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The Psychology of Beauty by Ethel D. Puffer

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same. In fact, it might be said that, within this realm,
the two conceptions are identical. The true aesthetic repose
is just that perfect rest in the beautiful object which is
the essence of the loss of the sense of personality.

Subtler and rarer, again, than the raptures of mysticism and
of beauty worship is the ecstasy of intellectual production;
yet the "clean, clear joy of creation," as Kipling names it,
is not less to be grouped with those precious experiences in
which the self is sloughed away, and the soul at one with its
content. I speak, of course, of intellectual production in
full swing, in the momentum of success. The travail of soul
over apparently hopeless difficulties or in the working out
of indifferent details takes place not only in full self-
consciousness, but in self-disgust; there we can take Carlyle
to witness. But in the higher stages the fixation of truth
and the appreciation of beauty are accompanied by the same
extinction of the feeling of individuality. Of testimony we
have enough and to spare. I need not fill these pages with
confessions and anecdotes of the ecstatical state in which
all great deeds of art and science are done. The question is
rather to understand and explain it on the basis of the formal
scheme to which we have found the religious and the aesthetic
attitudes to conform.

Jean Paul says somewhere that, however laborious the completion
of a great work, its conception came as a whole,--in one flash.
We remember the dreams of Schiller in front of his red curtain
and the resulting musikalische Stimmung,--formless, undirected,
out of which his poem shaped itself; the half-somnambulic
state of Goethe and his frantic haste in fixation of the vision,
in which he dared not even stop to put his paper straight, but
wrote over the corners quite ruthlessly. Henner once said to
a painter who mourned that he had done nothing on his picture
for the Salon, though he saw it before him, "What! You see
your picture! Then it is done. You can paint it in an hour."
If all these traditions be true, they are significant; and
the necessary conditions of such composition seem to be highly
analogous to those of the aesthetic emotion. We have, first
of all, a lack of outward stimulation, and therefore possible
disappearance of the background. How much better have most
poets written in a garret than in a boudoir! Goethe's bare
little room in the garden house at Weimar testifies to the
severe conditions his genius found necessary. Tranquillity
of the background is the condition of self-absorption, or--
and this point seems to me worth emphasizing--a closed circle
of outer activities. I have never believed, for instance, in
the case of the old tale of Walter Scott and the button, that
it was the surprise of his loss that tied the tongue of the
future author's rival. The poor head scholar had simply made
for himself a transitionless experience with that twirling
button, and could then sink his consciousness in its object,--
at that moment the master's questions. It is with many of
us a familiar experience, that of not being able to think
unless in constant motion. Translated into our psychological
scheme, the efficiency of these movements would be explained
thus: Given the "whirling circles,"--the background of
continuous movement sensations, which finally dropped out of
consciousness, and the foreground of continuous thought,--the
first protected, so to speak, the second, since they were
mutually exclusive, and what broke the one destroyed the other.

But to return from this digression, a background fading into
nothingness, either as rest or as a closed circle of automatic
movements, is the first condition of the ecstasy of mental
production. The second is given in the character of its
object. The object of high intellectual creation is a unity,--
a perfect whole, revealed, as Jean Paul says, in a single
movement of genius. Within the enchanted circle of his
creation, the thinker is absorbed, because here too all his
impulses are turned to one end, in relation to which nothing
else exists.

I am aware that many will see a sharp distinction here between
the work of the creator or discoverer in science and the artist.
They may maintain, in Schopenhauer's phrase, that the aim and
end of science is just the connection of objects in the service
of the will of the individual, and hence transition between the
various terms is constant; while art, on the other hand, indeed
isolates its object, and so drops transitions. But I think
where we speak of "connection" thus, we mean the larger sweep
of law. If the thinker looks beyond his special problem at
all, it is, like Buddha, to "fix his eyes upon the chain of
causation." The scientist of imagination sees his work under
the form of eternity, as one link of that endless chain, one
atom in that vortex of almighty purposes, which science will
need all time to reveal. For him it is either one question,
closed within itself by its own answer, or it is the Infinite
Law of the Universe,--the point or the circle. From all points
of view, then, the object of creation in art or science is a
girdle of impulses from which the mind may not stray. The two
conditions of our formal scheme are given: a term which
disappears, and one which is a perfect whole. Transition
between background and foreground has dropped. Between the
objects of attention in the foreground it has no meaning,
because the foreground is an indissoluble unity. With that
object the self must feel itself one, since the distinctive
self-feeling has disappeared with the opportunity for transition.

We have thus swung around the circle of mystical, aesthetic,
and creative emotion, and we have found a single formula to
apply, and a single explanation to avail for the loss of
personality. The conditions of such experiences bring about
the disappearance of one term, and the impregnable unity of
the other. Without transition between two terms in consciousness,
two objects of attention, the loss of the feeling of personality
takes place according to natural psychological laws. It is no
longer a mystery that in intense experience the feeling of
personality dissolves.

One point, however, does remain still unexplained,--the bliss
of self-abandonment. Whence are the definiteness and intensity
of the religious and aesthetic emotions? The surrender of the
sense of personality, it seems, is based on purely formal
relations of the elements of consciousness, common to all three
groups of the analyzed emotions. Yet it is precisely with a
fading of self-feeling that intensity and definiteness deepen.
But how can different and emotionally significant feelings
arise from a single formal process? How can the worship of
God become ecstatic joy through the loss of personality? The
solution of this apparent paradox is demanded not only in
logic, but also by those who would wish to see the religious
trance distinguished also in its origin from those of baser

But it is, after all, the formal nature of the phenomenon that
gives us light. If variation in the degree of self-feeling is
the common factor, and the disappearance of the transition-
feeling its cause, then the lowest member of the scale, in
which the loss of self-feeling takes place with mathematical
completeness, must be included. That is the hypnotic trance.
It is not necessary at this place to emphasize the fact that
our theory, if accepted, would constitute a theory and a
definition also of hypnotism. Of interest to our inquiry is
merely a characteristic mark of the hypnotic state,--its
tremendous suggestibility. Why is this? Our theory would
answer that all impulses are held in equilibrium, and that an
external suggestion has thus no rivals. Whatever the cause,
this last is at any rate the fact. All suggestions seem to
double in emotional value. Tell the hypnotic subject that
he is sailing up the Rhine, and the most vivid admiration is
in his aspect; he gazes in heart-felt devotion if it is a
pretty girl he is bid to look at; he quaffs a glass of water
with livelier delight than he would show for the draught of
Chateau Yquem of which he is led to think.

Now in religious and aesthetic experience there is brought
about the same equilibrium or unity of impulses, resulting
in analogous loss of self-feeling. But it is a most
interesting fact that the FORM of the contemplated object
is the cause of this arrest and repose. God, the circle of
the Infinite, the Eternal One, enter into play as "unity"
alone. What, then, of the content? After the analogy of
the extreme case, the content--that is, emotional value
and definite emotional tone--takes the place of the external
suggestion. Under just the conditions of the religious
trance, the element of reverence, of joyous sentiment, is
able suddenly to take on a more vivid aspect. It may not
be that the emotion itself is greater, but it now holds the
field. It may not be that it is more intense, but the
intensity of concentration which takes on its color makes
it seem so. The "rapture" is just the sense of being caught
up into union with the highest; the joy of the rapture is
the joy of every thought of God, here left free to brighten
into ecstasy; and its "revelation-value" is again the sense
of immediate union with a Being the intellectual concept of
whom is immensely vivified.

So may be analyzed the aesthetic ecstasy. The tension of
those mutually antagonistic impulses which make balance, and
so unity, and so the conditions for loss of sense of self,
clears the way for tasting the full savor of pleasure in
bright color, flowing line, exquisite tone-sequence, moving
thought. Many a commonplace experience, says M. Souriau,
suddenly takes on a charm when seen in the arrested aesthetic
vision. "Every one can have observed that an object in itself
agreeable to look on, like a bouquet of flowers, or the fresh
face of a young girl, takes on a sort of magic and supernatural
beauty if we regard it mechanically while listening to music."<1>
The intensity of concentration caused by the unity of form
fuses with this suggested vividness of feeling from content
and material, and the whole is felt as intensity of aesthetic
emotion. The Sistine Madonna would not strike so deep in
feeling were it less crystalline in its unity, less trance-like
in its repose, and so less enchanting in its suggestion.

<1> P. Souriau, _La Suggestion en l'Art._

So it is not only the man of achievement who sees but one thing
at a time. To enter intensely into any ideal experience means
to be blind to all others. One must lose one's own soul to
gain the world, and none who enter and return from the paradise
of selfless ecstasy will question that it is gained. It may
be that personality is a hindrance and a barrier, and that we
are only truly in harmony with the secret of our own existence
when we cease to set ourselves over against the world.
Nevertheless, the sense of individuality is a possession for
which the most of mankind would pay the price, if it must be
paid, even of eternal suffering. The delicious hour of fusion
with the universe is precious, so it seems to us now, just
because we can return from it to our own nest, and, close and
warm there, count up our happiness. The fragmentariness and
multiplicity of life are, then, the saving of the sense of
selfhood, and we must indeed

"Rejoice that man is hurled
From change to change unceasingly,
His soul's wings never furled."




IN what consists the Beauty of Visual Form? The older writers
on what we now know as the science of art did not ask themselves
this question. Although we are accustomed to hear that order,
symmetry, unity in variety, was the Greek, and in particular
the Platonic, formula for beauty, we observe, on examining the
passages cited in evidence, that it is rather the moral quality
appertaining to these characteristics that determines them as
beautiful; symmetry is beautiful, because harmonious, and
inducing order and self-restraint. Aristotle's single
pronouncement in the sense of our question is the dictum: there
is no beauty without a certain magnitude. Lessing, in his
"Laocoon," really the first modern treatise in aesthetics,
discusses the excellences of painting and poetry, but deals
with visible beauty as if it were a fixed quality, understood
when referred to, like color. This is undoubtedly due to his
unconscious reference of beauty to the human form alone; a
reference which he would have denied, but which influences his
whole aesthetic theory. In speaking of a beautiful picture, for
instance, he would have meant first of all the representation
of beautiful persons in it, hardly at all that essential beauty
of the picture as painting, to which every inch of the canvas
is alike precious. It is clear to us now, however, that the
beauty of the human form is the most obscure of all possible
cases, complex in itself, and overlaid and involved as it is
with innumerable interests and motives of extra-aesthetic
character. Beauty in simple forms must be our first study;
and great credit is due to Hogarth for having propounded in
his "Analysis of Beauty" the simple question,--what makes the
quality of beauty to the eye?

But in visible beauty, the aesthetic value of pure form is
not the only element involved: or at least is must be
settled whether or not it is the only element involved. If
in a work of art, as we believe, what belongs to its excellence
belongs to its beauty, we may not applaud one painter, for
instance, for his marvelous color-schemes, another for his
expression of emotion, another for his delineation of
character, without acknowledging that expression of character
and emotion come within our concept of visible beauty. Franz
von Lenbach was once asked what he thought likely to be the
fate of his own work. "As for that," he replied, "I think I
may possibly have a chance of living; but ONLY if
Individualization or Characterization be deemed to constitute
a quality of permanent value in a picture. This, however, I
shall never know, for it can only be adjudged by posterity.
If that verdict should prove unfavorable, then my work, too,
will perish with the rest,--for it cannot compare on their
lines with the great masters of the past." That this is
indeed an issue is shown by the contrasting opinion of the
critic who exclaimed before a portrait, "Think away the
head and face, and you will have a wonderful effect of color!"
The analysis of visible beauty accordingly resolves itself
into the explanation of the beauty of form (including shape
and color) and the fixing in relation thereto of other

The most difficult part of our task is indeed behind us. We
have already defined Beauty in general: we have outlined
in a preceding essay the abstract aesthetic demands, and we
have now only to ask through what psychological means these
demands can be and are in fact met. In other words we have
to show that what we intensely feel as Beauty can and does
exemplify these principles, and through them is explained and
accounted for. Beauty has been defined as that combination
of qualities in the object which brings about a union of
stimulation and repose in the enjoyer. How must this be
interpreted with reference to the particular facts of visual

The most immediate reference is naturally to the sense organ
itself; and the first question is therefore as to the
favorable stimulations of the eye. What, in general, does
the eye demand of its object?


The simplest element of visual experience is of course found
in light and color, the sensation of the eye as such. Yet
there is no branch of aesthetic which is so incomplete. We
know that the sensation of light or color, if not too weak
or too violent, is in itself pleasing. The bright, the
glittering, shining object, so long as it is not painful,
is pleasantly stimulating. Gems, tinsel, lacquer, polish,
testify to this taste, from the most primitive to the most
civilized man. Color, too, if distinct, not over-bright,
nor too much extended in field, is in itself pleasing. The
single colors have been the object of comparatively little
study. Experiment seems to show that the colors containing
most brightness--white, red, and yellow--are preferred.
Baldwin, in his "dynamogenic" experiments,<1> based on "the
view that the infant's hand movements in reaching or
grasping are the best index of the kind and intensity of
its sensory experiences," finds that the colors range
themselves in order of attractiveness, blue, white, red,
green, brown. Further corrections lay more emphasis upon
the white. Yellow was not included in the experiments.
Cohn's results, which show a relative dislike of yellow,
are contradicted by other observers, notably Major and
Baker,<2> and (unpublished) experiments of my own, including
the aesthetic preferences of seven or eight different sets
of students at Radcliffe and Wellesley colleges. Experiments
of this kind are particularly difficult, inasmuch as the
material, usually colored paper, varies considerably from
the spectral color, and differences in saturation, hue, and
brightness make great differences in the results, while the
feeling-tone of association, individual or racial, very
often intrudes. But other things being equal, the bright,
the clear, the saturated color is relatively more pleasing,
and white, red, and yellow seem especially preferred.

<1> _Mental Development in the Child and the Race_, 1895,
pp. 39, 50, ff.
<2> E. S. Baker, _Univ. of Toronto Studies, Psychol. Series_,
No. 4; J. Cohn, _Philos. Studien_, vol. X; Major, _Amer. Jour.
of Psychol._, vol. vii.

Now, according to the Hering theory of color, white, red, and
yellow are the so-called "dissimilating" colors in the three
pairs, white-black, red-green, and yellow-blue, corresponding
to three hypothetical visual substances in the retina. These
substances, that is, in undergoing a kind of chemical
disintegration under the action of light-rays, are supposed to
give the sensations white, red, or yellow respectively, and in
renewing themselves again to give the sensations of black,
green, and blue. The dissimilating process seems to bring
about stronger reactions on the physiological side, as if it
were a more exciting process. Thus it is found<1> that as
measured by the increase in strength of the hand grip under
the stimulation of the respective colors, red has particularly
exciting qualities, but the other colors have an analogous
effect, lessening, however, with the descent from red to
violet. The pleasure in bright red, or yellow, for instance,
may thus well be the feeling-tone arising in the purely
physiological effect of the color. If red works like a trumpet
call, while blue calms and cools, and if red is preferred to
blue, it is because a sharp stimulation is so felt, and so

<1> Ch. Fere, _Sensation et Mouvement_, 1887, p. 80.

The question of the demands of the eye in color combination is
still more complicated. It has been traditional to consider
the complementaries black-white, red-green, blue-yellow, and
the other pairs resulting from the mixtures of these as the
best combinations. The physiological explanation is of course
found in the relief and refreshment to the organs in successive
alternation of the processes of assimilation and dissimilation,
and objectively in the reinforcement, through this stronger
functioning of the retina, of the complementary colors
themselves. This tendency to mutual aid is shown in the
familiar experiment of fixating for some moments a colored
object, say red, and then transferring the gaze to a white or
gray expanse. The image of the object appears thereon in the
complementary green. Per contra, the most complete lack of
contrast makes the most unpleasing combination, because instead
of a refreshing alternation of processes in the retina, a
fatiguing repetition results. Red and orange (red-yellow), or
red and purple (red-blue), successively stimulate the red-
process with most evil effect.

This contrast theory should, however, not be interpreted too
narrowly. There are pairs of so-called complementaries which
make a very crude, harsh, even painful impression. The theory
is happily supplemented by showing<1> that the ideal combination
involves all three contrast factors, hue, saturation, and
brightness. Contrast of saturation or brightness within the
same hue is also pleasant. For any two qualities of the color
circle, in fact, there can be found degrees of saturation and
brightness in which they will form an agreeable combination,
and this pleasing effect will be based on some form of contrast.
But the absolute and relative extension and the space-form of
the components have also a great influence on the pleasurableness
of combinations.

<1> A. Kirschmann, "Die psychol.-aesthet. Bedeutung des Licht
und Farbencontrastes," _Philos. Studien_, vol. vii.

Further rules can hardly be given; but the results of various
observers<1> seem to show that the best combinations lie, as
already said, among the complementaries, or among those pairs
nearer together in the color circle than complementaries, which
are "warmer." The reason for this last is that, in Chevreul's
phraseology, combinations of cold colors change each other's
peculiar hue the most, and of warm colors the least; because
the complementaries of these cold colors are "warm," i.e.
bright, and each, appearing on the field of the neighboring
cold color, seems to fade it out; while the complementaries
of the juxtaposed warm colors are not bright, and do not have
sufficient strength to affect their neighbors at all. With a
combination of blue and green for instance, a yellow shade
would appear in the green and a red in the blue. Such a
result fails to satisfy the demand, already touched on, for
purity and homogeneity of color,--that is, for unimpeded seeing
of color.

<1> Chevreul, _De la Loi du Contraste Simultane des Couleurs_.
E.S. Banker, op. Cit.

What significance have these abstract principles of beauty in
the combination of colors for representative art? In the
choice of objects with a definite local color, of course, these
laws will be found operative. A scheme of blues and yellows
is likely to be more effective than one of reds and violets.
If we analyze the masterpiece of coloring, we shall find that
what we at first supposed to be the wonderful single effects of
color is really the result of juxtapositions which bring out
each color to its highest power.


While all this may be true, however, the most important question
has not yet been asked. Is truth of color in representative art
the same thing as beauty of color? It might be said that the
whole procedure of the so-called Impressionist school, in fact
the whole trend of the modern treatment of color, took their
identity for granted. Yet we must discriminate. Truth of color
may be truth to the local color of the given objects, alone or
together; in this case we should have to say that beauty did or
did not exist in the picture, according as it did or did not
exist in the original combination. A red hat on a purple chair
would set one's teeth on edge, in model or picture. Secondly,
truth of color may be truth to the modifications of the
enveloping light, and in this case truth would make for beauty.
For the colors of any given scene are in general not colors
which the objects themselves, if isolated, would have, but the
colors which the eye itself is forced to see. The bluish
shadow of an object in bright sunlight (yellowish light) is only
an expression of the law that in the neighborhood of a colored
object we see its complementary color. If such an effect is
reproduced in a picture, it gives the same relief to the eye
which the original effect showed the need of. The eye fatigued
with yellow sees blue; so if the blue is really supplied in the
picture, it is not only true, but on the road to beauty, because
meting the eye's demand. The older methods of painting gave the
local color of an object, with an admixture of white for the
lights, and a warm dark for the shadows; the modern--which had
been touched on, indeed, sporadically, by Perugino and Vermeer,
for instance,--gives in the shadow the complementary color of
the object combined with that of the light falling upon it--all
conditions of favorable stimulation.

Further favorable stimulation of the eye is given in the method
of the Impressionists in treating "values," that is, comparative
relations of light and shade. The real tones of objects
including the sky, light, etc., can never be reproduced. The
older schools, conscious of this, were satisfied to paint in a
scale of correspondence, in which the relative values were
fairly kept. But even by that means, the great differences of
intensity could not be given, for the brightest spot of any
painting is never more than sixty-six times brighter than the
darkest, while the gray sky on a dull rainy day is four hundred
and twenty times brighter than a white painted cross-bar of a
window seen against the sky as background.<1> There were
various ways of combating this difficulty. Rembrandt, for
instance, as Kirschmann tells us, chose the sombre brown tone,
"not out of caprice or an inclination for mystic dreaming
(Fromentin), but because the yellow and orange side of the
color-manifold admits of the greatest number of intervals
between full saturation and the darkest shade." The precursors
of the Impressionists, on the other hand, succeeded in painting
absolute values, confining themselves to a very limited gamut;
for this reason the first landscapes of the school were all
gray-green, dull, cloudy. But Monet did not stop there. He
painted the ABSOLUTE VALUES of objects IN SHADE on a sunny day,
which of course demands the brightest possibilities of the
palette, and got the lighted objects themselves as nearly as
he could,--thus destroying the relative values, but getting an
extraordinary joyous and glowing effect; and one, too, of
unexpected verisimilitude, for it would seem that in a sunlit
scene we are really attentive to the shaded objects alone, and
what becomes of the others does not so much matter. This effect
was made still more possible by the so-called dissociation of
colors,--i.e. the juxtaposing of tints, the blending of which
by the eye gives the desired color, without the loss of
brightness which a mixing of pigments would involve. Thus by
putting touches of black and white side by side, for instance,
a gray results much brighter than could have been otherwise
reached by mixing; or blue and red spots are blended by the
eye to an extraordinarily vivid purple. Thus, by these
methods, using the truth of color in the sense of following
the nature of retinal functioning, Monet and his followers
raised the color scale many degrees in brightness. Now we
have seen that the eye loves light, warmth, strong color-effects,
related to each other in the way that the eye must see them.
Impressionism, as the name of the method just described, makes
it more possible than it had been before to meet the demands
of the eye for light and color, to recover "the innocence of
the eye," in Ruskin's phrase. Truth to the local color of
objects is relatively indifferent, unless that color is
beautiful in itself; truth to the reciprocal relations and
changes of hue is beauty, because it allows for the eye's own
adaptations of its surroundings in the interest of its own
functioning. Thus in this case, and to sum up, truth is
synonymous with beauty, in so far as beauty is constituted by
favorable stimulation of an organ. The further question, how
far this vivid treatment of light is of importance for the
realization of depth and distance, is not here entered on.

<1> Kirschmann, _Univ. of Toronto Studies, Psychol. Series_ No.
4, p. 20.


The moment we touch upon line-form we are already, in strictness,
beyond the elements. For with form enters the motor factor,
which cannot be separated from the motor innervations of the
whole body. It is possible, however, to abstract for the moment
from the form as a unit, and to consider here only what may be
called the quality of line. A line may be straight or broken,
and if curved, curving continuously or brokenly, etc. That
this quality of line is distinct from form may be shown by the
simple experiment of turning a spiral--a logarithmic spiral,
let us say--in different ways about its focus. The aesthetic
effect of the figure is absolutely different in the different
positions, and yet the feeling about the character of the line
itself seems to remain the same. In what sense, and for what
reasons, does this curved line satisfy the demands of the eye?
The discussion of this question precipitates us at once into
one of the burning controversies of aesthetics, which may
perhaps best be dealt with at this point.

An early answer to the question would have been, that the eye
is so hung in its muscles as to move most easily in curved
lines, and this easy action in following the curve is felt as
favorable stimulation. But recent experiment<1> has shown
that the eye in fact moves by most irregular, angular leaps
from point to point of the figure. The theory is therefore
remodeled by substituting for the movement sensations of the
eye, the tendencies corresponding to those early movements of
touching imitative of the form, by which we learned to know a
form for what it is, and the reproduction of feeling-tones
belonging to the character of such movement. The movements
of touching and feeling for a smooth continuous curved object
are themselves pleasant. This complex of psychical factors
makes a pleasurably stimulating experience. The greater the
tendency to complete reproduction of these movements, that is,
the stronger the "bodily resonance," the more vivid the pleasure.
Whether we (with Groos) designate this as sympathetic reproduction,
or (with Lipps) attribute to the figure the movements and the
feelings which resound in us after this fashion, or even (with
Witasek) insist on the purely ideal character of the reproduction,
seems to me not essential to the explanation of the pleasing
character of the experience, and hence of the beauty of the
object. Not THAT we sympathetically reproduce ("Miterleben"),
or "feel ourselves into" a form ("Einfuhlen"), but HOW we do so,
is the question.

<1> G.M. Stratton, _Philos. Studies_, xx.

All that Hogarth says of the beauty of the serpentine line, as
"leading the eye a kind of chase," is fully in harmony with this
view, if we add to the exploiting movements of the eyes those
other more important motor innervations of the body. But we
should still have to ask, WHAT kind of chase? Sharp, broken,
starting lines might be the basis of a much more vivid experience,
--but it would be aesthetically negative. "The complete sensuous
experience of the spatial" is not enough, unless that experience
is positively, that is, favorably toned. Clear or vivid seeing
made possible by the form of the object is not enough. Only as
FAVORABLY stimulating, that is, only as calling up ideal
reproductions, or physical imitations, of movements which in
themselves were suited to the functions of the organs involved,
can forms be found positively aesthetic, that is, beautiful.

Moreover, we have to note here, and to emphasize, that the
organs involved are more than the eye, as has already been made
plain. We cannot separate eye innvervations from bodily
innervations in general. And therefore "the demands of the eye"
can never alone decide the question of the beauty of visual
form. If it were not so, the favorable stimulation combined
with repose of the eye would alone make the conditions of
beauty. The "demands of the eye" must be interpreted as the
demands of the eye plus the demands of the motor system,--the
whole psychophysical personality, in short.

It is in these two principles,--"bodily resonance," and favorable
as opposed to energetic functioning,--and these alone, that we
have a complete refutation of the claim made by many artists
to-day, that the phrase "demands of the eye" embodies a complete
aesthetic theory. The sculptor Adolph Hildebrand, in his
"Problem of Form in the Plastic Art" first set it forth as the
task of the artist "to find a form which appears to have arisen
only from the demands of the eye;"<1> and this doctrine is
to-day so widely held, that it must here be considered at some

<1> _Das Proablem der form in d. bildenden Kunst_, 1897.

It is the space-form, all that is seen, and not the object itself,
that is the object of vision. Now in viewing a plastic object
near at hand, the focus of the eye must be constantly changed
between the nearer and further points. In a more distant view,
on the other hand (Hildebrand's "Fernbild"), the contour is
denoted by differences of light and shadow, but it is nevertheless
perceived in a single act of accommodation. Moreover, being
distant, the muscles of accommodation are relaxed; the eye acts
at rest. The "Fernbild" thus gives the only unified picture of
the three-dimensional complex, and hence the only unity of space-
values. In the perception of this unity, the author holds,
consists the essential pleasure which the work of art gives us.
Hildebrand's treatment is difficult, and lends itself to varying
interpretations, which have laid stress now on unity as the
essential of art,<1> now on "the joy in the complete sensuous
experience of the spatial."<2> The latter seems in harmony with
the passage in which Hildebrand says "all pleasure in Form is
pleasure in our not being obliged to create this clearness for
ourselves, in its being created for us, nay, even forced upon
us, by the form itself."

<1> A. Riehl, _Vierteljahrschr. f. wissenensch. Philos._, xxi,
<2> K. Groos, _Der Aesthetische Genuss_, 1902, p. 17.

But supposing the first interpretation correct: supposing
space-unity, conditioned by the unified and reposeful act of
seeing, to be the beauty we seek--it is at once clear that the
reduction of three dimensions to two does not constitute unity
even for the eye alone; how much less for the motor system of
the whole body, which we have seen must be involved. Hildebrand's
"demands of the eye" resolves itself into the stimulation plus
repose of the ciliary muscle,--the organ of accommodation. A
real unity even for the eye alone would have to include not
only space relations in the third dimension, but relations of
line and mass and color in the flat. As for the "complete
sensuous experience of the spatial" (which would seem to be
equivalent to Berenson's "tactile values"), the "clearness" of
Hildebrand's sentence above quoted, it is evident that
completeness of the experience does not necessarily involve
the positive or pleasurable toning of the experience. The
distinction is that between a beautiful and a completely
realistic picture.

A further extension or restatement of this theory, in a recent
article,<1> seems to me to express it in the most favorable
way. Beauty is again connected with the functioning of our
organs of perception (Auffassungorgane). "We wish to be put
into a fresh, lively, energetic and yet at the same time
effortless activity.... The pleasure in form is a pleasure
in this, that the conformation of the object makes possible
or rather compels a natural purposeful functioning of our
apprehending organs." But purposeful for what? For visual
form, evidently to the end of seeing clearly. The element of
repose, of unity, hinted at in the "effortless" of the first
sentence, disappears in the second. The organs of apprehension
are evidently limited to the eye alone. It is not the perfect
moment of stimulation and repose for the whole organism which
is aimed at, but the complete sensuous experience of the
spatial, again.

<1> Th. A. Meyer, "Das Formprinzip des Schouen," _Archiv. f.
Phil._, Bd. x.

Hildebrand, to return to the more famous theorist, was writing
primarily of sculpture, and would naturally confine himself to
consideration of the plastic, which is an additional reason
against making this interesting brochure, as some have done,
the foundation of an aesthetics. It is rather the foundation
of the sculptor's, perhaps even of the painter's technique,
with reference to plastic elements alone. What it contains
of universal significance, the demand for space-unity, based
on the state of the eye in a union of rest and action, ignores
all but one of the possible sources of rest and action for
the eye, that of accommodation, and all the allied activities

On the basis of the favorable stimulations of all these
activities taken together, must we judge as pleasing the so-
called quality of line. But it is clear that we cannot really
separate the question of quality of line from that of form,
figure, and arrangement in space. The motor innervations
enter with the first, and the moment we have form at all, we
have space-composition also. But space-composition means
unity, and unity is the objective quality which must be
translated, in our investigations, into aesthetic repose. It
is thus with the study of composition that we pass from the
study of the elements as favorably stimulating, to the study
of the beauty of visual form.


We may begin by asking what, as a matter of fact, has been the
arrangement of spaces to give aesthetic pleasure. The primitive
art of all nations shows that it has taken the direction of
symmetry about a vertical line. It might be said that this is
the result of non-aesthetic influences, such as convenience of
construction, technique, etc. <1>It is clear that much of the
symmetry appearing in primitive art is due (1) to the conditions
of construction, as in the form of dwellings, binding patterns,
weaving and textile patterns generally; (2) to convenience in
use, as in the shapes of spears, arrows, knives, two-handled
baskets or jars; (3) to the imitation of animal forms, as in
the shapes of pottery, etc. On the other hand, (1) a very
great deal of symmetrical ornament maintains itself AGAINST the
suggestions of the shape to which it is applied, as the
ornaments of baskets, pottery, and all rounded objects; and
(2) all distortion, disintegration, degradation of pattern-
motives, often so marked as all but to destroy their meaning,
is in the direction of geometrical symmetry. The early art of
all civilized nations shows the same characteristic. Now it
might be said that, as there exists an instinctive tendency to
imitate visual forms by motor impulses, the impulses suggested
by the symmetrical form are in harmony with the system of
energies of our bilateral organism, which is a system of double
motor innervations, and thus fulfill our demand for a set of
reactions corresponding to the organism as a whole. But we
should then expect that all space arrangements which deviate
from complete symmetry, and thus suggest motor impulses which
do not correspond to the natural bilateral type, would fail to
give aesthetic pleasure. Such, however, is not the case. Non-symmetrical arrangements of space are often extremely pleasing.

<1> The following is adapted from the author's _Studies in
Symmetry, Harvard Psych. Studies_, vol i, 1902.

This contradiction disappears if we are able to show that the
apparently non-symmetrical arrangement contains a hidden
symmetry, and that all the elements of that arrangement
contribute to bring about just that bilateral type of motor
impulses which is characteristic of geometrical symmetry.

A series of experiments was arranged, in which one of two
unequal lines of white on a black background being fixed in
an upright position a certain distance from the centre, the
other was shifted until the arrangement was felt to be pleasing.
It was found that when two lines of different sizes were opposed,
their relative positions corresponded to the relation of the
arms of a balance, that is, a small line far from the centre
was opposed by a large one near the centre. A line pointing
out from the centre fitted this formula if taken as "heavy,"
and pointing in, if taken as "light." Similarly, objects of
intrinsic interest and objects suggesting depth in the third
dimension were "heavy" in the same interpretation. All this,
however, did not go beyond the proof that all pleasing space-
arrangements can be described in terms of mechanical balance.
But what was this mechanical balance? A metaphor explains
nothing, and no one will maintain that the visual representation
of a long line weights more than a short one. Moreover, the
elements in the balance were so far heterogeneous. The
movement suggested by an idea had been treated as if equivalent
to the movement actually made by the eye in following a long
line; the intrinsic interest--that is, the ideal interest--of
an object insignificant in form was equated to the attractive
power of a perspective, which has, presumably, a merely
physiological effect on the visual mechanism.

I believe, however, that the justification of this apparent
heterogeneity, and the basis for explanation, is given in the
reduction of all elements to their lowest term,--as objects
for the expenditure of attention. A large object and an
"interesting" object are "heavy" for the same reason, because
they call out the attention. And expenditure of effort is
expenditure of attention; thus, if an object on the outskirts
of the field of vision requires a wide sweep of the eye to take
it in, it demands the expenditure of attention, and so is felt
as "heavy." But what is "the expenditure of attention" in
physiological terms? It is nothing more than the measure of
the motor impulses directed to the object of attention. And
whether the motor impulse appears as the tendency to follow
out the suggestions of motion in the object, all reduces to
the same physiological basis.

It may here be objected that our motor impulses are, nevertheless,
still heterogeneous, inasmuch as some are toward the object of
interest, and some along the line of movement. But it must be
said, first, that these are not felt in the body, but transferred
as values of weight to points in the picture,--it is the amount
and not the direction of excitement that is counted; and secondly,
that even if it were not so, the suggested movement along a line
is felt as "weight" at a particular point.

From this point of view the justification of the metaphor of
mechanical balance is quite clear. Given two lines, the most
pleasing arrangement makes the larger nearer the centre, and
the smaller far from it. This is balanced because the spontaneous
impulse of attention to the near, large line equals in amount
the involuntary expenditure to apprehend the small, farther one.

We may thus think of a space to be composed as a kind of target,
in which certain spots or territories count more or less, both
according to their distance from the centre and according to what
fills them. Every element of a picture, in whatever way it gains
power to excite motor impulses, is felt as expressing that power
in the flat pattern. A noble vista is understood and enjoyed as
a vista, but it is COUNTED in the motor equation, our "balance,"
as a spot of so much intrinsic value at such and such a distance
from the centre. The skillful artist will fill his target in the
way to give the maximum of motor impulses with the perfection of
balance between them.

It is thus in a kind of substitutional symmetry, or balance, that
we have the objective condition or counterpart of aesthetic
repose, or unity. From this point of view it is clearly seen in
what respect the unity of Hildebrand fails. He demands in the
statue, especially, but also in the picture, the flat surface as
a unity for the three dimensions. But it is only with the flat
space, won, if you will, by Hildebrand's method, that the problem
begins. Every point in the third dimension counts, as has been
said, in the flat. The Fernbild is the beginning of beauty, but
within the Fernbild favorable stimulation and repose must still
be sought. And repose or unity is given by symmetry, subjectively
the balance of attention, inasmuch as this balance is a tension
of antagonistic impulses, an equilibrium, and thus an inhibition
of movement.

From this point of view, we are in a position to refute Souriau's
interesting analysis<1> of form as the condition for the
appreciation of content. He says that form, in a picture for
instance, has its value in its power to produce (through its
fixation and concentration of the eye) a mild hypnosis, in which,
as is well known, all suggestions come to us with bewildering
vividness. This is, then, just the state in which the contents
of the picture can most vividly impress themselves. Form, then,
as the means to content, by giving the conditions for suggestion,
is Sourieau's account of it. In so far as form--in the sense
of unity--gives, through balance and equilibrium of impulses,
the arrest of the personality, it may indeed be compared with
hypnotism. But this arrest is not only a means, but an end in
itself; that aesthetic repose, which, as the unity of the
personality, is an essential element of the aesthetic emotion
as we have described it.

<1> _La Suggestion en l'Art_.


There is no point of light or color, no contour, no line, no
depth, that does not contribute to the infinite complex which
gives the maximum of experience with the minimum of effort and
which we call beauty of form. But yet there is another way of
viewing the beautiful object, on which we touched in the
introduction to this chapter. So far, what we see is only
another name for HOW we see; and the way of seeing has proved
to contain enough to bring to stimulation and repose the
psychophysical mechanism. But now we must ask, what relation
has meaning to beauty? Is it an element, coordinate with others,
or something superposed? or is it an end in itself, the supreme
end? What relation to the beauty of form has that quality of
their works by virtue of which Rembrandt is called a dreamer,
and Rodin a poet in stone? What do we mean when we speak of
Sargent as a psychologist? Is it a virtue to be a poet in
stone? If it is, we must somehow include in our concept of
Beauty the element of expression, by showing how it serves the
infinite complex. Or is it not an aesthetic virtue, and Rodin
is great artist and poet combined, and not great artist because
poet, as some would say? What is the relation of the objective
content to beauty of form? In short, what place has the idea
in Beauty?

In the preceding the place of separate objects which have only
an ideal importance has been made clear. The gold-embroidered
gauntlet in a picture counts as a patch of light, a trend of
line, in a certain spot; but it counts more there, because it
is of interest for itself, and by thus counting more, the idea
has entered into the spatial balance,--the idea has become
itself form. Now it is the question whether all "idea," which
seems so heterogeneous in its relation to form, does not undergo
this transmutation. It is at least of interest to see whether
the facts can be so interpreted.

We have spoken of ideas a parts of an aesthetic whole. What of
the idea of the whole? Corot used to say he painted a dream,
and it is the dream of an autumn morning we see in his pictures.
Millet portrays the sad majesty and sweetness of the life near
the soil. How must we relate these facts to the views already

It has often been said that the view which makes the element of
form for the eye alone, in the strictest sense, is erroneous,
because there is no form for the eye alone. The very process
of apprehending a line involves not only motor memories and
impulses, but numberless ideal associations, and these
associations constitute the line as truly as do the others. The
impression of the line involves expression, a meaning which we
cannot escape. The forms of things constitute a kind of dialect
of life,--and thus it is that the theory of Einfuhlung in its
deepest sense is grounded. The Doric column causes in us, no
doubt, motor impulses, but it means, and must mean, to us, the
expression of internal energy through those very impulses it
causes. "We ourselves are contracting our muscles, but we
feel as if the lines were pulling and piercing, bending and
lifting, pressing down and pushing up; in short, as soon as the
visual impression is really isolated, and all other ideas really
excluded, then the motor impulses do not awake actions which are
taken as actions of ourselves, but feelings of energy which are
taken as energies of the visual forms and lines."<1> So the
idea belonging to the object, and the psychophysical effect of
the object are only obverse and inverse of the same phenomenon.
And our pleasure in the form of the column is rather our
appreciation of energy than our feeling of favorable stimulation.
Admitting this reasoning, the meaning of a picture would be the
same as its beauty, it is said. The heroic art of J.-F. Millet,
for example, would be beautiful because it is the perfect
expression of the simplicity and suffering of labor.

<1> H. Munsterberg, _The Principles of Art Education_, p. 87.

Let us examine this apparently reasonable theory. It is true
that every visual element is understood as expression too. It
is not true, however, that expression and impression are parallel
and mutually corresponding beyond the elements. Suppose a
concourse of columns covered by a roof,--the Parthenon. Those
psychophysical changes induced by the sight now mutually check
and modify each other. Can we say that there is a "meaning,"
like the energy of the column, corresponding to that complex?
It is at least not energy itself. Ask the same as regards the
lines and masses of a picture by Corot. In the sense in which
we have taken "meaning," the only psychologically possible one,
our reactions could be interpreted only by some mood. If the
column means energy because it makes us tower, then the picture
must mean what it makes us do. That is, a combination of
feathery fronds and horizontal lines of water, bathed in a gray-
green silvery mist, can "mean" only a repose lightened by a
grave yet cheerful spirit. In short, this theory of
expressiveness cannot go beyond the mood or moral quality. In
the sense of INFORMATION, the theory of Einfuhlung contributes
nothing. Now, in this limited sense, we have indeed no reason
to contradict it, but simply to point out that it holds only
in this extremely limited sense. When we see broad sweeping
lines we interpret them by sympathetic reproduction as strength,
energy. When those sweeping lines are made part of a Titan's
frame, we get the same effect plus the associations which belong
to distinctively muscular energy. Those same lines might define
the sweep of a drapery, or the curve of an infant's limbs. Now
all that part of the meaning which belongs to the lines
themselves remains constant under whatever circumstances; and
it is quite true that a certain feeling-tone, a certain moral
quality, as it were, belongs, say, to Raphael's pictures, in
which this kind of outline is to be found. But as belonging to
a Titan, the additional elements of understanding are not due
to sympathetic reproduction. They are not parallel with the
motor suggestions; they are simply an associational addition,
due to our information about the power of men with muscles
like that. That there are secondary motor elements as a
reverberation of these ideal elements need not be denied. But
they are not directly due to the form. Now such part of our
response to a picture as is directly induced by the form, we
have a right to include in the aesthetic experience. It will,
however, in every work of art of even the least complexity,
be expressible only as a mood, very indefinite, often
indescribable. To make this "meaning," then, the essential
aim of a picture seems unreasonable.

It is evident that in experience we do not, as a matter of
fact, separate the mood which is due to sympathy from the
ideal content of the picture. Corot paint a summer dawn.
We cannot separate our pleasure in the sight from our pleasure
in the understanding; yet it is the visual complex that gives
us the mood, and the meaning of the scene is due to factors
of association. The "serene and happy dream," the "conviction
of a solemn and radiant Arcadia," are not "expression" in that
inevitable sense in which we agreed to take it, but the result
of a most extended upbuilding of ideal (that is, associational)

The "idea," then, as we have propounded it, is not, as was
thought possible, an integral and essential part, but an
addition to the visual form, and we have still to ask what is
its value. But in so far as it is an addition, its effect
may be in conflict with what we may call the feeling-tone
produced by sympathetic reproduction. In that case, one must
yield to the other. Now it is not probably that even the most
convinced adherents of the expression theory would hold that
if expression or beauty MUST go, expression should be kept.
They only say that expression IS beauty. But the moment it is
admitted that there is a beauty of form independent of the
ideal element, this theory can no longer stand. If there is
a conflict, the palm must be given to the direct, rather than
the indirect, factor. Indeed, when there is such a conflict,
the primacy must always be with the medium suited to the organ,
the sensuous factor. For if it were not so, and expression
WERE beauty, then that would have to be most beautiful which
was most expressive. And even if we disregard the extraordinary
conclusions to which this would lead,--the story pictures
preferred to those without a story, the photographic reproductions
preferred to the symphonies of color and form,--we should be
obliged to admit something still more incendiary. Expression
is always of an ideal content, is of something to express; and
it is unquestioned that in words, and in words alone, can we
get nearest to the inexpressible. Then literature, as being
the most expressive, would be the highest art, and we should be
confronted with a hierarchy of arts, from that down.

Now, in truth, the real lover of beauty knows that no one art
is superior to another. "Each in his separate star," they reign
alone. In order to be equal, they must depend on their material,
not on that common quality of imaginative thought which each has
in a differing degree, and all less than literature.

The idea, we conclude, is then indeed subordinate,--a by-product,
unless by chance it can enter into, melt into, the form. This
case we have clearest in the example, already referred to, of
the gold-embroidered gauntlet, or the jeweled chalice,--say the
Holy Grail in Abbey's pictures,--which counts more or less, in
the spatial balance, according to its intrinsic interest.

We have seen that through sympathetic reproduction a certain
mood is produced, which becomes a kind of emotional envelope
for the picture,--a favorable stimulation of the whole, a
raising of the whole harmony one tone, as it were. Now the
further ideal content of the picture may so closely belong to
this basis that it helps it along. Thus all that we know about
dawn--not only of a summer morning--helps us to see, and seeing
to rejoice, in Corot's silvery mist or Monet's iridescent
shimmers. All that we know and feel about the patient majesty
of labor in the fields, next the earth, helps us to get the
slow, large rhythm, the rich gloom of Millet's pictures. But
it is the rhythm and the gloom that are the beauty, and the
idea reinforces our consciousness thereof. The idea is a
sounding-board for the beauty, and so can be truly said to
enter into the form.

But there are still some lions in the path of our theory. The
greatest of modern sculptors is reputed to have reached his
present altitude by the passionate pursuance of Nature, and of
the expressions of Nature. And few can see Rodin's work
without being at once in the grip of the emotion or fact he
has chosen to depict. A great deal of contemporary criticism
on modern tendencies in art rests on the intention of
expression, and expression alone, attributed to him. It is
said of him: "The solicitude for ardent expression overmasters
every aesthetic consideration.... He is a poet with stone as
his instrument of expression. He makes it express emotions
that are never found save in music or in psychological and
lyric literature."<1>

<1> C. Mauclair, "The Decorative Sculpture of August Rodin,"
_International Monthly_, vol iii.

Now while the last is undoubtedly true, I believe that the
first is not only not true, but that it is proved to be so by
Rodin's own procedure and utterances, and that, if we understand
his case aright, it is for beauty alone that he lives. He has
related his search for the secret of Michael Angelo's design,
and how he found it in the rhythm of two planes rather than four,
the Greek composition. This system of tormented form is one way
of referring the body to the geometry of an imagined rectangular
block inclosing the whole.

<1>"The ordinary Greek composition of the body, he puts it,
depends on a rhythm of four lines, four volumes, four planes.
If the line of the shoulders and pectorals slopes from right
to left (the man resting on his right leg) the line across the
hips takes the reverse slope, and is followed by that of the
knees, while the line of the first echoes that of the shoulders.
Thus we get the rhythm ABBA, and the balancing volumes set up
a corresponding play of planes. Michael Angelo so turns the
body on itself that he reduces the four to two big planes, one
facing, the other swept round to the side of the block." That
is, he gets geometrical enveloping lines for his design. And,
in fact, there is no sculpture which is more wonderful in
design than Rodin's. I quote Mr. MacColl again. "It has been
said that the 'Bourgeois de Calais' is a group of single
figures, possessing no unity of design, or at best affording
only a single point of view. Those who say so have never
examined it with attention. The way in which these figures
move among themselves, as the spectator walks round, so as to
produce from every fresh angle sweeping commanding lines, each
of them thus playing a dozen parts at once, is surely one of
the most astounding feats of the genius of design. Nothing in
the history of art is exactly comparable with it."

<1> D. S. MacColl, _Nineteenth Century Art_, 1902, p. 101.

In short, it is the design, for all his words, that Rodin cares
for. He calls it Nature, because he sees, and can see Nature
only that way. But as he said to some one who suggested that
there might be a danger in too close devotion to Nature, "Yes,
for a mediocre artist!" It is for the sake of the strange new
beauty, "the unedited poses," "the odd beautiful huddle<1> of
lines," in a stopping or squatting form, that all these wild
and subtle moments are portrayed. The limbs must be adjusted
or surprised in some pattern beyond their own. The ideas are
the occasion and the excuse for new outlines,--that is all.

<1> Said of Degas. MacColl.

This is all scarcely less true of Millet, whom we have known
above all as the painter who has shown the simple common lot
of labor as divine. But he, too, is artist for the sake of
beauty first. He sees two peasant women, one laden with grass,
the other with fagots. "From far off, they are superb, they
balance their shoulders under the weight of fatigue, the
twilight swallows their forms. It is beautiful, it is great
as a myster."<1>

<1> Sensier, _Vie et Oeuvre de J.-F. Millet_.

The idea is, as I said, from this point of view, a means to
new beauty; and the stranger and subtler the idea, the more
original the forms. The more unrestrained the expression of
emotion in the figures, the more chance to surprise them in
some new lovely pattern. It is thus, I believe, that we may
interpret the seeming trend of modern sculpture, and so much,
indeed, of all modern art, to the "expressive beauty" path.
"The mediocre artist" will lose beauty in seeking expression,
the great artist will pursue his idea for the sake of the
new beauty it will yield.

Thus it seems that the stumbling blocks in the way of our
theory are not insurmountable after all. From every point
of view, it is seen to be possible to transmute the idea into
a helpmeet to the form. Visual beauty is first beauty to the
eye and to the frame, and the mind cherishes and enriches
this beauty with all its own stored treasures. The stimulation
and repose of the psychophysical organism alone can make one
thrill to visual form; but the thrill is deeper and more
satisfying if it engage the whole man, and be reinforced from
all sources.


But we ought to note a borderland in which the concern is
professedly not with beauty, but with ideas of life. Aristotle's
lover of knowledge, who rejoiced to say of a picture "This is
that man," is the inspirer of drawing as opposed to the art of
visual form.

It is not beauty we seek from the Rembrandt and Durer of the
etchings and woodcuts, from Hogarth, Goya, Klinger, down to
Leech and Keene and Du Maurier; it is not beauty, but ideas,--
information, irony, satire, life-philosophy. Where there is
a conflict, beauty, as we have defined it, goes to the wall.
We may trace, perhaps, the ground of this in the highly increased
amount of symbolic, associative power given, and required, in
the black and white. Even to understand such a picture demands
such an enormous amount of unconscious mental supplementation
that it is natural to find the aesthetic centre of gravity in
that element.

The first conditions of the work, that is, determine its trend
and aim. The part played by imagination in our vision of an
etching is and must be so important, that it is, after all, the
imaginative part which outweighs the given. Nor do we desire the
given to infringe upon the ideal field. Thus do we understand
that for most drawings a background vague and formless is the
desideratum. "Such a tone is the foil for psychological
moments, as they are handled by Goya, for instance, with
barbarically magnificent nakedness. On a background which is
scarcely indicated, with few strokes, which barely suggest
space, he impales like a butterfly the human type, mostly in a
moment of folly or wickedness.... The least definition of
surrounding would blunt his (the artist's) keenness, and make
his vehemence absurd."<1>

<1> Max Klinger, _Malerei u. Zeichnung_, 1903, p. 42.

This theory of the aim of black and white is confirmed by the
fact that while a painting is composed for the size in which it
is painted, and becomes another picture if reproduced in another
measure, the size of drawings is relatively indifferent; reduced
or enlarged, the effect is approximately the same, because what
is given to the eye is such a small proportion of the whole
experience. The picture is only the cue for a complete structure
of ideas.

Here is a true case of Anders-Streben, that "partial alienation
from its own limitations, by which the arts are able, not indeed
to supply the place of each other, but reciprocally to lend each
other new forces."<1> It is by its success as representation
that the art of the burin and needle--Griffelkunst, as Klinger
names it--ought first to be judged. This is not saying that it
may not also possess beauty of form to a high degree,--only that
this beauty of form is not its characteristic excellence.

<1> W. Pater, _The Renaissance: Essay on Giorgione_.

In what consists the beauty of visual form? If this question
could be answered in a sentence our whole discussion of the
abstract formula for beauty would have been unnecessary. But
since we know what the elements of visual form must do to bring
about the aesthetic experience, it has been the aim of the
preceding pages to show how those elements must be determined
and related. The eye, the psychophysical organism, must be
favorably stimulated; these, and such colors, combinations,
lines as we have described, are fitted to do it. It must be
brought to repose; these, and such relations between lines and
colors as we have set forth, are fitted to do it, for reasons
we have given. It is to the eye and all that waits upon it
that the first and the last appeal of fine art must be made;
and in so far as the emotion or the idea belonging to a
picture or a statue waits upon the eye, in so far does it
enter into the characteristic excellence, that is, the beauty
of visual form.



THE preceding pages have set forth the concrete facts of
visible beauty, and the explanation of our feelings about it.
It is also interesting, however, to see how these principles
are illustrated and confirmed in the masterpieces of art. A
statistical study, undertaken some years ago with the purpose
of dealing thus with the hypothesis of substitutional symmetry
in pictorial composition, has given abundance of material,
which I shall set forth, at otherwise disproportionate length,
as to a certain extent illustrative of the methods of such
study. It is clear that this is but one of many possible
investigations in which the preceding psychological theories
may be further illuminated. The text confines itself to
pictures; but the functions of the elements of visual form
are valid as well for all visual art destined to fill a bounded
area. The discussion will then be seen to be only ostensibly
limited in its reference. For picture might always be read
space arrangement within a frame.

In the original experimental study of space arrangements, the
results of which were given at length on page 111, the elements
of form in a picture were reduced to SIZE or MASS, DEPTH in the
third dimension, DIRECTION, and INTEREST. Direction was further
analyzed into direction of MOTION or ATTENTION (of persons or
objects in the picture), an ideal element, that is; and direction
of LINE. For the statistical study, a given picture was then
divided in half by an imaginary vertical line, and the elements
appearing on each side of this line were set off against each
other to see how far they lent themselves to description by
substitutional symmetry. Thus: in B. van der Helst's "Portrait
of Paul Potter," the head of the subject is entirely to left
of the central line, as also his full face and frontward glance.
His easel is right, his body turned sharply to right, and both
hands, one holding palette and brushes, are stretched down to
right. Thus the greater mass is to the left, and the general
direction of line is to the right; elements of interest in the
head, left; in implements, right. This may be schematized in
the equation (Lt.)M.+I.=(Rt.)I.+L.

Pieter de Hooch, "The Card-Players," in Buckingham Palace,
portrays a group completely on the right of the central line,
all facing in to the table between them. Directly behind them
is a high light window, screened, and high on the wall to the
extreme right are a picture and hanging cloaks. All goes to
emphasize the height, mass, and interest of the right side.
On the left, which is otherwise empty, is a door half the
height of the window, giving on a brightly lighted courtyard,
from which is entering a woman, also in light clothing. The
light streams in diagonally across the floor. Thus, with all
the "weight" on the right, the effect of this deep vista on
the left and of its brightness is to give a complete balance,
while the suggestion of line from doorway and light makes,
together with the central figure, a roughly outlined V, which
serves to bind together all the elements. Equation, (Lt.)V.+I.

The thousand pictures on which the study was based<1> were
classified for convenience into groups,--Religious, Portrait,
Genre, and Landscape. It was found on analysis that the
functions of the elements came out clearly, somewhat as follows.

<1> One thousand reproductions of old masters from F. Bruckmann's
_Classischer Bilderschatz_, Munich, omitting frescoes and
pictures of which less than the whole was given.

Of the religious pictures, only the "Madonnas Enthroned" and
other altar-pieces are considered at this point as presenting a
simple type, in which it is easy to show the variations from
symmetry. In all these pictures the balance comes in between
the interest in the Infant Christ, sometimes together with
direction of attention to him, on one side, and other elements
on the other. When the first side is especially "heavy" the
number of opposing elements increases, and especially takes
the form of vista and line, which have been experimentally
found to be powerful in attracting attention. Where there are
no surrounding worshipers, we notice remarkable frequency in
the use of vista and line, and, in general, balance is brought
about through the disposition of form rather than of interests.
The reason for this would appear to be that the lack of
accessories in the persons of saints, worshipers, etc., and
the consequent increase in the size of Madonna and Child in
the picture, heightens the effect of any given outline, and so
makes the variations from symmetry greater. This being the
case, the compensations would be stronger; and as we have
learned that vista and line are of this character, we see why
they are needed.

The portrait class is an especially interesting object for
study, inasmuch as while its general type is very simple and
constant, for this very reason the slightest variations are
sharply felt, and have their very strongest characteristic
effect. The general type of the portrait composition is, of
course, the triangle with the head at the apex, and this point
is also generally in the central line; nevertheless, great
richness of effect is brought about by emphasizing variations.
For instance, the body and head are, in the great majority of
cases, turned in the same way, giving the strongest possible
emphasis to the direction of attention,--especially powerful,
of course, where all the interest is in the personality. But
it is to be observed that the very strongest suggestion of
direction is given by the direction of the glance; and in no
case, when most of the other elements are directed in one way,
does the glance fail to come backward. With the head on one
side of the central line, of course the greatest interest is
removed to one side, and the element of direction is brought
in to balance. Again, with this decrease in symmetry, we see
a significant increase in the use of the especially effective
elements, vista and line. In fact, the use of the small deep
vista is almost confined to the class with heads not in the
middle. The direction of the glance also plays an important
part. Very often the direction of movement alone is not
sufficient to balance the powerful M.+I. of the other side,
and the eye has to be attracted by a definite object of interest.
This is usually the hand, with or without an implement,--like
the palette, etc., of our first examples,--or a jewel, vase,
or bit of embroidery. This is very characteristic of the
portraits of Rembrandt and Van Dyck.

In general, it may be said that (1) portraits with the head in
the centre of the frame show a balance between the direction
of suggested movement on one side, and mass or direction of
attention, or both together, on the other; while (2) portraits
with the head not in the centre show a balance between mass
and interest on one side, and direction of attention, or of
line, or vista, or combinations of these, on the other.

Still more unsymmetrical in their framework than portraits, in
fact the most unfettered type of all, are the genre pictures.
As these are pictures with a human interest, and full of action
and particular points of interest, it was to be expected that
interest would be the element most frequently appearing. In
compositions showing great variations from geometrical symmetry,
it was also to be expected that vista and line, elements which
have been noted comparatively seldom up to this point, should
suddenly appear strongly; for, as being the most strikingly
"heavy" of the elements, they serve to compensate for other
variations combined.

The landscape is another type of unfettered composition. It
was of course to be expected that in pictures without action
there should be little suggestion of attention or of direction
of movement. But the most remarkable point is the presence
of vista in practically every example. It is, of course,
natural that somewhere in almost every picture there should
be a break to show the horizon line, for the sake of variety,
if for nothing else; but what is significant is the part played
by this break in the balancing of the picture. In about two
thirds of the examples the vista is inclosed by lines, or
masses, and when near the centre, as being at the same time the
"heaviest" part of the picture, it serves as a fulcrum or centre
to bind the parts--always harder to bring together than in the
other types of pictures--into a close unity. The most frequent
form of this arrangement is a diagonal, which just saves itself
by turning up at its far end. Thus the mass, and hence usually
the special interest of the picture, is on the one side, on
the other the vista and the sloping line of the diagonal. In
very few cases is the vista behind an attractive or noticeable
part of the picture, the fact showing that it acts in opposition
to the latter, leading the eye away from it, and thus serving at
once the variety and richness of the picture, and its unity. A
complete diagonal would have line and vista both working at the
extreme outer edge of the picture, and thus too strongly,--
unless, indeed, balanced by very striking elements near the
outer edge.

This function of the vista as a unifying element is of interest
in connection with the theory of Hildebrand,<1> that the landscape
should have a narrow foreground and wide background, since that
is most in conformity with our experience. He adduces Titian's
"Sacred and Profane Love" as an example. But of the general
principle it may be said that not the reproduction of nature,
but the production of beauty, is the aim of composition, and that
this aim is best reached by focusing the eye by a narrow background,
i.e. vista. No matter how much it wanders, it returns to that
central spot and is held there, keeping hold on all the other
elements. Of Hildebrand's example it may be said that the
pyramidal composition, with the dark and tall tree in the centre,
effectually accomplishes the binding together of the two figures,
so that a vista is not needed. A wide background without that
tree would leave them rather disjointed.

<1> Op cit., p. 55.

In general, it may be said that balance in landscape is effected
between mass and interest on one side and vista and line on the
other; and that union is given especially by the use of vista.


The experimental treatment of the isolated elements detected
the particular function of each in distributing attention in
the field of view. But while all are possibly operative in a
given picture, some are given, as we have seen, much more
importance than others, and in pictures of different types
different elements predominate. In those classes with a
general symmetrical framework, such as the altar and Madonna
pieces, the elements of interest and direction of attention
determine the balance, for they appear as variations in a
symmetry which has already, so to speak, disposed of mass and
line. They give what action there is, and where they are very
strongly operative, they are opposed by salient lines and deep
vistas, which act more strongly on the attention than does mass.
Interest keeps its predominance throughout the types, except in
the portraits, where the head is usually in the central line.
But even among the portraits it has a respectable representation,
as jewels, embroideries, beautiful hands, etc., count largely
too in composition.

The direction of attention is most operative among the portraits.
Since these pictures represent no action, it must be given by
those elements which move and distribute the attention; in
accordance with which principle we find line also unusually
influential. As remarked above, altar-pieces and Madonna pictures,
also largely without action, depend largely for it on the direction
of attention.

The vista, as said above, rivets and confines the attention. We
can, therefore, understand how it is that in the genre pictures it
appears very numerous. The active character of these pictures
naturally requires to be modified, and the vista introduces a
powerful balancing element, which is yet quiet; or, it might be
said, inasmuch as energy is certainly expended in plunging down
the third dimension, the vista introduces an element of action
of counterbalancing character. In the landscape it introduces
the principal element of variety. It is always to be found in
those parts of the picture which are opposed to other powerful
elements, and the "heavier" the other side, the deeper the vista.
Also in pictures with two groups it serves as a kind of fulcrum,
or unifying element, inasmuch as it rivets the attention between
the two detached sides.

The direction of suggestion by means of the indication of a line,
quite naturally is more frequent in the Madonna picture and
portrait classes. Both these types are of large simple outline,
so that line would be expected to tell. In a decided majority
of cases, combined with vista--the shape being more or less a
diagonal slope--it is clear that it acts as a kind of bond
between the two sides, carrying the attention without a break
from one to the other.

The element of mass requires less comment. It appears in
greatest number in those pictures which have little action, i.e. portraits and landscapes, and which are not yet symmetrical,--
in which last case mass is, of course, already balanced. In
fact, it must of necessity exert a certain influence in every
unsymmetrical picture, and so its percentage, even for genre
pictures, is large.

Thus we may regard the elements as both attracting attention to
a certain spot and dispersing it over a field. Those types
which are of a static character (landscapes, altar-pieces)
abound in elements which disperse the attention; those which
are of a dynamic character (genre picture), in those which make
it stable. The ideal composition seems to combine the dynamic
and static elements,--to animate, in short, the whole field of
view, but in a generally bilateral fashion. The elements, in
substitutional symmetry, are then simply means of introducing
variety and action. As a dance in which there are complicated
steps gives the actor and beholder a varied and thus vivified
"balance," and is thus more beautiful than the simple walk, so
a picture composed in substitutional symmetry is more rich in
its suggestions of motor impulse, and thus more beautiful, than
an example of geometrical symmetry.


The particular functions of the elements which are substituted
for geometrical symmetry have been made clear; their presence
lends variety and richness to the balance of motor impulses.
But this quality of repose, or unity, given by balance, is also
enriched by a unity for intuition,--a large outline in which all
the elements are held together. Now this way of holding together
varies; and I believe that it bears a very close relation to the
subject and purpose of the picture.

Examples of these types of composition may best be found by
analyzing a few well-known pictures. We may begin with the class
first studied, the Altar-piece, choosing a picture by Botticelli,
in the Florence Academy. Under an arch is draped a canopy held
up by angels; under this, again, sits the Madonna with the Child
on her lap, on a throne, at the foot of which, on each side,
stand three saints. The outline of the whole is markedly
pyramidal; in fact, there are, broadly speaking, three pyramids,
--of the arch, the canopy, and the grouping. A second, much
less symmetrical example of this type, is given by another
Botticelli in the Academy,--"Spring." Here the central female
figure, topped by the floating Cupid, is slightly raised above
the others, which, however, bend slightly inward, so that a
triangle, or pyramid with very obtuse angle at the apex, is
suggested; and the whole, which at first glance seems a little
scattered, is at once felt, when this is grasped, as closely
bound together.

Closely allied to this is the type of the Holbein "Madonna of
Burgomaster Meyer," in the Grand Ducal Castle, Darmstadt. It
is true that the same pyramid is given by the head of the
Madonna against the shell-like background, and her spreading
cloak which envelops the kneeling donors. But still more
salient is the diamond form given by the descending rows of
these worshiping figures, especially against the dark background
of the Madonna's dress. A second example, without the pyramid
backing, is found in Rubens's "Rape of the Daughters of
Leucippus," in the Alte Pinakothek at Munich. Here the diamond
shape formed by the horses and struggling figures is most
remarkable,--an effect of lightness which will be discussed
later in interpreting the types.

A third type, the diagonal, is given in an "Evening Landscape"
by Cuyp, in the Buckingham Palace, London. High trees and
cliffs, horsemen and others, occupy one side, and the mountains
in the background, the ground and the clouds, all slope
gradually down to the other side.

It is a natural transition from this type to the V-shape of the
landscapes by Aart van der Neer, "Dutch Villages," in the London
National Gallery and in the Rudolphinum at Prague, respectively.
Here are trees and houses on each side, gradually sloping to
the centre to show an open sky and deep vista. Other examples,
of course, show the opening not exactly in the centre.

In the "Concert" by Giorgione, in the Pitti Gallery, Florence,
is seen the less frequent type of the square. The three
figures turned toward each other with heads on the same level
make almost a square space-shape, although it might be said
that the central player gives a pyramidal foundation. This
last may also be said of Verrocchio's "Tobias and the
Archangels" in the Florence Academy, for the square, or other
rectangle, is again lengthened by the pyramidal shape of the
two central figures. The unrelieved square, it may here be
interpolated, is not often found except in somewhat primitive
examples. Still less often observed is the oval type of
"Samson's Wedding Feast," Rembrandt, in the Royal Gallery,
Dresden. Here one might, by pressing the interpretation, see
an obtuse-angled double-pyramid with the figure of Delilah for
an apex, but a few very irregular pictures seem to fall best
under the given classification.

Last of all, it must be remarked that the great majority of
pictures show a combination of two or even three types; but
these are usually subordinated to one dominant type. Such,
for instance, is the case with many portraits, which are
markedly pyramidal, with the double-pyramid suggested by the
position of the arms, and the inverted pyramid, or V, in the
landscape background. The diagonal sometimes just passes over
into the V-shape, or into the pyramid; or the square is
combined with both.

What types are characteristic of the different kinds of pictures?
In order to answer this question we must ask first, What are the
different kinds of pictures? One answer, at least, is at once
suggested to the student on a comparison of the pictures with
their groupings according to subjects. All those which represent
the Madonna enthroned, with all variations, with or without
saints, shepherds, or Holy Family, are very quiet in their action;
that is, it is not really an action at all which they represent,
but an attitude,--the attitude of contemplation. This is no
less true of the pictures we may call "Adorations," in which,
indeed, the contemplative attitude is still more marked. On the
other hand, such pictures as the "Descents," the "Annunciations,"
and very many of the miscellaneous religious, allegorical, and
genre pictures, portray a definite action or event. Now the
pyramid type is characteristic of the "contemplative" pictures
in a much higher degree. A class which might be supposed to
suggest the same treatment in composition is that of the portraits,
--absolute lack of action being the rule. And we find, indeed,
that no single type is represented within it except the pyramid
and double-pyramid, with eighty-six per cent. of the former.
Thus it is evident that for the type of picture which expresses
the highest degree of quietude, contemplation, concentration,
the pyramid is the characteristic type of composition. Among
the so-called "active" pictures, the diagonal and V-shaped types
are most numerous.

The landscape picture presents a somewhat different problem. It
cannot be described as either "active" or "passive," inasmuch as
it does not express either an attitude or an event. There is no
definite idea to be set forth, no point of concentration, as
with the altar-pieces and the portraits, for instance; and yet
a unity is demanded. An examination of the proportions of the
types shows at once the characteristic type to be here also the
diagonal and V-shaped.

It is now necessary to ask what must be the interpretation of
the use of these types of composition. Must we consider the
pyramid the expression of passivity, the diagonal or V-shape, of
activity? But the greatly predominating use of the second for
landscapes would remain unexplained, for at least nothing can
be more reposeful than the latter. It may aid the solution of
the problem to remember that the composition taken as a whole
has to meet the demand for unity, at the same time that it
allows free play to the natural expression of the subject. The
altar-piece has to bring about a concentration of attention to
express or induce a feeling of reverence. This is evidently
accomplished by the suggestion of the converging lines to the
fixation of the high point in the picture,--the small area
occupied by the Madonna and Child,--and by the subordination
of the free play of other elements. The contrast between the
broad base and the apex gives a feeling of solidity, of repose;
and it seems not unreasonable to suppose that the tendency to
rest the eyes above the centre of the picture directly induces
the associated mood of reverence or worship. Thus the
pyramidal form serves two ends; primarily that of giving unity,
and secondarily, by the peculiarity of its shape, that of
inducing the feeling-tone appropriate to the subject of the

Applying this principle to the so-called "active" pictures, we
see that the natural movement of attention between the different
"actors" in the picture must be allowed for, while yet unity is
secured. And it is clear that the diagonal type is just fitted
for this. The attention sweeps down from the high side to the
low, from which it returns through some backward suggestion of
lines or interest in the objects of the high side. Action and
reaction--movement and return of attention--is inevitable under
the conditions of this type; and this it is which allows the
free play,--which, indeed, CONSTITUTES and expresses the activity
belonging to the subject, just as the fixation of the pyramid
constitutes the quietude of the religious picture. Thus it is
that the diagonal composition is particularly suited to portray
scenes of grandeur, and to induce a feeling of awe in the
spectator, because only here can the eye rove in one large sweep
from side to side of the picture, recalled by the mass and
interest of the side from which it moves. The swing of the
pendulum is here widest, so to speak, and all the feeling-tones
which belong to wide, free movement are called into play. If,
at the same time, the element of the deep vista is introduced,
we have the extreme of concentration combined with the extreme
of movement; and the result is a picture in the "grand style"
--comparable to high tragedy--in which all the feeling-tones
which wait on motor impulses are, as it were, while yet in the
same reciprocal relation, tuned to the highest pitch. Such a
picture is the "Finding of the Ring," Paris Bordone, in the
Venice Academy. All the mass and the interest and the suggestion
of the downward lines and of the magnificent perspective toward
the left, and the effect of the whole space composition is of
superb largeness of life and feeling. Compare Titian's
"Presentation of the Virgin," also the two great compositions
by Veronese, "Martyrdom of St. Mark," etc., in the Doge's Palace,
Venice, and "Esther before Ahaseurus," in the Uffizi, Florence.
In these last two, the mass, direction of interest, movement,
and attention are toward the left, while all the lines tend
diagonally to the right, where a vista is also suggested,--the
diagonal making a V just at the end. Here, too, the effect is
of magnificence and vigor.

If, then, the pyramid belongs to contemplation, the diagonal
to action, what ca be said of landscape? It is without action,
it is true, and yet does not express that positive quality, that
WILL not to act, of the rapt contemplation. The landscape
uncomposed is negative, and it demands unity. Its type of
composition, then, must give it something positive besides
unity. It lacks both concentration and action; but it can gain
them both from a space composition which shall combine unity
with a tendency to movement. And this is given by the diagonal
and V-shaped type. This type merely allows free play to the
natural tendency of the "active" picture; but it constrains the
neutral, inanimate landscape. The shape itself imparts motion
to the picture: the sweep of line, the concentration of the
vista, the unifying power of the inverted triangle between two
masses, act, as it were, externally to the suggestion of the
object itself. There is always enough quiet in a landscape,--
the overwhelming suggestion of the horizontal suffices for
that; it is movement that is needed for richness of effect, and,
as I have shown, no type imparts the feeling of movement so
strongly as the diagonal and V-shaped type of composition.
Landscapes need energy to produce "stimulation," not repression,
and so the diagonal type is proportionately more numerous.

The rigid square is found only at an early stage in the
development of composition. Moreover, all the examples are
"story" pictures, for the most part scenes from the lives of
the saints, etc. Many of them are double-centre,--square, that
is, with a slight break in the middle, the grouping purely
logical, to bring out the relations of the characters. Thus,
in the "Dream of Saint Martin," Simone Martini, a fresco at
Assisi, the saint lies straight across the picture with his
head in one corner. Behind him on one side stand the Christ
and angels, grouped closely together, their heads on the same
level. These are all, of course, in one sense symmetrical,--
in the weight of interest, at least,--but they are completely
amorphous from an aesthetic point of view. The forms, that is,
do not count at all,--only the meanings. The story is told by
a clear separation of the parts, and as, in most stories, there
are two principal actors, it merely happens that they fall into
the two sides of the picture. On the other hand, a rigid
geometrical symmetry is also characteristic of early composition,
and these two facts seem to contradict each other. But it is
to be noted, first, that the rigid geometrical symmetry belongs
only to the "Madonna Enthroned," and general "Adoration" pieces;
and secondly, that this very rigidity of symmetry in details
can coexist with variations which destroy balance. Thus, in a
"Madonna Enthroned" of Giotto, where absolute symmetry in detail
is kept, the Child sits far out on the right knee of the Madonna.

It would seem that the symmetry of these early pictures was not
dictated by a conscious demand for symmetrical arrangement, or
rather for real balance, else such failures would hardly occur.
The presence of geometrical symmetry is more easily explained
as the product, in large part, of technical conditions: of the
fact that these pictures were painted as altar-pieces to fill
a space definitely symmetrical in character--often, indeed,
with architectural elements intruding into it. We may even
connect the Madonna pictures with the temple images of the
classic period, to explain why it was natural to paint the
object of worship seated exactly facing the worshiper. Thus
we may separate the two classes of pictures, the one giving an
object of worship, and thus taking naturally, as has been said,
the pyramidal, symmetrical shape, and being moulded to symmetry
by all other suggestions of technique; the other aiming at
nothing except logical clearness. This antithesis of the
symbol and the story has a most interesting parallel in the two
great classes of primitive art--the one symbolic, merely suggestive,
shaped by the space it had to fill, and so degenerating into the
slavishly symmetrical; the other descriptive, "story-telling," and
without a trace of space composition. On neither side is there
evidence of direct aesthetic feeling. Only in the course of
artistic development do we find the rigid, yet often unbalanced,
symmetry relaxing into a free substitutional symmetry, and the
formless narrative crystallizing into a really unified and
balanced space-form. The two antitheses approach each other in
the "balance" of the masterpieces of civilized art--in which, for
the first time, a real feeling for space composition makes itself




THERE is a story, in Max Muller's amusing reminiscences, of
how Mendelssohn and David once played, in his hearing, Beethoven's
later sonatas for piano and violin, and of how they shrugged
their shoulders, and opined the old man had not been quite
himself when he wrote them. In the history of music it seems
to be a rule almost without exceptions, that the works of genius
are greeted with contumely. The same is no doubt true, though
to a much less degree, of other arts, but in music it seems that
the critics proposed also excellent reasons for their vehemence.
And it is instructive to observe that the objections, and the
reasons for the objections, recur, after the original object of
wrath has passed into acceptance, nay, into dominance of the
musical world. One may also descry one basic controversy running
through all these utterances, even when not explicitly set forth.

It was made a reproach to Beethoven, as it has been made a
reproach to Richard Strauss, that he sacrificed the beauty of
form to expression; and it was rejoined, perhaps less in the old
time than now, that expression was itself the end and meaning of
music. Now the works of genius, as we have seen, after all take
care of themselves. But it is of greatest significance for the
theory of music, as of all art, that in the circle of the years,
the same contrasting views, grown to ever sharper opposition,
still greet the appearance of new work. It was with Wagner, as
all the world knows, that the question came first to complete
formulation. His invention of the music-drama rested on his
famous theory of music as the heightened medium of expression,
glorified speech, which accordingly demands freedom to follow
all the varying nuances of feeling and emotion. Music has
always been called the language of the emotions, but Wagner
based his views not only on the popular notion, but on the
metaphysical theories of Schopenhauer; in particular, on the
view that music is the objectification of the will. Herbert
Spencer followed with the thesis that music has its essential
source in the cadences of emotional speech. In opposition
primarily to Wagner, the so-called formalists were represented
by Hanslick, who wrote his well-known "The Beautiful in Music"
to show that though music ha a limited capacity of expression,
its aim is formal or logical perfection alone. The expressionist
school could not contradict the undoubted fact that chords and
intervals which are harmonious show certain definite physical
and mathematical relationships, that, in other words, our
musical preferences appear to be closely related to, if not
determined by, these relationships. Thus each school seemed
to be backed by science. The emotional-speech theory has been
held in a vague way, indeed, by most of those theorists whose
natural conservatism would have drawn them in the other
direction, and is doubtless responsible for the attempts at
mediation, first made by Ambros,<1> and now met in almost all
musical literature. Music may be, and is, expressive, it is
said, so long as each detail allows itself to be entirely
derived from and justified by the mere formal element. The
"centre of gravity" lies in the formal relations.

<1> _The Boundaries of Music and Poetry._

To this, after all, Hanslick himself might subscribe. Other
writers seek to balance form and expression, insisting on
"the dual nature of music," while resting ultimately on the
emotional-speech theory. "The most universal composers,
recognizing the interdependence of the two elements, produce
the highest type of pure music, music in which beauty is based
upon expression, and expression transfigured by beauty."<1>

<1> D.G. Mason, _From Grieg to Brahms_, 1902, p. 30.

This usual type of reconciliation, however, is a perfectly
mechanical binding together of two possibly conflicting
aesthetic demands. The question is of the essential nature
of music, not whether music may be, but whether it must be,
expressive; not whether is has expressive power, but whether
it is, in its essence, expression,--a question which is only
obscured by insisting on the interdependence of the two
elements. If music has its essential source in the cadences
of speech, then it must develop and must be judged accordingly.
Herbert Spencer is perfectly logical in saying "It may be
shown that music is but an idealization of the natural
language of emotion, and that, consequently, music must be
good or bad according as it conforms to the laws of this
natural language."<1> But what, then, of music which,
according to Ambros, is justified by its formal relations?
Is music good because it is very expressive, and bad because
it is too little expressive? or is its goodness and badness
independent of its expressiveness? Such a question is not
to be answered by recognizing two kinds of goodness. Only
by an attempt to decide the fundamental nature of the musical
experience, and an adjustment of the other factors in strict
subordination to it, can the general principle be settled.

<1> _On Educaiton_, p. 41.

The excuse for this artificial yoking together of two opposing
principles is apparent when it is seen that form and expression
are taken as addressing themselves to two different mental
faculties. It seems to be the view of most musical theorists
that the experience of musical form is a perception, while the
experience of musical expression, disregarding for the moment
the suggestion of facts and ideas, is an emotion. Thus Mr.
Mason: "In music we are capable of learning, and knowledge
of the principles of musical effect can help us to learn, that
the balance and proportion and symmetry of the whole is far
more essential than any poignancy, however great, in the parts.
He best appreciates music...who understands it intellectually
as well as feels it emotionally;"<1> and again, "We feel in
the music of Haydn its lack of emotional depth, and its lack
of intellectual subtlety."

<1> Op. Cit., p. 6.

It is just this contrast and parallelism of structure as
balance, proportion, symmetry, addressed to the mind, with
expression as emotional content, that a true view of the
aesthetic experience would lead us to challenge. If there
is one thing that our study of the general nature of aesthetic
experience has shown, it is that aesthetic emotion is unique--
neither a perception nor an intellectual grasp of relations,
nor an emotion within the accepted rubric--joy, desire,
triumph, etc. Whether or not music is an exception to this
principle, remains to be seen; but the presumption is at
least in favor of a direct, immediate, unique emotion aroused
by the true beauty of music, whatever that may prove to be.

With a great literature in the form of special studies, we
must yet, on the whole, admit that we possess no general
formula in the philosophy or psychology of music which covers
the whole ground. Schopenhauer has said that music is the
objectification of the will--not a copy or a picture of it,
but the will itself; a doctrine which however illuminating
when it is modified in various ways is obviously no explanation
of our experience. Hanslick has but shown what music is not;
Edmund Gurney's eloquent book, "The Power of Sound," is
completely agnostic in its conclusion that music is a unique,
indefinable, indescribable phenomenon, which possesses, indeed,
certain analogues with other physical and psychical facts, but
is coextensive with none. Spencer's theory of music as
glorified speech is not only in a yet unexplained conflict
with many facts, but has never been formulated so that it could
apply to concrete cases. The same is true of Wagner's "music
as the utterance of feeling."

But there is a body of scientific facts respecting the elements
of music, in which we may well seek for clues. As facts alone
they are of no value. They must be explained as completely as
possible; and it is probable that if we are able to reach the
ultimate nature and origin of these elements of music they
will prove significant, and a way will be opened to a theory
of the whole musical experience. The need of such intensive
understanding must excuse the more or less technical discussions
in the following pages, without which no firm foundation for a
theory of music could be attained.


The two great factors of music are rhythm and tone-sensation,
of which rhythm appears to be the more fundamental.

Rhythm is defined in general as a repeating series of time
intervals. Events which occur in such a series are said to
have rhythm. In aesthetics, it is the periodic recurrence of
stress, emphasis, or accent in the movements of dancing, the
sounds of music, the language of poetry. Subjectively it is
the quality of stimulation due to a succession of impressions
(tactual and auditory are most favorable) which vary regularly
in objective intensity. We desire to understand the nature,
and the source of the pleasing quality, of this phenomenon.

It is only by a complete psychological description, however,
even a physiological explanation, that we can hope to fathom
the tremendous significance of rhythm in music and poetry.
Those treatments which expose its development in the dance and
song really beg the question; they assume the very fact for
which we have to find the ground, namely, the natural impulse
to rhythm. Even those theories which explain it as a helpful
social phenomenon, as regulating work, etc., fail to account
for its peculiar psychological character--that compelling,
intimate force, the "Zwang" of which Nietszche speaks, which
we all feel, and which makes it helpful. This compelling
quality of rhythm would lead us to look behind the sociological
influences, for the explanation in some fundamental condition
of consciousness, some "demand" of the organism. For this
reason we must find superficial the views which connect rhythm
with the symmetry of the body as making rhythmical gesture
necessary; or more particularly with the conditions of work,
which, if it is skilled and well carried out, proceeds in
equal recurring periods, like the swinging of a hammer or an
axe. But it appears that primitive effort is not carried on
in this way, and proceeds, not from regularity to rhythm, but
rather, through, by means of rhythm, which is made a help, to
regularity. Again, it is said that work can be well carried
out by a large number of people, only in unison, only by
simultaneous action, and that rhythm is a condition of this.
The work in the cotton fields, the work of sailors, etc.
requires something to give notice of the moment for beginning
action. Rhythm would then have arisen as a social function.
Against this it may be said that signals of this kind might
assist common action without recurring at regular intervals,
while periodicity is the fundamental quality of rhythm. Thus
this theory would explain a natural tendency by its effect.

Looking then, in accordance with the principle stated above,
for deeper conditions, we find rhythm explained in connection
with such rhythmical events as the heart beat and pulse, the
double rhythm of the breath; but these are, for the most part,
unfelt; and moreover, they would hardly explain the predominance
of rhythms quite other than the physiological ones. Another
theory, closely allied, connects rhythm with the conditions
of activity in general, but attaches itself rather to the
effect of rhythm than to its cause. Thus we are reminded of
the "heightened sense of expansion, or life, connected with
the augmentation of muscular movements induced by the more
extensive nervous discharges following rhythmic stimulation."<1>
But why should it be just rhythmic stimulation that produces
this effect? We are finally thrown back on physiology for the
answer that in rhythmical stimulation there are involved
recurrent activities of organs refreshed by immediately
preceding periods of repose. Here again, however, we must ask,
why on this hypothesis the periods themselves must be exactly
equal. For within the periods the greatest variety obtains.
One measure of a single note may be succeeded by another
containing eight; within the periods, that is, the minor
moments of activity and repose are quite unequal.

<1> H.R. Marshall, _Pain, Pleasure, and Aesthetics._

Last of all, we must note the view of rhythm as a phenomenon
of expectation (Wundt). But while we can undoubtedly describe
rhythm in terms of expectation and its satisfaction, rhythm is
rhythm just through its difference from other kinds of expectation.

All these explanations seem either merely to describe the facts
we seek to explain, or to fail to notice the peculiar intimate
nature of the rhythmical experience. But if it could be shown
not only that in all stimulation there must be involved an
alternation of activity and repose, but also that an equality
of such periods was highly favorable to the organism, we should
have the conditions for a physiological theory of rhythm. Now
the important psychological facts of so-called subjective
rhythmizing seem to supply just this need.

It has been shown<1> that we can neither receive objectively
equal sense-stimuli, nor produce regular movements, without
injecting into these a rhythmical element. A series of objectively
equal sound-stimuli--the ticking of a clock, for instance--is
heard in groups, within each of which one element is of greater
intensity. A series of movements are never objectively equal,
but grouped in the same way. Now this subjective rhythm, sensory
and motor, is explained as follows from the general physiological
basis of attention.

<1> T.L. Bolton, _Amer. Jour. Of Psychol._, vol. vi. The classical
historical study of theories of rhythm remains that of Meumann,

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