2. "The end of practical knowledge is some work, because although 'practical people,' that is to say, workers, aim to know what the truth is in some matters, still they do not seek it as an ultimate end. For they do not consider the truth according to itself and for its own sake, but by way of ordering it to the end of the operation or of applying it to some definite particular thing and at some definite time." Saint Thomas, In II Metaph., lect. 2 (Aristotle, Met., Bk. II, 995 b 21).
3. Cf. John of Saint Thomas, Cursus Philos., Log. II P., q. 1; Cursus Theol. (Vivès, t. VI), q. 62, disp. 16, a. 4.
4. Artistic work is thus the properly human work, in contradistinction to the work of a beast or the work of a machine. That is why human production is in its normal state an artisan's production, and consequently requires individual appropriation, for the artist as such cannot be a sharer. In the line of moral aspirations the use of goods must be common, but in the line of production these same goods must be possessed as one's own: Saint Thomas encloses the social problem between the two branches of this antimony.
When work becomes inhuman or sub-human, because its artistic character is effaced and matter gains the upper hand over man, it is natural that civilization tend to communism and to a productivism forgetful of the true ends of the human being (and which in the end will therefore jeopardize production itself).
5. Prudence, on the contrary, is the undeviating determination of acts to be done (recta ratio agibilium), and Science the undeviating determination of the objects of speculation (recta ratio speculabilium).
6. To simplify my exposition, I am speaking here only of habitus which perfect the subject; there are also habitual dispositions (e.g., vices) which incline the subject to evil. The Latin word habitus is much less expressive than the Greek word hexis, but it would be pedantic to employ this latter term in general use. For this reason, and in the absence of a suitable English equivalent, I resign myself to using the word habitus, and beg to be excused its ponderousness.
7. These habitus, which perfect the essence itself, not the faculties, are called entitative habitus.
8. I am speaking here of natural habitus, not of supernatural habitus (infused moral virtues, theological virtues, gifts of the Holy Spirit), which are infused and not acquired.
9. It is for not having made this distinction that M. Ravaisson, in his famous thesis on Habit [L'Habitude, Paris, 1838], spread such dense Leibnizian fumes over the thought of Aristotle.
1O. Cf. Cajetan, In II-II, 171, 2.
11. Aristotle, De Coelo, Bk. I.
12. Summa theol., I-II, 55, 3.
13. Ibid., a. 2, ad 1. Unumquodque enim quale est, talia operator.
14. Cf. Cajetan, In I-II, 57, 5, ad 3; John of Saint Thomas, Cursus Theol., q. 62, disp. 16, a. 4: "For it belongs to the practical intellect to measure the work-to-be-made and to rule it. And so its truth lies not in that which is, but in that which ought to be according to the rule and the measure of the thing to be effected."
15. John of Saint Thomas, Curs. Phil., Log. II P., q. 1, a. 5.
16. It is thus that Saint Augustine defines virtue as ars recte vivendi (De Civ. Dei, IV, 21). Cf. on this point Aristotle, Eth. Nic., VI; Saint Thomas, Summa theol., II-II, 47, 2, ad 1; 1-11, 21, 2, ad 2; 57, 4, ad 3.
17. "If you must have works of art, will not they be preferred to Phidias who model in human clay the likeness of the face of God?" (A. Gardeil, Les dons du Saint-Esprit dans les Saints Dominicains. Lecoffre, 1903. Introd., pp. 23-24).
18. Isaias, XL, 31. "Not without reason, then," John of Saint Thomas comments, "the wings of an eagle are promised, even though it is not mentioned that men will fly, but they will run and walk as men still living upon this earth. For although these men are impelled and moved by the wings of an eagle, which comes down from above, yet the gifts of the Holy Spirit are put into practice upon this earth, and they have their place in ordinary actions. Moreover those who are moved and regulated by a communication of superior spirits and gifts are led by the wings of an eagle and they differ in many ways from those who merely practise ordinary virtues. The latter are regulated by their own zeal and industry. With toil, they walk upon their own feet unaided. But those who are moved by the wings of an eagle are swept along in the breath of a strong wind. Without labour, they run in the way of God." John of St. Thomas, The Gifts of the Holy Ghost. Translated from the Latin by Dominic Hughes, O.P. New York: Sheed and Ward, 1951, p. 30.
19. Summa theol., I-II, 57, 3.
20. Ibid., 21, 2, ad 2. "The fact of a man being a poisoner is nothing against his prose." Oscar Wilde, "Pen, Pencil and Poison," Intentions (New York: Brentano's, 1905), p. 90.
21. "And therefore art does not require that the artisan's act be a good act, but that he should make a good work. It would rather require that the thing made should act well, for example that the knife cut well or the saw saw well, if it properly belonged to these to act, and not rather to be acted on, because they do not have dominion over their actions." Summa theol., I-II, 57, 5, ad 1.
When Leibniz (Bedenken von Aufrichtung . . . , in Die Werke von Leibniz, ed. 0. Klopp, Hanover, 1864-1884, 1, pp. 133 et seq.) contrasted the inferiority of Italian art, "which has confined itself almost exclusively to making things which are lifeless, motionless, and good to look upon from without," with the superiority of German art, which has from the beginning devoted itself to making works which move (watches, clocks, hydraulic machines, etc.), this great man, who shone in everything except aesthetics, had a presentiment of a truth, but unfortunately confused the motus ab intrinseco of a clock with that of a living being.
22. Summa theol., I-II, 57, 4.
23. Aristotle, Eth. Nic., VI. Cf. Cajetan, In I-II, 58, 5.
24. Cf. Summa theol., I-II, 57, 1; 21, 2, ad 2.
25. Eth. Nic., VI, 5.
26. "A poor master," wrote Leonardo da Vinci, "he whose work surpasses his judgment: he alone advances towards the perfection of art whose judgment surpasses his work." (Textes choisis, published by Péladan, Paris, 1907, ^403.)
27. "The means to the end in human matters are not fixed but are greatly diversified according to the diversity of persons and affairs." Summa theol., II-II, 47, 15.
28. It goes without saying that with regard to the precepts of the moral law, all cases are identical in this sense that these precepts must always be obeyed. But, granted this, moral cases still differ individually as to the modalities of the conduct to be observed in conformity with the said precepts.
29. Saint Thomas, In Poster. Analyt., lib. I, lect. 1, no. 1.
30. John of Saint Thomas, Cursus theol., q. 62, disp. 16, a. 4.
31. "Intellectus practicus in ordine ad voluntatem rectam." Summa theol., I-II, 56, 3.
32. Cf. Chapter VI, "The Rules of Art," pp. 46-47.
33. John of Saint Thomas, loc. cit.
34. In this sense a poet has been able to say: "Art is science made flesh" (Jean Cocteau, "Le Secret Professionel," in Le Rappel à l'Ordre, Paris, Stock, 1930); and a painter: "Art is but science humanized" (Gino Severini, Du Cubisme au classicisme, Paris, Povolozky, 1921). They thus rejoin the ancient notion of scientia practica.
35. Summa theol., I-II, 57, 4, ad 2.
36. Cf. Aristotle, Metaph., I, 1; Saint Thomas, lect. 1, 20-22; Saint Thomas, Summa theol., II-II, 47, 3, ad 3; 49, 1, ad 1; Cajetan, In I-II, 57, 4; In II-II, 47, 2.
37. "Now it is most fitting that he who associates with others should conform to their manner of living. . . . And therefore it was most fitting that Christ should conform to others in the matter of eating and drinking." Summa theol., III, 40, 2.
38. Summa contra Gent., I, 93.
39. And even, it may be said in a sense, of His divine humility: "There is here something else inflaming the soul to the love of God, namely the divine humility. . . . For Almighty God subjects Himself to each single Angel and every holy soul exactly as if He were the purchased slave of each, and any one of them were his own God. To make this known, going about He ministers to them, saying in Psalm LXXXI: I have said, You are gods. . . . Now such humility derives from the multitude of His goodness and divine nobility, as a tree is bowed down by the multitude of its fruits. . . ." Opusc. De Beatitudine, ascribed to Saint Thomas, cap. II.
40. To tell the truth the division of the arts into the arts of the beautiful (the fine arts) and the useful arts, however important it may be in other respects, is not what the logicians call an "essential" division; it is taken from the end pursued, and the same art can very well pursue utility and beauty at one and the same time. Such is, above all, the case with architecture.
41. Summa theol., I-II, 57, 3, ad 3.
42. John of Saint Thomas, Curs. theol., q. 62, disp. 16, a. 4.
43. It is interesting to note that at the time of Leonardo da Vinci one no longer understood the reason for this classification nor for the rank thus assigned to painting. Leonardo never speaks of it without the liveliest indignation. "Painting has every right to complain at not being counted among the liberal arts, for she is a true daughter of Nature and works through the eye, the noblest of our senses." (Textes choisis, Paris, 1907, ^355.) Leonardo keeps returning to this question, treating its per accidens with a remarkably sophistic zeal and bitterly attacking the poets, insisting that their art is far inferior to that of painters, because poetry represents with words and for the ear, whereas painting represents for the eye and "by true likenesses." "Take a poet who describes the beauty of a lady to her lover and a painter who paints a picture of her, and you will see to which nature will turn the young lover." (Ibid., ^368.) "Sculpture," on the contrary, "is not a science but a most mechanical art, for it brings sweat and bodily fatigue to him who works at it. . . ." "This is proved to be true, for the sculptor in producing his work does so by the force of his arm, striking the marble or other stone to remove the covering beyond the figure enclosed within it. This is a most mechanical exercise accompanied many times with a great deal of sweat, which combines with dust and turns into mud. The sculptor's face is covered with paste and all powdered with marble dust, so that he looks like a baker, and he is covered with minute chips, so that he looks as though he had been out in the snow. His house is dirty and filled with chips and dust of stones. In speaking of excellent painters and sculptors we may say that just the opposite happens to the painter, since the well-dressed painter sits at great ease in front of his work, and moves a very light brush, which bears attractive colors, and he is adorned with such garments as he pleases. His dwelling is full of fine paintings and is clean and often filled with music, or the sound of different beautiful works being read, which are often heard with great pleasure, unmixed with the pounding of hammers or other noises." (Ibid., ^379; A. Philip McMahon's translation in Treatise on Painting, by Leonardo da Vinci, Princeton University Press, 1956, pp. 35-37.) In Leonardo's day, then, the "artist" marked himself off from the artisan and began to look down on him. But whereas the painter was already an "artist," the sculptor had remained an artisan -- although he, too, was rapidly to attain the dignity of "artist." Colbert, in establishing finally the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture, was to record and consecrate officially the results of this evolution.
The word "artist," let us observe in passing, has had a most chequered career. An artiste or an artien was at first a maître ès arts (the arts comprising the liberal arts and philosophy):
"Lorsque Pantagreul et Panurge arriverent à la salle, tous ces grimaulx, artiens et intrans commencerent frapper des mains comme est leur badaude coustume." (Rabelais, Pantagruel, II, c. 18.)
"Vrayement je le nye
Que legistes on decretistes
Soyent plus saiges que les artistes."
("Farce de Guillerme," in Ancien Théâtre François,
Paris, P. Jannet, 1854, Tome I, p. 329.)
Those whom today we call artists were then called artisans:
"Les artizans bien subtilz
Animent de leurs outilz
L'airein, le marbre, le cuyvre."
(J. du Bellay, "Les deux Marguerites,"
in Poésies Françaises et Latines
de Joachim du Bellay, Paris,
Garnier Frères, 1918, Tome II, pp. 44-45.)
"Peintre ou autre artisan."
(Montaigne, Essais, II, Bordeaux, 1909, p. 403.)
The word "artist" later becomes itself synonomous with artisan: "Artisan ou Artiste, artifex, opifex," Nicot has in his Dictionary. "Which all good workmen and artists in this art [of distillation] keep in mind." (Ambroise Paré, Bk. XXVI, 4, in Oeuvres complètes . . . , Paris, J.-B. Baillière, 1840-41, vol. 3, p. 618.) He in particular is called "artist" who works in the great art (i.e., alchemy), or even in magic; in the edition of 1694, the Dictionary of the French Academy mentions that this word "is said particularly of those who engage in magical operations."
It is only in the 1762 edition that the word "artist" appears in the Academy Dictionary with its contemporary meaning as distinct from the word "artisan"; the breach between the fine arts and the crafts was then completed in language itself.
This breach was a consequence of the changes which had taken place in the structure of society, and in particular of the rise of the bourgeoisie.
44. The artisan is bound by what the French call la commande, the fact of his being commissioned to do a certain task; and it is by turning to account -- in order to carry out this task -- the conditions, limitations and obstacles imposed by it that he best manifests the excellence of his art. The modern artist, on the contrary, seems to regard the limiting conditions imposed by la commande as a sacrilegious attempt on his freedom as a maker in beauty. This incapacity to meet the fixed requirements of a work-to- be-made denotes in reality, in the artist, a weakness of Art itself considered according to what formally constitutes it; but it also appears as a price to be paid for the despotic and transcendent requirements of the Beauty which the artist has conceived in his heart. It is thus a remarkable sign of the kind of conflict I mention later (pp. 33 and 44) between the formal perspective of Art and the formal perspective of Beauty in the fine arts. The artist needs a quite extraordinary strength to achieve perfect harmony between these two formal lines, one of which relates to the material world and the other to the metaphysical or spiritual world. From this point of view it seems that modern art, since its breach with the crafts, tends in its own way to assert the same claim to absolute independence, to aseity, as modern philosophy.
45. "This holy man," Cassian relates of Saint Anthony, "said of prayer these superhuman and celestial words: there is no perfect prayer if the religious perceives that he is praying." Cassian, Collationes, IX, cap. 31 (Migne, 49, col. 807).
46. In Greece, in the heyday of classical art, it was reason alone which kept art in temperance and admirable harmony. By comparing the conditions of art in Athens and the conditions of art in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, one can gain some idea of the difference between "natural" temperance and "infused" temperance.
47. Summa theol., I, 5, 4, ad 1. Saint Thomas, it must be added, means to give here only a definition per effectum. It is when he assigns the three elements of the beautiful that he gives an essential definition of it.
48. "It is of the nature of the beautiful that by the sight or knowledge of it the appetite is allayed." Summa theol., I-II, 27, 1, ad 3.
50. Summa theol., I, 39, 8. "For beauty includes three conditions: integrityor perfection, since those things which are impaired are by that very fact ugly; due proportion or harmony; and lastly, brightness or clarity, whence things are called beautiful which have a bright color." (English translation from Basic Writings of St. Thomas Aquinas, edited by Anton C. Pegis. New York:Random House, 1945.)
51. Saint Thomas, Comment. in lib. de Divin. Nomin., lect. 6.
52. Saint Thomas, Comment. in Psalm., Ps. XXV, 5.
53. De vera Religione, cap. 41.
54. Opusc. de Pulchro et Bono, attributed to Albert the Great and sometimes to Saint Thomas. Plotinus (Enneads, I, 6), speaking of beauty in bodies, describes it as "something which affects one sensibly from the first impression, which the soul perceives with agreement, recognizes and welcomes, and to which it in some way accommodates itself." He goes on to say that "every thing without form and made to receive a form morphê and an intelligible imprint eidos is ugly and outside the divine reason, so long as it does not share in such an imprint and spiritual quality amoiron on logou kai eidous." And let us also retain, from this very important chapter on beauty, the remark that "the beauty of color is a simple quality which comes to it from a form dominating the obscure in matter, and from the presence of an incorporeal light which is reason and idea logou kai eidous ontos."
55. Sight and hearing SERVING REASON. (Summa theol., I-II, 27, 1, ad 3). -- Moreover sense itself delights in things suitably proportioned only because it is itself measure and proportion, and so finds in them a likeness of its nature: "Sense delights in things duly proportioned, as in what are like it, for sense too is a kind of reason, as is every cognitive power." Summa theol., I, 5, 4, ad 1. On the expression "a kind of reason" -- ratio quaedam he d' aisthêsis ho logos -- cf. Comm. in de Anima, lib. 3, lect. 2.
It is permissible to conjecture that in glorified bodies all the senses, intellectualized, may be of use in the perception of the beautiful. Already poets are teaching us to anticipate in a way this state. Baudelaire has annexed to aesthetics the sense of smell.
56. This question of the perception of the beautiful by the intellect using the senses as instruments would deserve a careful analysis which, in my opinion, has too rarely tempted the subtlety of philosophers. Kant gave it his attention in the Critique of Judgment. Unfortunately the direct, interesting, and sometimes profound observations much more frequently met with in this Critique than in the other two are vitiated by his mania for system and symmetry, and above all by the fundamental errors and the subjectivism of his theory of knowledge.
One definition he gives of the beautiful calls for an attentive examination. "The beautiful," says Kant, "is what gives pleasure universally without a concept." [*n] Taken as such, this definition runs the risk of causing us to forget the essential relation which beauty has to the intellect. Thus it was that in Schopenhauer and his disciples it blossomed into an anti-intellectualist divinization of Music. Nevertheless, it evokes in its way the much more exact expression of Saint Thomas, id quod visum placet, that which, being seen, pleases -- that is to say, being the object of an intuition. By virtue of this last definition, the perception of the beautiful is not, as the Leibniz-Wolff school would have it, a confused conception of the perfection of the thing or of its conformity with an ideal type. (Cf. Critique of Judgment, "Analysis of the Beautiful," ^ XV.)
If, owing to the nature of the intellect, it is normal that the perception of the beautiful be accompanied by the presence or the outline of a concept, however confused, and that it suggest ideas,[*o] nevertheless, this is not what formally constitutes it: the splendor or radiance of the form glittering in the beautiful object is not presented to the mind by a concept or an idea, but rather by the sensible object intuitively grasped -- in which there is transmitted, as through an instrumental cause, this radiance of a form. Thus one may say -- at least this seems to me the only possible way to interpret Saint Thomas' words -- that in the perception of the beautiful the intellect is, through the means of the sensible intuition itself, placed in the presence of a radiant intelligibility (derived, like every intelligibility, in the last analysis from the first intelligibility of the divine Ideas), which insofar as it produces the joy of the beautiful cannot be disengaged or separated from its sense matrix and consequently does not procure an intellectual knowledge expressible in a concept. Contemplating the object in the intuition which sense has of it, the intellect enjoys a presence, the radiant presence of an intelligible which does not reveal itself to its eyes such as it is. If it turns away from sense to abstract and reason, it turns away from its joy and loses contact with this radiance.
To understand this, let us recall that it is intellect and sense as forming but one, or, if one may so speak, intelligentiated sense, which gives rise in the heart to aesthetic joy.
It is thereby clear that the intellect does not -- except after the event and reflexively -- think of abstracting from the sensible singular in the contemplation of which it is fixed the intelligible reasons of its joy. And it is also clear that the beautiful can be a marvellous tonic for the intellect, and yet does not develop its power of abstraction and reasoning; and that the perception of the beautiful is accompanied by that curious feeling of intellectual fullness through which we seem to be swollen with a superior knowledge of the object contemplated, and which nevertheless leaves us powerless to express it and to possess it by our ideas and make it the object of scientific analysis. Thus music gives us enjoyment of being, more so perhaps than the other arts; but it does not give us knowledge of being, and it is absurd to make it a substitute for metaphysics. Thus artistic contemplation affects the heart with a joy that is above all intellectual, and it must even be affirmed with Aristotle (Poetics, IX, 3, 1451 b 6) that "poetry" is something more philosophical and of greater import than history, because poetry is concerned more with the universal and history is concerned only with the singular"; and yet the apprehension of the universal or the intelligible takes place in poetry without discourse and without any effort of abstraction.[*p]
This seizure of an intelligible reality immediately "sensible to the heart," without resorting to the concept as formal means, creates, on an entirely different plane and by an entirely different psychological process, a distant analogy between aesthetic emotion and the mystical graces. [I say "by an entirely different psychological process." In reality, mystical contemplation takes place by virtue of the connaturality of love; here, on the contrary, love and affective connaturality with regard to the beautiful thing are a consequence or a proper effect of the perception or aesthetic emotion -- a proper effect, moreover, which normally reverberates back on this emotion itself to intensify it, to give it content, to enrich it in a thousand ways. In his interesting essay on Poetic Experience (London: Sheed and Ward, 1934), Father Thomas Gilby has not, in my opinion, sufficiently stressed this difference. Cf. later on, n. 138.]
I would add that if the very act of the perception of the beautiful takes place without discourse and without any effort of abstraction, conceptual discourse can nevertheless play an immense part in the preparation for this act. Indeed, like the virtue of art itself, taste, or the aptitude for perceiving beauty and pronouncing a judgment on it, presupposes an innate gift, but can be developed by education and instruction, especially by the study and rational explication of works of art. All other things being equal, the better informed the mind is of the rules, the methods and the difficulties of art, and above all of the end pursued by the artist and his intentions, the better it is preparedto receive into it, by means of the sense's intuition, the intelligible splendor emanating from the work, and thus to perceive spontaneously, to relish, its beauty. So it is that the artist's friends, who know what the artist sought to accomplish -- as the Angels know the Ideas of the Creator -- derive far greater enjoyment from his works than the public; so it is that the beauty of certain works is a hidden beauty, accessible only to a small number.
The eye and the ear are said to accustom themselves to new relations. It is rather the intellect which accepts them, as soon as it has realized to what end and to what kind of beauty they are ordered, and so prepares itself to enjoy better the work which involves them.
We therefore see the role concepts play in the perception of the beautiful: a dispositive and material role. I have said that this perception is normally accompanied by the presence or the outline of a concept, however confused it may be. In the simplest case, the border-line case, it might be simply the very concept of "beautiful," for the intellect, being capable of a return on itself because of its spirituality, knows (at least confusedly and in lived act) that it is experiencing delight when it is. In fact there is often a whole host of conceptual outlines which the mind is stimulated to produce by the fact of its being put into play, and which secretly accompany its intuitive delight. After the first shock when the tongue can find nothing to say, these will be able to spill out in exclamations: "What strength! Such solidity!" etc. Contrariwise at times a single word, a concept deposited in the mind ("You think he's a great painter? Taste is his strongest point") will be sufficient to spoil in advance and inhibit the delight one would have felt in the presence of a work. But, in all this, the role of the concepts does not go beyond the sphere of dispositive causality.
It may be further observed that Kant is right in considering emotion in the ordinary sense of the word ("the excitement of vital energies") as a posterior and ensuing fact in the perception of the beautiful. (Ibid., ^IX.) But for him the primary and essential fact is the "aesthetic judgment" (although on this point his texts seem to conflict at times); for us it is the intuitive delight of the intellect and (secondarily) of the senses: or, to put it in a less summary and more exact manner -- for delight is essentially an act of the appetitive faculty (it is of the nature of the beautiful that by the sight or knowledge of it the appetite is allayed) -- it is the quieting of our faculty of Desire which finds repose in the proper good of the cognitive faculty perfectly and harmoniously released by the intuition of the beautiful. (Cf. Summa theol., I-II, 11, 1, ad 2. The end and perfection of every other faculty is contained under the object of the appetitive faculty, as the proper is enveloped in the common.) The beautiful goes straight to the heart, it is a ray of intelligibility which reaches it directly and sometimes brings tears to the eyes. And doubtless this delight is an "emotion," a "feeling" (gaudium in the "intellective appetite" or will, joy properly so called, in which "we communicate with the angels," ibid., 31, 4, ad 3). However it is a question here of an altogether special feeling, one which depends simply on knowledge and on the happy fullness which a sensible intuition procures for the intellect. It is a superior emotion, whose essential nucleus is spiritual in nature, although in actual fact, like every emotion in us, it sets in motion the whole domain of affectivity. Emotion in the ordinary sense of the word, biological emotion, the development of passions and feelings other than this intellectual joy, is but an effect -- an absolutely normal effect -- of this joy; it is posterior, if not in time, at least in the nature of things, to the perception of the beautiful, and it remains extrinsic to what formally constitutes the latter.
It is interesting to observe that the subjectivist "venom"[*q] which has infected metaphysics in the wake of the Kantian revolution has almost inevitably compelled philosophers to seek the essence of aesthetic perception -- in spite of Kant himself -- in emotion (in the ordinary sense of the word). One expression of this subjectivism is Lipps' and Volkelt's ingenious but arbitrary theory of Einfühlung, which reduces the perception of the beautiful to a projection or infusion of our emotions and feelings into the object. (Cf. M. de Wulf, "L'Oeuvre d'art et la beauté," Annales de l'Institut de philosophie de Louvain, vol. IV, 1920, pp. 421 et seq.)
57. "Beauty is a certain kind of good." Cajetan, In I-II, 27, 1. -- So it was that the Greeks used the same word kalokagathia to express both notions.
The beautiful, we have seen, directly relates to the faculty of knowing. For by definition it must procure a certain intuitive delight of the intellect (and, in our case, of the senses). But if the happy release of a faculty, of the intellect for instance, brings about the metaphysical well-being and, as it were, blossoming of this faculty, thus satisfying the natural appetite which is one with its essence, nevertheless this bloom of the act is properly pleasure, joy or delight, only because it is immediately seized by the subject's appetitive faculty itself, the appetitus elicitus, which finds therein its goal and its repose.[*r] For, according to the text of Saint Thomas recalled in the preceding note, "the end and perfection of every other faculty is contained under the object of the appetitive faculty, as the proper is enveloped in the common" (Summa theol., I-II, 11, 1, ad 2). The beautiful therefore is in an essential and necessary, albeit indirect, relation to the appetite. For this reason it is "a kind of good" and must be considered, as I say in the text, as "essentially delightful." It is the nature of beauty to gratify desire in the intellect, the faculty of enjoyment in the faculty of knowing.
The texts of Saint Thomas on this point of doctrine need to be carefully construed. He first wrote in the Commentary on the Sentences: "Beauty has not the nature of the desirable except so far as it assumes the nature of the good; and in this way also the true is desirable. But of its own nature it has radiance." (In I Sent., d. 31, q. 2, a. 1, ad 4.) And then in the De Veritate: "If appetite terminates in good and peace and the beautiful, this does not mean that it terminates in different goals. By the very fact of tending to good a thing at the same time tends to the beautiful and to peace. It tends to the beautiful inasmuch as it is proportioned and specified in itself. These notes are included in the essential character of good, but good adds a relationship of what is perfective in regard to other things. Whoever tends to good, then, by that very fact tends to the beautiful. Peace, moreover, implies the removal of disturbances or obstacles to the obtaining of good. By the very fact that something is desired, the removal of obstacles to it is also desired. Consequently, at the same time and by the same appetitive tendency good, the beautiful, and peace are sought." (De Ver., 22, 1, ad 12; Robert W. Schmidt's translation in: St. Thomas Aquinas, Truth, Chicago, Henry Regnery Company, 1954, Vol. 111, p. 40. Saint Thomas is commenting here on Denis the Areopagite's axiom in Chapter IV of the De Divinis Nominibus: pulchrum omnia appetunt, all things seek the beautiful.)
Here finally are two texts of capital importance from the Summa Theologiae: "Beauty and goodness in a thing are identical fundamentally, for they are based upon the same thing, namely, the form; and this is why goodness is praised as beauty. But they differ logically, for goodness properly relates to appetite (goodness being what all things desire), and therefore it has the aspect of an end (the appetite being a kind of movement towards a thing). On the other hand, beauty relates to a cognitive power, for those things are said to be beautiful which please when seen. Hence beauty consists in due proportion, for the senses delight in things duly proportioned, as in what is like them -- because the sense too is a sort of reason, as is every cognitive power. Now, since knowledge is by assimilation, and likeness relates to form, beauty properly belongs to the nature of a formal cause." (Summa theol., 1, 5, 4, ad 1; English translation from Basic Writings of St. Thomas Aquinas, edited by Anton C. Pegis. New York: Random House, 1945.)
"The beautiful is the same thing as the good, differing only logically. For since good is what all things seek, it is of the nature of the good that by it the appetite is allayed; but it is of the nature of the beautiful that by the sight or knowledge of it the appetite is allayed. . . . Thus it is evident that the beautiful adds to the good a relation to the cognitive faculty: so that that is called good which simply pleases the appetite; whereas that is called beautiful whose mere apprehension gives pleasure."(Summa theol., I-II, 27, 1, ad 3.)
To reconcile these different texts, it must first be observed that there are two ways in which the beautiful can be related to the appetite: either as subsumed under the aspect of the good and as the object of an elicited desire (we love and desire a thing because it is beautiful); or as a special good delighting the appetitive faculty in the faculty of knowledge because it satisfies the latter's natural desire (we say that a thing is beautiful because the sight of it gives us pleasure). From the first standpoint the beautiful coincides with the good only materially (re seu subjects); from the second, on the contrary, it is of the very notion of the beautiful to be the special good in question.
It is from the first standpoint that the text from the Sentences must be considered: the beautiful is desirable only in so far as it assumes the aspect of the good (that is to say, generally speaking, of an object the possession of which appears to the subject as good and towards which he directs his desire). On these grounds the true also is desirable in the same way, and this desirability is of the very notion neither of the true nor of the beautiful, although it is an immediate property of the beautiful. But the fact remains that, from the second standpoint, to procure this special good which is delight in knowing is essential to the beautiful, implied in its very notion, and on these grounds there is no parallel between the beautiful and the true.
Likewise in the text from the De Veritate it is a question of the good as such, which, unlike the beautiful, is defined by the perfection it brings to the subject. The beautiful and the good coincide therefore materially, but differ in notion or idea (like the true and the good) -- which does not prevent the beautiful, because it perfects the faculty of knowing as an object of delight, from including on these special grounds, in its very notion, a relation to appetite.
As for the two extremely important texts from the Summa, it clearly follows from the first one that if the beautiful differs -- ratione -- from the good in that it does not directly face the appetite, and belongs of itself to the sphere of formal causality, nevertheless it has in its definition to give pleasure when seen, and therefore necessarily implies a relation to appetite. The second text teaches as precisely as could be desired that this relation to the appetite, on the special grounds of its being an object whose mere apprehension gives pleasure, is of the very notion of the beautiful. So that beauty, while directly facing the faculty of knowing, by its very essence indirectly concerns the appetitive faculty, as was said above. It is of the nature of the beautiful that by the sight or knowledge of it the appetite is allayed.
58. Denis the Areopagite, De Div. Nomin., cap. 4; Saint Thomas, lect. 9. Let us, by virtue of time-honored actual usage, continue to call "the Areopagite" the man whom modern authorities call the pseudo-Denis.
59. "Her have I loved, and have sought her out from my youth, and have desired to take her for my spouse, and I became a lover of her beauty." Wisdom, VIII, 2.
60. De Divin. Nomin., cap. 4; Saint Thomas, lect. 10.
61. Let us note that the conditions of the beautiful are much more strictly determined in nature than in art, the end of natural beings and the formal radiance which can shine in them being themselves much more strictly determined than those of works of art. In nature, for instance, there is assuredly a perfect type (whether we recognize it or not) of the proportions of the male or female body, because the natural end of the human organism is something fixed and invariably determined. But the beauty of a work of art not being the beauty of the object represented, painting and sculpture are in no way bound to the determined proportions and to the imitation of such a type. The art of pagan antiquity thought itself so bound because of an extrinsic condition, because it represented above all the gods of an anthropomorphic religion.
62. "Ton theoeidê noun epilamponta." Plotinus, Enneads, I, 6.
63. Cf. Lamennais, De l'art et du Beau (Paris: Garnier, 1864), Ch, I.
64. "Beauty, health and the like are in a way said with respect to something else: because a certain mixture of humors produces health in a boy, but not in an old man; and what is health for a lion may mean death for a man. Health, therefore, is a proportion of humors in relation to a particular nature. In like manner beauty [of the body] consists in the proportion of its parts and colors; and so the beauty of one differs from the beauty of another." Saint Thomas, Comment. in Psalm., Ps. XLIV, 2.
65. Saint Thomas, Comment. in lib. de Divin. Nomin., cap. 4, lect. 5.
In an article entitled "Variations du Beau," published in the Revue des Deux Mondes, July 15, 1857 (Oeuvres littéraires, I, Études esthétiques, Paris, Crès, 1923, pp. 37 et seq.), Eugène Delacroix formulated from his painter's point of view some very just observations. Philosophizing on the question with more acumen than many professional philosophers, he had realized that the multiplicity of the forms of the beautiful in no way impairs its objectivity: "I have not said and nobody would dare to say that it can vary in its essence, for then it would no longer be the beautiful but mere caprice or fancy. But its character can change; a countenance of beauty which once charmed a far-off civilization does not astonish or please us as much as one which is more in accord with our feelings or, if you like, our prejudices. Nunquam in eodem statu permanet, said ancient Job of man." Here we have, in different terms, an affirmation of the fundamentally analogical character of the idea of beauty (cf. "Projet d'article sur le beau," ibid., pp. 141 et seq.).
"We must see the beautiful where the artist has chosen to put it," said Delacroix again ("Questions sur le Beau," Rev. des Deux Mondes, July 15, 1854; ibid., p. 52); and already in his Journal (end of 1823 and beginning of 1824): "A Greek and an Englishman are each beautiful in his own way, which has nothing in common with the other" (Journal, Plon, 1893, vol. I, p. 47).
66. In an essay published in 1923 ("L'Esthétique de saint Thomas" in S. Tommaso d'Aquino, Publ. della Fac. di Filos. dell'Univ. del Sacro Cuore, Milan, Vita et Pensiero), Father de Munnynck endeavored to cast doubt on this point. To do so is to conceive the quod visum placet and the Scholastic teaching on the beautiful in a wholly material manner (cf. Father Wébert's review, Bulletin thomiste, II Année, no. 1, Jan. 1925). The classic table of transcendentals (ens, res, unum, aliquid, verum, bonum) does not exhaust all the transcendental values, and if the beautiful is not included, it is because it can be reduced to one of them (to the good -- for the beautiful is that which in things faces the mind as an object of intuitive delight). Saint Thomas constantly affirms that the beautiful and the (metaphysical) good are the same thing in reality and differ only in notion or idea (pulchrum et bonum sunt idem subjecto, sola ratione different, I, 5, 4, ad 1). It is so with all the transcendentals: they are identified in the thing, and they differ in idea. Wherefore, whoever tends to good, by that very fact tends to the beautiful (De Ver., 22, 1, ad 12). If it is true that the beautiful is the same thing as the good, differing only in idea (I-II, 27, 1, ad 3), why should the beautiful not be a transcendental as well as the good? Strictly speaking, Beauty is the radiance of all the transcendentals united. Wherever there is anything existing, there is being, form and proportion; and wherever there is being, form and proportion, there is some beauty. Beauty is in the things of sense, and it is also -- and par excellence -- in spiritual things. The bonum honestum -- good as right, the quality of an act good for the sake of good -- has a spiritual beauty: "A thing is said to be good in itself (honestum) according as it has some quality of excellence worthy of honor because of its spiritual beauty" (II-II, 145, 3). Beauty is to be found in the contemplative life essentially and per se: "Beauty consists in a certain radiance and due proportion. . . . In the contemplative life, which consists in the activity of reason, beauty is found per se and essentially" (ibid., 180, 2, ad 3). Beauty is properly (formally-eminently) attributed to God, like being, unity and goodness. "Because (divine) Beauty is in so many ways the cause of all things," Saint Thomas teaches (Comment. in De Divin. Nomin., cap. 4, lect. 5), "it follows that the good and the beautiful are the same; because all things desire the beautiful and the good, as cause, in every way; and because there is nothing which does not participate in the beautiful and the good, since everything whatsoever is beautiful and good according to its own form." Likewise, beauty is to be ascribed, in a more appropriate manner, to the Person of the Son (Summa theol., I, 39, 8).
The property of causing joy, of "giving pleasure," implicit in the notion of the beautiful, is itself -- it must be remembered -- of the transcendental and analogical sphere, and cannot without serious misunderstanding be reduced to pleasure of the senses alone or the "bonum delectabile" considered as opposed to the other kinds of good. (Honesta etiam sunt delectabilia, Saint Thomas observes, Summa theol., I, 5, 6, ad 2; and II-II, 145, 3: Honestum est naturaliter homini delectabile. . . . Omne utile et honestum, est aliqualiter delectabile, sed non convertitur. Moreover, does not virtue have for result to make difficult things pleasing? Is not God the supreme analogate of all that dispenses joy? Intra in gaudium Domini tui.) It is because the delight implied by the beautiful is thus of the transcendental and analogical sphere, that the diversity of modes of this delight, and of the forms of beauty, in no way prevents the objectivity of beauty. Cf. note 65.
67. The analogates (analoga analogata) of an analogous concept (analogum analogans) are the diverse things in which this concept is realized and which it fits.
68. In God alone are all these perfections identified according to their formal reason: in Him Truth is Beauty, is Goodness, is Unity, and they are He. In the things of this world, on the other hand, truth, beauty, goodness, etc., are aspects of being distinct according to their formal reason, and what is true simpliciter (absolutely speaking) may be good or beautiful only secundum quid (in a certain relation), what is beautiful simpliciter may be good or true only secundum quid . . . . Wherefore beauty, truth, goodness (especially when it is no longer a question of metaphysical or transcendental good itself, but of moral good) command distinct spheres of human activity, of which it would be foolish to deny a priori the possible conflicts, on the pretext that the transcendentals are indissolubly bound to one another -- a perfectly true metaphysical principle, but one that needs to be correctly understood.
69. De Divinis Nominibus, cap. 4; Saint Thomas' Commentary, lessons 5 and 6.
70. Saint Thomas, ibid., lect. 5.
71. Summa theol., I, 39, 8.
72. Saint Augustine, De Doctr. Christ., I, 5.
73. Baudelaire, L'Art romantique (Paris: Calmann-Lévy, 1885), p. 167. Baudelaire reproduces here a passage from his preface to Nouvelles Histoires Extraordinaires, and this passage itself was inspired by and almost a translation of a passage in Poe's The Poetic Principle: "We have still a thirst unquenchable. thirst belongs to the immortality of Man. It is at once a consequence and an indication of his perennial existence. It is the desire of the moth for the star. It is no mere appreciation of the Beauty before us, but a wild effort to reach the Beauty above. Inspired by an ecstatic prescience of the glories beyond the grave, we struggle by multiform combinations among the things and thoughts of Time to attain a portion of that Loveliness whose very elements, perhaps, appertain to eternity alone. And thus when by Poetry, or when by Music, the most entrancing of the poetic moods, we find ourselves melted into tears, we weep then, not as the Abbate Gravina supposes, through excess of pleasure, but through a certain petulant, impatient sorrow at our inability to grasp now, wholly, here on earth, at once and forever, those divine and rapturous joys of which, through the poem, or through the music, we attain to but brief and indeterminate glimpses.
"The struggle to apprehend the supernal Loveliness -- this struggle, on the part of souls fittingly constituted -- has given to the world all that which it (the world) has ever been enabled at once to understand and to feel as poetic." (The Works of Edgar Allan Poe, New York, Funk & Wagnalls Company, 1904, Vol. I, pp. 30-31.
It is remarkable that from a different point of view a philosopher should also write: "In the appreciation of music and of pictures we get a momentary and fleeting glimpse of the nature of that reality to a full knowledge of which the movement of life is progressing. For that moment, and for so long as the glimpse persists, we realize in anticipation and almost, as it were, illicitly, the nature of the end. We are, if I may so put it, for the moment there, just as a traveller may obtain a fleeting glimpse of a distant country from an eminence passed on the way, and cease for a space from his journey to enjoy the view. And since we are for the moment there, we experience while the moment lasts that sense of liberation from the urge and drive of life, which has been noted as one of the special characteristics of aesthetic experience." (C. E. M. Joad, "A Realist Philosophy of Life," in Contemporary British Philosophy: Personal Statements, Second Series. Edited by J. H. Muirhead, New York, Macmillan, 1925, p. 188.)
74. Denis the Areopagite, De Divin. Nomin., cap. 4 (Saint Thomas, lect. 4).
75. Opusc. LXVIII, in libr. Boetii de Hebdom., in princ.
76. Prov., VIII, 31.
77. Metaph., I, 2, 982 b.
78. Ruysbroeck ("Vie de Rusbrock," in Rusbrock l'Admirable, Oeuvres choisies, ed. E. Hello, Paris, Perrin et Cie, 1902, p. Lii.)
79. We may call Technique the ensemble of these rules, but on condition of extending and elevating considerably the ordinary meaning of the word "technique." For it is a question not only of material processes, but also, and above all, of the means and ways of operation of the intellectual sphere which the artist uses to attain the end of his art. These ways are determined, like paths traced out in advance through a tangled thicket. But they have to be discovered. And the most elevated of them, those most closely related to the individuality of the work spiritually conceived by the artist, are strictly adapted to the latter and are discernible to one individual only.
80. "It is clear," Baudelaire wrote, "that systems of rhetoric and prosodies are not forms of tyranny arbitrarily devised, but a collection of rules required by the very organization of the spiritual being: never have prosodies and systems of rhetoric prevented originality from manifesting itself distinctly. The opposite would be far more true, that they have been a help to the blossoming forth of originality."
And again: "It would be quite a new departure in the history, of the arts for a critic to turn poet, a reversal of all psychological laws, a monstrosity; on the contrary, every great poet becomes naturally, inevitably, a critic. I am sorry for poets who are guided by instinct alone; I consider them incomplete. In the spiritual life of great poets a crisis infallibly arises, in which they want to reason out their art, to discover the obscure laws by virtue of which they have produced, and to derive from such a scrutiny a set of precepts whose divine aim is infallibility in poetic production. It would be a marvel for a critic to turn poet and it is impossible for a poet not to contain a critic within himself." (L'Art romantique. Paris: Calmann-Lévy, 1885, p. 13; p. 229.)
81. A remark of the painter David.
82. Cf. the very title which Descartes first thought of giving to the treatise to which the Discourse on Method is the preface: "Project of a universal Science capable of raising our nature to its highest degree of perfection. To which is added Refraction, Meteors and Geometry, in which the most curious matters the author could choose, in order to provide proof of the universal science which he is proposing, are treated in such a way that even those who have not studied can understand them." Some years later -- doubtless around 1641 -- Descartes worked on a dialogue in French which he left unfinished, and which has as a title: "The Quest for truth by the light of Nature, which, unsullied and without enlisting the aid of Religion or Philosophy, determines the opinions an honest man should have concerning all the things which can occupy his thought, and penetrates the innermost secrets of the most curious sciences."
83. "So that the mind may be dispensed from the labor of having to think things out clearly and yet nonetheless all things turn out rightly." Leibniz, Die philosophischen Schriften von Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, ed. Gerhardt, Berlin, 1875-90, VII.
84. Summa theol., I-II, 51, 1.
85. As is known, the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture was ultimately established in 1633.
I would mention here A. Vaillant's Théorie de l'Architecture (Paris, 1919). On the subject of academicism, as on the generic notion of art, the author's thesis, which is based on a very sincere though somewhat narrow positivism, happily coincides with the thought of the Schoolmen. "It was during the reign of Louis XIV," writes M. Vaillant, "that the teaching of the Fine Arts began to assume the scholastic character which we now know. . . . It must be admitted that academic influence was very great, but as yet in no way harmful: the reason being that the empirical methods of the Masters of apprenticeship and their ancient customs remained in full vigor down to the suppression of the guilds. As they declined, the results of the teaching diminished too: for doctrine, which is the soul of art, was naturally contained in the traditions, in the manner in which the artist received and assimilated la commande and responded to it . . .
"As long as apprenticeship was the means of formation of artists and artisans, no necessity for any general theory was felt. Architects, in particular, had a method, which resulted from the example of and intimate collaboration with the professional life of the master, as Étienne Boileau's Livre des Métiers shows so well. When teaching was substituted for the living and highly varied action of the master, a grave error was committed.
"The academic breach with the daubers of painting and the marble-stained polishers of marble procured no advantage for art or the artist; and it deprived the workman of healthy contact with the superior and the excellent. Academicians, too, ceased to be independent and lost along with technique the rational organization of art work." One consequence of the divorce was the disappearance of the technique of color grinding. In the course of time artists lost the feeling for the chemical reactions which colors and coloring materials undergo due to mixing, the nature of the binding material and the manner of application. "Van Eyck's pictures, five centuries old, have still their original freshness. Can modern pictures," asks M. Vaillant, "hope for such a protracted youth?" "How leaden modern painting is becoming"' replies M. Jacques Blanche, speaking of Manet. "In a few years the most sparkling picture has already become powdery and is ruined. We admire ruins, ruins dating from yesterday. You do not know what Le Linge was like when it first appeared! I would be ready to accuse myself or to bewail the state of my eyes, if I had not been a witness, during these last five years, of the destruction of a masterpiece, Delacroix's Trajan in the Rouen Gallery. I saw it become tarnished and crack, and now it is nothing but brown paste . . ." (Jacques-Émile Blanche, Propos de peintre, de David à Degas, Paris, 1919).
Augustin Cochin, for his part, wrote: "The academic teaching inaugurated [or better, erected into a unique and universal law] by the Encyclopedists, from Diderot to Condorcet, killed popular art in a generation, a phenomenon which is perhaps unique in history. Teaching in school instead of forming in the studio, having someone learn lessons instead of having him practise making -- explaining instead of showing and correcting -- it is this that constitutes the reform conceived by the philosophers and imposed by the Revolution. Isolated artists have survived, but like rocks battered by the sea of banality and ignorance, not like great trees in the forest." ("Les Sociétés de pensée," in the Correspondant of February 10, 1920.)
86. "After these came Giotto the Florentine, and he - - reared in mountain solitudes inhabited only by goats and such like beasts -- turning straight from nature to his art, began to draw on the rocks the movements of the goats which he was tending, and so began to draw the figures of all the animals which were to be found in the country, in such a way that after much study he not only surpassed the masters of his own time but all those of many preceding centuries." (Leonardo da Vinci, Textes choisis, Péladan, Paris, 1907; Edward MacCurdy's translation, in The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci, New York, Reynal & Hitchcock, 1938, Vol. II, p. 276.)
In contradistinction to the case of Giotto or Moussorgsky, the case of Mozart provides us with the classic example of how fruitful can be the union of natural gift (and what a gift!) and education -- the earliest, most perfect and most intense rational cultivation of the habitus.
87. This point is well expressed by Goethe in these lines of his Wilhelm Meister's Wanderjahre (Sämtliche Werke, Bd. 18, Stuttgart, 1894):
Zu erfinden, zu beschliessen
Bleibe Künstler oft allein;
Deines Wirkens zu geniessen
Eile freudig zum Verein!
88. Man cannot do without a master. But in the state of anarchy which characterizes the contemporary world, the power of the master, being unavowed, has merely become less profitable to the pupil and tyrannical.
"As everyone today wants to be king, nobody knows how to govern himself," wrote Baudelaire. "Now that everyone is left to his own devices, a master today has many unknown pupils for whom he is not responsible, and his power, being secret and involuntary, extends far beyond his studio into regions where his thought cannot be understood." (Curiosités esthétiques, Salon de 1846, in Oeuvres complètes, Paris, Calmann-Lévy, Vol. II.)
89. Cf. Summa theol., I, 117, 1; ibid., ad 1 and ad 3.
90. Cf. note 67.
91. These rules, which it is the province of the various artistic disciplines to define, are immutable only when taken formally and analogically.
"In aesthetics there is never any fundamental innovation. The laws of beauty are eternal, the most violent innovators obey them unawares: they obey them in their own way and this is what makes it so interesting." Max Jacob, Art poétique, Paris, 1922.
92. It follows that the philosopher and the critic can indeed and ought indeed to judge the value of artistic schools, as also the truth or falsity, the good or bad influence of their principles, but that considerations of this sort are radically insufficient to judge the artist or the poet himself. The really important thing here is to discern whether one has to do with an artist or a poet, with a man who really possesses the virtue of art, a practical and operative virtue, not a speculative one. A philosopher whose system is false is of no real account, for in such a case he cannot say the true, except by accident; an artist whose system is false can be of account, and of great account, for, in spite of his system and in spite of the inferiority of the form of art to which he adheres, he can create the beautiful. From the point of view of the work made there is more artistic truth (and therefore more of the genuine "classical") in a romantic possessing the virtue of art than in a classicist without it. When we speak of an artist or a poet, let us always be careful not to miss the virtue which may be in him, not to offend something naturally sacred.
93. Cf. pp. 16-17.
94. In I-II, 57, 5, ad 3.
95. The conception of the work is something altogether different from the simple choice of subject: the subject is nothing more than the matter of this conception, and there are even, for the artist or the poet, certain advantages -- as Goethe explains very well -- to receiving this matter from others. It is also something altogether different from an abstract idea, an intellectual theme or a thesis that the artist would have in mind. Goethe was asked what idea he had sought to expound in Tasso: "What idea?" said he. "How can I say? I had Tasso's life, I had my own life. . . . But don't think that everything would be lost, if there were no idea, no abstract thought to be discovered behind a work. You ask me what idea I endeavored to embody in Faust. As if I knew, as if I myself could tell! From Heaven, through earth, down to Hell, there's an explanation, if you want one: but that is not the idea, that's the development of the action. . ." (Conversations with Eckermann, May 6, 1827, in Goethes Gespräche, Bd. 3, Leipzig, 1910.)
Finally, the conception of the work is not the elaborated schema of the work or its plan of construction (which is already a realization -- in the mind). It is a simple view, although virtually very rich in multiplicity, of the work-to-be-made grasped in its individual soul, a view which is, as it were, a spiritual germ or a seminal reason of the work, and which depends on what Bergson calls intuition and dynamic schema, which concerns not only the intellect, but also the imagination and sensibility of the artist, which answers a certain unique shade of emotion and sympathy, and which for this reason is inexpressible in concepts. What painters call their "vision" of things plays an essential role here.
This conception of the work, which depends on the whole spiritual and sensitive being of the artist and above all on the straightness of his appetite in regard to Beauty, and which bears on the end of the activity, may be said to be, in relation to Art, as the intention of the ends of the moral virtues is in relation to Prudence. It belongs to another order than the means, the ways of realization, which are the proper domain of the virtue of Art, just as the means of attaining the ends of the moral virtues are the proper domain of the virtue of Prudence. And it is, in each particular case, the fixed point to which the artist orders the means which art puts in his possession.
M. Blanche tells us that "the means are everything in painting" (Propos de peintre, de David à Degas, p. 151). Let there be no misunderstanding. The means are the proper domain of the artistic habitus -- in this sense the dictum can be accepted. But means exist only in relation to an end, and the means which "are everything" would be nothing themselves without the conception or the vision which they tend to realize and on which the whole activity of the artist hinges.
Clearly, the more exalted this conception, the more the means will run the risk of being deficient. Do we not have in Cézanne an eminent example of such a deficiency of the means in relation to the loftiness of the conception? If he is great, and if he exercises such a dominant influence on contemporary art, it is because he brought a conception or a vision of a superior quality -- his little sensation, as he used to say -- which his means were inadequate to express. Hence his complaints at his incapacity to realize: "Don't you see, Monsieur Vollard, the outline keeps escaping me!" -- and his touching regret at "not being Bouguereau," who, at any rate, did "realize" and did not manage to "develop his personality."
96. Hopoios poth hekastos esti, toiouto kai to telos phainetai autô. Aristotle, Eth. Nic., III, 7, 1114 a 32. Cf. Saint Thomas'Commentary, lect. 13; Summa theol., I, 83, 1, ad 5. -- When Saint Thomas teaches (Summa theol., I-II, 58, 5, ad 2) that "the principles of artificial objects are not judged by us as good or bad according to the disposition of our appetite, as are ends which are the principles of moral matters, but solely by the consideration of reason," he is thinking, on the one hand, of the moral dispositions of the appetite (cf. Cajetan, loc. cit.), and, on the other hand, of art insofar as "things-to-be-made are to art not as principles but solely as matter" (ibid., 65, 1, ad 4), which is not the case with the fine arts (ends indeed are principles in the practical order, and the work-to-be-made has in the fine arts the dignity of a true end).
97. Saint Augustine, De Moribus Ecclesiae, cap. 15. "Virtus est ordo amoris."
98. Quoted by Étienne Charles in Renaissance de l'Art français et des industries de luxe, No. 2, April, 1918.
99. Louise Clermont, Émile Clermont, sa vie, son oeuvre, Grasset, 1919.
100. Insofar as Apollonism reigns supreme in Greek art. But let us not forget (if we may still use these words which have become commonplaces since Nietzsche) that a Dionysiac art remained in the shadows, such as that to which Goethe seems to allude in the Second Part of Faust with the Phorkyads and the Cabiri who struggle in the Classical Walpurgis-Night.
101. "Omnium humanorum operum principium primum ratio est." Saint Thomas, Summa theol., I-II, 58, 2.
I would note here the very remarkable testimony of Eugène Delacroix: "Art, then, is not what the vulgar think, that is to say, a kind of inspiration which comes from I know not where, and which proceeds at random and presents only the picturesque exterior of things. It is reason itself embellished by genius, but pursuing a necessary course and kept in check by superior laws. This brings me back to the difference between Mozart and Beethoven. 'Where Beethoven is obscure,' Chopin said to me, land seems to be lacking in unity, the cause is not a rather wild would-be originality, for which he is honored; it's that he turns his back on eternal principles -- Mozart never!"
It goes without saying that the pre-eminence of true inspiration, concerning which we can say with Aristotle that it would not be fitting for one moved by a superior principle to be counselled according to human reason, is not therefore denied. Reason is the first principle of all human works -- reason alone when it is a question of human works within the measure of man, reason superelevated by an instinct of divine origin when it is a question of human works ruled according to a higher measure (of the natural order, in matters of art or thought; of the supernatural order in the case of prophesy or the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Cf. note 143). I would add that just as the devil apes God, so seeking the law of the work (and not merely certain more or less valuable materials) in dream and in the whole organic night below the level of reason apes genuine inspiration, which is above reason.
102. Baudelaire again writes: "The construction, the armature, so to speak, is the most important guarantee of the mysterious life of the works of the mind" ("Notes Nouvelles sur Edgar Poe," preface to Nouvelles Histoires extraordinaires in Oeuvres complètes, Vol. VI). "Everything that is beautiful and noble is the result of reason and calculation." (L'Art Romantique.) And again: "Music gives the idea of space. So do all the arts, more or less; for the arts are number and number is a translation of space." (Mon coeur mis à nu, in Journaux intimes, Paris, Crès, 1919.)
103. From this point of view there is much to be retained in the ideas of Le Corbusier and in the comparisons he has drawn between the art of the architect and that of the engineer ("A house is a machine to be lived in"). It would be a mistake, however, to think that everything must be reduced under pain of sin to what performs a useful function: this would be to fall into a kind of Jansenist aesthetic. If certain mechanical constructions (an automobile, steamship, railway coach, airplane, etc.) are beautiful once their type is definitely established, and all their parts strictly conceived according to their use in the whole, it is because the law of utility here masks and embodies a more profound law, the law of mathematical harmony, and more generally of logic. It is logic which gives the useful its aesthetic value, and logic goes beyond the useful. In nature there is a multitude of characteristics of an entirely ornamental kind and of no practical utility. The patterns of a butterfly's wing are of no use, but everything in them is logically necessary (in relation to a certain idea gratuitously chosen).
Delacroix observed that in the great architect there is "an absolutely essential harmony of great good sense and great inspiration. The details of utility which constitute the starting-point of architecture, details which are of the essence, take precedence over all the adornments. The architect, nevertheless, is an artist only in so far as he suitably adorns this useful which is his theme. I say suitably, for even after establishing in all particulars the exact relation of his plan with the uses to which the building will be put, he can adorn his plan only in a certain way. He is not free to be lavish or stingy with the adornments. They, too, must be suited to the plan just as the plan was made to suit the uses." (Journal, June 14, 1850.) It is in this sense that Auguste Perret likes to say that the best treatise on architecture was written by Fénelon in the following passage from his Discours à l'Académie: "No part of a building should be there simply as adornment; but, aiming always at beautiful proportions, one must turn into adornment all the parts necessary to support a building." (Fénelon, Oeuvres complètes, Paris, 1850, T. VI, p. 607.)
104. Cf. Maurice Denis, "Les Nouvelles Directions de l'Art Chrétien" (Nouvelles Théories, Rouart et Watelin, 1922): "Every lie is unbearable in the temple of truth."
105. Rodin, Entretiens réunis par Paul Gsell, Paris, Grasset, 1911.
106. "Le Symbolisme et l'Art religieux moderne" (op. cit.).
107. John of Saint Thomas, Curs. theol., t. VI, q. 62, disp. 16, a. 4.
108. As is known, the Parthenon is not geometrically regular. It obeys a much higher logic and regularity, the zenithal direction of its columns and the curvature of its horizontal lines and surfaces correcting the apparent distortions of line and plan in the visual perception, and perhaps assuring also greater stability against the seismic oscillations of the Attic earth.
109. See p. 17.
110. John of Saint Thomas, ibid.
111. Architecture also provides remarkable examples of this primacy accorded by the art of the Middle Ages to the intellectual and spiritual structure of the work, at the expense of material correctness -- in regard to which the technical equipment and the theoretical knowledge of our ancient builders remained very inadequate. In the architecture of the Middle Ages, "geometrical correctness or anything approaching it is nowhere to be found; there is never any rectilinear alignment, never any right-angled crossing or symmetrical counterpart -- irregularities and afterthoughts everywhere. Moreover the centering of the vaults had to be specially prepared for each bay, even in the best-constructed buildings of mediaeval art. The curves, especially in the arches of the vaulting, are no more accurate than the alignment and the division of the bays. Nor is their symmetry of equilibrium any more accurate. The keystones are not found in the middle of the arches or the vaulting -- and sometimes the disproportions are considerable. . . . The right side of a building is, so to speak, never symmetrical with the left side. . . . Everything is approximate in this art which is, however, very deliberate, but careless of exactitude. Perhaps it is to this simplicity of construction that the sincerity and naturalness of this architecture owe their remaining so full of charm . . ." (A. Vailant,op. cit., pp. 119, 364). The same author points out that since in those days building plans could not be made on paper as nowadays, and since the only drawing-material at their disposal was rare and costly vellum, which they used sparingly and washed so as to use again, "the projected work was represented in its essential elements chiefly by means of a reduced model. One worried about details only at the moment when they were about to take shape, when one knew the scale exactly -- and then by using familiar rules and elements. It was on the job that the solution of all the building problems was considered and discovered, and the difficulties overcome. The same still holds for workmen nowadays, with this difference that they are wanting in education and apprenticeship-training and so their experience is mere gross routine.
"When one thinks of the enormous quantity of paper required by us in order to plan and prepare the erection of our modern buildings, and of the calculations indispensable to the working out of our slightest projects, one is amazed at the depth of intellectual power, the range of memory, and the positive talent of the master builders and foremen of those times, who were able to build these grandiose and magnificent monuments, inventing daily and ceaselessly perfecting. The artistic power of the Middle Ages is extraordinary, in spite of a scanty and fumbling technical knowledge."
The clumsiness of the primitive painters is not solely due to the inadequacy of their material means. It is also due to what may be called in them a kind of intellectualist realism. "Their clumsiness," writes Maurice Denis, "consists in painting objects according to their everyday knowledge of them, instead of painting them, as do the moderns, according to a preconceived idea of the picturesque or the aesthetic. The Primitive . . . prefers reality to the appearance of reality. Rather than resign himself to distortions of perspective which have no interest for his maiden eye, he makes the image of things conform to the notion he has of them" (Théories, Paris, Rouart et Watelin, 1912). Let us say that his eye is entirely dominated by a sort of rational instinct.
112. These stultae quaestiones are those which, if raised in a certain science or discipline, would go against the first conditions implied by this very science or discipline. (Cf. Saint Thomas, Comment. in ep. ad Titum, III, 9; apropos Saint Paul's exhortation: "avoid foolish questions.")
113. Too many theories have rendered the word "classical" irritating to our ears and terribly hackneyed. The fact remains that the definitions of words are free. The important thing is to distinguish the authentic from the sham -- they sometimes bear the same label -- and to realize all the liberty the first requires.
As is known, Gino Severini published a significant book in 1921 entitled Du Cubisme au Classicisme (Paris, Povolozky), in which he invites the protractor, the compass and number to provide the means of escaping from mere expediency and good taste. Science and technique, which belong to the still material means of art, are not, to be sure, sufficient conditions, and it would be a great mistake to expect everything from them. But they are the first necessary conditions of honest art, and Severini's book isa most valuable testimony on that score.
114. Jean Cocteau, Le Coq et l'Arlequin, 1918 (Le Rappel à l'Ordre, Paris, Stock, 1926).
115. Republic, Bk. X.
116. And yet there is a poetic knowledge which is very often of greater worth than geometry (cf. note 130). But it has nothing to do with imitation.
"We have too long accustomed ourselves to consider truth in art from the sole point of view of imitation. There is no paradox in maintaining the contrary, that imitation that would fool the eye is synonomous with lying, and lying with the intention of deceiving. A painting conforms to its truth, to truth itself, when it says well what it must say and fulfills its decorative role." Maurice Denis, loc. cit.
"What a mistake it is to think that drawing means accuracy! Drawing means the will to create a form: the more powerful and reasoned the will, the more beautiful the drawing. And that's all there is to it: the merit of the best Primitives lies not in their simplicity, as people keep saying, but in their concern for the whole, which is all drawing is. The best Cubists are like them" (Max Jacob, Art poétique, Paris, 1922). I find an interesting equivalent of the Thomist definition of art, recta ratio factibilium, in the following formula by the same poet: "Art is the will to exteriorize oneself by selected means" (Preface to Cornet à dés, Paris, Delamain et Boutelleau, 1922). What he then goes on to call "situation," and rightly distinguishes from "art" or "style," depends on the spiritual quality of the work. "Once he has situated his work, the author can employ all the charms -- language, rhythm, music and wit. When a singer has his voice well placed he can amuse himself with trills." Let me add that if a philosophical work is "situated," the author can employ without disadvantage the special charm to be found in the barbarism of technical terms. 117. Poet., IV, 1448 b 5-14.
118. Or, more probably, by the desire to signify an object by means of an ideogram, with perhaps a magical intention; for these drawings, being necessarily in darkness, could not have been made to look at. In a general way -- as appears in particular from the study of the vases recently discovered at Susa, and dating, doubtless, from about 3000 B.C. -- the art of drawing would seem to have begun by being a writing, and by answering hieroglyphic, ideographic, or even heraldic concerns, entirely foreign to aesthetics, the concern for beauty being introduced only much later.
119. Poet., I, 1447 a 28.
120. "[Cézanne] once asked me what the connoisseurs thought of Rosa Bonheur. I told him it was generally agreed that the Laboureur Nivernais was stunning. -- 'Yes,' replied Cézanne, 'it's a horribly accurate likeness.'" (Ambroise Vollard, Paul Cézanne, Paris, Crès, 1919.)
121. In a number of articles in the review Nord- Sud (cf. in particular June-July 1917, October 1917, March 1918), Pierre Reverdy asserted in the clearest possible way the claims of a purely creative aesthetic, free from all concern with evocation or imitation -- claims which constituted the deep interest of the Cubist movement, but which far exceed it, for they manifest to an impossible degree one of the extreme exigencies of art.
I think that my exposition has sufficiently shown that the evocation or imitation of things is in no way the aim of art, but that our art nevertheless cannot recompose its own world, its autonomous "poetic reality," except by first of all discerning, in that which is, the forms that it manifests, and by thus resembling things in a more profound and more mysterious manner than any direct evocation possibly can.
"The image," writes Reverdy, "is a pure creation of the mind; it cannot be born from a comparison, but from the bringing together of two realities more or less remote from one another. . . . An image is not strong because it is brutal or fantastic -- but because the association of ideas is remote and exact. . . . An image is not created by comparing (always weakly) two disproportionate realities. On the contrary, a strong image, new for the mind, is created by bringing together without comparison two distant realities whose relationship has been grasped by the mind alone."
These lines must be kept in mind, if modern poetry and poetry in general are to be understood. The image so conceived is the opposite of metaphor, which compares one known thing with another known thing in order the better to express the former by covering it with the latter. The image discloses one thing with the help of another -- and, at the same stroke, their likeness; it makes the unknown known. In a more general way I have already observed elsewhere (Petite Logique, no 20) that "the most striking and least expected images of the poets originate, perhaps, in the difficulties man experiences when he wants to express to himself and really make himself see even the most ordinary things by the help of the imagery of language, difficulties which compel him to renew this imagery." (Cf. Jean Paulhan, Jacob Cow, le pirate, ou Si les mots sont des signes. Paris: Du Sans Pareil . . . , 1921.)
Words are signs at the same time as being sounding matter; on this ground we use them in discourse in place of things, which cannot be made to appear themselves in our midst (Aristotle, I Elench., 1): that is why, in language's youth, words were filled with such a terrible, magical and magnificent power. The powerfully metaphysical instinct of primitive man might go astray in practical applications; it still bore witness to the nature of the sign and to that astounding power bestowed on man of being able to name things. But words are not pure signs ("formal signs"); they are imperfect signs which quickly become loaded with subjectivity, each one dragging after it the whole psychological stuff of a race. In particular a prolonged social use tends of itself to make them lose their spirituality and to debase their nature as sins, so as to make them things of value in themselves, which set off mental reactions without the intervention of any signification; and the less such intervention, the more these reactions. Many instructive observations on this point are to be found in Jean Paulhan's "Expérience du Proverbe" (in Commerce; cahiers trimestriels, Paris, Cahier V, 1924).
Victor Hugo's error was to rely on the material dynamism of the word- thing. I think on the contrary that it is the duty of the poet, while using words as the matter of his work, to react against this tendency of the sign to transform itself into a thing, and thus to maintain or recover by force, in the sensitive flesh of the word, the spirituality of language. Hence an invention, a creation of new images, which may appear obscure but is nevertheless necessitated by exactness. With a courage that is sometimes absurd, modern poetry has undertaken to purge language. In spite of contradictory appearances and aberrant phenomena such as, only recently, Dadaism and "free" words, poetry is heading rather in the direction of objectivity, seeking a form of expression which will convey without lying, and in which the mind will force the word, with its whole weight of matter, to exercise faithful signification in the closed world of the poem.
122. Lecturing, January 7, 1668, at the Royal Academy of Painting, on Poussin's Eliezer and Rebecca, Philippe de Champaigne expressed regret that the Master had not seen fit to depict "the camels mentioned in Holy Writ." Lebrun thereupon replied that "M. Poussin, in a constant endeavor to purify and disencumber the subject of his paintings and to portray attractively the main action he was dealing with, had rejected any bizarre object likely to debauch the eye of the beholder and amuse it with trifles" (in Henry Jouin, Conférences de l'Académie royale de Peinture et de Sculpture, Paris, A. Quantin, 1883, pp, 93-94). Alas! the facile descent to the commonplace and the noble catch-word was to prove only too easy; and of Poussin himself, "that philosophical painter," Delacroix could say "he was perhaps so called because he gave to the idea a little more than painting requires." ("Variations du Beau," Revue des Deux Mondes, July 15, 1857; Oeuvres littéraires, I, "Études esthétiques."[*s]) The fact remains that the precept in itself was sound.[*t]
Cf. this page from Nietzsche on style: "How is decadence in literature characterised? By the fact that in it life no longer animates the whole. Words become predominant and leap right out of the sentence to which they belong, the sentences themselves trespass beyond their bounds, and obscure the sense of the whole page, and the page in its turn gains in vigour at the cost of the whole, -- the whole is no longer a whole. But this is the formula for every decadent style: there is always anarchy among the atoms, disaggregation of the will -- in moral terms 'freedom of the individual,' extended into a political theory: 'equal rights for all.' Life, equal vitality, all the vitality and exuberance of life driven back into the smallest structure, and the remainder left almost lifeless. Everywhere paralysis, distress and numbness, or hostility and chaos: both striking one with ever-increasing force as one ascends higher in the forms of organisation. The whole no longer lives at all: it is composed, reckoned up, artificial, a fictitious thing."
"Victor Hugo and Richard Wagner," wrote Nietzsche again, "they both prove one and the same thing: that in declining civilisations, wherever the mob is allowed to decide, genuineness becomes superfluous, prejudicial, unfavourable. The actor, alone, can still kindle great enthusiasm. And thus it is his golden age which is now dawning- -his and that of all those who are in any way related to him. With drums and fifes, Wagner marches at the head of all artists in declamation, in display and virtuosity. . . ." (Nietzsche, The Case of Wagner, translated by A. M. Ludovici, London, Allen and Unwin, 1911.)
"The works of Hugo," wrote Delacroix in 1844, "are like the rough copy of a man who has talent: he says everything that comes into his head" (Delacroix's Journal, September 22, 1844).
123. Jeremias, I, 6. It might be said that, without being knowledge (speculative), and precisely because it is not knowledge, unless it be operative knowledge of the thing-to-be-made, art furnishes us a substitute for direct intellectual knowledge of the singular, which is the privilege of the angelic mind. Art expresses the singular not in a mental word or concept, but in the material work it makes. And by the path of the senses it leads the creative mind of the artist to an obscure experimental perception -- not expressible speculatively -- of the individual realities, grasped as such, in the bosom of the universal itself. "For a child," Max Jacob once said, "an individual stands alone in a species; for a man, it enters into the species; for an artist, it emerges from it." Cf. note 130.
124. Saint Thomas, Comment. in Psalm., Prolog.
125. The delight of the sense itself is required in art only ministerialiter; that is why the artist towers so high above this delight and disposes it so freely: nevertheless it is required.
126. It is by virtue of these laws that, according to Baudelaire's remark, "seen at too great a distance to analyse or even to understand its subject, a picture by Delacroix has already produced on the soul a rich impression of happiness or melancholy" (Curiosités esthétiques, Salon de 1855). Elsewhere (ibid., Salon de 1846) Baudelaire wrote: "The good way to determine whether a picture is melodious is to consider it from far enough off so as to understand neither the subject nor the lines. If it is melodious, it already has a meaning, and it has already taken its place in the repertory of memories."
127. To tell the truth it is difficult to determine in what precisely this imitation-copy consists, the concept of which seems so clear to minds which move among the simplified schemata of the popular imagination.
Is it the imitation or the copy of what the thing in itself is, its intelligible type? But that is an object of conception, not of sensation, something which can be neither seen nor touched, and which art, consequently, cannot directly reproduce. Is it the imitation or the copy of the sensations produced in us by the thing? But these sensations reach the consciousness of each one of us only as refracted by an inner atmosphere of memories and emotions, and are, moreover, eternally changing, in a flux in which all things lose their form and continuously intermingle; so that, from the point of view of pure sensation, it must be said with the Futurists that "a galloping horse has not four hoofs but twenty, that our bodies run into the sofas on which we sit and the sofas run into us, that the motorbus rushes into the houses it passes, and that the houses in turn hurl themselves upon the motorbus and become one with it. . . ."
The reproduction or exact copy of nature thus appears as the object of an impossible pursuit -- a concept which vanishes when an attempt is made to define it. In practice it resolves itself into the idea of a representation of things such as photography or casting would give, or rather -- for these mechanical processes themselves produce results that are "false" as far as our perception is concerned-into the idea of a representation of things capable of inducing an illusion and deceiving our senses (which is moreover no longer a copy pure and simple but presupposes, on the contrary, an artificial faking); in short, into the idea of that naturalist trompe-l'oeil which interests only the art of the Musée Grevin or Madame Tussaud's.
128. Cf. Louis Dimier, Histoire de la peinture française au XlXe siècle, Paris, Delagrave, 1914.
129. Ambroise Vollard, Paul Cézanne, Paris, Crès, 1919. "From nature," that is to say, contemplating and deriving inspiration from nature. If it were meant that it is necessary to recreate Poussin by painting according to nature, with nature as the constituent feature, Cézanne's dictum would deserve all the criticism it has received. "It is not by sensation you become classical, but by the mind" (Gino Severini, Du Cubisme au Classicisme. Cf. G. Severini, "Cézanne et le Cézannisme," L'Esprit Nouveau, Nos. 11, 12 and 13, 1921; Émile Bernard, "La Méthode de Paul Cézanne," Mercure de France, March 1, 1920; "L'erreur de Cézanne," ibid., May 1, 1926.
Then again, there is the very accurate definition offered by Maurice Denis many years ago: "Remember that before being some anecdote or other a painting is essentially a plane surface covered with colors assembled in a certain order" (Art et Critique, August 23, 1890).
"One must not paint from Nature," said for his part Edgar Degas, that most scrupulous observer of nature (quoted by J. E. Blanche, Propos de peintre, de David à Degas).
"In fact," observes Baudelaire, "all good and genuine draftsmen draw according to the picture inscribed in their minds, and not according to Nature. If the admirable sketches of Raphael, Watteau and a number of others are urged against this statement, I would answer that they are only notes -- very detailed, it is true, but mere notes just the same. When a real artist comes to the definitive execution of his work, the model is rather a hindrance to him than a help. It even happens that men like Daumier and M. Guys, long accustomed to exercising their memories and filling them with pictures, find their main faculty upset and well-nigh paralyzed when confronted with the model and the multiplicity of details which it involves.
"A duel then takes place between the will to see everything, to forget nothing, and the faculty of memory which has acquired the habit of quickly absorbing the general color, the silhouette and the arabesque of the outline. An artist with a perfect feeling for form, but accustomed to exercise chiefly his memory and imagination, then finds himself harassed, as it were, by a pack of details, all clamoring for impartiality with the fury of a mob passionately seeking absolute equality. Every right finds itself inevitably violated, all harmony ruined and sacrificed; trivialities assume gigantic proportions, pettinesses intrude. The further the artist goes towards an impartial treatment of detail, the more the anarchy increases. Whether he be short-sighted or long-sighted, all hierarchy and all subordination vanish" (L'Art romantique).
130. "The artist, on the contrary, sees: that is to say," Rodin felicitously explained, "his eye grafted on his heart reads deep into the bosom of Nature" (Rodin, Entretiens réunis par Paul Gsell, Paris, Grasset, 1911).
It is proper to insist here on the altogether particular knowledge by which the poet, the painter and the musician perceive in things forms and secrets that are hidden to others and which are expressible only in the work -- a knowledge which may be called poetic knowledge and which falls under the heading of knowledge through connaturality, or, as one says today, existential knowledge. Some explanations on this point may be found in my book Frontières de la Poésie et autres essais (Paris: Louis Rouart et fils, 1935), particularly in the chapter entitled La Clef des chants. Cf. also Thomas Gilby, Poetic Experience, London, Sheed and Ward, 1934; Theodor Haecker, La notion de vérité chez Soren Kierkegaard, Courrier des îles, n. 4, Paris, Desclée de Brouwer, 1934.
See note 138.
131. Baudelaire, Curiosités esthétiques ("Le Musée Bonne-Nouvelle").
The considerations advanced in the text make it possible to reconcile two series of apparently contradictory expressions current among artists.
Gauguin and Maurice Denis, each a thoughtful and highly conscientious artist -- among how many others in modern painting! -- will tell you, for example, that "what is most of all to be deplored" is "this notion that Art consists in copying something" (Théories); "to think that Art consists in copying or reproducing things exactly is to pervert the meaning of art" (bid.). "Copy" is here understood in the proper sense of the word -- in the sense of imitation taken materially and as aiming at deceiving the eye.
Ingres, on the contrary, or Rodin, each more impassioned and of less acute intelligence, will tell you that "you must simply copy, copy like a fool, slavishly copy what you find under your eyes" (E.-E. Amaury-Duval, L'Atelier d'Ingres, nouv. éd., Paris, Crès, 1925); "in everything obey Nature and never try to give her orders. My one ambition is to be slavishly faithful to her" (Paul Gsell, Rodin). The words "copy" and "slavishly" are here understood in a very improper sense: in reality it is not a question of slavishly imitating the object, but, what is entirely different, of manifesting with the utmost fidelity, at the cost of all the "distortions" that may be necessary, the form or ray of intelligibility whose brilliance is apprehended in the real. Ingres, as Maurice Denis judiciously points out (Théories), meant to copy the Beauty which he perceived in Nature through frequenting the Greeks and Raphael;[*u] he "thought he would make us copy nature," says Amaury-Duval, "by making us copy it as he saw it," and he was the first, in Odilon Redon's phrase, "to turn out monsters." Rodin, for his part, was only attacking (and how justly!) those who pretended to "embellish" or "idealize" Nature by means of aesthetic recipes, to portray it "not as it is, but as it ought to be"; and he had to admit that he emphasized, accentuated, and exaggerated in order to reproduce not only "the exterior" but "the spirit as well, which, certainly, is also part of Nature" -- the "spirit," another word to describe what is here called "form."
It must, however, be observed that the "distortions" produced by the painter or the sculptor are most often the quite spontaneous result of a personal "vision" rather than the effect of deliberate calculation. By a phenomenon which the psychologists would have no difficulty explaining, they simply and steadfastly believe themselves to be copying Nature, whereas they are expressing in matter a secret which she has communicated to their souls. "If I have changed anything in Nature," said Rodin, "I was unaware of doing so at the time. The feeling that influenced my vision showed me Nature just as I copied it. . . . If I had wanted to modify what I saw and embellish it, I would have produced nothing of any value." For this reason "it may be said that all of the innovators since Cimabue," possessed with the same anxiety to interpret more faithfully, have likewise "believed they were submitting themselves to Nature" (J. E. Blanche, Propos de peintre, de David à Degas).
Thus in order to imitate, the artist transforms, as Töppfer said -- that amiable, garrulous forerunner whose Menus propos contains many judicious remarks on this subject; but ordinarily he is not aware that he is transforming. This somehow natural illusion, this disparity between what the artist does and what he thinks he does, may perhaps explain the peculiar divergence between the great art of the Greco- Roman classics, so filially free in regard to Nature, and their theories, sometimes so flatly naturalist (for instance Zeuxis' anecdote of the grapes). Not that such theories, it must be admitted, prevent this art, if it relaxes its effort ever so little, from being seriously threatened by naturalism. Indeed, from Greek idealism, which claims to copy an ideal exemplar of Nature, the transition is all too easily made -- as the author of Théories has fortunately observed -- to naturalism, which copies nature itself in its contingent materiality. Thus painting that seeks to induce an illusion and deceive the eye dates back to antiquity, as Jacques Blanche says -- yes, but to the decadent periods of ancient art.
If, in this respect, mediaeval art has been safeguarded by its sublime simplicity and humility, and also by the hieratic traditions which it inherited from the Byzantines, so that as a rule it maintains itself at the spiritual level which a later classical art, so to speak, attains only at its summits, Renaissance art, on the contrary, allowed itself to be seriously contaminated.
Is it not strange to hear an artist of the stature of Leonardo defend painting with truly humiliating arguments? "[A] painting, representing the father of a family, which was caressed not only by the little children when still in swaddling clothes, but likewise by the dog and the cat of the household, a marvellous thing and an extraordinary spectacle to behold." ". . . I have seen a picture that deceived a dog because of the likeness to its master; likewise I have seen dogs bark and try to bite painted dogs, and a monkey that did an infinite number of foolish things with another painted monkey. I have seen flying swallows light on painted iron bars before the windows of buildings." "A painter once made a picture which made everybody who saw it yawn and yawn repeatedly as long as they kept their eyes on the picture, which represented a man who was also yawning." (Textes choisis, Péladan, Paris, 1907, ^^357, 362, 363; A. Philip McMahon's translation in Treatise on Painting, by Leonardo da Vinci, Princeton University Press, 1956, pp. 9, 20, 22.)
Thank Heaven Leonardo lived painting otherwise than he thought it, although with him "the Renaissance aesthetic, expression by the subject, becomes definitely established,"[*v] and although it is true to say of him with André Suarès: "He seems to live only to know: much less does he live to create. . . . As long as he is studying and observing, he is the slave of Nature. Once he begins to invent, he is the slave of his ideas: theory stifles in him the ardent play of creation. Most of his figures, although born of fire, are lukewarm, and some of them as cold as ice."[*w] In any event, it is ideas such as those Leonardo delighted in which, later codified by the teaching of the Academies, compelled the modern artist to react and to become reflectively conscious of his creative liberty in regard to Nature ("Nature is only a dictionary," Delacroix liked to say) -- at the expense sometimes of the simplicity of his vision, which calculation and analysis put in jeopardy, to the greatest detriment of art.
In this connection we cannot insist too much on the distinction indicated above (note 95) between the artist's "vision" or, again, his invention, his conception of the work, - - and the means of execution or realization which he employs.
So far as the vision or conception is concerned, simplicity, spontaneity, candor unconscious of itself, is the most precious gift the artist can have, a unique gift, a gift par excellence, which Goethe considered to be "demoniac," so gratuitous and beyond analysis does it seem.
If this gift makes room for some system or calculation, for some bias of "style" such as Baudelaire alleged against Ingres, or such as can be observed in certain Cubists, then ingenuous "distortion" or, rather, transformation through spiritual fidelity to the form shining in things and to their profound life, makes room for artificial "distortion," for "distortion" in the pejorative sense of the term, that is to say, for violence or deceit, and art withers to this extent.
So far as the means, on the contrary, are concerned, it is reflection, consciousness, and artifice, which are required. Between the conception and the accomplished work there is a great gap -- the proper domain of art and its means -- filled by an interplay of deliberate combinations which make the realization "the result of a patiently conducted and conscious logic" (Paul Valéry) and of an ever-vigilant prudence. So it is that the Venetians artificially substitute for the magic of sunshine "the equivalent magic of color" (Théories), and that in our day the transformations which a Picasso makes objects undergo appear as fundamentally intentional.
If the "distortions" due to the artist's vision or conception impose themselves upon him -- in the very degree in which his art is truly living -- with a pure and as it were instinctive spontaneity, there can of course be others which depend on the means of art, and these are deliberate and calculated.[*x] Many instances are to be found in the masters, and in the greatest of them all, in Rembrandt, of such transformations, distortions, abbreviations and redispositions, all deliberately effected. The works of the Primitives are full of them, because they were more concerned with signifying objects or actions than representing their appearances. Goethe took the occasion of an engraving by Rubens to give a profitable lesson to the worthy Eckermann (Eckermann, Conversations with Goethe, April 18, 1827, in Goethes Gespräche, Bd. 3, Leipzig, 1910). Goethe shows the engraving to Eckermann, who proceeds to relate in detail all its beauties.
"'All these things which we see represented,' Goethe asks, 'the flock of sheep, the cart with hay, the horses, the returning laborers, -- from which side are they lighted?'
"'They are lighted from our side and cast their shadows towards the interior of the picture. The returning laborers, particularly, are in full light, and this produces an excellent effect.'
"'But how has Rubens brought about this beautiful effect?'
"'By making these clear figures stand out against a dark background.'
"'But how is this dark background produced?'
"'By the mass of shadow cast by the group of trees beside the figures. But how,' continued I, with surprise, 'the figures cast their shadows towards the interior of the picture, and the group of trees, on the contrary, casts its shadow towards us! The light comes from two opposite sides! That's certainly absolutely contrary to Nature!'
"'That's just the point,' said Goethe with the trace of a smile. 'That's where Rubens shows himself to be great and proves that his free spirit is above Nature and deals with her as befits his exalted aim. The double light is certainly a violent device and you can always say that it is contrary to Nature: but if it is contrary to Nature, I would immediately add that it is higher than Nature. I say that it is a bold stroke of the master, who shows with genius that art is not entirely subject to the necessities imposed by Nature and that it has its own laws. . . . The artist stands in a twofold relation to Nature: he is at once her master and her slave. He is her slave in the sense that he must work with earthly means in order to be understood; he is her master in the sense that he subjects these earthly means to his high intentions and makes them serve these latter. The artist would speak to the world through a whole, but he does not find this whole in Nature: it is the fruit of his own spirit, or, if you will, his spirit is fecundated by the inspiration of a divine breath. If we cast but a careless glance on this picture, everything strikes us as so natural that we take it to be simply copied from Nature. But it is not so. Such a beautiful picture has never been seen in Nature, any more than a landscape by Poussin or Claude Lorrain, which appears very natural to us, but which we seek in vain in reality itself.' "
Cf. Conrad Fiedler, Ueber die Beurtheilung von Werken der bildenen Kunst, Leipzig, Hirzel, 1876. "The artist has no need of Nature; rather, Nature has need of the artist," wrote Fiedler, in a formula which anticipates a famous dictum of Oscar Wilde. There are to be found in this little work many judicious remarks on art and operative intellectuality, and in particular on the sense of existence, the typical Weltbewusstsein which is bound up with the development of the peculiar faculties of the artist and which is characterized by the meeting and, so to speak, coincidence of intuition and necessity. "So a man," Goethe said, "who has been born and educated to the so-called exact sciences, will at the height of his reason not easily understand that there could also be an exact sense image, without which, after all, no art is conceivable."
132. Cf. Summa theol., I, 45, 8. The capacity of matter to obey the human artist, who makes it yield effects superior to any it could give under the action of physical agents, even furnishes theologians (cf. Saint Thomas, Compendium theologiae, cap. 104; Garrigou-Lagrange, De Revelatione, I, p. 377) with the most profound analogy to the obediential potency which is in things and souls with regard to God, and which delivers them over, in the very depths of their being, to the invisible power of the first Agent, to be raised under His action to the supernatural order or to miraculous effects. "And I went down into the potter's house, and behold he was doing a work on the wheel. . . . Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying: Cannot I do with you, as this potter, O house of Israel, saith the Lord? Behold, as clay is in the hand of the potter, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel" (Jeremias, XVIII, 3, 5-6).
133. Cf. Saint Thomas, In I Sent., d. 32, q. I, 3, 2.
134. The ancient maxim ars imitatur naturam, does not mean: "art imitates nature by reproducing it," but rather "art imitates nature by proceeding or operating like nature, ars imitatur naturam IN SUA OPERATIONE." Thus it is that Saint Thomas applies this maxim to Medicine, which is certainly not, however, an "imitative art" (Summa theol., I, 117, 1).
Let us understand in this sense Claudel's observation: "Our works and the means we use do not differ from those of nature" (Art poétique. 8e éd. Paris: Mercure de France, 1913).
135. Paul Claudel, La Messe là-bas (Paris: N.R.F., 1919). -- Sicchè vostr'arte a dio quasi è nepote, said Dante.
136. Quoted by Albert André in his book Renoir (Paris: Crès, 1919).
137. The judgment of taste is something altogether different from the judgment of art: it is of the speculative order. Taste relates to the power of perception and delight of the one who sees or hears the work; it does not by itself concern the operative intellect, and however useful the knowledge and frequentation of the things of art and of working reason[*y] may be to its development, it does not of itself imply the least shadow of the artistic habitus itself; it pertains to the powers of contemplation; and this is why the Greeks (the whole error of Platonism is, in my opinion, involved here) thought that it is better and nobler to be capable of enjoying the works of Phidias than to be Phidias himself. It is also why taste is such a dangerous thing for the creator -- useful and dangerous and misleading for him: because it relates to the speculative intellect (and to the sense), not to the practical intellect. Many great artists had very poor taste. And many men with a perfect taste were mediocre creators -- what is the music Nietzsche wrote, in comparison with his views on music?
Taste is not even a habitus of the speculative intellect -- it has no necessary and sufficiently fixed object on which to take hold. It concerns the sense as much as the intellect, and it concerns the intellect as bound up with the exercise of the sense: no universe of knowledge is more complex and more unstable. However certain it may be in actual fact, aesthetic taste depends, not on habitus properly so-called, but on habitual disposition and cleverness, as does also the taste of the wine-taster. And it is always at the mercy of the invention -- by the artist -- of new types of works in which an aspect of beauty appears.
138. From this point of view the symbolist conception, such as Maurice Denis expounds it, seems to be not yet free of all confusion. "Symbolism," wrote Denis (Nouvelles Théories), "is the art of translating and inducing states of soul by means of relations of colors and forms. These relations, invented or borrowed from Nature, become signs or symbols of these states of soul: they have the power to suggest them. . . . The Symbol claims to give rise straightway in the soul of the spectator to the whole gamut of human emotions by means of the gamut of colors and forms, or let us say, of sensations, which corresponds to them. . . ." And -- after quoting the following passage from Bergson: "The object of art is to put to sleep the active, or rather, resistant powers of our personality, and thus to lead us to a state of perfect docility in which we realize the idea suggested to us and sympathize with the feeling expressed" -- Maurice Denis adds: "All our confused memories having been thus revivified, all our subconscious energies having been thus set in motion, the work of art worthy of the name creates in us a mystical state, or at least a state analoguous to the mystical vision, and, in certain degree, makes God sensible to the heart." It is perfectly true that art has the effect of inducing in us affective states, but this is not its end or its object: a fine distinction, if you will, but still an extremely important one. Everything gets out of hand if one takes as the end that which is simply a conjoined effect or a repercussion, and if one makes of the end itself (to produce a work in which the splendor of a form shines on a proportioned matter) a simple means (to induce, in others, states of soul and emotions, to put to sleep one's resistances and to set in motion one's subconscious).
The fact remains -- it's a point I think I have sufficiently indicated -- that art has as its proper effect to cause the one who enjoys the work to participate in the poetic knowledge which the artists is privileged to possess (cf. above, note 130). This participation is one of the elements of aesthetic perception or emotion -- in the sense that, produced immediately as a proper effect by the perception or emotion of the beautiful (considered in its essential nucleus), it redounds upon this perception or emotion, nourishes it, expands and deepens it. It is in this sense that the page from C. E. M. Joad, quoted in note 73, must be understood. Causae ad invicem sunt causae.
The objections that Father Arthur Little has advanced against my views, in an interesting and brilliant analysis ("Jacques Maritain and His Aesthetic," Studies, Dublin, Sept. 1930), oblige me to insist on this point. As my friend Father Leonard Castellani wrote in his reply to this article ("Arte y Escolástica," Criterio, Buenos Aires, Sept. 10, 1931), "the critic has confused the aim of the work (finis operantis)"; and besides he has attributed to my positions "a restricted and exclusive meaning which they do not have."
Father Castellani has excellently shown that as a matter of fact it is the very question of the specification of habitus and the opposition of Scotism and Thomism concerning the intellect and the will, which are at issue in this debate. I cannot do better than to refer the reader to Father Castellani's article.
For Father Little, it is a "communication of experience" which constitutes the essence of art. I do not regard it as altogether accidental and extrinsic to art; I know that it plays a capital role in the artist's activity as in Shelley's admirable poem One Word. It relates, as a matter of fact, to the social essence of the human being and to the need to communicate that is natural to spirit as such, to intellect and to love -- who, indeed, speaks, except to be heard? But I hold that it does not consitute the specifying object of the artistic habitus. It is, in the sense defined in this note (that is to say, for the artist, as a condition of exercise of primary importance, and, for the one who enjoys the work, as proper effect of the perception of the beautiful), an integral element of the artist's activity and of aesthetic emotion.
139. Cf. Aristotle, Polit., VIII, 7, 1341 b 40; Poet., VI, 1449 b 27.
140. Lettres de Marie-Charles Dulac, Bloud, 1905, letter of February 6, 1896.
141. There is no school in which one can learn "Christian art" in the sense here defined. But there can very well be schools in which one can learn Church art or sacred art, which, given its special object, has its own special conditions -- and which has also, alas! a terrible need of being raised from the decadence into which it has fallen.
I shall not discuss this decadence here -- too much would have to be said. Instead, let me quote these lines of Marie-Charles Dulac: "There is something I should like and for which I pray: it is that everything beautiful be brought back to God and serve to praise Him. Everything we see in creatures and creation must be returned to Him; and what distresses me is to see His spouse, Our Holy Mother the Church, decked out with horrors. Everything that manifests her exeriorly is so ugly -- she, who within is so beautiful. No effort is spared to make her look grotesque. Her body, in the beginning, was naked, delivered to the beasts; then artists set their souls to decorating her; then vanity and finally industrial manufacture take a hand, and, thus bedizened, she is delivered over to ridicule. Here is another kind of beast, less noble than a lion and more sinister . . ." (Letter of June 25, 1897).
"They are satisfied with work which is dead. . . . They are at an ultra-inferior level, so far as the comprehension of art is concerned. I am not now speaking of the public taste: I have noticed it as early as Michelangelo and Rubens, in the Low Countries -- it is impossible for me to find any life of soul in those fat bodies. You understand that I am not so much speaking of bulk, but of the complete privation of interior life -- and this in the wake of an epoch in which the heart had expanded so freely, had spoken so candidly; one returned to the coarse meants of paganism, only to end finally in the indecencies of Louis XIV.
"But you know, what makes the artist is not the artist: it is they who pray. And they who pray have only what they ask for; still more. I firmly count on there being some lights; for considering the modern Greeks who imitate the rigid ways of long ago, the Protestants who make nothing at all and the Latins who make anything that comes into their heads, I find that in truth the Lord is not served by the manifestation of the Beautiful, that He is not praised by the Fine Arts in proportion to the graces He puts to their credit, and that it was even a sin to reject what was holy and within our reach and to take what was tarnished" (Letter of May 13, 1898).
Cf. on the same subject Abbé Maraud's essay Imagerie religieuse et Art populaire (published under the pseudonym of Faber; Bibl. des lettres français, 1914); and Alexandre Cingria's study La Décadence de l'Art Sacré (new and revised edition, Paris, éd. Art Catholique).
Apropos this book which he regards as "the most thorough and penetrating study" which has appeared "on this distressing subject," Paul Claudel wrote in an important letter to Alexandre Cingria: "They [the causes of this decadence] can all be summed up in one: the divorce, unhappily consummated this past century, between the propositions of the Faith and those powers of imagination and sensibility which are pre-eminently the privilege of the artist. On the one hand, a certain religious school, particularly in France, where the Quietist and Jansenist heresies have succeeded in sinisterly exaggerating this school's nature, has reserved, in the act of religious adherence, a too violently exclusive role for the spirit stripped of the flesh -- whereas what was baptized and what is to rise on the Last Day is the whole man in the integral and indissoluble unity of his twofold nature. On the other hand, the art subsequent to the Council of Trent and generally known under the absurd name of Baroque - - for which I have, like yourself, the liveliest admiration, as you well know -- seems to have taken for its aim, no longer, as did Gothic art, to represent the concrete facts and the historical truths of the Faith to the eyes of the multitude in the manner of a great open bible, but to manifest with noise, parade, and eloquence, and often with the most touching pathos, that space, vacant like a medallion, to which access is forbidden our pompously dismissed senses. And so we have saints who indicate to us by countenance and posture what is ineffable and invisible; we have the whole riotous abundance of ornamentation; we have angels who, in a whir of wings, uphold a picture that is indistinct and concealed by religious ceremony, and statues stirred as it were by a great wind from elsewhere. But before this elsewhere the imagination withdraws in fear and discouragement, and devotes all its resources to laying out the setting, whose essential purpose is to honor its content by quasi-official methods, which only too quickly degenerate into recipes and worn-out expedients."
After remarking that in the nineteenth century the "crisis of an ill- nurtured imagination" consummated the divorce between the senses -- "which had been diverted from that supernatural world which no effort was made to render accessible and desirable to them" -- and the theological virtues, Claudel goes on: "The essential spring of the creator, to wit, Imagination (or in other words the desire to procure immediately by resources peculiar to oneself and one's neighbor, with the help of elements assembled together, a certain picture of a world at once delightful, significant and rational) is thereby secretly injured, and with it the capacity to take its object seriously.
"As for the Church, in losing the envelope of Art it became in the last century like a man stripped of his clothes: in other words, that sacred body, composed of men at the same time believers and sinners, showed itself for the first time materially before the eyes of the world in all its nakedness, in a kind of exposition and permanent translation of its wounds and infirmities. To anyone who has the heart to look at them, modern churches have the interest and pathos of a burdened confession. Their ugliness is the outward manifestation of all our sins and shortcomings, our weakness, indigence, timidity of faith and feeling, dryness of heart, dislike of the supernatural, domination by conventions and formulas, overemphasis of individual and extravagant practices, worldly luxury, avarice, boasting, sullenness, Pharisaism and bombast. But, nevertheless, the soul within remains alive, infinitely sorrowful, patient and hopeful, that soul which one divines in all those poor old women and their absurd and deplorable hats in whose prayers I have taken part for the last thirty years at Low Masses in churches and chapels throughout the world. . . . Yes, even in such ghastly churches as Notre-Dame-des Champs or Saint Jean l'Évangéliste in Paris or the basilicas of Lourdes -- more tragic spectacles than the ruins of the Cathedral of Rheims -- even in these God is present: we can trust in Him, and He can trust us always to prepare for Him by our feeble personal meanas, in default of worthy thanks, a humiliation as great as that of Bethlehem" (Revue des jeunes, August 25, 1919).
142. "Art," wrote Léon Bloy in a celebrated passage, "is an aboriginal parasite of the skin of the first serpent. hence derive its overweening pride and power of suggestion. It is self- sufficient like a god, and the flowered crowns of princes, compared with its head-dress of lightning, are like iron-collars of torture. It will no more submit to worship than to obedience, and no man's will can make it bow before any altar. It may consent to give alms out of the superfluity of its pomp, to temples or palaces -- when it is more or less to its advantage; but you must not ask it for a thimbleful over and above what is strictly required. . . .
"One may meet a few rare and ill-fated individuals who are at the same time artists and Christians, but there cannot be a Christian art" (Belluaires et Porchers, Paris, Delamain et Boutelleau, 1923).
Here, as he often does, Bloy goes to the extreme, the better to bring home a profound antinomy. And that this antinomy does in fact make the advent of a Christian art singularly difficult, even in a privileged spiritual line, I do not deny. Nevertheless it is not insoluble, for nature is not essentially bad, as the Lutherans and Jansenists thought. However wounded it may be by sin, especially where it is rising up -- it can be cured by grace. Or do you think that the grace of Christ is powerless, that it meets an insurmountable obstacle in any one of the things, and the noblest things at that, which proceed from God, that it is incapable of setting art and beauty free, of making them docile to the Spirit of God, ad obediendum fidei in omnibus gentibus? God has no contrary. The intelligence of man can, and must, be given back to Him. It has only to pay the price, a higher price than Christian humanism believed. [A higher price, most certainly, than I myself believed in writing these lines, and than I can yet conceive; to tell the truth the eye of man cannot picture to itself the things of the Redemption -- fortunately, to be sure, for in that event who would dare to set out on the journey? It is enough to suffer them.] If it is true that the devil is always ready to offer his services to the artist, and that connivance with evil facilitates many things for the artist, the fact remains that to claim with André Gide that the devil collaborates in every work of art, to change a de facto frequency into a de jure necessity, is a kind of Manichean blasphemy. The hyperboles of Léon Bloy, need it be remarked, have quite a different meaning, and only tend to assert a mysterious sudden turn of fortune. (Cf. Stanislas Fumet, Le Procès de l'Art (Le roseau d'or), Paris, Plon, 1929; Mission de Léon Bloy, Paris, Desclée de Brouwer, 1935.) Let me quote these lines from an invaluable little essay:[*z] "Lucifer has cast the strong though invisible net of illusion upon us. He makes one love the passing moment above eternity, uncertainty above truth. He persuades us that we can only love creatures by making Gods of them. He lulls us to sleep; he makes us dream (he interprets our dreams); he makes us work. Then does the spirit of man brood over stagnant waters. Not the least of the devil's victories is to have convinced artists and poets that he is their necessary, inevitable collaborator and the guardian of their greatness. Grant him that, and soon you will grant him that Christianity is unpracticable.
"Thus does he reign in this world. In truth it seems that all belongs to him and that all must be wrested from him. Yet all has been already wrested from him; he is dispossessed (this time, without possible revenge) of the dominion he lost in the first catastrophe and regained in the Garden of Paradise. The world is saved and delivered from his hands. Yes! but on condition that the Blood of Redemption obe applied to the world and received into souls. . . . Let it be received and all will be reborn. All that now is but the magic and the fruit of death, -- art lost in lewdness, knowledge frenzied with pride, power consumed with avarice -- all that can be reborn like man himself. New births like these have come to light along the track of all the saints and men of goodwill."
143. This divine inspiration in the natural order was expressly recognized by the ancients, in particular by the author of the Eudemian Ethics in his well-known chapter on Good Fortune (Bk. VII, ch. 14). Saint Thomas likewise recognizes it, in distinguishing it from the essentially supernatural inspiration proper to the gifts of the Holy Spirit (Summa theol., I-II, 68, 1 and 2). Cf. my Réponse à Jean Cocteau (Paris: Stock, 1926), note 3; and Frontières de la Poésie et autres essais (Paris: Louis Rouart et fils, 1935), p. 50, note.
"The epic poets, all the good ones, utter their beautiful poems not from art, but because they are inspired and possessed. so it is also with the good lyric poets; as the worshipping Corybantes are not in their senses when they dance, so the lyric poets are not in their senses when they are composing their lovely strains. . . . A poet is a light and winged thing, and holy, and there is no invention in him until he has become inspired, and is out of his senses, and reason is no longer in him. So long as he has not attained to this state, no man is able to make poetry or to chant in prophecy. . . . One poet is supsended from one Muse, another from another; he is said to be 'possessed': for he is taken hold of. And from these primary rings, the poets, others are in turn supsended, some attached to Orpheus, some to Musaeus, from whom they derive inspiration" (Plato, Ion, 534, 536; Professor Maritains's translation, as in his Creative Intuition in Art and Poetry, New York, Pantheon Books, 1953, p. 101 -- Tr.)
"He who, having no touch of the Muses' madness in his soul, comes to the doors of poetry, trusting to enter in, and who thinks forsooth that art is enough to make him a poet, remains outside, a bungler: sound reason fades into nothingness before the poetry of madmen" (Plato, Phaedrus, 245; Professor Maritain's translation, ibid., p. 102 -- Tr.).
Since the powers of the unconscious, of the images and insticts of the subterranean world, have a great part to play in the inspiration of which Plato speaks, this world is worth what the sould of the poet is worth -- it is all the more divine the more profound and spiritual is the soul. And nothing is more accessible to supra-human influences, to inspiration properly so-called (whether of the natural or of the supernatural order) than this fluid and violent world.
144. I do not say that in order to make work that is Christian the artist must be a canonizable saint or a mystic who has attained to transforming union. I say that, by right, mystical contemplation and sanctity in the artist are the goal to which the formal exigencies of Christian work as such tend; and I say that in actual fact a work is Christian to the extent to which -- in whatever manner and with whatever deficiency it may be -- there courses through the soul of the artist something of the life that makes saints and contemplatives.
These are self-evident truths, simple applications of the eternal principle: operatio sequitur esse -- as a being is, so it acts. "That's the whole secret," said Goethe. "You must be something, to be able to make something." Leonardo illustrated this same principle by some very strange observations: "A heavy-handed painter will be heavy-handed in his work and will reproduce the flaw of his body, unless he guards himself against this by long study. . . . If he is quick to speak and vivacious in manner, so also will his figures be. If the master is pious, then his personages will have wry necks; and if he is lazy, his figures will themselves express laziness. . . . Each of the characteristics of the painting is a characteristic of the painter" (Textes choisis, Péladan, Paris, 1907, ^^415, 422).
"How does it happen," asks Maurice Denis in an address on "Religious Sensibility in the Art of the Middle Ages" (Nouvelles Théories), "that artists of talent whose personal faith was pure and living -- artists like Overbeck and certain pupils of Ingres -- produced works which hardly touch our religious sensiblity?"
The answer does not appear to be difficult. In the first place, it could be that this lack of emotion proceeds quite simply from an insufficiency as regards the virtue of art itself, which is something altogether different from talent or school learning. The, too, strictly speaking, faith and piety in the artist do not suffice for the work to produce a Christian emotion: such an effect always depends on some contemplative element, however deficient one may suppose it, and contemplation itself presupposes, according to the theologians, not only the virtue of Faith, but also the influence of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Finally, and above all, there can be -- due, for example, to systematic academic principles -- obstacles, prohibentia preventing art from being moved instrumentally and superelevated by the soul in its entirety. For the virtue of art and the supernatural virtues of the Christian soul do not, together, suffice here -- the one must also be under the influence of the others. And this takes place naturally, provided, however, that no alien element interferes. Far from being the result of deliberate contrivance, the religious emotion that the Primitives arouse in us is a dependent variable of the ease and liberty with which these nurslings of Mother Church allowed their souls to pass into their art.
But how does it happen that artists ad devoid of piety as many of those of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries still produced works of intense religious feeling?
These artists, in the first place, however pagan one may suppose them to have been, were far more imbued with Faith, in the mental structure of their being, than our short-sighted psychology imagines. Were they not still close to those tumultuous and passionate, but heroically Christian, Middle Ages, whose imprint on our civilization four centuries of anthropocentric culture have been unable to efface? They might indulge in the worst facetiae, but they preserved within them, still quite lively, the vis impressa of the faith of the Middle Ages, and not only of the faith, but also of those gifts of the Holy spirit which were exercised with so much fullness and liberty in the Christian centuries. So that it might be maintained without temerity that the "undisciplined pleasure-seekers" of whom Maurice Denis speaks, following Boccaccio, were in reality more "mystical" before the work to be painted, than many pious men in our dessicated times.
In the second place, the Christian quality begins, in fact, to degenerate in their works. Even before becoming pure humanity and pure nature in Raphael and already in Leonard, it has ceased to be anything but sensitive grace in a Botticelli or a Filippo Lippi. It preserved its serious and profound character or only in the great Primitives, Cimabue, Giotto, and Lorenzetti, or later in Angelico, who, because he was a saint, was able to infuse all the light of the interior heaven into an art that in itself was already less austere.
The fact of the matter is that one has to go quite far back into the Middle Ages, beyond the exquisite tenderness of Saint Francis, to find the purest epoch of Christian art. Where would one find better realized than in the sculptured figures and stained-glass windows of the cathedrals, the perfect harmony between a powerfully intellectual hieratic tradition -- without which there can be no sacred art -- and that free and ingenuous sense of the real which is proper to art under the Law of liberty? No subsequent interpretation attains, for instance, the truly sacerdotal and theological loftiness of the scenes of the Nativity of our Lord (the Choir of Notre-Dame de Paris, the windows at Tours, Sens, Chartres, etc. -- ponitur in praesepio, id est corpus Christi super altare), or of the Coronation of the Blessed Virgin (at Senlis), such as they were conceived in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. (Cf. Émile Male, L'Art religieux du XIIIe siècle en France, 3e éd., Paris, A. Colin, 1909; Dom Louis Baillet, Le Courronement de la Sainte Vierge, Van Onzen Tijd, Afl. XII, 1910).
But art in those times was also the fruit of a humanity in which all the energies of Baptism were at work. It is certainly right to insist on the ingenuousness of the Primitives and to ascribe to this ingenuousness the emotion we experience in the presence of their works. But all great art is ingenuous, and not all great art is Christian, except in hope. If the ingenuousness of the great mediaevals leads the heart to the living God, it is because this ingenuousness is of a unique quality; it is a Christian ingenuousness; it is, so to speak, an infused virtue of awed ingenuousness and filial candor in the presence of the things created by the Holy Trinity; it is but the peculiar imprint in art of the faith and the gifts passing into it and superelevating it.
Thanks to this religious faith the Primitive knew by instinct what modern poetry has learned in sorrow, to wit, that "the form must be the form of the mind: not the manner of saying things, but of thinking them"; and that "only reality, even well-nigh covered up, possesses the power to stir the emotions" (Jean Cocteau, Le Rappel à l'Ordre, Paris, Stock, 1926).
For this reason also it is in vain that Gaston Latouche tell us that the ceiling of the Chapel at Versailles strikes him as every bit as religious as the canopy at Assisi. So long as a sullen "classicist" fanaticism has not triumphed over the Christian heart, Jouvenet will remain a cipher when compared with Giotto.
Nicholas Berdiaeff maintains that a perfect classicism, that is to say, one capable of extracting from Nature an entirely happy and satisfying harmony, is impossible since the agony of Christ and the Crucifixion: according to him the classicism of the Renaissance retains without knowing it a Christian wound. I think Berdiaeff is right. But did perfect classical tranquillity exist even in Greece? A mysterious and sullen violence kept breaking in upon this dream: for in Greece too, human nature was wounded and needed redemption.
145. "As the body of Jesus Christ was born of the integrity of the Virgin Mary, so also is the song of praise rooted, according to heavenly harmony, in the Church through the Holy Spirit," writes Saint Hildegarde in the admirable letter to the Chapter of Mainz in which she asserts the liberty of sacred song. (St. Hildegarde, Epistola XLVII, Migne, 197, col. 221 B.
146. It is interesting to observe that in its boldest experiments contemporary art seems to want to rejoin all that which -- with regard to the construction of the work, the simplicity, frankness and rationality of the means, and the ideographical schematization of expression -- characterizes primitive art. If from this point of view one examines the miniatures of the Scivias of Saint Hildegarde reproduced in Dom Baillet's admirable work ("Les miniatures du Scivias conservé à la bibliothèque de Wiesbaden," first fasc. of Vol. XIX of the Monuments et Mémoires de l'Acad. des Inscr. et Belles-Lettres, 1912), one will here discover some very suggestive analogies to certain contemporary efforts -- to Cubist perspective, for instance. But these analogies are altogether material; the inner principle is utterly different. What the majority of "advanced" modern artists are seeking in the cold night of a calculating anarchy, the Primitives possessed without seeking, in the peace of interior order. Change the soul, the interior principle, imagine the light of Faith and reason in place of the exasperation of the senses (and sometimes even of stultitia), and you have an art capable of high spiritual developments. In this sense, and although from other points of view it is diametrically opposed to Christianity, contemporary art is much closer to a Christian art than is academic art.
147. It goes without saying that I am taking this word "morality" not in the Stoic, lay or Protestant sense, but in the Catholic sense, according to which the sphere of morality or of human conduct is, in its entirety, finalized by the Beatific Vision and the love of God for His own sake and above all things, and is perfected in the supernatural life of the theological virtues and the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
148. The witness of a poet so ardently an artist as Baudelaire, is on this point of the liveliest interest. His essay on The Pagan School, in which he shows in vivd terms what an error it is for man to dedicate himself to art as his final end, concludes with the following page:
"The intemperate desire for form leads to monstrous and unknown disorders. Absorbed by the fierce passion for the beautiful, the droll, the pretty, the picturesque -- for there are degrees -- the notions of what is proper and true disappear. The frenzied passion for art is a cancer which eats up everything else; and, as the out-and-out absence of what is proper and true in art is tantamount to the absence of art, the man fades away completely; excessive specialization of a faculty ends in nothing. I understand the rage of the iconoclasts and the Mohammedans against images. I admit all the remorse of Saint Augustine for the overpowering pleasure of the eyes. The danger is so great that I excuse the suppression of the object. The folly of art is on a par with the abuse of the mind. The creation of one or the other of these two supremacies begets stupidity, hardness of heart, and unbounded pride and egoism . . ." (Baudelaire, L'Art romantique).
149. Saint Thomas, Sum. theol., II-II, 169, 2, ad 4. In this connection the well-known text of Saint Thomas may also be recalled, where, commenting on the Philosopher's Ethics, he points out, following Aristotle, that it belongs to the domain of political science, in its capacity as architectonic science, to order the "practical sciences," such as the mechanical arts, not only in regard to the exercise of these sciences, but also in regard to the very determination of the work (thus it orders the artisan who makes knives, not merely to use his art, but also to use it in such or such a manner, by making knives of such and such a kind): "for both of these are ordered to the end of human life." Politics also orders the speculative sciences, but only in regard to the exercise of these sciences, not in regard to the determination of the work; for though it prescribes that some shall teach, and others learn, geometry -- "such acts, in so far as they are voluntary, having in fact a relation to the matter of morality, and being capable of being ordered to the end of human life" -- it does not prescribe to the geometrician what he must conclude concerning the triangle, for "this does not belong to the domain of human life and depends only on the nature of things" (Comment. in Ethic. Nicom., I, 2).
Saint Thomas does not speak explicitly here of the fine arts, but it is not very difficult to apply these principles to them, observing that they participate in the nobility of the speculative sciences through the transcendence of their object, which is beauty -- so that no politicus can interfere with the laws of beauty -- but that they nevertheless remain, by their generic nature, arts, "practical sciences," and that on this score all that the work includes of intellectual and moral values normally falls under the control of the one who watches over the common good of human life. Moreover Aristotle adds that it belongs to Politics to use for its own ends the noblest arts, such as Military Art, Economics, and Rhetoric.
150. Met., XII, 10, 1075 a 15; Saint Thomas' Commentary, lect. 12. Cf. Summa theol., I-II, 111, 5, ad 1.
151. "The good of the army is more in the Commader than in order: because the end is higher in goodness than those things which are ordered to the end; and the order of the army is ordered to the good of the Commander which is to be realized, that is to say, the will of the Commander in the obtaining of victory" (Saint Thomas, commenting on the passage cited from Aristotle. Ed. Cathala, ^2630).
152. "It is by being national that a literature takes its place in humanity and assumes meaning in the concert. . . . What is more Spanish than Cervantes, more English than Shakespeare, more Italian than Dante, more French than Voltaire or Montaigne, Descartes or Pascal; what is more Russian than Dostoievsky -- and what is more universally human than these men?" (André Gide, "Réflexions sur l'Allemagne," in Nouvelle Revue Française, 1er Juin et 1er Août 1919.) -- "The more a poet sings in his genealogical tree, the truer is his singing" (Jean Cocteau).
153. Saint Thomas, In II Sent., d. 18, 1. 2, 2.
154. Summa theol., I-II, 30, 4.
155. Summa theol., II-II, 35, 4, ad 2. Cf. Eth. Nic., VIII, 5 and 6; X, 6.
156. Summa theol., I-II, 3, 4.
157. "In fact, all other human operations seem to be ordered to this one [contemplation], as to an end. For, there is needed for the perfection of contemplation a soundness of body, to which all the products of art that are necessary for life are directed. Also required are freedom from the disturbances of the passions -- this is achieved through the moral virtues and prudence -- and freedom from external disorders, to which the whole program of government in civil life is directed. And so, if they are rightly considered, all human functions may be seen to subserve the contemplation of truth" (Summa contra Gent., III, 37; Vernon J. Bourke's translation in On the Truth of the Catholic Faith: Summa contra Gentiles, Bk. III, Pt. I, New York, Hanover House, 1956, p. 124).
Such a teaching -- whose noble Aristotelian approach attains a peculiar quality of serene and refined irony in Saint Thomas, for he knew well that in concrete existence the goal of "all other human operations" is not an intellectual and philosophical contemplation crowning an altogether harmonious humanity, but a contemplation of love superabounding in mercy, a redemptive love at work in a wounded humanity -- such a teaching, I say, enables one to appreciate the essential opposition, in the very order of ends, which separates the Christian body politic from the body politic of modern "humanism," which is entirely orientated towards practice, "production" and "consumption," not towards contemplation.
It is strange that a man like Wilde had understood that "while, in the opinion of society, Contemplation is the gravest sin of which any citizen can be guilty, in the opinion of the highest culture it is the proper occupation of man" ("The Critic as Artist," Intentions, New York, Brentano's 1905, pp. 169-170). Yet the unhappy man was convinced that "we cannot go back to the saint," and that "there is far more to be learned from the sinner" -- which is a gross absurdity. "it is enough that our fathers believed," thought Wilde. "They have exhausted the faith-faculty of the species. . . . Who, as Mr. Pater suggests somewhere, would exchange the curve of a single rose-leaf for that formless intangible Being which Plato rates so high?" (ibid., p. 171). The bios theôrêtikos of which he boasted could therefore be only the stupidest and most lying caricature of contemplation -- to wit, aestheticism -- and he was compelled to exert all his energies to install his soul in this sham counterfeit of intellectual life. But in vain. According to an irrevocable law which I have explained elsewhere,[*aa] it was inevitable that, not passing to the love of God, he should sink to the love of things below, under the influence of his beloved Greeks, and become that terrible instrument of the devil which has so long been the scourge of modern literature.
158. De Div. Nomin., cap. iv.
159. Exodus XXXV, 30-35.
160. Summa theol., I-II, 53,3. "When therefore a man ceases to use his intellectual habitus, strange fancies, sometimes in opposition to it, arise in his imagination; so that unless these fancies are in some way cut off or kept back by frequent use of the habitus, the man becomes less fit to judge rightly, and sometimes is even wholly disposed to the contrary; and thus the intellectual habitus is diminished or even destroyed by cessation of act."
161. Ibid., 52, 3.
162. Jean Cocteau, Le Coq et l'Arlequin, 1918 (Le Rappel à l'Ordre, Paris, Stock, 1926) -- "Shelter well your virtue of making miracles, for 'if they knew you were a missionary, they would tear out your tongue and your nails.'"
163. Hence so many conflicts between the Prudent Man and the Artist, concerning, for instance, the representation of the nude. In a beautiful study of the nude, one man, concerned only with the subject represented, sees only animality -- and becomes rightly apprehensive for his own animality and that of others; another man, concerned only with the work itself, sees only the formal aspect of beauty. Maurice Denis (Nouvelles Théories) points out in this regard the case of Renoir, and he rightly insists on the beautiful pictorial serenity of his figures. But this serenity of the work did not exclude, in the painter himself, complicity or connivance and a lively sensuality of vision. (And what would have to be said if it were a question, no longer of Renoir, but of that great fauna-workman Rodin?)
However the case may be with this particular problem, concerning which the Middle Ages were severe and the Renaissance was excessively lax (even in the matter of Church decoration), the fact remains that in a general way and considered in itself only Catholicism is capable of truly reconciling Prudence and Art, because of the universality, the very catholicity of its wisdom, which embraces the whole of reality: this is why Protestants accuse it of immorality and humanists of rigorism, thus bearing witness symmetrically, to the superiority of its point of view.
As most men are not educated to appreciate art, Prudence is right in being apprehensive of the effect on the masses of many works of art. And Catholicism, which knows that evil is found ut in pluribus in the human species, and which, on the other hand, is obliged to have concern for the good of the multitude, must in certain cases deny to Art, in the name of the esential interests of the human being, liberties of which Art is jealous.
The "essential interests of the human being" must be understood not only in relation to the passions of the flesh, but in relation to the material of all the virtues, and, first of all, to the rectitude of the mind -- not to mention the interests of art itself, and the need it has of being protected by the disciplines of religion against the dissolution of all that is in man.
No doubt it is difficult to preserve the just measure in these matters. At all events, to fear art, to escape from it and to make others escape from it, is certainly no solution. There is superior wisdom in trusting the powers of the mind as much as possible. Catholics of our day should remember that only the Church has succeeded in educating the people to beauty, wile protecting them against the "depravation" for which Plato and Jean-Jacques Rousseau hold art and poetry responsible. The spirit of Luther, Rousseau or Tolstoy has no place among us: if we defend the rights of God in the order of moral good, we defend them also in the order of intelligence and beauty, and nothing obliges us to walk on all fours for the love of virtue. Every time he finds in a Christian environment a contempt for intelligence or art, that is to say, for truth and beauty, which are divine names, we may be sure that the devil scores a point.
I do not overlook the necessity for prohibitive measures. Human frailty makes them indispensible -- it must be protected. It is nevertheless clear that, however necessary they may be, prohibitive measures remain by nature less efficacious and less important than robust intellectual and spiritual nourishment, enabling minds and hearts to resist vitally every morbid principle.
As for the liberty of the artist with regard to the subjects he depicts, it seems that the problem is, as a rule, poorly stated, because one forgets that the subject is only the matter of the work of art. The essential question is not to know whether a novelist can or cannot depict such or such an aspect of evil. The essential question is to know at what altitude he is prepared to depict it and whether his art and his heart are pure enough and strong enough for him to depict it without complicity or connivance. The more deeply the modern novel probes human misery, the more does it require superhuman virtues in the novelist. To write Proust's work as it needed to be written would have required the inner light of a Saint Augustine. The opposite occurs, and we see the observer and the thing observed, the novelist and his subject, rivalling each other in a competition to degrade. From this point of view, the influence André Gide has exercised on French letters, and the exaggeration in which he indulges in his latest works, must be regarded as very characteristic.
I have just mentioned the novel. Unlike other literary forms, the novel has as its object not a thing-to-be-made that would possess its own beauty in the world of artifacts, and of which human life furnishes only the elements, but human life itself to be moulded in fiction, as providential Art moulds human life in reality. The object it must create is humanity itself -- humanity to be formed, scrutinized and governed like a world. such seems to me to be the distinctive characteristic of the art of the novel.[*bb] (I am speaking of the modern novel, of which Balzac is the father, and which Ernest Hello, in an essay in other respects quite declamatory, has shown to be fundamentally opposed to the novel such as antiquity knew it, the latter being above all a voyage into the marvellous and the ideal, a release of the imagination.)
One can therefore understand the necessity for integrity, authenticity and universality in the novelist's realism: only a Christian, nay more, a mystic, because he has some idea of what is in man, can be a complete novelist (not without risk, for he needs an experienced knowledge of the creature; and this knowledge can come from only two sources, the old tree of the knowledge of evil, and the gift of Understanding, which the soul receives with the other gifts of grace . . .). "There is not," said Georges Bernanos speaking of Balzac,[*cc] "a single feature to be added to any one of those frightful characters, but he has not been down to the secret spring, to the last recess of conscience where evil organizes from within, against God and for the love of death, that part of us the harmony of which has been destroyed by original sin. . . ." And again: "take the characters of Dostoievsky, those whom he himself calls The Possessed. We know the diagnosis the great Russian made of them. But what would have been the diagnosis of a Curé of Ars, for instance? What would he have seen in those obsure souls?"
164. Cf. Summa theol., I-II, 66,3; II-II, 47, 4.
165. Cf. Summa theol., I-II, 66, a.3, ad 1. "But that the moral virtues are more necessary for human life, does not prove that they are nobler simpliciter, but only in this particular respect; indeed, the speculative intellectual virtues, from the very fact that they are not ordered to anything else, as the useful is ordered to the end, are nobler. . . ."
166. Eth. Nic., X, 8; cf. Summa theol., II-II, 47, 15.
167. Summa theol., I-II, 66, 5.
168. Cf. the observations of the learned theologian, Father John G. Arintero, O.P., in his treatise Cuestiones misticas (Salamanca, 1916); also, and above all, Father Garrigou- Lagranges, Perfection chrétienne et contemplation (Saint- Maximin, 1923).
169. John of Saint Thomas, Curs. theol., I P., q. XXVII, disp. 12, a. 6, ^21. Plotinus taught, on the contrary, that to engender is a sign of indigence. "He who does not aspire to engender is more completely self-sufficient in beauty; if one desires to produce beauty, it is because he is not self-sufficient, and because he thinks he will gratify himself more by producing and engendering in beauty" (Enneads, III, 5). This aspect of indigence, which is bound up with transitive activity, is the ransom we have to pay for our condition as material beings, but it does not -- and this is the error of neo-Platonic metaphysics -- essentially affect the generative fecundity itself, which, in the immanent activity proper to life -- and all the more so the higher and more immaterial is this life -- is, above all, superabundance. We are here touching the very root of the opposition between neo-Platonism and Christianity, between Plotinus and Saint Thomas: on the one hand, the primacy of existence and the generosity of being; on the other, the primacy of essence and a false barren purity.
170. Max Jacob, Art poétique, Paris, 1922.
171. Since the time when these lines were written, Cocteau has given us Orphée and then La Machine Infernale, both great dramatic works.
172. Raymond Radiguet's Le Bal du Comte d'Orgel (Paris: Bernard Grasset, 1924).