- 更新于：2020-04-29 11:17:24
n shoes which are works of art—because they were made by a bootmaker who is an artist and does what pleases himself.
The Questioner. Do they please anybody else?
The Artist. Eh?
The Questioner. Would you be seen wearing them?
The Artist. Would I be seen drinking my coffee from a cup that had been turned on a wheel by a man who loved the feel of the clay under his fingers and who knew just the right[Pg 105] touch to give the brim? Was Richard Coeur du Lion’s sword less a sword because it had been made by an artist who dreamed over the steel instead of by a tired man in a hurry? I cannot afford to wear shoes made by my bootmaker-artist friend—but I wish I could, for they fit!
The Questioner. Will you give me his address?—I beg your pardon—Please go on.
The Artist. I was about to say, you wrong the artist if you think that he is not interested in utility. It is only because utility has become bound up with slavery that artists and people with artistic impulses revolt against it and in defiance produce utterly and fantastically useless things. This will be so, as long as being useful means being a slave. But art is not an end in itself; it had its origin, and will find its destiny, in the production of useful things. For example—
The Questioner. Yes, do let us get down to the concrete!
The Artist. Suppose you are out walking in a hilly country, and decide to whittle yourself a stick. Your wish is to make something useful. But you can’t help making it more than useful. You can’t help it, because, if you are not in a hurry, and nobody else is bossing the job, you find other impulses besides the utilitarian one coming[Pg 106] in to elaborate your task. Shall I name those impulses?
The Questioner. If you will.
The Artist. I am not a psychologist, but I would call them the impulse to command and the impulse to obey.
The Questioner. To command and obey what?
The Artist. Your material, whatever it is—paint and canvas, words, sounds, clay, marble, iron. In this case, the stick of wood.
The Questioner. I’m afraid I do not quite—
The Artist. The impulse to command comes first—the impulse to just show that stick who is master! the desire to impose your imperial will upon it. I suppose you might call it Vanity. And that impulse alone would result in your making something fantastic and grotesque or strikingly absurd—and yet beautiful in its way. But it is met and checked by the other impulse—the impulse to obey. No man that ever whittled wood but has felt that impulse. He feels that he must not do simply what he wants to do, but also what the wood wants done to it. The real artist does not care to treat marble as if it were soft, nor paint and canvas as though they were three-dimensional.[Pg 107] He could if he wanted to—but he respects his medium. There is an instinctive pleasure in letting it have its way. I suppose you might call it Reverence. And this Vanity and this Reverence, the desire to command and the desire to obey, when they are set free in the dream and effort of creation, produce something which is more than useful. That something more is what we call Beauty.—Do you care to have me go further into the mechanics of beauty?
The Questioner. Well—er—I suppose now that we have got this far into the subject, we might as well get to the end of it. Go on!
The Artist. What I am about to tell you is the only really important thing about art. Unfortunately, the facts at issue have never been studied by first-class scientific minds, and so they lack a proper terminology to make them clear. In default of such a scientific terminology, we are forced to use the word “rhythm” in the special sense in which artists understand it. You speak of the movements of a dance as being rhythmic. The artist understands the word to refer to the relation of these movements to each other and above all to the emotion which they express. And to him the whole world is a dance, full of rhythmic gestures. The gesture of standing still,[Pg 108] or of being asleep, is also rhythmic; the body is itself a gesture—he will speak of the rhythm of the line of a lifted arm or a bent knee. Trees that lift their branches to the sky, and rocks that sleep on the ground have their rhythms—every tree and every rock its own special rhythm. The rhythm of a pine tree is different from that of a palm—the rhythm of granitic rocks different from that of limestone. So far the matter is simple enough. But the relations of these rhythms to each other are also rhythmic. These relations are in fact so manifold that they constitute a chaos. But in this chaos each person feels a different rhythm; and, according as he has the power, transmits his sense of it to us through a rhythmic treatment of his medium. In the presence of his work, we feel what he has felt about the world; but we feel something more than that—we feel also the rhythm of the struggle in the artist between his impulse to command and his impulse to obey. Our own impulses of vanity and of reverence go out to welcome his power and his faithfulness. And just as there are gay rhythms and sad rhythms in the gesture of movement, so there are magnificent rhythms and trivial rhythms in the gesture of a soul facing the chaos of the world. What has he found worth while to play[Pg 109] with, and how has he played with it? What kind of creator is he? Ability to feel and express significant rhythm—that is nine-tenths of art.
The Questioner. But my dear fellow, how are we to teach all this to children?
The Artist. Very simply: by giving them a knife and a piece of wood.
The Questioner. Well, really!
The Artist. And crayons and clay and singing-games and so forth.—But perhaps you prefer to show them pictures of alleged masterpieces, and tell them, “This is great art!” They will believe you, of course; and they will hate great art ever afterwards—just as they hate great poetry, and for the same excellent reason: because, presented to them in that way, it is nothing but a damned nuisance. Yet the child who enjoys hearing and telling a story has in him the capacity to appreciate and perhaps