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ful, it is totally impossible, without practice and knowledge, to distinguish or feel what is excellent. The beauty or the truth of Titian,s flesh-tint may be appreciated by all ; but it is only to the artist, whose multiplied hours of toil have not reached the slightest resemblance of one of its tones, that its excellence is manifest.
Wherever, then, difficulty has been overcome, attendanfon con- there is excellence: and therefore, in order to prove 'Aesri"?ighdtifflcul" a work excellent, we have only to prove the difficulty of its production : whether it be useful or beautiful is another question; its excellence depends on its difficulty alone. Nor is it a false or diseased taste which looks for the overcoming of difficulties, and has pleasure in it, even without any view to resultant good. It has been made part of our moral nature that we should have a pleasure in encountering and conquering opposition, for the sake of the struggle and the victory, not for the sake of any after result; and not only our own victory, but the perception of that of another, is in all cases the source of pure and ennobling pleasure. And if we often hear it said, and truly said, that an artist has erred by seeking rather to show his skill in overcoming technical difficulties, than to reach a great end, be it observed that he is only blamed because he has sought to conquer an inferior difficulty rather than a great one ; for it is much easier to overcome technical difficulties than to reach a great end. Whenever the visible victory over difficulties is found painful or in false taste, it is owing to the preference of an inferior to a great difficulty, or to the false estimate of what is difficult and what is not. It is far more difficult to be simple than to be complicated ; far more difficult to sacrifice skill and cease exertion in the proper place, than to expend both indiscriminate^. We shall find, in the course of our investigation, that beauty and difficulty go together ; and that they are only mean and paltry difficulties which it is wrong or contemptible to wrestle with. Be it remembered then—Power is never wasted. Whatever power has been employed, produces excellence in proportion to its own dignity and exertion ; and the faculty of perceiving this exertion, and appreciating this dignity, is the faculty of perceiving excellence.
OF IDEAS OF IMITATION.
Fuseli, in his lectures, and many other persons of equally just and accurate habits of thought, (among others, S. T. Coleridge.) make a distinction between imitation and copying, 11. False use of representing the first as the legitimate function of Hon'""bv" many ar*;—the ^tter as ita corruption; but as such a writers of art. distinction is by no means warranted, or explained by the common meaning of the words themselves, it is not easy to comprehend exactly in what sense they are used by those writers. And though, reasoning from the context, I can understand what ideas those words stand for in their minds, I cannot allow the terms to be properly used as symbols of those ideas, which (especially in the case of the word Imitation) are exceedingly complex, and totally different from what most people would understand by the term. And by men of less accurate thought, the word is used still more vaguely or falsely. For instance, Burke (Treatise on the Sublime, part i. sect. 16) says, "When the object represented in poetry or painting is such as we could have no desire of seeing in the reality, then we may be sure that its power in poetry or painting is owing to the power of imitation." In which case the real pleasure may be in what we have been just speaking of, the dexterity of the artist,s hand ; or it may be in a beautiful or singular arrangement of colors, or a thoughtful chiaroscuro, or in the pure beauty of certain forms which art forces on our notice, though we should not have observed them in the reality; and I conceive that none of these sources of pleasure are in any way expressed or intimated by the term " imitation."
But there is one source of pleasure in works of art totally different from all these, which I conceive to be properly and accurately expressed by the word " imitation :" one which, though constantly confused in reasoning, because it is always associated in fact, with other means of pleasure, is totally separated from them in its nature, and is the real basis of whatever complicated or various meaning may be afterwards attached to the word in the minds of men.
I wish to point out this distinct source of pleasure clearly at onre, and only to use the word " imitation" in reference to it. S2. Real meaning Whenever anything looks like what it is not, of the term. ^],e resemblance, being so great as nearly to deceive, we feel a kind of pleasurable surprise, an agreeable excitement of mind, exactly the same in its nature as that which we receive from juggling. Whenever we perceive this in something produced by art, that is to say, whenever the work is seen to resemble something which we know it is not, we receive what I call an idea of imitation. Why such ideas are pleasing, it would be out of our present purpose to inquire; we only know that there is no man who docs not feel pleasure in his animal nature from gentle surprise, and that such surprise can be excited in no more distinct manner than by the evidence that a thing is not what it appears to be.* Now two things are re
$ S. What Is re- . . * °
quisite to the quisite to our complete and more pleasurable per. ception of this : first, that the resemblance be so perfect aa to amount to a deception ; secondly, that there be some means of proving at the same moment that it it a deception. The most perfect ideas and pleasures of imitation are, therefore, when one sense is contradicted by another, both bearing as positive evidence on the subject aa each is capable of alone; as when the eye says a thing is round, and the ringer says it is flat; they are, therefore, never felt in so high a degree as in painting, where appearance of projection, roughness, hair, velvet, etc., are given with a smooth surface, or in wax-work, where the first evidence of the senses is perpetually contradicted by their experience ; but the moment we come to marble, our definition checks us, for a marble figure does not look like what it is not : it looks like marble, and like the form of a man, but then it is marble, and it is the form of a man. It does not look like a man, which it is not, but like the form of a man, which it is. Form is form, bona fide and actual, whether in marble or in flesh—not an imitation or resemblance of form, but real form. The chalk outline of the bough of a tree on paper, is not an imitation; it looks like chalk and paper—not like wood, and that which it suggests to the mind is not properly said to be like the form of a bough, it is the form of a bough. Now, then, we see the limits of an idea of imitation ; it extends only to the sensation of trickery and deception occasioned by a thing,s intentionally seeming different from what it is; and the degree of the pleasure depends on the degree of difference and the perfection of the resemblance, not on the nature of the thing resembled. The simple pleasure in the imitation would be precisely of the same degree, (if the accuracy could be equal.) whether the subject of it were the hero or his horse. There are other collateral sources of pleasure, which are necessarily associated with this, but that part of the pleasure which depends on the imitation is the same in both.
* ovTJioywjini Irtiy, on Tqvto Ikc'ivo.—Arist. Rhet. 1, 11, 23.
j 4. Thepieaiure Ideas of imitation, then, act by producing the utton'ngtheimmret simple pleasure of surprise, and that not of surSnTie!icriTcdhttt Prise in itS higher sense and function, but of the from art. mean and paltry surprise which is felt in jugglery.
These ideas and pleasures are the most contemptible which can be received from art; first, because it is necessary to their enjoyment that the mind should reject the impression and address of the thing represented, and fix itself only upon the reflection that it is not what it seems to be. All high or noble emotion or thought are thus rendered physically impossible, while the mind exults in what is very like a strictly sensual pleasure. We may consider tears as a result of agony or of art, whichever we please, but not of both at the same moment. If wc are surprised by them as an attainment of the one, it is impossible we can be moved by them as a sign of the other.
Ideas of imitation are contemptible in the 6econiy of contemp- ond place, because not only do they preclude the Jcr'"' spectator from enjoying inherent beauty in the subject, but they can only be received from mean and paltry subjects, because it is impossible to imitate anything really great. We can " paint a cat or a fiddle, so that they look as if we could take them up;" but we cannot imitate the ocean, or the Alps. We can imitate fruit, but not a tree ; flowers, but not a pasture; cut-glass, but not the rainbow. All pictures in which deceptive powers of imitation are displayed are therefore either of contemptible subjects, or have the imitation shown in contemptible parts of them, bits of dress, jewels, furniture, etc. Thirdly, these ideas are contemptible, because
$6. Imitation Ia ., ', , •xifj.i. -,
contemptible be- no ideas of power are associated with them ; to the ignorant, imitation, indeed, seems difficult, and its success praiseworthy, but even they can by no possibility see more in the artist than they do in a juggler, who arrives at a strange end by means with which they are unacquainted. To the instructed, the juggler is by far the more respectable artist of the two, for they know sleight of hand to be an art of immensely more difficult acquirement, and to imply more ingenuity in the artist than a power of deceptive imitation in painting, which requires nothing more for its attainment than a true eye, a steady hand, and moderate industry—qualities which in no degree separate the imitative artist from a watch-maker, pinmaker, or any other neat-handed artificer. These remarks do not apply to the art of the Diorama, or the stage, where the pleasure is not dependent on the imitation, but is the same which we should receive from nature herself, only far inferior in degree. It is a noble pleasure ; but we shall see in the course of our investigation, both that it is inferior to that which we receive when there is no deception at all, and why it is so. i i. Recapituia- Whenever then in future, I speak of ideas of tion- imitation, I wish to be understood to mean the
immediate and present perception that something produced by art is not what it seems to be. I prefer saying " that it is not what it seems to be," to saying " that it seems to be what it is not," because we perceive at once what it seems to be, and the idea of imitation, and the consequent pleasure, result from the subsequent perception of its being something else—flat, for instance, when we thought it was round.