of libraries. Moreover,
most, if not all these mental images (blocking out from attention the
really existing landscape) could be called images only by courtesy,
swished over by the mental eye as by an express train, only just
enough seen to know what it was, or perhaps nothing seen at all,
mere words filling up gaps in the chain of thought. So that what
satisfaction there might be in the case was not due to these rapidly
scampered through items, but to the very fact of getting to the next
one, and to a looming, dominating goal, an ultimate desired result, to
wit, pounds, shillings, and pence in the one case, and a coherent
explanation in the other. In both cases equally there was a
kaleidoscopic and cinematographic succession of aspects, but of
aspects of which only one detail perhaps was noticed. Or, more
strictly speaking, there was no interest whatever in aspects as such,
but only in the possibilities of action which these aspects implied;
whether actions future and personally profitable, like building
tram-lines and floating joint-stock companies, or actions mainly past and
quite impersonally interesting, like those of extinct volcanoes or
prehistoric civilisations.

Now let us examine the mental attitude of the third man, whom the
two others had first mistaken for an artist or writer, and then
dismissed as an aesthetic person.



CHAPTER III

ASPECTS _VERSUS_ THINGS

HAVING settled upon a particular point of view as the one he liked
best, he remained there in contemplation of the aspect it afforded
him. Had he descended another twenty minutes, or looked through
powerful glasses, he would have seen the plain below as a
juxtaposition of emerald green, raw Sienna, and pale yellow,
whereas, at the distance where he chose to remain, its colours fused
into indescribably lovely lilacs and russets. Had he moved freely
about he would have become aware that a fanlike arrangement of
sharply convergent lines, tempting his eye to run rapidly into their
various angles, must be thought of as a chessboard of dikes, hedges,
and roads, dull as if drawn with a ruler on a slate. Also that the
foothills, instead of forming a monumental mass with the mountains
behind them, lay in a totally different plane and distracted the
attention by their aggressive projection. While, as if to spoil the
aspect still more, he would have been forced to recognise (as Ruskin
explains by his drawing of the cottage roof and the Matterhorn peak)
that the exquisitely phrased skyline of the furthermost hills, picked
up at rhythmical intervals into sharp crests, dropping down merely
to rush up again in long concave curves, was merely an illusion of
perspective, nearer lines seeming higher and further ones lower, let
alone that from a balloon you would see only flattened mounds. But
to how things might look from a balloon, or under a microscope,
that man did not give one thought, any more than to how they might
look after a hundred years of tramways and funiculars or how they
had looked before thousands of years of volcanic and glacial action.
He was satisfied with the wonderfully harmonised scheme of light
and colour, the pattern (more and more detailed, more and more
co-ordinated with every additional exploring glance) of keenly
thrusting, delicately yielding lines, meeting as purposefully as if
they had all been alive and executing some great, intricate dance. He
did not concern himself whether what he was looking at was an
aggregate of things; still less what might be these things' other
properties. He was not concerned with things at all, but only with a
particular appearance (he did not care whether it answered to reality),
only with one (he did not want to know whether there might be any
other) _aspect._

For, odd as it may sound, a _Thing_ is both much more and much
less than an _Aspect._ Much more, because a _Thing_ really means
not only qualities of its own and reactions of ours which are actual
and present, but a far greater number and variety thereof which are
potential. Much _less,_ on the other hand, because of these potential
qualities and reactions constituting a Thing only a minimum need be
thought of at any given time; instead of which, an aspect is all there,
its qualities closely interdependent, and our reactions entirely taken
up in connecting them as whole and parts. A rose, for instance, is
not merely a certain assemblage of curves and straight lines and
colours, seen as the painter sees it, at a certain angle, petals masking
part of stem, leaf protruding above bud: it is the possibility of other
combinations of shapes, including those seen when the rose (or the
person looking) is placed head downwards. Similarly it is the
possibility of certain sensations of resistance, softness, moisture,
pricking if we attempt to grasp it, of a certain fragrance if we breathe
in the air. It is the possibility of turning into a particular fruit, with
the possibility of our finding that fruit bitter and non-edible; of being
developed from cuttings, pressed in a book, made a present of or
cultivated for lucre. Only one of these groups of possibilities may
occupy our thoughts, the rest not glanced at, or only glanced at
subsequently; but if, on trial, any of these grouped possibilities
disappoint us, we decide that this is not a real rose, but a paper rose,
or a painted one, or no rose at all, but some _other thing._ For, so far
as our consciousness is concerned, _things_ are merely groups of
actual and potential reactions on our own part, that is to say of
expectations which experience has linked together in more or less
stable groups. The practical man and the man of science in my fable,
were both of them dealing with _Things_: passing from one group
of potential reaction to another, hurrying here, dallying there, till of
the actual _aspect_ of the landscape there remained nothing in their
thoughts, trams and funiculars in the future, volcanoes and icecaps
in the past, having entirely altered all that; only the material
constituents and the geographical locality remaining as the unshifted
item in those much pulled about bundles of thoughts of possibilities.

Every _thing_ may have a great number of very different _Aspects;_
and some of these _Aspects_ may invite contemplation, as that
landscape invited the third man to contemplate it; while other
_aspects_ (say the same place after a proper course of tramways and
funiculars and semi-detached residences, or _before_ the needful
volcanic and glacial action) may be such as are dismissed or slurred
as fast as possible. Indeed, with the exception of a very few cubes
not in themselves especially attractive, I cannot remember any
_things_ which do not present quite as many displeasing aspects as
pleasing ones. The most beautiful building is not beautiful if stood
on its head; the most beautiful picture is not beautiful looked at
through a microscope or from too far off; the most beautiful melody
is not beautiful if begun at the wrong end. . . . Here the Reader may
interrupt: "What nonsense! Of course the building _is_ a building
only when right side up; the picture isn't a picture any longer under a
microscope; the melody isn't a melody except begun at the
beginning"--all which means that when we speak of a building, a
picture, or a melody, we are already implicitly speaking, no longer
of a _Thing,_ but of one of the possible _Aspects_ of a thing; _and
that when we say that a thing is beautiful, we mean that it affords
one or more aspects which we contemplate with satisfaction._ But if
a beautiful mountain or a beautiful woman could only be
_contemplated,_ if the mountain could not also be climbed or
tunnelled, if the woman could not also get married, bear children
and have (or not have!) a vote, we should say that the mountain and
the woman were not _real things._ Hence we come to the conclusion,
paradoxical only as long as we fail to define what we are talking
about, _that what we contemplate as beautiful is an Aspect of a
Thing, but never a Thing itself._ In other words: Beautiful is an
adjective applicable to Aspects not to Things, or to Things only,
inasmuch as we consider them as possessing (among other
potentialities) beautiful Aspects. So that we can now formulate:
_The word beautiful implies the satisfaction derived from the
contemplation not of things but of aspects._

This summing up has brought us to the very core of our subject; and
I should wish the Reader to get it by heart, until he grow
familiarised therewith in the course of our further examinations.
Before proceeding upon these, I would, however, ask him to reflect
how this last formula of ours bears upon the old, seemingly endless,
squabble as to whether or not beauty has anything to do with truth,
and whether art, as certain moralists contend, is a school of lying.
For _true_ or _false_ is a judgment of existence; it refers to
_Things;_ it implies that besides the qualities and reactions shown
or described, our further action or analysis will call forth certain
other groups of qualities and reactions constituting the _thing which
is said to exist._ But aspects, in the case in which I have used that
word, _are_ what they are and do not necessarily imply anything
beyond their own peculiarities. The words _true_ or _false_ can be
applied to them only with the meaning of _aspects truly existing_ or
_not truly existing;_ _i.e._ aspects of which it is true or not to _say
that they exist._ But as to an aspect being true or false in the sense
of _misleading,_ that question refers not to the _aspect_ itself, but to
the thing of which the aspect is taken as a part and a sign. Now the
contemplation of the mere aspect, the beauty (or ugliness) of the
aspect, does not itself necessitate or imply any such reference to a
thing. Our contemplation of the beauty of a statue representing a
Centaur may indeed be disturbed by the reflexion that a creature
with two sets of lungs and digestive organs would be a monster and
not likely to grow to the age of having a beard. But this disturbing
thought need not take place. And when it takes place it is not part of
our contemplation of the _aspect_ of that statue; it is, on the contrary,
outside it, an excursion away from it due to our inveterate (and very
necessary) habit of interrupting the contemplation of _Aspects_ by
the thinking and testing of _Things._ The Aspect never implied the
existence of a Thing beyond itself; it did not affirm that anything
was true, _i.e._ that anything could or would happen besides the fact
of our contemplation. In other words the formula that _beautiful is
an adjective applying only to aspects,_ shows us that art can be
truthful or untruthful only in so far as art (as is often the case)
deliberately sets to making statements about the existence and nature
of Things. If Art says "Centaurs can be born and grow up to man's
estate with two sets of respiratory and digestive organs"--then Art is
telling lies. Only, before accusing it of being a liar, better make sure
that the statement about the possibility of centaurs has been intended
by the Art, and not merely read into it by ourselves.

But more of this when we come to the examination of Subject and
Form.



CHAPTER IV

SENSATIONS

IN the contemplation of the _Aspect_ before him, what gave that
aesthetic man the most immediate and undoubted pleasure was its
colour, or, more correctly speaking, its colours. Psycho-Physiologists
have not yet told us why colours, taken singly and apart
from their juxtaposition, should possess so extraordinary a
power over what used to be called our animal spirits, and through
them over our moods; and we can only guess from analogy with
what is observed in plants, as well as from the nature of the
phenomenon itself, that various kinds of luminous stimulation must
have some deep chemical repercussion throughout the human
organism. The same applies, though in lesser degree, to sounds,
quite independent of their juxtaposition as melodies and harmonies.
As there are colours which _feel, i.e._ make _us_ feel, more or less
warm or cool, colours which are refreshing or stifling, depressing or
exhilarating quite independent of any associations, so also there are
qualities of sound which enliven us like the blare of the trumpet, or
harrow us like the quaver of the accordion. Similarly with regard to
immediacy of effect: the first chords of an organ will change our
whole mode of being like the change of light and colour on first
entering a church, although the music which that organ is playing
may, after a few seconds of listening, bore us beyond endurance;
and the architecture of that church, once we begin to take stock of it,
entirely dispel that first impression made by the church's light and
colour. It is on account of this doubtless physiological power of
colour and sound, this way which they have of invading and
subjugating us with or without our consent and long before our
conscious co-operation, that the Man-on-the-Hill's pleasure in the
aspect before him was, as I have said, first of all, pleasure in colour.
Also, because pleasure in colour, like pleasure in mere sound-quality
or _timbre,_ is accessible to people who never go any further in their
aesthetic preference. Children, as every one knows, are sensitive to
colours, long before they show the faintest sensitiveness for shapes.
And the timbre of a perfect voice in a single long note or shake used
to bring the house down in the days of our grandparents, just as the
subtle orchestral blendings of Wagner entrance hearers incapable of
distinguishing the notes of a chord and sometimes even incapable of
following a modulation.

The Man on the Hill, therefore, received immediate pleasure from
the colours of the landscape. _Received_ pleasure, rather than
_took_ it, since colours, like smells, seem, as I have said, to invade
us, and insist upon pleasing whether we want to be pleased or not. In
this meaning of the word we may be said to be _passive_ to sound
and colour quality: our share in the effects of these sensations, as in
the effect of agreeable temperatures, contacts and tastes, is a
question of bodily and mental reflexes in which our conscious
activity, our voluntary attention, play no part: we are not _doing,_
but _done to_ by those stimulations from without; and the pleasure
or displeasure which they set up in us is therefore one which we
_receive,_ as distinguished from one which _we take._

Before passing on to the pleasure which the Man on the Hill _did
take,_ as distinguished from thus passively _receiving,_ from the
aspect before him, before investigating into the activities to which
this other kind of pleasure, _pleasure taken, not received,_ is due,
we must dwell a little longer on the colours which delighted him,
and upon the importance or unimportance of those colours with
regard to that _Aspect_ he was contemplating.

These colours--particularly a certain rain-washed blue, a pale lilac
and a faded russet--gave him, as I said, immediate and massive
pleasure like that of certain delicious tastes and smells, indeed
anyone who had watched him attentively might have noticed that he
was making rather the same face as a person rolling, as Meredith
says, a fine vintage against his palate, or drawing in deeper draughts
of exquisitely scented air; he himself, if not too engaged in looking,
might have noticed the accompanying sensations in his mouth,
throat and nostrils; all of which, his only active response to the
colour, was merely the attempt to _receive more_ of the already
received sensation. But this pleasure which he received from the
mere colours of the landscape was the same pleasure which they
would have given him if he had met them in so many skeins of silk;
the more complex pleasure due to their juxtaposition, was the
pleasure he might have had if those skeins, instead of being on
separate leaves of a pattern-book, had been lying tangled together in
an untidy work-basket. He might then probably have said, "Those
are exactly the colours, and in much the same combination, as in
that landscape we saw such and such a day, at such and such a
season and hour, from the top of that hill." But he would never have
said (or been crazy if he had) "Those skeins of silk are the landscape
we saw in that particular place and oh that particular occasion." Now
the odd thing is that he would have used that precise form of words,
"that is the landscape," etc. etc., if you had shown him a pencil
drawing or a photograph taken from that particular place and point
of view. And similarly if you had made him look through stained
glass which changed the pale blue, pale lilac and faded russet into
emerald green and blood red. He would have exclaimed at the loss
of those exquisite colours when you showed him the monochrome,
and perhaps have sworn that all his pleasure was spoilt when you
forced him to look through that atrocious glass. But he would have
identified the aspect as the one he had seen before; just as even the
least musical person would identify "God save the King" whether
played with three sharps on the flute or with four flats on the
trombone.

There is therefore in an _Aspect_ something over and above the
quality of the colours (or in a piece of music, of the sounds) in
which that aspect is, at any particular moment, embodied for your
senses; something which can be detached from the particular colours
or sounds and re-embodied in other colours or sounds, existing
meanwhile in a curious potential schematic condition in our memory.
That something is _Shape._

It is Shape which we contemplate; and it is only because they enter
into shapes that colours and sounds, as distinguished from
temperatures, textures, tastes and smells, can be said to be
contemplated at all. Indeed if we apply to single isolated colour or
sound-qualities (that blue or russet, or the mere timbre of a voice or
an orchestra) the adjective _beautiful_ while we express our liking
for smells, tastes, temperatures and textures merely by the adjectives
_agreeable, delicious_; this difference in our speech is doubtless due
to the fact that colours or sounds are more often than not connected
each with other colours or other sounds into a Shape and thereby
become subject to contemplation more frequently than temperatures,
textures, smells and tastes which cannot themselves be grouped into
shapes, and are therefore objects of contemplation only when
associated with colours and sounds, as for instance, the smell of
burning weeds in a description of autumnal sights, or the cool
wetness of a grotto in the perception of its darkness and its murmur
of waters.

On dismissing the practical and the scientific man because they were
_thinking away from aspects to things,_ I attempted to inventory the
_aspect_ in whose contemplation their aesthetic companion had
remained absorbed. There were the colours, that delicious
recently-washed blue, that lilac and russet, which gave the man his
immediate shock of passive and (as much as smell and taste) bodily
pleasure. But besides these my inventory contained another kind of
item: what I described as a fan-like arrangement of sharply
convergent lines and an exquisitely phrased sky-line of hills, picked
up at rhythmical intervals into sharp crests and dropping down
merely to rush up again in long rapid concave curves. And besides
all this, there was the outline of a distant mountain, rising flamelike
against the sky. It was all these items made up of _lines_ (skyline,
outline, and lines of perspective!) which remained unchanged when
the colours were utterly changed by looking through stained glass,
and unchanged also when the colouring was reduced to the barest
monochrome of a photograph or a pencil drawing; nay remained the
same despite all changes of scale in that almost colourless
presentment of them. Those items of the aspect were, as we all know,
_Shapes._ And with altered colours, and colours diminished to just
enough for each line to detach itself from its ground, those Shapes
could be contemplated and called beautiful.



CHAPTER V

PERCEPTION OF RELATIONS

WHY should this be the case? Briefly, because colours (and sounds)
as such are forced upon us by external stimulation of our organs of
sight and hearing, neither more nor less than various temperatures,
textures, tastes and smells are forced upon us from without through
the nervous and cerebral mechanism connected with our skin,
muscle, palate and nose. Whereas shapes instead of being thus nilly
willy _seen_ or _heard,_ are, at least until we know them, _looked_
at or _listened_ to, that is to say _taken in_ or _grasped,_ by mental
and bodily activities which meet, but may also refuse to meet, those
sense stimulations. Moreover, because these mental and bodily
activities, being our own, can be rehearsed in what we call our
memory without the repetition of the sensory stimulations which
originally started them, and even in the presence of different ones.

In terms of mental science, colour and sound, like temperature,
texture, taste and smell, are _sensations_; while _shape_ is, in the
most complete sense, a _perception._ This distinction between
_sensation_ and _perception_ is a technicality of psychology; but
upon it rests the whole question why shapes can be contemplated
and afford the satisfaction connected with the word _beautiful,_
while colours and sounds, except as grouped or groupable into
shapes, cannot. Moreover this distinction will prepare us for
understanding the main fact of all psychological aesthetics: namely
that the satisfaction or the dissatisfaction which we get from shapes
is satisfaction or dissatisfaction in what are, directly or indirectly,
activities of our own.

Etymologically and literally, _perception_ means the act of
_grasping_ or _taking_ in, and also the result of that action. But
when we thus _perceive_ a shape, what is it precisely that we grasp
or take in? At first it might seem to be the _sensations_ in which that
form is embodied. But a moment's reflection will show that this
cannot be the case, since the sensations are furnished us simply
without our performing any act of perception, thrust on us from
outside, and, unless our sensory apparatus and its correlated brain
centre were out of order, received by us passively, nilly willy, the
Man on the Hill being invaded by the sense of that blue, that lilac
and that russet exactly as he might have been invaded by the smell
of the hay in the fields below. No: what we grasp or take in thus
actively are not the sensations themselves, but the _relations_
between these sensations, and it is of these relations, more truly than
of the sensations themselves, that a shape is, in the most literal sense,
_made up._ And it is this _making up of shapes,_ this grasping or
taking in of their constituent relations, which is an active process on
our part, and one which we can either perform or not perform. When,
instead of merely _seeing_ a colour, we _look at_ a shape, our eye
ceases to be merely passive to the action of the various light-waves,
and becomes active, and active in a more or less complicated way;
turning its differently sensitive portions to meet or avoid the
stimulus, adjusting its focus like that of an opera glass, and like an
opera glass, turning it to the right or left, higher or lower.

Moreover, except in dealing with very small surfaces, our eye
moves about in our head and moves our head, and sometimes our
whole body, along with it. An analogous active process undoubtedly
distinguishes _listening_ from mere _hearing;_ and although
psycho-physiology seems still at a loss for the precise adjustments
of the inner ear corresponding to the minute adjustments of the eye,
it is generally recognised that auditive attention is accompanied by
adjustments of the vocal parts, or preparations for such adjustments,
which account for the impression of _following_ a sequence of
notes as we follow the appearance of colours and light, but as we do
_not_ follow, in the sense of _connecting by our activity,_
consecutive sensations of taste or smell. Besides such obvious or
presumable bodily activities requisite for looking and listening as
distinguished from mere seeing and hearing, there is moreover in all
perception of shape, as in all _grasping of meaning,_ a mental
activity involving what are called _attention_ and _memory._ A
primer of aesthetics is no place for expounding any of the various
psychological definitions of either of these, let us call them, faculties.
Besides I should prefer that these pages deal only with such mental
facts as can be found in the Reader's everyday (however unnoticed)
experience, instead of requiring for their detection the artificial
conditions of specialised introspection or laboratory experiment. So
I shall give to those much fought over words _attention_ and
_memory_ merely the rough and ready meaning with which we are
familiar in everyday language, and only beg the Reader to notice
that, whatever psychologists may eventually prove or disprove
_attention_ and _memory_ to be, these two, let us unscientifically
call them _faculties,_ are what chiefly distinguishes _perception_
from _sensation._ For instance, in grasping or taking stock of a
visible or an audible shape we are doing something with our
attention, or our attention is doing something in us: a travelling
about, a returning to starting points, a summing up. And a travelling
about not merely between what is given simultaneously in the
present, but, even more, between what has been given in an
immediately proximate past, and what we expect to be given in an
immediately proximate future; both of which, the past which is put
behind us as past, and the past which is projected forwards as future,
necessitate the activity of _memory._ There is an adjustment of our
feelings as well as our muscles not merely to the present sensation,
but to the future one, and a buzz of continuing adjustment to the past.
There is a holding over and a holding on, a reacting backwards and
forwards of our attention, and quite a little drama of expectation,
fulfilment and disappointment, or as psychologists call them, of
tensions and relaxations. And this little drama involved in all
looking or listening, particularly in all taking stock of visible or
audible (and I may add intellectual or _verbal_) shape, has its
appropriate accompaniment of emotional changes: the ease or
difficulty of understanding producing feelings of victory or defeat
which we shall deal with later. And although the various perceptive
activities remain unnoticed in themselves (so long as easy and
uninterrupted), we become aware of a lapse, a gap, whenever our
mind's eye (if not our bodily one!) neglects to sweep from side to
side of a geometrical figure, or from centre to circumference, or
again whenever our mind's ear omits following from some particular
note to another, just as when we fall asleep for a second during a
lecture or sermon: we have, in common parlance, _missed the hang_
of some detail or passage. What we have missed, in that lapse of
attention, is a _relation,_ the length and direction of a line, or the
span of a musical interval, or, in the case of words, the references of
noun and verb, the co-ordination of tenses of a verb. And it is such
relations, more or less intricate and hierarchic, which transform what
would otherwise be meaningless juxtapositions or sequences of
sensations into the significant entities which can be remembered and
recognised even when their constituent sensations are completely
altered, namely _shapes._ To our previous formula that _beautiful_
denotes satisfaction in contemplating an aspect, we can now add that
an _aspect_ consists of sensations grouped together into _relations_
by our active, our remembering and foreseeing, perception.



CHAPTER VI

ELEMENTS OF SHAPE

LET us now examine some of these relations, not in the
genealogical or hierarchic order assigned to them by experimental
psychology, but in so far as they constitute the elements of _shape,_
and more especially as they illustrate the general principle which I
want to impress on the Reader, namely: That the perception of
Shape depends primarily upon movements which _we_ make, and
the measurements and comparisons which _we_ institute.

And first we must examine mere _extension_ as such, which
distinguishes our active dealings with visual and audible sensations
from our passive reception of the sensations of taste and smell. For
while in the case of the latter a succession of similar stimulations
affects us as "more taste of strawberry" or "more smell of rose"
when intermittent, or as a vague "there _is_ a strong or faint taste of
strawberry" and a "there is a smell of lemon flower"--when
continuous; our organ of sight being mobile, reports not "more black
on white" but "so many inches of black line on a white ground," that
is to say reports a certain _extension_ answering to its
own movement. This quality of extension exists also in our
sound-perceptions, although the explanation is less evident. Notes do not
indeed exist (but only sounding bodies and air-vibrations) in the
space which we call "real" because our eye and our locomotion
coincide in their accounts of it; but notes are experienced, that is
thought and felt, as existing in a sort of imitation space of their own.
This "musical space," as M. Dauriac has rightly called it, has limits
corresponding with those of our power of hearing or reproducing
notes, and a central region corresponding with our habitual
experience of the human voice; and in this "musical space" notes are
experienced as moving up and down and with a centrifugal and
centripetal direction, and also as existing at definite spans or
_intervals_ from one another; all of which probably on account of
presumable muscular adjustments of the inner and auditive
apparatus, as well as obvious sensations in the vocal parts when we
ourselves produce, and often when we merely think of, them. In
visual perception the sweep of the glance, that is the adjustment of
the muscles of the inner eye, the outer eye and of the head, is
susceptible of being either interrupted or continuous like any other
muscular process; and its continuity is what unites the mere
successive sensations of colour and light into a unity of extension,
so that the same successive colour-and-light-sensations can be
experienced either as _one_ extension, or as two or more, according
as the glance is continuous or interrupted; the eye's sweep, when not
excessive, tending to continuity _unless a new direction requires a
new muscular adjustment._ And, except in the case of an
_extension_ exceeding any single movement of eye and head, a new
adjustment answers to what we call _a change of direction.
Extension_ therefore, as we have forestalled with regard to sound,
has various modes, corresponding to something belonging to
ourselves: a _middle,_ answering to the middle not of our field of
vision, since that itself can be raised or lowered by a movement of
the head, but to the middle of our body; and an _above_ and
_below,_ a _right_ and a _left_ referable to our body also, or rather
to the adjustments made by eye and head in the attempt to see our
own extremities; for, as every primer of psychology will teach you,
mere sight and its muscular adjustments account only for the
dimensions of height (up and down) and of breadth (right and left)
while the third or cubic dimension of _depth_ is a highly complex
result of locomotion in which I include prehension. And inasmuch
as we are dealing with _aspects_ and not with _things,_ we have as
yet nothing to do with this _cubic_ or _third dimension,_ but are
confining ourselves to the two dimensions of extension in height and
breadth, which are sufficient for the existence, the identity, or more
correctly the _quiddity,_ of visible shapes.

Such a shape is therefore, primarily, a series of longer or shorter
_extensions,_ given by a separate glance towards, or away from, our
own centre or extremities, and at some definite angle to our own
axis and to the ground on which we stand. But these acts of
extension and orientation cease to be thought of as measured and
orientated, and indeed as accomplished, by ourselves, and are
translated into objective terms whenever our attention is turned
outwards: thus we say that each line is of a given length and
direction, so or so much off the horizontal or vertical.

So far we have established relations only to ourselves. We now
compare the acts of extension one against the other, and we also
measure the adjustment requisite to pass from one to another,
continuing to refer them all to our own axis and centre; in everyday
speech, we perceive that the various lines are _similar_ and
_dissimilar_ in length, direction and orientation. We _compare;_
and comparing we _combine_ them in the unity of our intention:
thought of together they are thought of as belonging together.
Meanwhile the process of such comparison of the relation of each
line with us to the analogous relation to us of its fellows, produces
yet further acts of measurement and comparison. For in going from
one of our lines to another we become aware of the presence
of--how shall I express it?--well of a _nothing_ between them, what we
call _blank space,_ because we experience a _blank_ of the
particular sensations, say red and black, with which we are engaged
in those lines. Between the red and black sensations of the lines we
are looking at, there will be a possibility of other colour sensations,
say the white of the paper, and these white sensations we shall duly
receive, for, except by shutting our eyes, we could not avoid
receiving them. But though received these white sensations will not
be attended to, because they are not what we are busied with. We
shall be _passive_ towards the white sensations while we are
_active_ towards the black and red ones; we shall not measure the
white; not sweep our glance along it as we do along the red and the
black. And as _ceteris paribus_ our tense awareness of active states
always throws into insignificance a passive state sandwiched
between them; so, bent as we are upon our red and black extensions,
and their comparative lengths and directions, we shall treat the
uninteresting white extensions as a _blank,_ a gap, as that which
separates the objects of our active interest, and takes what existence
it has for our mind only from its relation of separating those
interesting actively measured and compared lines. Thus the
difference between our _active perception_ and our merely _passive
sensation_ accounts for the fact that every visible shape is composed
of lines (or bands) measured and compared with reference to our
own ocular adjustments and our axis and centre; lines existing, as
we express it, in _blank space,_ that is to say space not similarly
measured; lines, moreover, _enclosing_ between each other more of
this blank space, which is not measured in itself but subjected to the
measurement of its enclosing lines. And similarly, every _audible_
Shape consists not merely of sounds enclosing _silence,_ but of
heard tones between which we are aware of the intervening _blank
interval_ which _might have been_ occupied by the intermediary
tones and semitones. In other words, visible and audible Shape is
composed of alternations between _active,_ that is _moving,_
measuring, referring, comparing, attention; and _passive,_ that is
comparatively sluggish _reception_ of mere sensation.


This fact implies another and very important one, which I have
indeed already hinted at. If perceiving shape means comparing lines
(they may _be bands,_ but we will call them _lines),_ and the lines
are measured only by consecutive eye movements, then the act of
comparison evidently includes the co-operation, however
infinitesimally brief, of _memory._ The two halves of this
Chippendale chair-back exist simultaneously in front of my eyes,
but I cannot take stock simultaneously of the lengths and orientation
of the curves to the right and the curves of the left. I must hold over
the image of one half, and unite it, somewhere in what we call "the
mind"--with the other; nay, I must do this even with the separate
curves constituting the patterns each of which is measured by a
sweep of the glance, even as I should measure them successively by
applying a tape and then remembering and comparing their various
lengths, although the ocular process may stand to the tape-process as
a minute of our time to several hundreds of years. This comes to
saying that the perception of visible shapes, even like that of audible
ones, takes place _in time,_ and requires therefore the
co-operation of _memory._ Now memory, paradoxical as it may sound,
practically implies _expectation:_ the use of the past, to so speak, is
to become that visionary thing we call the _future._ Hence, while we
are measuring the extension and direction of one line, we are not
only _remembering_ the extent and direction of another previously
measured line, but we are also _expecting_ a similar, or somewhat
similar, act of measurement of the _next_ line; even as in "following
a melody" we not only remember the preceding tone, but _expect_
the succeeding ones. Such interplay of present, past and future is
requisite for every kind of _meaning,_ for every _unit of thought_;
and among others, of the meaning, the _thought,_ which we
contemplate under the name of _shape._ It is on account of this
interplay of present, past and future, that Wundt counts feelings _of
tension_ and _relaxation_ among the _elements_ of form-perception.
And the mention of such _feelings,_ i.e. rudiments of _emotion,_
brings us to recognise that the remembering and foreseeing of our
acts of measurement and orientation constitutes a microscopic
psychological drama--shall we call it the drama of the SOUL
MOLECULES?--whose first familiar examples are those two
peculiarities of visible and audible shape called _Symmetry_ and
_Rythm._

Both of these mean that a measurement has been made, and that the
degree of its _span_ is kept in memory to the extent of our expecting
that the next act of measurement will be similar. _Symmetry_
exists quite as much in _Time_ (hence in shapes made up of
sound-relations) as in _Space;_ and _Rythm,_ which is commonly thought
of as an especially musical relation, exists as much in _Space_ as in
_Time_; because the perception of shape requires Time and
movement equally whether the relations are between objectively
co-existent and durable marks on stone or paper, or between objectively
successive and fleeting sound-waves. Also because, while the single
relations of lines and of sounds require to be ascertained
successively, the combination of those various single relations, their
relations with one another _as whole and parts,_ require to be
grasped by an intellectual synthesis; as much in the case of notes as
in the case of lines. If, in either case, we did not remember the first
measurement when we obtained the second, there would be no
perception of shape however elementary; which is the same as
saying that for an utterly oblivious mind there could be no
relationships, and therefore no meaning. In the case of Symmetry
the relations are not merely the lengths and directions of the single
lines, that is to say their relations to ourselves, and the relation
established by comparison between these single lines; there is now
also the relation of both to a third, itself of course related to
ourselves, indeed, as regards visible shape, usually answering to our
own axis. The expectation which is liable to fulfilling or balking is
therefore that of a repetition of this double relationship remembered
between the lengths and directions on one side, by the lengths and
directions on the other; and the repetition of a common relation to a
central item.

The case of RYTHM is more complex. For, although we usually
think of Rythm as a relation of _two_ items, it is in reality a relation
of four (or more ); because what we remember and expect is a
mixture of similarity with dissimilarity between lengths, directions
or impacts. OR IMPACTS. For with Rythm we come to another
point illustrative of the fact that all shape-elements depend upon our
own activity and its modes. A rythmical arrangement is not
necessarily one between _objectively_ alternated elements like
objectively longer or shorter lines of a pattern, or _objectively_
higher or lower or longer and shorter notes. Rythm exists equally
where the objective data, the sense stimulations, are uniform, as is
the case with the ticks of a clock. These ticks would be registered as
exactly similar by appropriate instruments. But our mind is not such
an impassive instrument: our mind (whatever our mind may really
be) is subject to an alternation of _more_ and _less,_ of _vivid_ and
_less vivid, important_ and _less important,_ of _strong_ and
_weak;_ and the objectively similar stimulations from outside, of
sound or colour or light, are perceived as vivid or less vivid,
important or less important, according to the beat of this mutual
alternation with which they coincide: thus the uniform, ticking of the
clock will be perceived by us as a succession in which the stress,
that is the importance, is thrown upon the first or the second member
of a group; and the recollection and expectation are therefore of a
unity of dissimilar importance. We hear STRONG-WEAK; and
remembering _strong-weak,_ we make a new _strong-weak_ out of
that objective uniformity. Here there is no objective reason for one
rythm more than another; and we express this by saying that the
tickings of a clock have no intrinsic form. For _Form,_ or as I prefer
to call it, _Shape,_ although it exists only in the mind capable of
establishing and correlating its constituent relationships, takes an
objective existence when the material stimulations from the outer
world are such as to force all normally constituted minds to the same
series and combinations of perceptive acts; a fact which explains
why the artist can transmit the shapes existing in his own mind to
the mind of a beholder or hearer by combining certain objective
stimulations, say those of pigments on paper or of sound vibrations
in time, so as to provoke perceptive activities similar to those which
would, _ceteris paribus,_ have been provoked in himself if that
shape had not existed first of all _only_ in his mind.

A further illustration of the principle that shape-perception is a
combination of active measurements and comparisons, and of
remembrance and expectations, is found in a fact which has very
great importance in all artistic dealings with shapes. I have spoken,
for simplicity's, sake, as if the patches of colour on a blank (i.e.
uninteresting) ground along which the glance sweeps, were
invariably contiguous and continuous. But these colour patches, and
the sensations they afford us, are just as often, discontinuous in the
highest degree; and the lines constituting a shape may, as for
instance in constellations, be entirely imaginary. The fact is that
what we feel as a line is not an objective continuity of
colour-or-light-patches, but the continuity of our glance's sweep which
may either accompany this objective continuity or replace it. Indeed
such imaginary lines thus established between isolated colour patches,
are sometimes felt as more vividly existing than real ones, because the
glance is not obliged to take stock of their parts, but can rush freely
from extreme point to extreme point. Moreover not only half the
effectiveness of design, but more than half the efficiency of practical
life, is due to our establishing such imaginary lines. We are
inevitably and perpetually dividing visual space (and something of
the sort happens also with "musical space") by objectively
non-existent lines answering to our own bodily orientation. Every course,
every trajectory, is of this sort. And every drawing executed by an
artist, every landscape, offered us by "Nature," is felt, because it is
measured, with reference to a set of imaginary horizontals or
perpendiculars. While, as I remember the late Mr G. F. Watts
showing me, every curve which we look at is _felt as being_ part of
an imaginary circle into which it could be prolonged. Our sum of
measuring and comparing activities, and also our dramas of
remembrance and expectation, are therefore multiplied by these
imaginary lines, whether they connect, constellation-wise, a few
isolated colour indications, or whether they are established as
standards of reference (horizontals, verticals, etc.) for other really
existing lines; or whether again they be thought of, like those circles,
as _wholes_ of which objectively perceived series of colour patches
might possibly be _parts._ In all these cases imaginary lines are
_felt,_ as existing, inasmuch as we feel the movement by which we
bring them into existence, and even feel that such a movement might
be made by us when it is not.

So far, however, I have dealt with these imaginary lines only as an
additional proof that shape-perception is an establishment of two
dimensional relationships, through our own activities, and an active
remembering, foreseeing and combining thereof.



CHAPTER VII

FACILITY AND DIFFICULTY OF GRASPING

OF this we get further proof when we proceed to another and less
elementary relationship implied in the perception of shape: the
relation of Whole and Parts.

In dealing with the _ground_ upon which we perceive our red and
black patches to be extended, I have already pointed out that our
operations of measuring and comparing are not applied to all the
patches of colour which we actually see, but only to such as we
_look at_; an observation equally applicable to sounds. In other
words our attention selects certain sensations, and limits to these all
that establishing of relations, all that measuring and comparing, all
that remembering and expecting; the other sensations being
excluded. Now, while whatever is thus merely seen, but not looked
at, is excluded as so much _blank_ or _otherness_; whatever is, on
the contrary, _included_ is thereby credited with the quality of
belonging, that is to say being included, together. And the more the
attention alternates between the measuring of _included_ extensions
and directions and the expectation of equivalent (symmetrical or
rythmical) extensions or directions or stresses, the closer will
become the relation of these items _included_ by our attention and
the more foreign will become the _excluded otherness_ from which,
as we feel, they _detach themselves._ But--by an amusing
paradox--these lines measured and compared by our attention, are
themselvesnot only _excluding_ so much _otherness or blank;_ they also
tend, so soon as referred to one another, to _include_ some of this
uninteresting blankness; and it is across this more or less completely
included blankness that the eye (and the imagination!) draw such
imaginary lines as I have pointed out with reference to the
constellations. Thus a circle, say of red patches, _excludes_ some of
the white paper on which it is drawn; but it _includes_ or _encloses_
the rest. Place a red patch somewhere on that _enclosed_ blank; our
glance and attention will now play not merely along the red
circumference, but to and fro between the red circumference and the
red patch, thereby establishing imaginary but thoroughly measured
and compared lines between the two. Draw a red line from the red
patch to the red circumference; you will begin expecting similar
lengths on the other sides of the red patch, and you will become
aware that these imaginary lines are, or are not, equal; in other
words, that the red patch is, or is not, equidistant from every point of
the red circumference. And if the red patch is not thus in the middle,
you will expect, and imagine another patch which _is;_ and from
this _imaginary centre_ you will draw imaginary lines, that is you
will make by no means imaginary glance-sweeps, to the red
circumference. Thus you may go on adding real red lines and
imaginary lines connecting them with the circumference; and the
more you do so the more you will feel that all these real lines and
imaginary lines and all the blank space which the latter measure, are
connected, or susceptible of being connected, closer and closer,
every occasional excursion beyond the boundary only bringing you
back with an increased feeling of this interconnexion, and an
increased expectation of realising it in further details. But if on one
of these glance-flickings beyond the circumference, your attention is
caught by some colour patch or series of colour patches outside of it,
you will either cease being interested in the circle and wander away
to the new colour patches; or more probably, try to connect that
outlying colour with the circle and its radii; or again failing that, you
will "overlook it," as, in a pattern of concentric circles you overlook
a colour band which, as you express it "has nothing to do with it,"
that is with what you are looking at. Or again listening to. For if a
church-bell mixes its tones and rythm with that of a symphony you
are listening to, you may try and bring them in, make a place for
them, _expect_ them among the other tones or rythms. Failing
which you will, after a second or two, cease to notice those bells,
cease to listen to them, giving all your attention once more to the
sonorous whole whence you have expelled those intruders; or else,
again, the intrusion will become an interruption, and the bells, once
_listened to,_ will prevent your listening adequately to the
symphony.

Moreover, if the number of extensions, directions, real or imaginary
lines or musical intervals, alternations of _something_ and
_nothing,_ prove too great for your powers of measurement and
comparison, particularly if it all surpass your habitual interplay of
recollection and expectation, you will say (as before an over
intricate pattern or a piece of music of unfamiliar harmonies and
rythm) that "you can't grasp it"--that you "miss the hang of it." And
what you will feel is that you cannot keep the parts within the whole,
that the boundary vanishes, that what has been included unites with
the excluded, in fact that all _shape_ welters into chaos. And as if to
prove once more the truth of our general principle, you will have a
hateful feeling of having been trifled with. What has been balked
and wasted are all your various activities of measuring, comparing
and co-ordinating; what has been trifled with are your expectations.
And so far from contemplating with satisfaction the objective cause
of all this vexation and disappointment, you will avoid
contemplating it at all, and explain your avoidance by calling that
chaotic or futile assemblage of lines or of notes "ugly."

We seem thus to have got a good way in our explanation; and indeed
the older psychology, for instance of the late Grant Allen, did not
get any further. But to explain why a shape difficult to perceive
should be disliked and called "ugly," by no means amounts to
explaining why some other shape should be liked and called
"beautiful," particularly as some ugly shapes happen to be far easier
to grasp than some beautiful ones. The Reader will indeed remember
that there is a special pleasure attached to all overcoming of
difficulty, and to all understanding. But this double pleasure is
shared with form-perception by every other successful grasping of
meaning; and there is no reason why that pleasure should be
repeated in the one case more than in the other; nor why we should
repeat looking at (which is what we mean by contemplating) a shape
once we have grasped it, any more than we continue to dwell on, to
reiterate the mental processes by which we have worked out a
geometrical proposition or unravelled a metaphysical crux. The
sense of victory ends very soon after the sense of the difficulty
overcome; the sense of illumination ends with the acquisition of a
piece of information; and we pass on to some new obstacle and
some new riddle. But it is different in the case of what we call
_Beautiful. Beautiful_ means satisfactory for contemplation, _i.e._
for reiterated perception; and the very essence of contemplative
satisfaction is its desire for such reiteration. The older psychology
would perhaps have explained this reiterative tendency by the
pleasurableness of the sensory elements, the mere colours and
sounds of which the easily perceived shape is made up. But this does
not explain why, given that other shapes are made up of equally
agreeable sensory elements, we should not pass on from a once
perceived shape or combination of shapes to a new one, thus
obtaining, in addition to the sensory agreeableness of colour or
sound, a constantly new output of that feeling of victory and
illumination attendant on every successful intellectual effort. Or, in
other words, seeing that painting and music employ sensory
elements already selected as agreeable, we ought never to wish to
see the same picture twice, or to continue looking at it; we ought
never to wish to repeat the same piece of music or its separate
phrases; still less to cherish that picture or piece of music in our
memory, going over and over again as much of its shape as had
become our permanent possession.

We return therefore to the fact that although balked perception is
enough to make us reject a shape as _ugly, i.e._ such that we avoid
entering into contemplation of it, easy perception is by no means
sufficient to make us cherish a shape _as beautiful, i.e._ such that
the reiteration of our drama of perception becomes desirable. And
we shall have to examine whether there may not be some other
factor of shape-perception wherewith to account for this preference
of reiterated looking at the same to looking at something else.

Meanwhile we may add to our set of formulae: difficulty in
shape-perception makes contemplation disagreeable and impossible, and
hence earns for aspects the adjective _ugly._ But facility in
perception, like agreeableness of sensation by no means suffices for
satisfied contemplation, and hence for the use of the adjective
Beautiful.



CHAPTER VIII

SUBJECT AND OBJECT

BUT before proceeding to this additional factor in shape-perception,
namely that of Empathic Interpretation, I require to forestall an
objection which my Reader has doubtless been making throughout
my last chapters; more particularly that in clearing away the ground
of this objection I shall be able to lay the foundations of my further
edifice of explanation. The objection is this: if the man on the hill
was aware of performing any, let alone all, of the various operations
described as constituting shape-perception, neither that man nor any
other human being would be able to enjoy the shapes thus perceived.

My answer is:

When did I say or imply that he was _aware_ of doing any of it? It is
not only possible, but extremely common, to perform processes
without being aware of performing them. The man was not _aware,_
for instance, of making eye adjustments and eye movements, unless
indeed his sight was out of order. Yet his eye movements could have
been cinematographed, and his eye adjustments have been described
minutely in a dozen treatises. He was no more aware of _doing_ any
measuring or comparing than we are aware of _doing_ our digestion
or circulation, except when we do them badly. But just as we are
aware of our digestive and circulatory processes in the sense of
being aware of the animal spirits resulting from their adequate
performance, so he was aware of his measuring and comparing,
inasmuch as he was aware that the line A--B was longer than the
line C--D, or that the point E was half an inch to the left of the point
F. For so long as we are neither examining into ourselves, nor called
upon to make a choice between two possible proceedings, nor forced
to do or suffer something difficult or distressing, in fact so long as
we are attending to whatever absorbs our attention and not to our
processes of attending, those processes are replaced in our
awareness by the very facts--for instance the proportions and
relations of lines--resulting from their activity. That these results
should not resemble their cause, that mental elements (as they are
called) should appear and disappear, and also combine into
unaccountable compounds (Browning's "not a third sound, but a
star") according as we attend to them, is indeed the besetting
difficulty of a science carried on by the very processes which it
studies. But it is so because it is one of Psychology's basic facts.
And, so far as we are at present concerned, this difference between
mental processes and their results is the fact upon which
psychological aesthetics are based. And it is not in order to convert
the Man on the Hill to belief in his own acts of shape-perception,
nor even to explain why he was not aware of them, that I am
insisting upon this point. The principle I have been expounding, let
us call it that of the _merging of the perceptive activities of the
subject in the qualities of the object of perception,_ explains another
and quite as important mental process which was going on in that
unsuspecting man.

But before proceeding to that I must make it clearer how that man
stood in the matter of _awareness of himself._ He was, indeed,
aware of himself whenever, during his contemplation of that
landscape, the thought arose, "well, I must be going away, and
perhaps I shan't see this place again"--or some infinitely abbreviated
form, perhaps a mere sketched out gesture of turning away,
accompanied by a slight feeling of _clinging,_ he couldn't for the
life of him say in what part of his body. He was at that moment
acutely aware that he _did not want_ to do something which it was
optional to do. Or, if he acquiesced passively in the necessity of
going away, aware that he _wanted to come back,_ or at all events
wanted to carry off as much as possible of what he had seen. In short
he was aware of himself either making the effort of tearing himself
away, or, if some other person or mere habit, saved him this effort,
he was aware of himself making another effort to impress that
landscape on his memory, and aware of a future self making an
effort to return to it. I call it _effort_; you may, if you prefer, call it
will; at all events the man was aware of himself as nominative of a
verb to _cling to,_ (in the future tense) _return to,_ to _choose as
against some other alternative_; as nominative of a verb briefly, _to
like_ or _love._ And the accusative of these verbs would be the
landscape. But unless the man's contemplation was thus shot with
similar ideas of some action or choice of his own, he would express
the situation by saying "this landscape _is_ awfully beautiful."

This IS. I want you to notice the formula, by which the landscape,
ceasing to be the accusative of the man's looking and thinking,
becomes the nominative of a verb _to be so-and-so._ That
grammatical transformation is the sign of what I have designated, in
philosophical language, _as the merging of the activities of the
subject in the object._ It takes place already in the domain of simple
sensation whenever, instead of saying "_I_ taste or _I_ smell
something nice or nasty" we say--"_this thing_ tastes or smells nice
or nasty." And I have now shown you how this tendency to put the
cart before the horse increases when we pass to the more complex
and active processes called perception; turning "I measure this
line"--"I compare these two angles" into "this line _extends_ from A to
B"--"these two angles _are equal_ to two right angles."

But before getting to the final inversion--"this landscape _is_
beautiful" instead of "_I_ like this landscape"--there is yet another,
and far more curious merging of the subject's activities in the
qualities of the object. This further putting of the cart before the
horse (and, you will see, attributing to the cart what only the horse
can be doing!) falls under the head of what German psychologists
call _Einfühlung,_ or "Infeeling"--which Prof. Titchener has
translated _Empathy._ Now this new, and comparatively newly
discovered element in our perception of shape is the one to which,
leaving out of account the pleasantness of mere colour and sound
sensations as such, we probably owe the bulk of whatever
satisfaction we connect with the word Beautiful. And I have already
given the Reader an example of such Empathy when I described the
landscape seen by the man on the hill as consisting of a skyline
"_dropping down merely to rush up again in rapid concave curves_";
to which I might have added that there was also a plain which
_extended,_ a valley which _wound along,_ paths which _climbed_
and roads which _followed_ the _undulations_ of the land. But the
best example was when I said that opposite to the man there was a
distant mountain _rising_ against the sky.



CHAPTER IX

EMPATHY

_THE mountain rises._ What do we mean when we employ this
form of words? Some mountains, we are told, have originated in an
_upheaval._ But even if this particular mountain did, we never saw
it and geologists are still disputing about HOW and WHETHER. So
the _rising_ we are talking about is evidently not that probable or
improbable _upheaval._ On the other hand all geologists tell us that
every mountain is undergoing a steady _lowering_ through its
particles being weathered away and washed down; and our
knowledge of landslips and avalanches shows us that the mountain,
so far from rising, is _descending._ Of course we all know that,
objects the Reader, and of course nobody imagines that the rock and
the earth of the mountain is rising, or that the mountain is getting up
or growing taller! All we mean is that the mountain _looks_ as if it
were rising.

The mountain _looks!_ Surely here is a case of putting the cart
before the horse. No; we cannot explain the mountain _rising_ by
the mountain _looking,_ for the only _looking_ in the business is
_our_ looking _at_ the mountain. And if the Reader objects again
that these are all _figures of speech,_ I shall answer that _Empathy_
is what explains why we employ figures of speech at all, and
occasionally employ them, as in the case of this rising mountain,
when we know perfectly well that the figure we have chosen
expresses the exact reverse of the objective truth. Very well; then,
(says the Reader) we will avoid all figures of speech and say merely:
when we look at the mountain _we somehow or other think of the
action of rising._ Is that sufficiently literal and indisputable?

So literal and indisputable a statement of the case, I answer, that it
explains, when we come to examine it, why we have said that the
mountain rises. For if the Reader remembers my chapter on
shape-perception, he will have no difficulty in answering why we should
have a thought of rising when we look at the mountain, since we
cannot look at the mountain, nor at a tree, a tower or anything of
which we similarly say that it _rises,_ without lifting our glance,
raising our eye and probably raising our head and neck, all of which
raising and lifting unites into a general awareness of something
_rising._ The rising of which we are aware is going on in us. But, as
the Reader will remember also, when we are engrossed by
something outside ourselves, as we are engrossed in looking at the
shape (for we can _look_ at only the shape, not the _substance)_ of
that mountain we cease thinking about ourselves, and cease thinking
about ourselves exactly in proportion as we are thinking of the
mountain's shape. What becomes therefore of our awareness of
raising or lifting or _rising?_ What can become of it (so long as it
continues to be there!) except that it coalesces with the shape we are
looking at; in short that the _rising_ continuing to be thought, but no
longer to be thought of with reference to ourselves (since we aren't
thinking of ourselves), is thought of in reference to what we _are_
thinking about, namely the mountain, or rather the mountain's shape,
which is, so to speak, responsible for any thought of rising, since it
obliges us to lift, raise or rise ourselves in order to take stock of
it. It is a case exactly analogous to our transferring the measuring done
by our eye to the line of which we say that it _extends_ from A to B,
when in reality the only _extending_ has been the extending of our
glance. It is a case of what I have called the tendency to merge the
_activities_ of the perceiving subject with the qualities of the
perceived object. Indeed if I insisted so much upon this tendency of
our mind, I did so largely because of its being at the bottom of the
phenomenon of _Empathy,_ as we have just seen it exemplified in
the _mountain which rises._

If this is Empathy, says the Reader (relieved and reassured), am I to
understand that Empathy is nothing beyond _attributing what goes
on in us when we look at a shape to the shape itself?_

I am sorry that the matter is by no means so simple! If what we
attributed to each single shape was only the precise action which we
happen to be accomplishing in the process of looking at it, Empathy
would indeed be a simple business, but it would also be a
comparatively poor one. No. The _rising_ of the mountain is an idea
started by the awareness of our own lifting or raising of our eyes,
head or neck, and it is an idea containing the awareness of that
lifting or raising. But it is far more than the idea merely of that
lifting or raising which we are doing at this particular present
moment and in connexion with this particular mountain. That
present and particular raising and lifting is merely the nucleus to
which gravitates our remembrance of all similar acts of raising, or
_rising._ which we have ever accomplished or seen accomplished,
_raising_ or _rising_ not only of our eyes and head, but of every
other part of our body, and of every part of every other body which
we ever perceived to be rising. And not merely the thought of past
_rising_ but the thought also of future rising. All these risings, done
by ourselves or watched in others, actually experienced or merely
imagined, have long since united together in our mind, constituting a
sort of composite photograph whence all differences are eliminated
and wherein all similarities are fused and intensified: the general
idea of _rising,_ not "I rise, rose, will rise, it rises, has risen or will
rise" but merely _rising as_ such, _rising_ as it is expressed not in
any particular tense or person of the verb _to rise,_ but in that verb's
infinitive. It is this universally applicable notion of rising, which is
started in our mind by the awareness of the particular present acts of
raising or rising involved in our looking at that mountain, and it is
this general idea of rising, _i.e._ of _upward movement,_ which gets
transferred to the mountain along with our own particular present
activity of raising some part of us, and which thickens and enriches
and marks that poor little thought of a definite raising with the
interest, the emotional fullness gathered and stored up in its long
manifold existence. In other words: what we are transferring (owing
to that tendency to merge the activities of the perceiving subject
with the qualities of the perceived object) from ourselves to the
looked at shape of the mountain, is not merely the thought of the
rising which is really being done by us at that moment, but the
thought and emotion, the _idea of rising as such_ which had been
accumulating in our mind long before we ever came into the
presence of that particular mountain. And it is this complex mental
process, by which we (all unsuspectingly) invest that inert mountain,
that bodiless shape, with the stored up and averaged and essential
modes of our activity--it is this process whereby we make the
mountain _raise itself,_ which constitutes what, accepting Prof.
Titchener's translation[*] of the German word _Einfühlung,_ I have
called Empathy.

[*] From _en_ and _pascho, epathon_.

The German word _Einfühlung_ "feeling into"--derived from a
_verb to feel oneself into something_ ("sich in Etwas ein fühlen")
was in current use even before Lotze and Viscber applied it to
aesthetics, and some years before Lipps (1897) and Wundt (1903)
adopted it into psychological terminology; and as it is now
consecrated, and no better occurs to me, I have had to adopt it,
although the literal connotations of the German word have
surrounded its central meaning (as I have just defined it) with
several mischievous misinterpretations. Against two of these I think
it worth while to warn the Reader, especially as, while so doing, I
can, in showing what it is not, make it even clearer what Empathy
really is. The first of these two main misinterpretations is based
upon the reflexive form of the German verb "_sich einfühlen_" (to
feel _oneself_ into) and it defines, or rather does not define,
Empathy as a metaphysical and quasi-mythological projection of the
ego into the object or shape under observation; a notion
incompatible with the fact that Empathy, being only another of those
various mergings of the activities of the perceiving subject with the
qualities of the perceived object wherewith we have already dealt,
depends upon a comparative or momentary abeyance of all thought
of an ego; if we became aware that it is _we_ who are thinking the
rising, we who are _feeling_ the rising, we should not think or feel
that the mountain did the rising. The other (and as we shall later see)
more justifiable misinterpretation of the word Empathy is based on
its analogy with _sympathy,_ and turns it into a kind of sympathetic,
or as it has been called, _inner, i.e._ merely _felt, mimicry_ of, for
instance, the mountain's _rising._ Such mimicry, not only _inner_
and _felt,_ but outwardly manifold, does undoubtedly often result
from very lively _empathic_ imagination. But as it is the mimicking,
inner or outer, of movements and actions which, like the _rising_ of
the mountain, take place only in our imagination, it presupposes
such previous animation of the inanimate, and cannot therefore be
taken either as constituting or explaining Empathy itself.

Such as I have defined and exemplified it in our Rising Mountain,
Empathy is, together with mere Sensation, probably the chief factor
of preference, that is of an alternative of satisfaction and
dissatisfaction, in aesthetic contemplation, the muscular adjustments
and the measuring, comparing and coordinating activities by which
Empathy is started, being indeed occasionally difficult and
distressing, but giving in themselves little more than a negative
satisfaction, at the most that of difficulty overcome and suspense
relieved. But although nowhere so fostered as in the contemplation
of shapes, Empathy exists or tends to exist throughout our mental
life. It is, indeed, one of our simpler, though far from absolutely
elementary, psychological processes, entering into what is called
imagination, sympathy, and also into that inference from our own
inner experience which has shaped all our conceptions of an outer
world, and given to the intermittent and heterogeneous sensations
received from without the framework of our constant and highly
unified inner experience, that is to say, of our own activities and
aims. Empathy can be traced in all of modes of speech and thought,
particularly in the universal attribution of _doing_ and _having_ and
_tending_ where all we can really assert is successive and varied
_being._ Science has indeed explained away the anthropomorphic
implications of _Force_ and _Energy, Attraction_ and _Repulsion_;
and philosophy has reduced _Cause_ and _Effect_ from implying
intention and effort to meaning mere constant succession. But
Empathy still helps us to many valuable analogies; and it is possible
that without its constantly checked but constantly renewed action,
human thought would be without logical cogency, as it certainly
would be without poetical charm. Indeed if Empathy is so recent a
discovery, this may be due to its being part and parcel of our
thinking; so that we are surprised to learn its existence, as Molière's
good man was to hear that be talked prose.



CHAPTER X

THE MOVEMENT OF LINES

ANY tendency to Empathy is perpetually being checked by the need
for practical thinking. We are made to think in the most summary
fashion from one to another of those grouped possibilities, past,
present and future, which we call a Thing; and in such discursive
thinking we not only leave far behind the _aspect,_ the shape, which
has started a given scheme of Empathy, a given _movement of
lines,_ but we are often faced by facts which utterly contradict it.
When, instead of looking at a particular _aspect_ of that mountain,
we set to climbing it ourselves, the mountain ceases to "rise"; it
becomes passive to the activity which our muscular sensations and
our difficulty of breathing locate most unmistakably in ourselves.
Besides which, in thus dealing with the mountain as a _thing,_ we
are presented with a series of totally different aspects or shapes,
some of which suggest empathic activities totally different from that
of rising. And the mountain in question, seen from one double its
height, will suggest the empathic activity of _spreading itself out._
Moreover practical life hustles us into a succession of more and
more summary perceptions; we do not actually see more than is
necessary for the bare recognition of whatever we are dealing with
and the adjustment of our actions not so much to what it already is,
as to what it is likely to become. And this which is true of seeing
with the bodily eye, is even more so of seeing, or rather _not_ seeing
but _recognising,_ with the eye of the spirit. The practical man on
the hill, and his scientific companion, (who is merely, so to speak, a
man _unpractically_ concerned with practical causes and changes)
do not thoroughly see the shapes of the landscape before them; and
still less do they see the precise shape of the funiculars, tramways,
offices, cheques, volcanoes, ice-caps and prehistoric inhabitants of
their thoughts. There is not much chance of Empathy and Empathy's
pleasures and pains in their lightning-speed, touch-and-go visions!

But now let us put ourselves in the place of their aesthetically
contemplative fellow-traveller. And, for simplicity's sake, let us
imagine him contemplating more especially one shape in that
landscape, the shape of that distant mountain, the one whose
"rising"--came to an end as soon as we set to climbing it. The
mountain is so far off that its detail is entirely lost; all we can see is
a narrow and pointed cone, perhaps a little _toppling_ to one side, of
uniform hyacinth blue _detaching_ itself from the clear evening sky,
into which, from the paler misty blue of the plain, it _rises,_ a mere
bodiless shape. It _rises._ There is at present no doubt about its
_rising._ It rises and keeps on rising, never stopping unless _we_
stop looking at it. It rises and never _has_ risen. Its drama of two
lines _striving_ (one with more suddenness of energy and purpose
than the other) to _arrive_ at a particular imaginary point in the sky,
_arresting_ each other's _progress_ as they _meet_ in their
_endeavour,_ this simplest empathic action of an irregular and by no
means rectilinear triangle, goes on repeating itself, like the parabola
of a steadily spirting fountain: for ever accomplishing itself anew
and for ever accompanied by the same effect on the feelings of the
beholder.

It is this reiterative nature which, joined to its schematic definiteness,
gives Empathy its extraordinary power over us. Empathy, as I have
tried to make clear to the Reader, is due not only to the movements
which we are actually making in the course of shape-perception, to
present movements with their various modes of speed, intensity and
facility and their accompanying intentions; it is due at least as much
to our accumulated and averaged past experience of movements of
the same kind, also with _their_ cognate various modes of speed,
intensity, facility, and _their_ accompanying intentions. And being
thus residual averaged, and essential, this empathic movement, this
movement attributed to the lines of a shape, is not clogged and
inhibited by whatever clogs and inhibits each separate concrete
experience of the kind; still less is it overshadowed in our awareness
by the _result_ which we foresee as goal of our real active
proceedings. For unless they involve bodily or mental strain, our
real and therefore transient movements do not affect us as pleasant
or unpleasant, because our attention is always outrunning them to
some momentary goal; and the faint awareness of them is usually
mixed up with other items, sensations and perceptions, of wholly
different characters. Thus, in themselves and apart from their aims,
our bodily movements are never interesting except inasmuch as
requiring new and difficult adjustments, or again as producing
perceptible repercussions in our circulatory, breathing and balancing
apparatus: a waltz, or a dive or a gallop may indeed be highly
exciting, thanks to its resultant organic perturbations and its
concomitants of overcome difficulty and danger, but even a dancing
dervish's intoxicating rotations cannot afford him much of the
specific interest of movement as movement. Yet every movement
which we accomplish implies a change in our debit and credit of
vital economy, a change in our balance of bodily and mental
expenditure and replenishment; and this, if brought to our awareness,
is not only interesting, but interesting in the sense either of pleasure
or displeasure, since it implies the more or less furtherance or
hindrance of our life-processes. Now it is this complete awareness,
this brimfull interest in our own dynamic changes, in our various
and variously combined facts of movement inasmuch as _energy_
and _intention,_ it is this sense of the _values of movement_ which
Empathy, by its schematic simplicity and its reiteration, is able to
reinstate. The contemplation, that is to say the _isolating and
reiterating perception,_ of shapes and in so far of the qualities and
relations of movement which Empathy invests them with, therefore
shields our dynamic sense from all competing interests, clears it
from all varying and irrelevant concomitants, gives it, as Faust
would have done to the instant of happiness, a sufficient duration;
and reinstating it in the centre of our consciousness, allows it to add
the utmost it can to our satisfaction or dissatisfaction.

Hence the mysterious importance, the attraction or repulsion,
possessed by shapes, audible as well as visible, according to their
empathic character; movement and energy, all that we feel as being
life, is furnished by them in its essence and allowed to fill our
consciousness. This fact explains also another phenomenon, which
in its turn greatly adds to the power of that very Empathy of which it
is a result. I am speaking once more of that phenomenon called
_Inner Mimicry_ which certain observers, themselves highly subject
to it, have indeed considered as Empathy's explanation, rather than
its result. In the light of all I have said about the latter, it becomes
intelligible that when empathic imagination (itself varying from
individual to individual) happens to be united to a high degree of
(also individually very varying) muscular responsiveness, there may
be set up reactions, actual or incipient, _e.g._ alterations of bodily
attitude or muscular tension which (unless indeed they withdraw
attention from the contemplated object to our own body) will
necessarily add to the sum of activity empathically attributed to the
contemplated object. There are moreover individuals in whom such
"mimetic" accompaniment consists (as is so frequently the case in
listening to music) in changes of the bodily balance, the breathing
and heart-beats, in which cases additional doses of satisfaction or
dissatisfaction result from the participation of bodily functions
themselves so provocative of comfort or discomfort. Now it is
obvious that such mimetic accompaniments, and every other
associative repercussion into the seat of what our fathers correctly
called "animal spirits," would be impossible unless reiteration, the
reiteration of repeated acts of attention, had allowed the various
empathic significance, the various _dynamic values,_ of given
shapes to sink so deeply into us, to become so habitual, that even a
rapid glance (as when we perceive the upspringing lines of a
mountain from the window of an express train) may suffice to evoke
their familiar dynamic associations. Thus contemplation explains, so
to speak, why contemplation may be so brief as to seem no
contemplation at all: past repetition has made present repetition
unnecessary, and the empathic, the dynamic scheme of any
particular shape may go on working long after the eye is fixed on
something else, or be started by what is scarcely a perception at all;
we feel joy at the mere foot-fall of some beloved person, but we do
so because he is already beloved. Thus does the reiterative character
essential to Empathy explain how our contemplative satisfaction in
shapes, our pleasure in the variously combined _movements of
lines,_ irradiates even the most practical, the apparently least
contemplative, moments and occupations of our existence.

But this is not all. This reiterative character of Empathy, this fact
that the mountain is always rising without ever beginning to sink or
adding a single cubit to its stature, joined to the abstract (the
_infinitive of the verb)_ nature of the suggested activity, together
account for art's high impersonality and its existing, in a manner,
_sub specie aeternitatis._ The drama of lines and curves presented
by the humblest design on bowl or mat partakes indeed of the
strange immortality of the youths and maidens on the _Grecian
Urn,_ to whom Keats, as you remember, says:--

"Fond lover, never, never canst thou kiss,
Though winning near the goal. Yet, do not grieve;
She cannot fade; though thou hast not thy bliss,
For ever wilt thou love, and she be fair."

And thus, in considering the process of Aesthetic Empathy, we find
ourselves suddenly back at our original formula: Beautiful means
satisfactory in contemplation, and contemplation not of Things but
of Shapes which are only Aspects of them.



CHAPTER XI

THE CHARACTER OF SHAPES

IN my example of the Rising Mountain, I have been speaking as if
Empathy invested the shapes we look at with only one mode of
activity at a time. This, which I have assumed for the simplicity of
exposition, is undoubtedly true in the case either of extremely
simple shapes requiring _few_ and homogeneous perceptive
activities. It is true also in the case of shapes of which familiarity (as
explained on p. 76) has made the actual perception very summary;
for instance when, walking quickly among trees, we notice only
what I may call their dominant empathic gesture of _thrusting_ or
_drooping_ their branches, because habit allows us to pick out the
most characteristic outlines. But, except in these and similar cases,
the _movement_ with which Empathy invests shapes is a great
deal more complex, indeed we should speak more correctly of
movements than of movement of lines. Thus the mountain rises, and
does nothing but rise so long as we are taking stock only of the
relation of its top with the plain, referring its lines solely to real or
imaginary horizontals. But if, instead of our glance making a single
swish upwards, we look at the two sides of the mountain
successively and compare each with the other as well as with the
plain, our impression (and our verbal description) will be that _one
slope goes up while the other goes down._ When the empathic
scheme of the mountain thus ceases to be mere _rising_ and
becomes _rising plus descending,_ the two _movements_ with
which we have thus invested that shape will be felt as being
interdependent; one side _goes down_ because the other has _gone
up,_ or the movement rises _in order to_ descend. And if we look at
a mountain chain we get a still more complex and co-ordinated
empathic scheme, the peaks and valleys (as in my description of
what the Man saw from his Hillside) appearing to us as a sequence
of risings and sinkings with correlated intensities; a slope _springing
up_ in proportion as the previously seen one _rushed down_; the
movements of the eye, slight and sketchy in themselves, awakening
the composite dynamic memory of all our experience of the impetus
gained by switch-back descent. Moreover this sequence, being a
sequence, will awaken expectation of repetition, hence sense of
rythm; the long chain of peaks will seem to perform a dance, they
will furl and unfurl like waves. Thus as soon as we get a
combination of empathic _forces_ (for that is how they affect us)
these will henceforth be in definite relation to one another. But the
relation need not be that of mere give and take and rythmical
cooperation. Lines meeting one another may conflict, check, deflect
one another; or again resist each other's effort as the steady
determination of a circumference resists, opposes a "Quos ego!" to
the rushing impact of the spokes of a wheel-pattern. And, along with
the empathic suggestion of the mechanical forces experienced in
ourselves, will come the empathic suggestion of spiritual
characteristics: the lines will have aims, intentions, desires, moods;
their various little dramas of endeavour, victory, defeat or
peacemaking, will, according to their dominant empathic suggestion,
be lighthearted or languid, serious or futile, gentle or brutal;
inexorable, forgiving, hopeful, despairing, plaintive or proud, vulgar
or dignified; in fact patterns of visible lines will possess all the chief
dynamic modes which determine the expressiveness of music. But
on the other hand there will remain innumerable emphatic
combinations whose poignant significance escapes verbal
classification because, as must be clearly understood, Empathy deals
not directly with mood and emotion, but with dynamic conditions
which enter into moods and emotions and take their names from
them. Be this as it may, and definable or not in terms of human
feeling, these various and variously combined (into coordinate
scenes and acts) dramas enacted by lines and curves and angles, take
place not in the marble or pigment embodying those contemplated
shapes, but solely in ourselves, in what we call our memory,
imagination and feeling. Ours are the energy, the effort, the victory
or the peace and cooperation; and all the manifold modes of
swiftness or gravity, arduousness or ease, with which their every
minutest dynamic detail is fraught. And since we are their only real
actors, these empathic dramas of lines are bound to affect us, either
as corroborating or as thwarting our vital needs and habits; either as
making our felt life easier or more difficult, that is to say as bringing
us peace and joy, or depression and exasperation.

Quite apart therefore from the convenience or not of the adjustments
requisite for their ocular measurement, and apart even from the
facility or difficulty of comparing and coordinating these
measurements, certain shapes and elements of shape are made
welcome to us, and other ones made unwelcome, by the sole
working of Empathy, which identifies the modes of being and
moving of lines with our own. For this reason meetings of lines
which affect us as neither victory nor honourable submission nor
willing cooperation are felt to be ineffectual and foolish. Lines also
(like those of insufficiently tapered Doric columns) which do not
_rise with enough impetus_ because they do not seem _to start with
sufficient pressure at the base;_ oblique lines (as in certain imitation
Gothic) which _lose their balance_ for lack of a countervailing
_thrust_ against them, all these, and alas many hundreds of other
possible combinations, are detestable to our feelings. And similarly
we are fussed and bored by the tentative lines, the uncoordinated
directions and impacts, of inferior, even if technically expert and
realistically learned draughtsmen, of artists whose work may charm
at first glance by some vivid likeness or poetic suggestion, but
reveal with every additional day their complete insignificance as
movement, their utter empathic nullity. Indeed, if we analyse the
censure ostensibly based upon engineering considerations of
material instability, or on wrong perspective or anatomical "out of
drawing" we shall find that much of this hostile criticism is really
that of empathic un-satisfactoriness, which escapes verbal detection
but is revealed by the finger _following,_ as we say (and that is
itself an instance of empathy) the movement, the development of,
boring or fussing lines.

Empathy explains not only the universally existing preferences with
regard to shape, but also those particular degrees of liking which are
matters of personal temperament and even of momentary mood
(_cf_. p. 131). Thus Mantegna, with his preponderance of
horizontals and verticals will appeal to one beholder as grave and
reassuring, but repel another beholder (or the same in a different
mood) as dull and lifeless; while the unstable equilibrium and
syncopated rythm of Botticelli may either fascinate or repel as
morbidly excited. And Leonardo's systems of whirling interlaced
circles will merely baffle (the "enigmatic" quality we hear so much
of) the perfunctory beholder, while rewarding more adequate
empathic imagination by allowing us to live, for a while, in the
modes of the intensest and most purposeful and most harmonious
energy.

Intensity and purposefulness and harmony. These are what everyday
life affords but rarely to our longings. And this is what, thanks to
this strange process of Empathy, a few inches of painted canvas, will
sometimes allow us to realise completely and uninterruptedly. And
it is no poetical metaphor or metaphysical figment, but mere
psychological fact, to say that if the interlacing circles and pentacles
of a Byzantine floor-pattern absorb us in satisfied contemplation,
this is because the modes of being which we are obliged to invest
them with are such as we vainly seek, or experience only to lose, in
our scattered or hustled existence.



CHAPTER XII

FROM THE SHAPE TO THE THING

SUCH are the satisfactions and dissatisfactions, impersonal and
unpractical, we can receive, or in reality, give ourselves, in the
contemplation of shape.

But life has little leisure for contemplation; it demands
_recognition,_ inference and readiness for active adaptation. Or
rather life forces us to deal with shapes mainly inasmuch as they
indicate the actual or possible existence of other groups of qualities
which may help or hurt us. Life hurries us into recognising
_Things._

Now the first peculiarity distinguishing _things_ from _shapes_ is
_that they can occupy more or less cubic space:_ we can hit up
against them, displace them or be displaced by them, and in such
process of displacing or resisting displacement, we become aware of
two other peculiarities distinguishing things from shapes: they have
_weight_ in varying degrees and _texture_ of various sorts.
Otherwise expressed, things have _body,_ they exist in three
dimensional space; while _shapes_ although they are often aspects
of things (say statues or vases) having body and cubic existence,
shapes _as_ shapes are two dimensional and bodiless.

So many of the critical applications of aesthetic, as well as of the
historical problems of art-evolution are connected with this fact or
rather the continued misunderstanding of it, that it is well to remind
the Reader of what general Psychology can teach us of the
perception of the Third Dimension. A very slight knowledge of
cubic existence, in the sense of _relief,_ is undoubtedly furnished as
the stereoscope furnishes it, by the inevitable slight divergence
between the two eyes; an even more infinitesimal dose of such
knowledge is claimed for the surfaces of each eye separately. But
whatever notions of three-dimensional space might have been
developed from such rudiments, the perception of cubic existence
which we actually possess and employ, is undeniably based upon the
incomparably more important data afforded by locomotion, under
which term I include even the tiny pressure of a finger against a
surface, and the exploration of a hollow tooth by the tip of the
tongue. The muscular adjustments made in such locomotion become
associated by repetition with the two-dimensional arrangements of
colour and light revealed by the eye, the two-dimensional being thus
turned into the three-dimensional in our everyday experience. But
the mistakes we occasionally make, for instance taking a road seen
from above for a church-tower projecting out of the plain, or the
perspective of a mountain range for its cubic shape, occasionally
reveal that we do not really _see_ three-dimensional objects, but
merely _infer_ them by connecting visual data with the result of
locomotor experience. The truth of this commonplace of psychology
can be tested by the experiment of making now one, now the other,
colour of a floor pattern seem convex or concave according as we
think of it as a light flower on a dark ground, or as a white cavity
banked in by a dark ridge. And when the philistine (who may be you
or me!) exclaims against the "out of drawing" and false perspective
of unfamiliar styles of painting, he is, nine times out of ten, merely
expressing his inability to identify two-dimensional shapes as
"representing" three-dimensional things; so far proving that we do
not decipher the cubic relations of a picture until we have guessed
what that picture is supposed to stand for. And this is my reason for
saying that visible shapes, though they may be aspects of cubic
objects, have no body; and that the thought of their volume, their
weight and their texture, is due to an interruption of our
contemplation of shape by an excursion among the recollections of
qualities which shapes, _as_ shapes, cannot possess.

And here I would forestall the Reader's objection that the feeling of
effort and resistance, essential to all our empathic dealings with
two-dimensional shapes, must, after all, be due to _weight,_ which we
have just described as a quality shapes cannot possess. My answer is
that Empathy has extracted and schematised effort and resistance by
the elimination of the thought of weight, as by the elimination of the
awareness of our bodily tensions; and that it is just this elimination
of all incompatible qualities which allows us to attribute activities to
those two-dimensional shapes, and to feel these activities, with a
vividness undiminished by the thought of any other circumstances.

With cubic existence (and its correlative three-dimensional
space), with weight and texture we have therefore got from the
contemplated shape to a thought alien to that shape and its
contemplation. The thought, to which life and its needs and dangers
has given precedence over every other: What _Thing_ is behind this
shape, what qualities must be inferred from this _aspect?_ After the
possibility of occupying so much space, the most important quality
which things can have for our hopes and fears, is _the possibility of
altering their occupation of space;_ not our locomotion, but _theirs._
I call it _locomotion_ rather than _movement,_ because we have
_direct_ experience only of our own movements, and _infer_ similar
movement in other beings and objects because of their change of
place either across our motionless eye or across some other object
whose relation to our motionless eye remains unchanged. I call it
_locomotion_ also to accentuate its difference from the _movement_
attributed to the shape of the Rising Mountain, movement _felt_ by
us to be going on but not expected to result in any change of the
mountain's space relations, which are precisely what would be
altered by the mountain's _locomotion._

The _practical_ question about a shape is therefore: Does it warrant
the inference of a _thing_ able to change its position in
three-dimensional space? to advance or recede from us? And if so in
what manner? Will it, like a loose stone, fall upon us? like flame, rise
towards us? like water, spread over us? Or will it change its place
only if _we_ supply the necessary _locomotion?_ Briefly: is the
thing of which we see the shape inert or active? And if this shape
belongs to a thing possessing activity of its own, is its locomotion of
that slow regular kind we call the growth and spreading of plants?
Or of the sudden, wilful kind we know in animals and men? What
does this shape tell us of such more formidable locomotion? Are
these details of curve and colour to be interpreted into jointed limbs,
can the _thing_ fling out laterally, run after us, can it catch and
swallow us? Or is it such that _we_ can do thus by it? Does this
shape suggest the thing's possession of desires and purposes which
we can deal with? And if so, _why is it where it is?_ Whence does it
come? What is it going to do? What is it _thinking_ of (if it can
think)? How will it _feel_ towards us (if it can feel)? What would it
say (if it could speak)? What will be its future and what may have
been its past? To sum all up: What does the presence of this shape
lead us to think and do and feel?

Such are a few of the thoughts started by that shape and the
possibility of its belonging to a thing. And even when, as we shall
sometimes find, they continually return back to the shape and play
round and round it in centrifugal and centripetal alternations, yet all
these thoughts are excursions, however brief, from the world of
definite unchanging shapes into that of various and ever varying
things; interruptions, even if (as we shall later see) intensifying
interruptions, of that concentrated and coordinated contemplation of
shapes, with which we have hitherto dealt. And these excursions,
and a great many more, from the world of shapes into that of things,
are what we shall deal with, when we come to Art, under the
heading of _representation_ and _suggestion,_ or, as is usually said,
of _subject_ and _expression_ as opposed to _form._



CHAPTER XIII

FROM THE THING TO THE SHAPE

THE necessities of analysis and exposition have led us from the
Shape to the Thing, from aesthetic contemplation to discursive and
practical thinking. But, as the foregoing chapter itself suggests, the
real order of precedence, both for the individual and the race, is
inevitably the reverse, since without a primary and dominant interest
in things no creatures would have survived to develop an interest in
shapes.

Indeed, considering the imperative need for an ever abbreviated and
often automatic system of human reactions to sense data, it is by no
means easy to understand (and the problem has therefore been
utterly neglected) how mankind ever came to evolve any process as
lengthy and complicated as that form-contemplation upon which all
aesthetic preference depends. I will hazard the suggestion that
familiarity with shapes took its original evolutional utility, as well as
its origin, from the dangers of over rapid and uncritical inference
concerning the qualities of things and man's proper reactions
towards them. It was necessary, no doubt, that the roughest
suggestion of a bear's growl and a bear's outline should send our
earliest ancestors into their sheltering caves. But the occasional
discovery that the bear was not a bear but some more harmless
and edible animal must have brought about a comparison, a
discrimination between the visible aspects of the two beasts, and a
mental storage of their difference in shape, gait and colour.
Similarly the deluding resemblance between poisonous and
nutritious fruits and roots, would result, as the resemblance between
the nurse's finger and nipple results with the infant, in attention to
visible details, until the acquisition of vivid mental images became
the chief item of the savage man's education, as it still is of the
self-education of the modern child. This evolution of interest in visible
aspects would of course increase tenfold as soon as mankind took to
making things whose usefulness (_i.e._ their still non-existent
qualities) might be jeopardised by a mistake concerning their shape.
For long after _over_ and _under, straight_ and _oblique, right_ and
_left,_ had become habitual perceptions in dealing with food and
fuel, the effective aim of a stone, the satisfactory flight of an arrow,
would be discovered to depend upon more or less of what we call
horizontals and perpendiculars, curves and angles; and the stability
of a fibrous tissue upon the intervals of crossing and recrossing, the
rythmical or symmetrical arrangements revealed by the hand or eye.
In short, _making,_ being inevitably _shaping,_ would have
developed a more and more accurate perception and recollection of
every detail of shape. And not only would there arise a comparison
between one shape and another shape, but between the shape
actually under one's eyes and the shape no longer present, between
the shape as it really was and the shape as it ought to be. Thus in the
very course of practical making of things there would come to be
little interludes, recognised as useful, first of more and more
careful looking and comparing, and then of real contemplation:
contemplation of the arrow-head you were chipping, of the mat
you were weaving, of the pot you were rubbing into shape;
contemplation also of the _other_ arrow-head or mat or pot existing
only in your wishes; of the shape you were trying to obtain with a
premonitory emotion of the effect which its peculiarities would
produce when once made visible to your eye! For the man cutting
the arrow-head, the woman plaiting the mat, becoming familiar with
the appropriate shapes of each and thinking of the various individual
arrow-heads or mats of the same type, _would become aware of the
different effect which such shapes had on the person who looked at
them._ Some of these shapes would be so dull, increasing the
tediousness of chipping and filing or of laying strand over strand;
others so alert, entertaining and likeable, as if they were helping in
the work; others, although equally compatible with utility, fussing or
distressing one, never doing what one expected their lines and
curves to do. To these suppositions I would add a few more
suggestions regarding the evolution of shape-contemplation out of
man's perfunctory and semi-automatic seeing of "Things." The
handicraftsman, armourer, weaver, or potter, benefits by his own
and his forerunners' practical experience of which shape is the more
adapted for use and wear, and which way to set about producing it;
his technical skill becomes half automatic, so that his eye and mind,
acting as mere overseers to his muscles, have plenty of time for
contemplation so long as everything goes right and no new moves
have to be made. And once the handicraftsman contemplates the
shape as it issues from his fingers, his mind will be gripped by that
liking or disliking expressed by the words "beautiful" and "ugly."
Neither is this all. The owner of a weapon or a vessel or piece of
tissue, is not always intent upon employing it; in proportion to its
usefulness and durability and to the amount of time, good luck, skill
or strength required to make or to obtain it, this chattel will turn
from a slave into a comrade. It is furbished or mended, displayed to
others, boasted over, perhaps sung over as Alan Breck sang over his
sword. The owner's eye (and not less that of the man envious of the
owner!) caresses its shape; and its shape, all its well-known
ins-and-outs and ups-and-downs, haunts the memory, ready to start into
vividness whenever similar objects come under comparison. Now
what holds good of primaeval and savage man holds good also of
civilized, perhaps even of ourselves among our machine made and
easily replaced properties. The shape of the things we make and use
offers itself for contemplation in those interludes of inattention
which are half of the rythm of all healthful work. And it is this
normal rythm of attention swinging from effort to ease, which
explains how art has come to be a part of life, how mere aspects
have acquired for our feelings an importance rivalling that of things.

I therefore commend to the Reader the now somewhat unfashionable
hypothesis of Semper and his school, according to which the first
preference for beauty of shape must be sought for in those arts
like stone and metal work, pottery and weaving, which give
opportunities for repetition, reduplication, hence rythm and
symmetry, and whose material and technique produce what are
called geometric patterns, meaning such as exist in two dimensions
and do not imitate the shapes of real objects. This theory has been
discredited by the discovery that very primitive and savage mankind
possessed a kind of art of totally different nature, and which analogy
with that of children suggests as earlier than that of pattern: the art
which the ingenious hypothesis of Mr Henry Balfour derives from
recognition of accidental resemblances between the shapes and
stains of wood or stone and such creatures and objects as happen to
be uppermost in the mind of the observer, who cuts or paints
whatever may be needed to complete the likeness and enable others
to perceive the suggestion. Whether or not this was its origin, there
seems to have existed in earliest times such an art of a strictly
representative kind, serving (like the spontaneous art of children) to
evoke the idea of whatever was interesting to the craftsman and his
clients, and doubtless practically to have some desirable magic
effect upon the realities of things. But (to return to the hypothesis of
the aesthetic primacy of geometric and non-representative art) it is
certain that although such early representations occasionally attain
marvellous life-likeness and anatomical correctness, yet they do not
at first show any corresponding care for symmetrical and rythmical
arrangement. The bisons and wild boars, for instance, of the
Altamira cave frescoes, do indeed display vigour and beauty in the
lines constituting them, proving that successful dealing with shape,
even if appealing only to practical interest, inevitably calls forth the
empathic imagination of the more gifted artists; but these
marvellously drawn figures are all huddled together or scattered as
out of a rag-bag; and, what is still more significant, they lack that
insistence on the feet which not only suggests ground beneath them
but, in so doing, furnishes a horizontal by which to start, measure
and take the bearings of all other lines. These astonishing
palaeolithic artists (and indeed the very earliest Egyptian and Greek
ones) seem to have thought only of the living models and their
present and future movements, and to have cared as little for lines
and angles as the modern children whose drawings have been
instructively compared with theirs by Levinstein and others. I
therefore venture to suggest that such aesthetically essential
attention to direction and composition must have been applied to
representative art when its realistic figures were gradually
incorporated into the patterns of the weaver and the potter. Such
"stylisation" is still described by art historians as a "degeneration"
due to unintelligent repetition; but it was on the contrary the
integrating process by which the representative element was
subjected to such aesthetic preferences as had been established in
the manufacture of objects whose usefulness or whose production
involved accurate measurement and equilibrium as in the case of
pottery or weapons, or rythmical reduplication as in that of textiles.

Be this question as it may (and the increasing study of the origin and
evolution of human faculties will some day settle it!) we already
know enough to affirm that while in the very earliest art the
shape-element and the element of representation are usually separate, the
two get gradually combined as civilisation advances, and the shapes
originally interesting only inasmuch as suggestions (hence as
magical equivalents) or things, and employed for religious,
recording, or self-expressive purposes, become subjected to
selection and rearrangement by the habit of avoiding disagreeable
perceptive and empathic activities and the desire of giving scope to
agreeable ones. Nay the whole subsequent history of painting and
sculpture could be formulated as the perpetual starting up of new
representative interests, new interests in _things,_ their spatial
existence, locomotion, anatomy, their reaction to light, and also their
psychological and dramatic possibilities; and the subordination of
these ever-changing interests in things to the unchanging habit of
arranging visible shapes so as to diminish opportunities for the
contemplative dissatisfaction and increase opportunities for the
contemplative satisfaction to which we attach the respective names
of "ugly" and "beautiful."



CHAPTER XIV

THE AIMS OF ART

WE have thus at last got to Art, which the Reader may have
expected to be dealt with at the outset of a primer on the Beautiful.

Why this could not be the case, will be more and more apparent in
my remaining chapters. And, in order to make those coming
chapters easier to grasp, I may as well forestall and tabulate the
views they embody upon the relation between the Beautiful and Art.
These generalisations are as follows:

Although it is historically probable that the habit of avoiding
ugliness and seeking beauty of shape may have been originally
established by utilitarian attention to the non-imitative
("geometrical") shapes of weaving, pottery and implement-making,
and transferred from these crafts to the shapes intended to represent
or imitate natural objects, yet the distinction between _Beautiful_
and _Ugly_ does not belong either solely or necessarily to what we
call _Art._ Therefore the satisfaction of the shape-perceptive or
aesthetic preferences must not be confused with any of the many and
various other aims and activities to which art is due and by which it
is carried on. Conversely: although in its more developed phases,
and after the attainment of technical facility, art has been
differentiated from other human employment by its foreseeing the
possibility of shape-contemplation and therefore submitting itself to
what I have elsewhere called the _aesthetic imperative,_ yet art has
invariably started from some desire other than that of affording
satisfactory shape-contemplation, with the one exception of cases
where it has been used to keep or reproduce opportunities of such
shape contemplation already accidentally afforded by natural shapes,
say, those of flowers or animals or landscapes, or even occasionally
of human beings, which had already been enjoyed as beautiful. All
art therefore, except that of children, savages, ignoramuses and
extreme innovators, invariably avoids ugly shapes and seeks for
beautiful ones; _but art does this while pursuing all manner of
different aims._ These non-aesthetic aims of art may be roughly
divided into (A) the making of useful objects ranging from clothes
to weapons and from a pitcher to a temple; (B) the registering or
transmitting of facts and their visualising, as in portraits, historical
pictures or literature, and book illustration; and (C) the awakening,
intensifying or maintaining of definite emotional states, as especially
by music and literature, but also by painting and architecture when
employed as "aids to devotion." And these large classes may again
be subdivided and connected, if the Reader has a mind to, into
utilitarian, social, ritual, sentimental, scientific and other aims, some
of them not countenanced or not avowed by contemporary morality.

How the aesthetic imperative, i.e. the necessities of satisfactory
shape-contemplation, qualifies and deflects the pursuit of such
non-aesthetic aims of art can be shown by comparing, for instance, the
mere audible devices for conveying conventional meaning and
producing and keeping up emotional conditions, viz. the hootings
and screechings of modern industrialism no less than the ritual
noises of savages, with the arrangements of well constituted pitch,
rythm, tonality and harmony in which military, religious or dance
music has disguised its non-aesthetic functions of conveying signals
or acting on the nerves. Whatever is unnecessary for either of these
motives (or any others) for making a noise, can be put to the account
of the desire to avoid ugliness and enjoy beauty. But the workings of
the aesthetic imperative can best be studied in the Art of the
visual-representative group, and especially in painting, which allows us to
follow the interplay of the desire to be told (or tell) _facts about
things_ with the desire to _contemplate shapes,_ and to contemplate
them (otherwise we should _not_ contemplate!) with sensuous,
intellectual and empathic satisfaction.

This brings us back to the Third Dimension, of which the possession
is, as have we seen, the chief difference between _Things,_ which
can alter their aspect in the course of their own and our actions, and
_Shapes,_ which can only be contemplated by our bodily and mental
eye, and neither altered nor thought of as altered without more or
less jeopardising their identity.

I daresay the Reader may not have been satisfied with the reference
to the locomotor nature of cubic perception as sufficient justification
of my thus connecting cubic existence with Things rather than with
Shapes, and my implying that aesthetic preference, due to the
sensory, intellectual and empathic factors of perception, is
applicable only to the two other dimensions. And the Reader's
incredulity and surprise will have been all the greater, because
recent art-criticism has sedulously inculcated that the suggestion of
cubic existence is the chief function of pictorial genius, and the
realisation of such cubic existence the highest delight which pictures
can afford to their worthy beholder. This particular notion, entirely
opposed to the facts of visual perception and visual empathy, will
repay discussion, inasmuch as it accidentally affords an easy
entrance into a subject which has hitherto presented inextricable
confusion, namely the relations of _Form_ and _Subject,_ or, as I
have accustomed the Reader to consider them, the _contemplated
Shape_ and the _thought-of Thing._

Let us therefore examine why art-criticism should lay so great a
stress on the suggestion and the acceptance of that suggestion, of
three-dimensional existence in paintings. _In paintings._ For this
alleged aesthetic desideratum ceases to be a criterion of merit when
we come to sculpture, about which critics are more and more
persistently teaching (and with a degree of reason) that one of the
greatest merits of the artist, and of the greatest desiderata of the
beholder, is precisely the reduction of real cubic existence by
avoiding all projection beyond a unified level, that is to say by
making a solid block of stone look as if it were a representation on a
flat surface. This contradiction explains the origin of the theory
giving supreme pictorial importance to the Third Dimension. For art
criticism though at length (thanks especially to the sculptor
Hildebrand) busying itself also with plastic art, has grown up mainly
in connexion with painting. Now in painting the greatest scientific
problem, and technical difficulty, has been the suggestion of
three-dimensional existences by pigments applied to a two-dimensional
surface; and this problem has naturally been most successfully
handled by the artists possessing most energy and imagination, and
equally naturally shirked or bungled or treated parrot-wise by the
artists of less energy and imagination. And, as energy and
imagination also show themselves in finer perception, more vivid
empathy and more complex dealings with shapes which are only
two-dimensional, it has come about that the efficient and original
solutions of the cubic problem have coincided, _ceteris paribus,_
with the production of pictures whose two-dimensional qualities
have called forth the adjective _beautiful,_ and _beautiful_ in the
most intense and complicated manner. Hence successful treatment
of cubic suggestion has become an habitual (and threatens to
become a rule-of-thumb) criterion of pictorial merit; the more so
that qualities of two-dimensional shape, being intrinsic and specific,
are difficult to run to ground and describe; whereas the quality of
three-dimensional suggestion is ascertainable by mere comparison
between the shapes in the picture and the shapes afforded by real
things when seen in the same perspective and lighting. Most people
can judge whether an apple in a picture "looks as if" it were solid,
round, heavy and likely to roll off a sideboard in the same picture;
and some people may even, when the picture has no other claims on
their interest, experience incipient muscular contractions such as
would eventually interfere with a real apple rolling off a real
sideboard. Apples and sideboards offer themselves to the meanest
experience and can be dealt with adequately in everyday language,
whereas the precise curves and angles, the precise relations of
directions and impacts, of parts to whole, which together make up
the identity of a two-dimensional shape, are indeed perceived and
felt by the attentive beholder, but not habitually analysed or set forth
in words. Moreover the creation of two-dimensional shapes
satisfying to contemplation depends upon two very different factors:
on traditional experience with regard to the more general
arrangements of lines, and on individual energy and sensitiveness,
i.e. on genius in carrying out, and ringing changes on, such
traditional arrangements. And the possession of tradition or genius,
although no doubt the most important advantage of an artist,
happens not to be one to which he can apply himself as to a problem.
On the other hand a problem to be solved is eternally being pressed
upon every artist; pressed on him by his clients, by the fashion of his
time and also by his own self inasmuch as he is a man interested not
only in _shapes_ but in _things._ And thus we are back at the fact
that the problem given to the painter to solve by means of lines and
colours on a flat surface, is the problem of telling us something new
or something important about _things:_ what things are made of,
how they will react to our doings, how they move, what they feel
and think; and above all, I repeat it, what amount of space they
occupy with reference to the space similarly occupied, in present or
future, by other things including ourselves.

Our enquiry into the excessive importance attributed by critics to
pictorial suggestion of cubic existence has thus led us back to the
conclusion contained in previous chapters, namely that beauty
depending negatively on ease of visual perception, and positively
upon emphatic corroboration of our dynamic habits, is a quality of
_aspects,_ independent of cubic existence and every other possible
quality of _things_; except in so far as the thought of
three-dimensional, and other, qualities of things may interfere with the
freedom and readiness of mind requisite for such highly active and
sensitive processes as those of empathic form interpretation. But the
following chapter will, I trust, make it clear that such interference of
the _Thought about Things_ with the _Contemplation of Shapes_ is
essential to the rythm of our mental life, and therefore a chief factor
in all artistic production and appreciation.



CHAPTER XV

ATTENTION TO SHAPES

TO explain how art in general, and any art in particular, succeeds in
reconciling these contradictory demands, I must remind the Reader
of what I said (p. 93) about the satisfactory or unsatisfactory
possibilities of shapes having begun to be noticed in the moments of
slackened attention to the processes of manufacturing the objects
embodying those shapes, and in the intervals between practical
employment of these more or less _shapely_ objects. And I must ask
him to connect with these remarks a previous passage (p. 44)
concerning the intermittent nature of normal acts of attention, and
their alternation as constituting _on-and-off beats._ The deduction
from these two converging statements is that, contrary to the a-priori
theories making aesthetic contemplation an exception, a kind of
bank holiday, to daily life, it is in reality one-half of daily life's
natural and healthy rythm. That the real state of affairs, as revealed
by psychological experiment and observation, should have escaped
the notice of so many aestheticians, is probably due to their theories
starting from artistic production rather than from aesthetic
appreciation, without which art would after all probably never have
come into existence.

The production of the simplest work of art cannot indeed be thought
of as one of the alternations of everyday attention, because it is a
long, complex and repeatedly resumed process, a whole piece of life,
including in itself hundreds and thousands of alternations of _doing_
and _looking,_ of discursive thinking of aims and ways and means
and of contemplation of aesthetic results. For even the humblest
artist has to think of whatever objects or processes his work aims at
representing, conveying or facilitating; and to think also of the
objects, marble, wood, paints, voices, and of the processes, drawing,
cutting, harmonic combining, by which he attempts to compass one
of the above-mentioned results. The artist is not only an aesthetically
appreciative person; he is, in his own way, a man of science and a
man of practical devices, an expert, a craftsman and an engineer. To
produce a work of art is not an interlude in his life, but his life's
main business; and he therefore stands apart, as every busy specialist
must, from the business of other specialists, of those ministering to
mankind's scientific and practical interests.

But while it takes days, months, sometimes years to produce a work
of art, it may require (the process has been submitted to exact
measurement by the stop-watch) not minutes but seconds, to take
stock of that work of art in such manner as to carry away its every
detail of shape, and to continue dealing with it in memory. The
unsuspected part played by memory explains why aesthetic
contemplation can be and normally is, an intermittent function
alternating with practical doing and thinking. It is in memory,
though memory dealing with what we call the present, that we
gather up parts into wholes and turn consecutive measurements into
simultaneous relations; and it is probably in memory that we deal
empathically with shapes, investing their already perceived
directions and relations with the remembered qualities of our own
activities, aims and moods. And similarly it is thanks to memory that
the brief and intermittent acts of aesthetic appreciation are combined
into a network of contemplation which intermeshes with our other
thoughts and doings, and yet remains different from them, as the
restorative functions of life remain different from life's expenditure,
although interwoven with them. Every Reader with any habit of
self-observation knows how poignant an impression of beauty may be
got, as through the window of an express train, in the intermittence
of practical business or abstract thinking, nay even in what I have
called the _off-beat_ of deepest personal emotion, the very stress of
the practical, intellectual or personal instant (for the great
happenings of life are measured in seconds!) apparently driving in
by contrast, or conveying on its excitement, that irrelevant aesthetic
contents of the _off-beat_ of attention. And while the practical or
intellectual interest changes, while the personal emotion subsides,
that aesthetic impression remains; remains or recurs, united, through
every intermittence, by the feeling of identity, that identity which,
like _the rising of the mountain,_ is due to the reiterative nature of
shape-contemplation: the fragments of melody may be interrupted in
our memory by all manner of other thoughts, but they will recur and
coalesce, and recurring and coalescing, bring with them the
particular mood which their rythms and intervals have awakened in
us and awaken once more.

That diagrammatic Man on the Hill in reality _thought away_ from
the landscape quite as much as his practical and scientific
companions; what he did, and they did not, was to think _back_ to it;
and think back to it always with the same references of lines and
angles, the same relations of directions and impacts, of parts and
wholes. And perhaps the restorative, the healing quality of aesthetic
contemplation is due, in large part, to the fact that, in the perpetual
flux of action and thought, it represents reiteration and therefore
stability.

Be that as it may, the intermittent but recurrent character of shape
contemplation, the fact that it is inconceivably brief and amazingly
repetitive, that it has the essential quality of identity because of
reiteration, all this explains also two chief points of our subject. First:
how an aesthetic impression, intentionally or accidentally conveyed
in the course of wholly different interests, can become a constant
accompaniment to the shifting preoccupations of existence, like the
remembered songs which sing themselves silently in our mind and
the remembered landscapes becoming an intangible background to
our ever-varying thoughts. And, secondly, it explains how art can
fulfil the behests of our changing and discursive interest in things
while satisfying the imperious unchanging demands of the
contemplated preference for beautiful aspects. And thus we return to
my starting-point in dealing with art: that art is conditioned by the
desire for beauty while pursuing entirely different aims, and
executing any one of a variety of wholly independent non-aesthetic
tasks.



CHAPTER XVI

INFORMATION ABOUT THINGS

AMONG the facts which Painting is set to tell us about things, the
most important, after cubic existence, is Locomotion. Indeed in the
development of the race as well as in that of the individual, pictorial
attention to locomotion seems to precede attention to cubic existence.
For when the palaeolithic, or the Egyptian draughtsman, or even the
Sixth Century Greek, unites profile legs and head with a full-face
chest; and when the modern child supplements the insufficiently
projecting full-face nose by a profile nose tacked on where we
expect the ear, we are apt to think that these mistakes are due to
indifference to the cubic nature of things. The reverse is, however,
the case. The primitive draughtsman and the child are recording
impressions received in the course of the locomotion either of the
thing looked at or of the spectator. When they unite whatever
consecutive aspects are most significant and at the same time easiest
to copy, they are in the clutches of their cubic experience, and what
they are indifferent about, perhaps unconscious of, is the
_two-dimensional_ appearance which a body presents when its parts are
seen simultaneously and therefore from a single point of view. The
progress of painting is always from representing the Consecutive to
representing the Simultaneous; perspective, foreshortening, and later,
light and shade, being the scientific and technical means towards
this end.

Upon our knowledge of the precise stage of such pictorial
development depends our correct recognition of what things, and
particularly what spatial relations and locomotion, of things, the
painter is intended to represent. Thus when a Byzantine
draughtsman puts his figures in what look to us as superposed tiers,
he is merely trying to convey their existence behind one another on
a common level. And what we take for the elaborate contortions of
athletes and Athenas on Sixth Century vases turns out to be nothing
but an archaic representation of ordinary walking and running.

The suggestion of locomotion depends furthermore on anatomy.
What the figures of a painting are intended to be doing, what they
are intended to have just done and to be going to do, in fact all
questions about their action and business, are answered by reference
to their bodily structure and its real or supposed possibilities. The
same applies to expression of mood.

The impassiveness of archaic Apollos is more likely to be due to
anatomical difficulties in displacing arms and legs, than to lack of
emotion on the part of artists who were, after all, contemporaries
either of Sappho or Pindar. And it is more probable that the
sculptors of Aegina were still embarrassed about the modelling of
lips and cheeks than that, having Homer by heart, they imagined his
heroes to die silently and with a smirk.

I have entered into this question of perspective and anatomy, and
given the above examples, because they will bring home to the
reader one of the chief principles deduced from our previous
examination into the psychology of our subject, namely that _all
thinking about things is thinking away from the Shapes suggesting
those things, since it involves knowledge which the Shapes in
themselves do not afford._ And I have insisted particularly upon the
dependence of representations of locomotion upon knowledge of
three-dimensional existence, because, before proceeding to the
relations of Subject and Form in painting, I want to impress once
more upon the reader the distinction between the _locomotion of
things_ (locomotion active or passive) and what, in my example of
the _mountain which rises,_ I have called the _empathic movement
of lines._ Such _movement of lines_ we have seen to be a scheme of
activity suggested by our own activity in taking stock of a
two-dimensional-shape; an _idea,_ or _feeling_ of activity which we,
being normally unaware of its origin in ourselves, project into the
shape which has suggested it, precisely as we project our sensation
of _red_ from our own eye and mind into the object which has
deflected the rays of light in such a way as to give us that _red_
sensation. Such _empathic,_ attributed, movements of lines are
therefore intrinsic qualities of the shapes whose active perception
has called them forth in our imagination and feeling; and being
qualities of the shapes, they inevitably change with every alteration
which a shape undergoes, every shape, actively perceived, having its
own special _movement of lines;_ and every _movement of lines,_
or _combination of movements of lines_ existing in proportion as
we go over and over again the particular shape of which it is a
quality. The case is absolutely reversed when we perceive or think
of, the _locomotion of things._ The thought of a thing's locomotion,
whether locomotion done by itself or inflicted by something else,
necessitates our thinking away from the particular shape before us to
another shape more or less different. In other words locomotion
necessarily alters what we are looking at or thinking of. If we think
of Michel Angelo's seated Moses as getting up, we think _away_
from the approximately pyramidal shape of the statue to the
elongated oblong of a standing figure. If we think of the horse of
Marcus Aurelius as taking the next step, we think of a straightened
leg set on the ground instead of a curved leg suspended in the air.
And if we think of the Myronian Discobolus as letting go his quoit
and "recovering," we think of the matchless spiral composition as
unwinding and straightening itself into a shape as different as that of
a tree is different from that of a shell.

The pictorial representation of locomotion affords therefore the
extreme example of the difference between discursive thinking
about things and contemplation of shape. Bearing this example in
mind we cannot fail to understand that, just as the thought of
_locomotion_ is opposed to the thought of _movement of lines,_ so,
in more or less degree, the thought of the objects and actions
represented by a picture or statue, is likely to divert the mind from
the pictorial and plastic shapes which do the representing. And we
can also understand that the problem unconsciously dealt with by all
art (though by no means consciously by every artist) is to execute
the order of suggesting interesting facts about things in a manner
such as to satisfy at the same time the aesthetic demand for shapes
which shall be satisfactory to contemplate. Unless this demand for
sensorially, intellectually and empathically desirable shapes be
complied with a work of art may be interesting as a diagram, a
record or an illustration, but once the facts have been conveyed and
assimilated with the rest of our knowledge, there will remain a shape
which we shall never want to lay eyes upon. I cannot repeat too
often that the differentiating characteristic of art is that it gives its
works a value for contemplation independent of their value for
fact-transmission, their value as nerve-and-emotion-excitant and of their
value for immediate, for practical, utility. This aesthetic value,
depending upon the unchanging processes of perception and
empathy, asserts itself in answer to every act of contemplative
attention, and is as enduring and intrinsic as the other values are apt
to be momentary and relative. A Greek vase with its bottom
knocked out and with a scarce intelligible incident of obsolete
mythology portrayed upon it, has claims upon our feelings which the
most useful modern mechanism ceases to have even in the intervals
of its use, and which the newspaper, crammed full of the most
important tidings, loses as soon as we have taken in its contents.



CHAPTER XVII

THE CO-OPERATION OF THINGS AND SHAPES

DURING the Middle Ages and up to recent times the chief task of
painting has been, ostensibly, the telling and re-telling of the same
Scripture stories; and, incidentally, the telling them with the addition
of constantly new items of information about _things:_ their volume,
position, structure, locomotion, light and shade and interactions of
texture and atmosphere; to which items must be added others of
psychological or (pseudo)-historical kind, how it all came about, in
what surroundings and dresses, and accompanied by what feelings.
This task, official and unofficial, is in no way different from those
fulfilled by the man of science and the practical man, both of whom
are perpetually dealing with additional items of information. But
mark the difference in the artist's way of accomplishing this task: a
scientific fact is embodied in the progressive mass of knowledge,
assimilated, corrected; a practical fact is taken in consideration, built
upon; but the treatise, the newspaper or letter, once it has conveyed
these facts, is forgotten or discarded. The work of art on the contrary
is remembered and cherished; or at all events it is made with the
intention of being remembered and cherished. In other words and as
I shall never tire of repeating, the differentiating characteristic of art
is that it makes _you think back to the shape_ once that shape has
conveyed its message or done its business of calling your attention
or exciting your emotions. And the first and foremost problem, for
instance of painting, is that of preventing the beholder's eye from
being carried, by lines of perspective, outside the frame and even
persistently out of the centre of the picture; the sculptor (and this is
the real reason of the sculptor Hildebrand's rules for plastic
composition) obeying a similar necessity of keeping the beholder's
eye upon the main masses of his statue, instead of diverting it, by
projections at different distances, like the sticking out arms and
hands of Roman figures. So much for the eye of the body: the
beholder's curiosity must similarly not be carried outside the work of
art by, for instance, an incomplete figure (legs without a body!) or
an unfinished gesture, this being, it seems to roe, the only real
reason against the representation of extremely rapid action and
transitory positions. But when the task of conveying information
implies that the beholder's thoughts be deliberately led from what is
represented to what is not, then this centrifugal action is dealt with
so as to produce a centripetal one back to the work of art: the painter
suggests questions of _how_ and _why_ which get their answers in
some item obliging you to take fresh stock of the picture. What Is
the meaning of the angels and evidently supernatural horseman in
the foreground of Raphael's _Heliodorus?_ Your mind flies to the
praying High Priest in the central recess of the temple, and in going
backwards and forwards between him, the main group and the
scattered astonished bystanders, you are effectually enclosed within
the arches of that marvellous composition, and induced to explore
every detail of its lovely and noble constituent shapes.

The methods employed thus to keep the beholder's attention inside
the work of art while suggesting things beyond it, naturally vary
with the exact nature of the non-aesthetic task which has been set to
the artist; and with the artist's individual endowment and even more
with the traditional artistic formulae of his country and time:
Raphael's devices in _Heliodorus_ could not have been compassed
by Giotto; and, on the other hand, would have been rejected as
"academic" by Manet. But whatever the methods employed, and
however obviously they reveal that satisfactory form-contemplation
is the one and invariable _condition_ as distinguished from the
innumerable varying _aims,_ of all works of art, the Reader will find
them discussed not as methods for securing attention to the shape,
but as methods of employing that shape for some non-aesthetic
purpose; whether that purpose be inducing you to drink out of a cup
by making its shape convenient or suggestive; or inducing you to
buy a particular commodity by branding its name and virtues on
your mind; or fixing your thoughts on the Madonna's sorrows; or
awaking your sympathy for Isolde's love tragedy. And yet it is
evident that the artist who shaped the cup or designed the poster
would be horribly disappointed if you thought only of drinking or of
shopping and never gave another look to the cup or the poster; and
that Perugino or Wagner would have died of despair if his
suggestion of the Madonna's sorrows or of Isolde's love-agonies had
been so efficacious as to prevent anybody from looking twice at the
fresco or listening to the end of the opera. This inversion of the
question is worth inquiring into, because, like the analogous paradox
about the pictorial "realisation" of cubic existence, it affords an
illustration of some of the psychological intricacies of the relation
between Art and the Beautiful. This is how I propose to explain it.

The task to which an artist is set varies from one work to another,
while the shapes employed for the purpose are, as already said,
limited by his powers and especially by the precise moment in
artistic evolution. The artist therefore thinks of his available shapes
as something given, as _means,_ and the subject he is ordered to
represent (or the emotion he is commissioned to elicit) as the
all-important _aim._ Thus he thinks of himself (and makes the critic
think of him) not as preventing the represented subject or expressed
emotion from withdrawing the beholder from the artistic shapes, but,
on the contrary, as employing these artistic shapes for the sole
purpose of that representation or emotional expression. And this
most explicable inversion of the real state of affairs ends by making
the beholder believe that what _he_ cares for in a masterpiece is not
the beauty of shape which only a masterpiece could have, but the
efficacy of bringing home a subject or expressing an emotion which
could be just as efficaciously represented or elicited by the vilest
daub or the wretchedest barrel organ! This inevitable, and I believe,
salutary illusion of the artist, is further in creased by the fact that
while the artist's ingenuity must be bent on avoiding irrelevance and
diminishing opportunities for ugliness, the actual beauty of the
shapes he is creating arises from the depths of his unreasoned,
traditional and organised consciousness, from activities which might
be called automatic if they were not accompanied by a critical
feeling that what is produced thus spontaneously and inevitably is
either turning out as it must and should, or, contrariwise, insists
upon turning out exactly as it _should not._ The particular system of
curves and angles, of directions and impacts of lines, the particular
"whole-and-part" scheme of, let us say, Michelangelo, is due to his
modes of aesthetic perceiving, feeling, living, added to those of all
the other artists whose peculiarities have been averaged in what we
call the school whence Michelangelo issued. He can no more depart
from these shapes than he can paint Rembrandt's Pilgrims of
Emmaus without Rembrandt's science of light and shade and
Rembrandt's oil-and-canvas technique. There is no alternative, hence
no choice, hence no feeling of a problem to resolve, in this question
of shapes to employ. But there are dozens of alternatives and of acts
of choice, there is a whole series of problems when Michelangelo
sets to employing these inevitable shapes to telling the Parting of the
Light from the Darkness, or the Creation of Adam on the Vault of
the Sixtine, and to surrounding the stories from Genesis with
Prophets and Sibyls and Ancestors of Christ. Is the ceiling to remain
a unity, or be broken up into irrelevant compositions? Here comes in,
alongside of his almost automatic genius for shapes, the man's
superhuman constructive ingenuity. See how he divides that ceiling
in such a way that the frames of the separate compositions combine
into a huge structure of painted rafters and brackets, nay the
Prophets and Sibyls, the Ancestors and Ancestresses themselves,
and the naked antique genii, turn into architectural members,
holding that imaginary roof together, securing its seeming stability,
increasing, by their gesture its upspring and its weightiness, and at
the same time determining the tracks along which the eye is forced
to travel. Backwards and forwards the eye is driven by that living
architecture, round and round in its search now for completion of
visible pattern, now for symbolic and narrative meaning. And ever
back to the tale of the Creation, so that the remote historic incidents
of the Ancestors, the tremendous and tremendously present lyric
excitement and despair of the prophetic men and women, the pagan
suggestion of the athletic genii, all unite like the simultaneous and
consecutive harmonies of a titanic symphony, round the recurrent
and dominant phrases of those central stories of how the universe
and man were made, so that the beholder has the emotion of hearing
not one part of the Old Testament, but the whole of it. But
meanwhile, and similarly interchanging and multiplying their
imaginative and emotional appeal, the thought of those most
memorable of all written stories unites with the perception and
empathy of those marvellous systems of living lines and curves and
angles, throbbing with their immortal impacts and speeds and
directions in a great coordinated movement that always begins and
never ends, until it seems to the beholder as if those painted shapes
were themselves the crowning work of some eighth day of Creation,
gathering up in reposeful visible synthesis the whole of Creation's
ineffable energy and harmony and splendour.

This example of Michelangelo's ceiling shows how, thanks to the
rythmical nature of perception, art fulfils the mission of making us
think from Shapes to Things and from Things back to Shapes. And it
allows us to see the workings of that psychological law, already
manifest in the elementary relations of line to line and dot to dot, by
which whatever can be thought and felt in continuous alternation
tends to be turned into a whole by such reiteration of common
activities. And this means that Art adds to its processes of selection
and exclusion a process of _inclusion,_ safeguarding aesthetic
contemplation by drawing whatever is not wholly refractory into
that contemplation's orbit. This turning of non-aesthetic interests
from possible competitors and invaders into co-operating allies is an
incomparable multiplying factor of aesthetic satisfaction, enlarging
the sphere of aesthetic emotion and increasing that emotion's volume
and stability by inclusion of just those elements which would have
competed to diminish them. The typical instance of such a possible
competitor turned into an ally, is that of the cubic element, which I
have described (p. 85) as the first and most constant intruder from
the thought of _Things_ into the contemplation of _Shapes._ For the
introduction into a picture of a suggested third dimension is what
prevents our _thinking away from_ a merely two-dimensional aspect
by supplying subsidiary imaginary aspects susceptible of being
co-ordinated to it. So perspective and modelling in light and shade
satisfy our habit of locomotion by allowing us, as the phrase is, _to
go into_ a picture; and _going into,_ we remain there and establish
on its imaginary planes schemes of horizontals and verticals besides
those already existing on the real two-dimensional surface. This
addition of shapes due to perspective increases the already existing
dramas of empathy, instead of interrupting them by our looking
away from the picture, which we should infallibly do if our
exploring and so to speak _cubic-locomotor_ tendencies were not
thus employed inside the picture's limits.

This alliance of aesthetic contemplation with our interest in cubic
existence and our constant thought of locomotion, does more
however than merely safeguard and multiply our chances of
empathic activity. It also increases the sensory discrimination, and
hence pleasureableness, of colour, inasmuch as colour becomes,
considered as light and shade and _values,_ a suggestion of
three-dimensional _Things_ instead of merely a constituent of
two-dimensional _Shapes._ Moreover, one easily tires of "following"
verticals and horizontals and their intermediate directions; while
empathic imagination, with its dynamic feelings and frequent
semi-mimetic accompaniments, requires sufficient intervals of repose;
and such repose, such alternation of different mental functions,
isprecisely afforded by thinking in terms of cubic existence.
Art-critics have often pointed out what may be called the thinness, the
lack of _staying power,_ of pictures deficient in the cubic element;
they ought also to have drawn attention to the fatiguing, the almost
hallucinatory excitement, resulting from uninterrupted attention to
two-dimensional pattern and architectural outlines, which were,
indeed, intended to be incidentally looked at in the course of taking
stock of the cubic qualities of furniture and buildings.

And since the limits of this volume have restricted me to painting as
a type of aesthetic contemplation, I must ask the Reader to accept on
my authority and if possible verify for himself, the fact that what I
have been saying applies, _mutatis mutandis,_ to the other arts. As
we have already noticed, something analogous to a third dimension
exists also in music; and even, as I have elsewhere shown,[*] in
literature. The harmonies accompanying a melody satisfy our
tendency to think of other notes and particularly of other allied
tonalities; while as to literature, the whole handling of words, indeed
the whole of logical thinking, is but a cubic working backwards and
forwards between _what_ and _how,_ a co-ordinating of items and
themes, keeping the mind enclosed in one scheme of ideas by
forestalling answers to the questions which would otherwise divert
the attention. And if the realisation of the third dimension has come
to be mistaken for the chief factor of aesthetic satisfaction, this error
is due not merely to the already noticed coincidence between cubic
imagination and artistic genius, but even more to the fact that cubic
imagination is the type of the various multiplying factors by which
the empathic, that is to say the essentially aesthetic, activity, can
increase its sphere of operations, its staying power and its intensity.

[*] _The Handling of Words,_ English Review, 1911-12.



CHAPTER XVIII

AESTHETIC RESPONSIVENESS

OUR examination has thus proceeded from aesthetic contemplation
to the work of Art, which seeks to secure and satisfy it while
furthering some of life's various other claims. We must now go back
to aesthetic contemplation and find out how the beholder meets
these efforts made to secure and satisfy his contemplative attention.
For the Reader will by this time have grasped that art can do nothing
without the collaboration of the beholder or listener; and that this
collaboration, so far from consisting in the passive "being impressed
by beauty" which unscientific aestheticians imagined as analogous
to "being impressed by sensuous qualities," by hot or cold or sweet
or sour, is in reality a combination of higher activities, second in
complexity and intensity only to that of the artist himself.

We have seen in the immediately preceding chapter that the most
deliberate, though not the essential, part of the artist's business is to
provide against any possible disturbance of the beholder's
responsive activity, and of course also to increase by every means
that output of responsive activity. But the sources of it are in the
beholder, and beyond the control of the most ingenious artistic
devices and the most violent artistic appeals. There is indeed no
better proof of the active nature of aesthetic appreciation than the
fact that such appreciation is so often not forthcoming. Even mere
sensations, those impressions of single qualities to which we are
most unresistingly passive, are not pleasurable without a favourable
reaction of the body's chemistry: the same taste or smell will be
attractive or repulsive according as we have recently eaten. And
however indomitably colour- and sound-sensations force themselves
upon us, our submission to them will not be accompanied by even
the most "passive" pleasure if we are bodily or mentally out of sorts.
How much more frequent must be lack of receptiveness when,
instead of dealing with _sensations_ whose intensity depends after
all two thirds upon the strength of the outer stimulation, we deal
with _perceptions_ which include the bodily and mental activities of
exploring a shape and establishing among its constituent sensations
relationships both to each other and to ourselves; activities without
which there would be for the beholder no shape at all, but
mere ragbag chaos!--And in calculating the likelihood of a
perceptive empathic response we must remember that such active
shape-perception, however instantaneous as compared with the cumbrous
processes of locomotion, nevertheless requires a perfectly
measurable time, and requires therefore that its constituent processes
be held in memory for comparison and coordination, quite as much
as the similar processes by which we take stock of the relations of
sequence of sounds. All this mental activity, less explicit but not less
intense or complex than that of logically "following" an argument, is
therefore such that we are by no means always able or willing to
furnish it. Not able, because the need for practical decisions hurries
us into that rapid inference from a minimum of perception to a
minimum of associated experience which we call "recognising
things," and thus out of the presence of the perfunctorily dealt with
shapes. Not willing, because our nervous condition may be unable
for the strain of shape perception; and our emotional bias (what we
call our _interest)_ may be favourable to some incompatible kind of
activity. Until quite recently (and despite Fechner's famous
introductory experiments) aesthetics have been little more than a
branch of metaphysical speculation, and it is only nowadays that the
bare fact of aesthetic responsiveness is beginning to be studied. So
far as I have myself succeeded in doing so, I think I can assure the
Reader that if he will note down, day by day, the amount of pleasure
he has been able to take in works of art, he will soon recognise the
existence of aesthetic responsiveness and its highly variable nature.
Should the same Reader develop an interest in such (often
humiliating) examination into his own aesthetic experience, he will
discover varieties of it which will illustrate some of the chief
principles contained in this little book. His diary will report days
when aesthetic appreciation has begun with the instant of entering a
collection of pictures or statues, indeed sometimes pre-existed as he
went through the streets noticing the unwonted charm of familiar
objects; other days when enjoyment has come only after an effort of
attention; others when, to paraphrase Coleridge, _he saw, not felt,
how beautiful things are;_ and finally, through other varieties of
aesthetic experience, days upon which only shortcomings and
absurdities have laid hold of his attention. In the course of such
aesthetical self-examination and confession, the Reader might also
become acquainted with days whose experience confirmed my never
sufficiently repeated distinction between _contemplating Shapes and
thinking about Things_; or, in ordinary aesthetic terminology
between _form_ and _subject._ For there are days when pictures or
statues will indeed afford pleasurable interest, but interest in the
things _represented,_ not in the _shapes;_ a picture appealing even
forcibly to our dramatic or religious or romantic side; or
contrariwise, to our scientific one. There are days when he may be
deeply moved by a Guido Reni martyrdom, or absorbed in the
"Marriage à la Mode"; days when even Giorgione's Pastoral may (as
in Rossetti's sonnet) mean nothing beyond the languid pleasure of
sitting on the grass after a burning day and listening to the plash of
water and the tuning of instruments; the same thought and emotion,
the same interest and pleasure, being equally obtainable from an
inn-parlour oleograph. Then, as regards scientific interest and pleasure,
there may be days when the diarist will be quite delighted with a
hideous picture, because it affords some chronological clue, or new
point of comparison. "This _dates_ such or such a style"--"_Plein
Air_ already attempted by a Giottesque! Degas forestalled by a Cave
Dweller!" etc. etc. And finally days when the Diarist is haunted by
the thought of what the represented person will do next: "Would
Michelangelo's Jeremiah knock his head if he got up?"--"How will
the Discobolus recover when he has let go the quoit?"--or haunted
by thoughts even more frivolous (though not any less aesthetically
irrelevant!) like "How wonderfully like Mrs So and So!" "The living
image of Major Blank!"--"How I detest auburn people with
sealing-wax lips!" _ad lib._

Such different _thinkings away from the shapes_ are often traceable
to previous orientation of the thoughts or to special states of body
and feelings. But explicable or not in the particular case, these
varieties of one's own aesthetic responsiveness will persuade the
Reader who has verified their existence, that contemplative
satisfaction in shapes and its specific emotion cannot be given by the
greatest artist or the finest tradition, unless the beholder meets their
efforts more than half way.

The spontaneous collaboration of the beholder is especially
indispensable for Aesthetic Empathy. As we have seen, empathic
modes of movement and energy and intention are attributed to
shapes and to shape elements, in consequence of the modes of
movement and energy involved in mere shape perception; but shape
perception does not necessarily call forth empathic imagination. And
the larger or smaller dynamic dramas of effort, resistance,
reconciliation, cooperation which constitute the most poignant
interest of a pictorial or plastic composition, are inhibited by bodily
or mental states of a contrary character. We cease to _feel_
(although we may continue, like Coleridge, to _see_) that the lines
of a mountain or a statue _are rising,_ if we ourselves happen to feel
as if our feet were of lead and our joints turning to water. The
coordinated interplay of empathic movement which makes certain
mediaeval floor patterns, and also Leonardo's compositions, into
whirling harmonies as of a planetary system, cannot take place in
our imagination on days of restlessness and lack of concentration.
Nay it may happen that arrangements of lines which would flutter
and flurry us on days of quiet appreciativeness, will become in every
sense "sympathetic" on days when we ourselves feel fluttered and
flurried. But lack of responsiveness may be due to other causes. As
there are combinations of lines which take longer to perceive
because their elements or their coordinating principles are
unfamiliar, so, and even more so, are there empathic schemes (or
dramas) which baffle dynamic imagination when accustomed to
something else and when it therefore meets the new demand with an
unsuitable empathic response. Empathy is, even more than mere
perception, a question of our activities and therefore of our habits;
and the aesthetic sensitiveness of a time and country (say the
Florentine fourteenth century) with a habit of round arch and
horizontals like that of Pisan architecture, could never take with
enthusiasm to the pointed ogeeval ellipse, the oblique directions and
unstable equilibrium, the drama of touch and go strain and resistance,
of French Gothic; whence a constant readmission of the round
arched shapes into the imported style, and a speedy return to the
familiar empathic schemes in the architecture of the early
Renaissance. On the other hand the persistence of Gothic detail in
Northern architecture of the sixteenth and occasionally the
seventeenth century, shows how insipid the round arch and straight
entablature must have felt to people accustomed to the empathy of
Gothic shapes. Nothing is so routinist as imagination and emotion;
and empathy, which partakes of both, is therefore more dependent
on familiarity than is the perception by which it is started: Spohr,
and the other professional contemporaries of Beethoven, probably
heard and technically understood all the peculiarities of his last
quartets; but they liked them none the better.

On the other hand continued repetition notoriously begets
indifference. We cease to look at a shape which we "know by heart"
and we cease to interpret in terms of our own activities and
intentions when curiosity and expectation no longer let loose our
dynamic imagination. Hence while utter unfamiliarity baffles
aesthetic responsiveness, excessive familiarity prevents its starting
at all. Indeed both perceptive clearness and empathic intensity reach
their climax in the case of shapes which afford the excitement of
tracking familiarity in novelty, the stimulation of acute comparison,
the emotional ups and downs of expectation and partial recognition,
or of recognition when unexpected, the latter having, as we know
when we notice that a stranger has the trick of speech or gesture of
an acquaintance, a very penetrating emotional warmth. Such
discovery of the novel in the familiar, and of the familiar in the new,
will he frequent in proportion to the definiteness and complexity of
the shapes, and in proportion also to the sensitiveness and steadiness
of the beholder's attention; while on the contrary "obvious" qualities
of shape and superficial attention both tend to exhaust interest and
demand change. This exhaustion of interest and consequent demand
for change unites with the changing non-aesthetic aims imposed on
art, together producing innovation. And the more superficial the
aesthetic attention given by the beholders, the quicker will style
succeed style, and shapes and shape-schemes be done to death by
exaggeration or left in the lurch before their maturity; a state of
affairs especially noticeable in our own day.

The above is a series of illustrations of the fact that aesthetic
pleasure depends as much on the activities of the beholder as on
those of the artist. Unfamiliarity or over-familiarity explain a large
part of the aesthetic non-responsiveness summed up in the saying
_that there is no disputing of tastes._ And even within the circle of
habitual responsiveness to some particular style, or master, there are,
as we have just seen, days and hours when an individual beholder's
perception and empathic imagination do not act in such manner as to
afford the usual pleasure. But these occasional, even frequent, lapses
must not diminish our belief either in the power of art or in the
deeply organised and inevitable nature of aesthetic preference as a
whole. What the knowledge of such fluctuations ought to bring
home is that beauty of shape is most spontaneously and completely
appreciated when the attention, instead of being called upon, as in
galleries and concerts, for the mere purpose of aesthetic enjoyment,
is on the contrary, directed to the artistic or "natural" beauty of
shapes, in consequence of some other already existing interest. No
one except an art-critic sees a new picture or statue without first
asking "What does it represent?"; shape-perception and aesthetic
empathy arising incidentally in the examination which this question
leads to. The truth is that even the art-critic is oftenest brought into
enforced contemplation of the artistic shape by some other question
which arises from his particular bias: By whom? of what precise
date? Even such technical questions as "where and when restored or
repainted?" will elicit the necessary output of attention. It is possible
and legitimate to be interested in a work of art for a dozen reasons
besides aesthetic appreciation; each of these interests has its own
sentimental, scientific, dramatic or even moneymaking emotion; and
there is no loss for art, but rather a gain, if we fall back upon one of
them when the specific aesthetic response is slow or not
forthcoming. Art has other aims besides aesthetic satisfaction; and
aesthetic satisfaction will not come any the quicker for turning our
backs upon these non-aesthetic aims. The very worst attitude
towards art is that of the holiday-maker who comes into its presence
with no ulterior interest or business, and nothing but the hope of an
aesthetic emotion which is most often denied him. Indeed such
seeking of aesthetic pleasure for its own sake would lead to even
more of the blank despondency characteristic of so many gallery
goers, were it not for another peculiarity of aesthetic responsiveness,
which is responsible for very puzzling effects. This saving grace of
the tourist, and (as we shall see) this pitfall of the art-expert, is what
I propose to call the _Transferability of Aesthetic Emotion._



CHAPTER XIX

THE STORAGE AND TRANSFER OF EMOTION

IN dealing with familiarity as a multiplying factor of aesthetic
appreciation, I have laid stress on its effect in facilitating the
perception and the empathic interpretation of shapes. But repetition
directly affects the emotion which may result from these processes;
and when any emotion has become habitual, it tends to be stored in
what we call memory, and to be called forth not merely by the
processes in which it originated, but also independently of the whole
of them, or in answer to some common or equivalent factor. We are
so accustomed to this psychological fact that we do not usually seem
to recognise its existence. It is the explanation of the power of words,
which, apart from any images they awaken, are often irresistibly
evocative of emotion. And among other emotions words can evoke
the one due to the easy perception and to the life-corroborating
empathic interpretation of shapes. The word _Beautiful,_ and its
various quasi synonyms, are among the most emotionally suggestive
in our vocabulary, carrying perhaps a vague but potent remembrance
of our own bodily reaction to the emotion of admiration; nay even
eliciting an incipient rehearsal of the half-parted lips and slightly
thrown-back head, the drawn-in breath and wide-opened eyes, with
which we are wont to meet opportunities of aesthetic satisfaction. Be
this last as it may, it is certain that the emotion connected with the
word _Beautiful_ can be evoked by that word alone, and without an
accompanying act of visual or auditive perception. Indeed beautiful
shapes would lose much of their importance in our life, if they did
not leave behind them such emotional traces, capable of revival
under emotionally appropriate, though outwardly very dissimilar,
circumstances; and thereby enormously increasing some of our
safest, perhaps because our most purely subjective, happiness.
Instead therefore of despising the raptures which the presence of a
Venus of Milo or a Sixtine Madonna can inspire in people
manifestly incapable of appreciating a masterpiece, and sometimes
barely glancing at it, we critical persons ought to recognise in this
funny, but consoling, phenomenon an additional proof of the power
of Beauty, whose specific emotion can thus be evoked by a mere
name and so transferred from some past experience of aesthetic
admiration to a. present occasion which would otherwise be mere
void and disappointment.

Putting aside these kind of cases, the transfer (usually accomplished
by a word) of the aesthetic emotion, or at least of a willingness for
aesthetic emotion, is probably one of the explanations of the spread
of aesthetic interest from one art to another, as it is the explanation
of some phases of aesthetic development in the individual. The
present writer can vouch for the case of at least one real child in
whom the possibility of aesthetic emotion, and subsequently of
aesthetic appreciation, was extended from music and natural scenery
to pictures and statues, by the application of the word _Beautiful_ to
each of these different categories. And something analogous
probably helped on the primaeval recognition that the empathic
pleasures hitherto attached to geometrical shapes might be got from
realistic shapes, say of bisons and reindeer, which had hitherto been
admired for their lifelikeness and skill, but not yet subjected to any
aesthetic discrimination (_cf_. p. 96). Similarly, in our own times,
the delight in natural scenery is being furthered by the development
of landscape painting, rather than furthering it. Nay I venture to
suggest that it was the habit of the aesthetic emotion such as
mediaeval men received from the proportions, directions, and
coordination of lines in their cathedrals of stone or brick which set
their musicians to build up, like Browning's _Abt Vogler,_ the soul's
first balanced and coordinated dwellings made of sounds.

Be this last as it may, it is desirable that the Reader should accept,
and possibly verify for himself, the psychological fact of the
_storage and transfer of aesthetic emotion._ Besides, the points
already mentioned, it helps to explain several of the cruxes and
paradoxes of aesthetics. First and foremost that dictum _De
Gustibus non est disputandum_ which some philosophers and even
aestheticians develop into an explicit denial of all intrinsic
shape-preferences, and an assertion that _beautiful_ and _ugly_ are merely
other names for _fashionable_ and _unfashionable, original_ and
_unoriginal,_ or _suitable_ and _unsuitable._ As I have already
pointed out, differences of taste are started by the perceptive and
empathic habits, schematically various, of given times and places,
and also by those, especially the empathic habits, connected with
individual nervous condition: people accustomed to the round arch
finding the Gothic one unstable and eccentric; and, on the other
hand, a person taking keen pleasure in the sudden and lurching lines
of Lotto finding those of Titian tame and humdrum. But such
intrinsically existing preferences and incompatibility are quite
enormously increased by an emotional bias for or against a
particular kind of art; by which I mean a bias not due to that art's
peculiarities, but preventing our coming in real contact with them.

Aesthetic perception and especially aesthetic empathy, like other
intellectual and emotional activities, are at the mercy of a hostile
mental attitude, just as bodily activity is at the mercy of rigidity of
the limbs. I do not hesitate to say that we are perpetually refusing to
look at certain kinds of art because, for one reason or another, we
are emotionally prepossessed against them. On the other hand, once
the favourable emotional condition is supplied to us, often by means
of words, our perceptive and empathic activities follow with twice
the ease they would if the business had begun with them. It is quite
probable that a good deal of the enhancement of aesthetic
appreciation by fashion or sympathy should be put to the account,
not merely of gregarious imitativeness, but of the knowledge that a
favourable or unfavourable feeling is "in the air." The emotion
precedes the appreciation, and both are genuine.

A more personally humiliating aesthetic experience may be
similarly explained. Unless we are very unobservant or very
self-deluded, we are all familiar with the sudden checking (often almost
physically painful) of our aesthetic emotion by the hostile criticism
of a neighbour or the superciliousness of an expert: "Dreadfully
old-fashioned," "_Archi-connu,_""second-rate school work,"
"completely painted over," "utterly hashed in the performance" (of a
piece of music), "mere prettiness"--etc. etc. How often has not a
sentence like these turned the tide of honest incipient enjoyment;
and transformed us, from enjoyers of some really enjoyable quality
(even of such old-as-the-hills elements as clearness, symmetry,
euphony or pleasant colour!) into shrivelled cavillers at everything
save brand-new formulae and tip-top genius! Indeed, while teaching
a few privileged persons to taste the special "quality" which
Botticelli has and Botticelli's pupils have not, and thus occasionally
intensifying aesthetic enjoyment by distinguishing whatever
differentiates the finer artistic products from the commoner, modern
art-criticism has probably wasted much honest but shamefaced
capacity for appreciating the qualities common, because
indispensable, to, all good art. It is therefore not without a certain
retributive malignity that I end these examples of the storage and
transfer of aesthetic emotion, and of the consequent bias to artistic
appreciation, with that of the Nemesis dogging the steps of the
connoisseur. We have all heard of some purchase, or all-but-purchase,
of a wonderful masterpiece on the authority of some famous
expert; and of the masterpiece proving to be a mere school
imitation, and occasionally even a certified modern forgery. The
foregoing remarks on the storage and transfer of aesthetic emotion,
joined with what we have learned about shape-perception and
empathy, will enable the Reader to reduce this paradoxical enormity
to a natural phenomenon discreditable only when not honestly
owned up to. For a school imitation, or a forgery, must possess
enough elements in common with a masterpiece, otherwise it could
never suggest any connexion with it. Given a favourable emotional
attitude and the absence of obvious _extrinsic_ (technical or
historical) reasons for scepticism, these elements of resemblance
must awaken the vague idea, especially the empathic scheme, of the
particular master's work, and his name--shall we say Leonardo's?--will
rise to the lips. But _Leonardo_ is a name to conjure with, and
in this case to destroy the conjurer himself: the word _Leonardo_
implies an emotion, distilled from a number of highly prized and
purposely repeated experiences, kept to gather strength in respectful
isolation, and further heightened by a thrill of initiate veneration
whenever it is mentioned. This _Leonardo-emotion,_ once set on
foot, checks all unworthy doubts, sweeps out of consciousness all
thoughts of inferior work (_inferiority_ and _Leonardo_ being
emotionally incompatible!), respectfully holds the candle while the
elements common to the imitation and the masterpiece are gone over
and over, and the differentiating elements exclusively belonging to
Leonardo evoked in the expert's memory, until at last the objective
work of art comes to be embedded in recollected masterpieces
which impart to it their emotionally communicable virtue. And
when the poor expert is finally overwhelmed with ridicule, the
Philistine shrewdly decides that a sham Leonardo is just as good as a
genuine one, that these are all matters of fashion, and that there is
really no disputing of tastes!



CHAPTER XX

AESTHETIC IRRADIATION AND PURIFICATION

THE storage and transfer of aesthetic emotion explain yet another
fact, with which indeed I began this little book: namely that the
word _Beautiful_ has been extended from whatever is satisfactory in
our contemplation of shapes, to a great number of cases where there
can be no question of shapes at all, as in speaking of a "beautiful
character" and a "fine moral attitude"; or else, as in the case of a
"beautiful bit of machinery," a "fine scientific demonstration" or a
"splendid surgical operation" where the shapes involved are not at
all such as to afford contemplative satisfaction. In such cases the
word _Beautiful_ has been brought over with the emotion of
satisfied contemplation. And could we examine microscopically the
minds of those who are thus applying it, we might perhaps detect,
round the fully-focussed thought of that admirable but nowise
_shapely_ thing or person or proceeding, the shadowy traces of
half-forgotten shapes, visible or audible, forming a halo of real aesthetic
experience, and evoked by that word _Beautiful_ whose application
they partially justify. Nor is this all. Recent psychology teaches that,
odd as it at first appears, our more or less definite images, auditive
as well as visual, and whether actually perceived or merely
remembered, are in reality the intermittent part of the mind's
contents, coming and going and weaving themselves on to a
constant woof of our own activities and feelings. It is precisely such
activities and feelings which are mainly in question when we apply
the words _Beautiful_ and _Ugly._ Thus everything which has come
in connexion with occasions for satisfactory shape-contemplation,
will meet with somewhat of the same reception as that shape-contemplation
originally elicited. And even the merest items of information which
the painter conveys concerning the visible universe; the merest
detail of human character conveyed by the poet; nay even the
mere nervous intoxication furnished by the musician, will all be
irradiated by the emotion due to the shapes they have been conveyed
in, and will therefore be felt as beautiful.

Moreover, as the "beautiful character" and "splendid operation" have
taught us, rare and desirable qualities are apt to be contemplated in a
"platonic" way. And even objects of bodily desire, so long as that
desire is not acute and pressing, may give rise to merely
contemplative longings. All this, added to what has previously been
said, sufficiently explains the many and heterogeneous items which
are irradiated by the word _Beautiful_ and the emotion originally
arising from the satisfied contemplation of mere shapes.

And that this contemplation of beautiful shapes should be at once so
life-corroborating and so strangely impersonal, and that its special
emotion should be so susceptible of radiation and transfer, is
sufficient explanation of the elevating and purifying influence which,
ever since Plato, philosophers have usually ascribed to the Beautiful.
Other moralists however have not failed to point out that art has,
occasionally and even frequently, effects of the very opposite kind.
The ever-recurrent discussion of this seeming contradiction is,
however, made an end of, once we recognise that art has many aims
besides its distinguishing one of increasing our contemplation of the
beautiful. Indeed some of art's many non-aesthetic aims may
themselves be foreign to elevation and purification, or even, as for
instance the lewd or brutal subjects of some painting and poetry, and
the nervous intoxication of certain music, exert a debasing or
enervating influence. But, as the whole of this book has tried to
establish, the contemplation of beautiful shapes involves perceptive
processes in themselves mentally invigorating and refining, and a
play of empathic feelings which realise the greatest desiderata of
spiritual life, viz. intensity, purposefulness and harmony; and such
perceptive and empathic activities cannot fail to raise the present
level of existence and to leave behind them a higher standard for
future experience. This exclusively elevating effect of beautiful
shape as such, is of course proportioned to the attention it receives
and the exclusion of other, and possibly baser, interests connected
with the work of art. On the other hand the purifying effects of
beautiful shapes depend upon the attention oscillating to and fro
between them and those other interests, e.g. _subject_ in the
_representative_ arts, _fitness_ in the _applied_ ones, and
_expression_ in music; all of which non-aesthetic interests benefit
(enhanced if noble, redeemed if base) by irradiation of the nobler
feelings wherewith they are thus associated. For we must not forget
that where opposed groups of feeling are elicited, whichever
happens to be more active and complex will neutralise its opponent.
Thus, while an even higher intensity and complexity of aesthetic
feelings is obtained when the "subject" of a picture, the use of a
building or a chattel, or the expression of a piece of music, is in
itself noble; and a Degas ballet girl can never have the dignity of a
Phidian goddess, nor a gambling _casino_ that of a cathedral, nor
the music to Wilde's Salome that of Brahms' _German Requiem,_
yet whatever of beauty there may be in the shapes will divert the
attention from the meanness or vileness of the non-aesthetic
suggestion. We do not remember the mercenary and libertine
allegory embodied in Correggio's _Danaë,_ or else we reinterpret
that sorry piece of mythology in terms of cosmic occurrences, of the
Earth's wealth increased by the fecundating sky. Similarly it is a
common observation that while _unmusical_ Bayreuth-goers often
attribute demoralising effects to some of Wagner's music, the
genuinely musical listeners are unaware, and usually incredulous, of
any such evil possibilities.

This question of the purifying power of the Beautiful has brought us
back to our starting-point. It illustrates the distinction between
_contemplating an aspect_ and _thinking about things,_ and this
distinction's corollary that shape as such is yon-side of _real_ and
_unreal,_ taking on the character of reality and unreality only
inasmuch as it is thought of in connexion with a _thing._ As regards
the possibility of being _good_ or _evil,_ it is evident from all the
foregoing that _shape as shape,_ and without the suggestion of
things, can be evil only in the sense of being ugly, ugliness
diminishing its own drawbacks by being, _ipso facto,_ difficult to
dwell upon, inasmuch as it goes against the grain of our perceptive
and empathic activities. The contemplation of beautiful shape is, on
the other hand, favoured by its pleasurableness, and such
contemplation of beautiful shape lifts our perceptive and empathic
activities, that is to say a large part of our intellectual and emotional
life, on to a level which can only be spiritually, organically, and in
so far, morally beneficial.



CHAPTER XXI

CONCLUSION (EVOLUTIONAL)

SOME of my Readers, not satisfied by the answer implicit in the last
chapter and indeed in the whole of this little book, may ask a final
question concerning our subject. Not: What is the use of Art? since,
as we have seen, Art has many and various uses both to the
individual and to the community, each of which uses is independent
of the attainment of Beauty.

The remaining question concerns the usefulness of the very demand
for Beauty, of that _Aesthetic Imperative_ by which the other uses
of art are more or less qualified or dominated. In what way, the
Reader may ask, has sensitiveness to Beauty contributed to the
survival of mankind, that it should not only have been preserved and
established by evolutional selection, but invested with the
tremendous power of the pleasure and pain alternative?

The late William James, as some readers may remember, placed
musical pleasure between sentimental love and sea-sickness as
phenomena unaccountable by any value for human survival, in fact
masteries, if not paradoxes, of evolution.

The riddle, though not necessarily the mystery, does not consist in
the survival of the aesthetic instinct of which the musical one is a
mere sub-category, but in the origin and selectional establishment of
its elementary constituents, say for instance space-perception and
empathy, both of which exist equally outside that instinct which is a
mere compound of them and other primary tendencies. For given
space-perception and empathy and their capacity of being felt as
satisfactory or unsatisfactory, the aesthetic imperative is not only
intelligible but inevitable. Instead therefore of asking: Why is there a
preference for what we call Beauty? we should have to ask: why has
perception, feeling, logic, imagination, come to be just what it is?
Indeed why are our sense-organs, our bodily structure and chemical
composition, what they are; and why do they exist at all in
contradistinction to the ways of being of other living or other
inanimate things? So long as these elementary facts continue
shrouded in darkness or taken for granted, the genesis and
evolutional reason of the particular compound which we call
aesthetic preference must remain only one degree less mysterious
than the genesis and evolutional reason of its psychological
components.

Meanwhile all we can venture to say is that as satisfaction derived
from shapes we call _beautiful,_ undoubtedly involves intense,
complex, and reiterative mental activities, as it has an undeniable
power for happiness and hence for spiritual refreshment, and
as it moreover tends to inhibit most of the instincts whose
superabundance can jeopardise individual and social existence, the
capacity for such aesthetic satisfaction, once arisen, would be
fostered in virtue of a mass of evolutional advantages which are as
complex and difficult to analyse, but also as deep-seated and
undeniable, as itself.



BIBLIOGRAPHY

I.      _Lipps._ Raumaesthetik, Leipzig, 1897.
         "       Aesthetik, vol. I. part ii., Leipzig, 1906.
II.     _Karl Groos._ Aesthetik, Giessen, 1892.
         "       Der Aesthetische Genuss, Giessen, 1902.
III.    _Wundt._ Physiologische Psychologie (5th Edition, 1903), vol.
III. pg. 107 to 209. But the whole volume is full of indirect
suggestion on aesthetics.
IV.     _Münsterberg._ The Principles of Art Education, New York,
1905. (Statement of Lipps' theory in physiological terms.)
V.      _Külpe._ Der gegenwärtige Stand der experimentellen
Aesthetik, 1907.
VI.     _Vernon Lee and Anstruther-Thomson._ Beauty and Ugliness,
1912 (contains abundant quotations from most of the above works
and other sources).
VII.    _Ribot._ Le Rôle latent des Images Motrices. Revue
Philosophique, March 1912.
VIII.   _Witasek._ Psychologie der Raumwahrnehmung des Auges
(1910). These two last named are only indirectly connected with
visual aesthetics.

For art-evolutional questions consult:
IX.     _Haddon._ Evolution in Art, 1895.
X.      _Yrjö Hirn._ Origins of Art, Macmillan, 1900.
XI.     _Levinstein._ Kinderzeichnungen, Leipzig, 1905.
XII.    _Loewy._ Nature in early Greek Art (translation), Duckworth,
1907.
XIII.   _Delia Seta._ Religione e Arte Figurata, Rome, 1912.
XIV.    _Spearing._ The Childhood of Art, 1913.
XV.     _Jane Harrison._ Ancient Art and Ritual, 1913.



INDEX

Aesthetic:
     aridity, 136-7;
     imperative, 99-100;
     irradiation, 147-52;
     purification, 149-52;
     responsiveness, active nature of, 128-36;
     habit and familiarity affecting, 134-6
Altamira cave frescoes, 95
Art:
     differential characteristic of, 116-18;
     non-aesthetic aims of, 99-100, 137-8; utility of, 153-5
Aspect:
     aesthetics concerned with, 15, 21, 105;
     shape the determining feature of, 26-8
Attention, a factor distinguishing perception from sensation, 32

Balfour, H., 95
Beautiful:
     aesthetic irradiation proceeding from use of adjective, 147-8;
     attitude implied by use of adjective, 2-7, 18-19;
     empathy the chief factor of preference, 67-8;
     implies desire for reiterated perception, 53-4
Botticelli, 83
Brahms' _German Requiem,_ 150
Browning's _Abt Vogler,_ 141

Coleridge's _Ode to Dejection,_ 131
Colour, passive reception of, 23-4, 29
Contemplative satisfaction marking aesthetic attitude, 8-15
Correggio's _Danae,_ 151
Cubic Existence:
     perception of, 85;
     pictorial suggestion of, importance attached to, discussed, 101-5

_Discobolus,_ 115

Einfühlung, 59;
     misinterpretations of, 66-7
Emotion, storage and transfer of, 139-46
Empathy, 61-69;
     complexity of movements of lines, 78-83;
     movements of lines, 70-77;
     second element of shape-perception, 59-60
Extension existing in perception, 35-8

Fechner, 130

Hildebrand, 102, 118

Inner Mimicry, 74-5

James, W., 153

Keats' _Grecian Urn,_ 77

Levinstein, 96
Lipps, 66
Locomotion of Things, distinction between, and empathic
movement of lines, 111-16
Lotze, 66

Mantegna, 82
Memory:
     a factor distinguishing perception from sensation, 32;
     in perception, 40-1
Michel Angelo, 114, 122
Movement of Lines, distinction between, and locomotion of Things,
111-16; _see also_ Empathy

Object of Perception, subject's activities merged in, 57, 58

Perception:
     active process involved in, 29-34, 128-9;
     distinguished from sensation, 32;
     subject and object of, 55-60

Raphael's _Heliodorus,_ 119
Relaxation an element of form-perception, 42
Rembrandt, 122
Rythm, 42-5

Semper, hypothesis regarding shape-preference, 94
Sensations:
     distinguished from perceptions, 32;
     perception of relation between, 29-30
Shape:
     character of, 78-83;
     contemplation of, its intermittent but recurrent character, 106-10;
     determines contemplation of an aspect, 26-8;
     elements of, 35-47;
     Empathy an element of perception of, 59;
     facility and difficulty of grasping, 48-54;
     a perception, 29-34;
     practical causes regarding evolution of, 90-4;
     preference, its evolution, 94-7;
     and Things, their co-operation, 117-27;
     thinking away from, to Things, 131-2, 84-9
Sound, passive reception of, 23-4, 29
Subject of perception, extent of awareness of self, 57-9
Symmetry, 42-3

Tension, an element of form-perception, 42
Things and Shapes, their cooperation, 117-27;
     thoughts about, entering into shape-contemplation, 84-9
Third Dimension, locomotor nature of knowledge of, 85-6, 101
Titchener, 59

Vinci, Leonardo da, 83, 145-6
Vischer, 66

Watts, G. F., 46
Whole and Parts, perception of relation of, 48-54
Wilde's _Salome,_ 150
Wundt, 42, 66





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