3 October 2013

What Is Art?

Haldane Macfall (1860-1928), The Splendid Wayfaring (London: Simpkin, Marshall, Hamilton, Kent & Co., 1913), p. 22:
This power of being able to transfer to others our sensations by a skilful playing upon their senses is Art. We are, then, granted the power to exchange our intelligence by two means: we can exchange our Thoughts; and we can exchange our Sensations. Speech is the means whereby we exchange our Thoughts — or, if you will, the means whereby we exchange our Reason. But mere speech cannot give us communion of the sensing of our fellows. The means whereby we pour into the sensing of our fellow-men the impressions which have been aroused in our senses so that we can enable others to feel what we have felt — is the function of Art; its whole function, and its only function. 
Ibid, p. 34:
There are those who, parrot-wise, have repeated throughout the ages that Art is Beauty. There are far greater, far more profound, vaster, more majestic, more subtle, more dreadful emotions, more horrible moods, than are aroused by mere Beauty. The sense of Beauty is a noble and legitimate aim in Art; but it is not the only aim, since it is not the only impression in Life.

Art is as much concerned with tears and pathos and tragedy and ugliness and greyness and the agonies of life as with laughter and comedy and beauty. The dread of death, the detestation of treachery, the horror of fear, the awful sense of vengeance, the hatred of wrong, the promptings of terror, the lust to kill, the indignation at a lie, the agonies of suffering, the contempt of baseness and meanness, are all as legitimate a province of Art as the prettier emotions. All sensed activities are within the realm of the artist — the ignoble and the noble alike.