1 October 2012

One of the Essential Endowments

Mary Watts, George Frederick Watts; The Annals of an Artist's Life, Vol. I (New York: George H. Doran, 1913), pp. 14-5:
Endowed by nature with a fine ear, and answering as he must to everything that was great in any art, [George Frederick Watts] would sometimes speak so enthusiastically of music as to express regret that he had not in early life turned his whole attention to it, rather than to the sister art [of painting]. Lord Holland liked to tell a story of some one much the senior of Watts, a man of the world, and one who very much believed in himself, who, standing among a group of listeners one day at Casa Feroni, and rather boasting of his contempt for music, turned to those about him -- Lord Holland being of their number -- and said, "It has not the slightest effect upon me, pleasurable or otherwise -- what does that mean, I ask you ?" "It means a defective organisation," answered the young painter hotly, obliged, in defence of the divine art, to drop his habit of never putting himself forward. Lord Holland was as much delighted as the boaster was furious.
Though half a lifetime lies between the two utterances, the conviction that brought the quick rebuke to his lips was clearly explained when he wrote the following passage: "'All beauty,' said the devout mystic, 'is the face of God'; therefore to make acquaintance with beauty, in and through every form, is the cultivation of religious feeling. This while it is the noblest aspect of art, it is also the most primitive. Nothing can be more important to remember than that in the cultivation of the artistic perceptions we are developing one of the essential endowments of the human creature -- one in which that difference between him and the lower creation is most distinctly marked. It seems to me to be the duty of every one to answer to every such call."

G. F. Watts, Petraia