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Sculpture in England Essay

Sculpture is neglected in England. In a country where there are so many beautiful specimens of the art in our cathedrals, we ought to try to regain what is perhaps the highest of the arts, and the noblest expression of the artistic spirit. I say “perhaps”—you must excuse the painter’s “perhaps;” forthough there is more realism in sculpture than in painting, though the sculptor has a more material way of communicat- ing his feelings; yet, on the other band, the painter has more means at his disposal than the sculptor. For in- stance, the painter can give you a certain “atmosphere,” be can make you almost forget that his portrait is only a portrait; but a sculptor—he cannot do that, and his art must always therefore remain more realistic, more material.

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It is, for this reason, that, for what may be called “fancy subjects,” the public looks to painting rather than to sculpture. Nevertheless it is a great pity that sculpture should be so much at a discount as it is in England now. And of what is this the result?—It is the result of wrong ideals, both among artists themselves and among the public. The subject of sculpture is partly the offspring of the modern idea that our fathers were worth nothing, and that whatever we do we must do all “off our own thumb.” Why, I have heard Parisian artists propose to burn all the contents of the Louvre and throw them into Seine.

I call that a wrong ideal: it is false— this feeling of our being so much better than our forefathers— false and irreverent! I will tell you a story of the celebrated French artist, Courbet, which illustrates many things relating to the “sub- ject” of sculpture, and will show you what I meant by saying, that it is a materialistic art. A young man one day brought him an ambitious work representing an angel. “Have you ever seen an angel ?” inquired the master. “No, sir,” replied the young man. “Neither have I,” was the master’s parting wcrd; “go away I” That is it—unless the art is the material representation of what you see—it is nothing ; it has no necessary function in life. And, indeed, this can be applied further still, and to all art.

All great art must, in some form or other, bear relation to life—be in accord with the things we daily tee and feel. A friend of mine, a Scotch lady, has said so beautiful a word on this subject that I have written it on the walls of my studio: “As the sun colors flowers, so art colors life.” Now, in this matter of sculpture we certainly seem to be doing our best; our good friends, the architects, do what they can; all over London there are pedestals on our public build- ings; pedestals here, pedestals there, pedestals every where; but unfortunately all the pedestals remain empty. Yet what opportunities they would afford for sculpture to color life ! What opportunities, for instance, for the sculpture of all kinds of virtues: for help to the poor and all that kind of thing! And not only are opportunities thrown away, but even the architectural effect of our buildings is spoiled by the neglect of them.

For instance, there are big pedestals left to finish off the National Gallery; but only the small domes are executed. These were designed to be supported by groups of sculpture. As it is, the domes look very ugly—like pepper-pots; but if the sculptures had been added, to supply what artists call a sky- line, they would be complete. Why is public sculpture thus neglected? I think that the system of competition is largely to blame. Competition in everything; competition In our national life in general, competition in our system of art production in particular. Take the instance of the creating; of works of art for public buildings;

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Competition and Officialism I There is one nice kind of tape which I hate, and that is red tape; bat a man who exists only by this tape naturally won’t let it loose: on the contrary, he sticks to it—he would lose his salary if he didn’t. The proposed new War Office was a scandalous case. Distinguished artists were appointed to decide. 8everal people competed: and the competition was decided in favor of a country Arm. The Arm was dellghtad and came up to London; but then red tape came up too—in fact was already there, and decided that after all there should be no new War Office.

This ought not to be. If a man goes in for a competition and gains it, then he ought to hare the job. [ This sentiment was loudly cheered.) Then there is another case. I have been told that all the money left for sculptures on Blackfrlars Bridge has been swallowed up in competitions that have all come to nothing. Now, that’s a pity! It would have been much better that one of the competitions should have been accepted, even if inferior works had been chosen, than that there should be no money left for any sculptures at all. However, now there are some more empty pedes- tals to go with the others! Look at France. How is it that France is so rich, even after having been vanquished in a disastrous war and after paying an enormous war indemnity She is defeated : she pays; and yet she does not lose her European supremacy in art.

Why ? It Is because her people are easily first in artistic skill and taste. And as that is so, you still understand how much I appreciate all new efforts, such as you are making here at Toynbee Hall, with this 8chool and Guild of Handicraft of yours, to spread the feeling for art and beauty. As soon as we English can make our productions as tasteful as the French, our work will be better than theirs, for already it Is more solid. Our earthen- ware is better than any other. Our Minton ware and Doulton ware are admirable. I was at Rome not long ago, and went over the Farnesina Palace, and was pleasantly struck by finding a Mintoo pot on a mantel- piece, holding its own in the company of Raphael and Michael Angelo. [Cheers.) But we cannot expect to make all productions more taste- ful until the love of beautiful things is more widely spread among our people. To implant this love in the individual is the great thing wanted, and the greatest thing of all is to make every workman feel that be is an artist. This Minton and China ware is called “ industrial art-” Now, that pbrsie is an invention of modern times. In the great times of art. there was no “Industrial artall art was simply “art.” The new idea is one result of the division of labor which modern tlmee. In tom a thing the change ia good. In old timea a painter wae alto a maker of pot».

Well, a painter now coold probably make pot# too If be tried; but perbape after all it It better that he thoald confine bimtelf to the higher branch of art. That U the good tide of dirliton of labor; but if it it not alto to bare a bad tide, we matt take care that the man who itieki to making pole doee not low the tent« that be, too, it an arttat. Everybody cannot be a Raphael, and everybody cannot be a P hid let; but everybody can be aometblng. Everybody can •av with De Mmeet. “If my gUaa it email, yet I drink oat of my own gloat.” Every itone cannot be the corner itone, bn t every atone baa Ita place; U itmodern tlmee. In tom a thing« the change ia good. In old timea a painter wae alto a maker of pot». Well, a painter now coold probably make pot# too If be tried; but perbape after all it It better that he thoald confine bimtelf to the higher branch of art.

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That u the good tide of dirliton of labor; but if it it not alto to bare a bad tide, we matt take care that the man who itieki to making pole doee not low the tent« that be, too, it an arttat. Everybody cannot be a Raphael, and everybody cannot be a P hid let; but everybody can be aometblng. Everybody can •av with De Mmeet. “If my gUaa it email, yet I drink oat of my own gloat.” Every itone cannot be the corner itone, on every atone baa Ita place; U ithad not, no building and no tociety could atand. If only every artiit who earved beautiful t too ее, and every artlet who drew beautiful facet, would recognize tbat each aineerely admired the other, then wo ebould all tee that we were brethern In art together.

The love of Beauty it the root of all good, and I am glad to note tome favorable tign of a movement In the preeent day toward the wider ditperaa! of latte: I lay great value, for Inatance, on the Kindergartentyatem, which recognize* that children taka intarett in the forms of tblogt before they do in literary Idea#— that education, in other word#, recognition of thia principal In early education, develop«# in a child a taate for art that never leavee it; it it the meant of teaching that aouree of pleaaure, the potaettlon of which a friend envied me the other day. ‘Ton enjoy,” the t*id, “thingt in nature which I pate by without ttelng.” Thu taking pleat ore in natural forma, It not only aaouree of happinett, hut it the eeeret tucccti In “iDdnatrlal art;” and thia form of art la parbapt to «onlptnre than to painting. I cannot lay too much itrtaa on the Importance of the relallonthip between sculpture and indnitrial art; of the value a little undentaodlng of sculpture will be to you who are engaged in Indnitrial art, and of the need for youratudying and enjoying it Why, there it iculpture every where—the element of tenlpture arein a vary thing.

There U acnlpture in tbit lamp on the table before me. Ite manufacture baa required conaldarationa of abape and proportion, and that ia aculptore. There ia eoulpture In tbe handle of a took The handle haa to be given a certain aweep, certain llnra of curvature; that ia aeulpture ; and the great eat of all the perloda Of Art waa the Oraek period, and that waa Uu period of aeulpture. Now, why u it that Greek art waa to grand f la la eimply becauee Greek workmen took pleaaure In everything they made, no matter how aimple, and beoanae they tried to make every- thing at well aa they poeelbly could.

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Sculpture in England Essay
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Artscolumbia

Sculpture is neglected in England. In a country where there are so many beautiful specimens of the art in our cathedrals, we ought to try to regain what is perhaps the highest of the arts, and the noblest expression of the artistic spirit. I say “perhaps”—you must excuse the painter's “perhaps;” forthough there is more realism in sculpture than in painting, though the sculptor has a m

2017-08-18 14:15:26
Sculpture in England Essay
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