Date of publication: 2017-08-23 17:40
Let us then examine our theory by an ap∣peal to experience and try how far these qualities enter into the idea of picturesque beauty and how far they mark that dif∣ference among objects, which is the ground of our inquiry.
But does it not depreciate his art, if he give up a beautiful form, for one less beautiful, merely because he could have given it the graces of his art more forcibly —because it's sharp lines afford him a greater facility of execu∣tion? Is the smart touch of a pencil the grand desideratum of painting? Does he dis∣cover nothing in picturesque objects, but qualities, which admit of being rendered with spirit?
A piece of Palladian architecture may be elegant in the last degree. The proportion of it's parts—the propriety of it's ornaments—and the symmetry of the whole, may be highly plea∣sing. But if we introduce it in a picture, it immediately becomes a formal object, and ceases to please. Should we wish to give it picturesque beauty, we must use the mallet, instead of the chissel: we must beat down one half of it, deface the other, and throw the mutilated members around in heaps. In short, from a smooth building we must turn it into a Page 8 rough ruin. No painter, who had the choice of the two objects, would hesitate a moment.
To this it is enough, that the province of the picturesque eye is to survey nature not to anatomize matter. It throws it's glances around in the broad-cast stile. It comprehends an extensive tract at each sweep. It examines parts, but never descends to particles.
As this difference therefore between the beau∣tiful, and the picturesque appears really to exist, and must depend on some peculiar construction of the object it may be worth while to ex∣amine, what that peculiar construction is. We inquire not into the general sources of beauty, either in nature, or in representation. This would lead into a nice, and scientific discussion, in which it is not our purpose to engage. The question simply is, What is that quality in objects, which particularly marks them as picturesque?
Ideas of beauty vary with the object, and with the eye of the spectator. Those arti∣ficial forms appear generally the most beau∣tiful, with which we have been the most conversant. Thus the stone-mason sees beau∣ties in a well-jointed wall, which escape the architect, who surveys the building under a different idea. And thus the painter, who Page 9 compares his object with the rules of his art, sees it in a different light from the man of general taste, who surveys it only as simply beautiful.
Page 87 A fourth philosopher apprehends common sense to be our standard only in the ordinary affairs of life. The bounty of nature has furnished us with various other senses suited to the objects, among which we converse: and with regard to matters of taste, it has supplied us with what, he doubts not, we all feel within our∣selves, a sense of beauty.
To this question, we might answer, that the picturesque eye abhors art and delights solely in nature: and that as art abounds with regularity, which is only another name Page 77 for smoothness and the images of nature with irregularity, which is only another name for roughness, we have here a solution of our question.
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