chapter  18
12 Pages

On Looking at a Picture

The diagram and account given of the processes which make ^ 47^ • |. r * -1 J T J {lI3 >up the reading or a poem may be easily modified to represent

what happens when we look at a picture, a statue, or building, or listen to a piece of music. The necessary changes are fairly obvious, and it will only be necessary here to indicate them briefly. Needless to say the importance to the whole response of different kinds of elements varies enormously from art to art; so much so as to explain without difficulty the opinion so often held by persons interested primarily in one of the arts - that the others (or some of them) are entirely different in nature. Thus painters often aver that poetry is so different, so indirect, so second-hand in the way in which it produces its results, as hardly to deserve the name of an art at all. But, as we shall see, the differences between separate arts are sometimes no greater than differences to be found in each of them; and close analo­ gies can be discovered by careful analysis between all of them. These analogies indeed are among the most interesting features which such scrutiny as we are here attempting can make clear. For an understanding of the problems of one art is often of great service in avoiding misconceptions in another. The place of representation in painting, for example, is greatly elucidated by a sound comprehension o f the place of reference or thought in poetry, just as a crude view on this latter point is likely to [148] involve unfortunate mistakes upon the first. Similarly a too narrow view of music which would limit it to an affair merely of the appreciation of the pitch and time relations of notes may be corrected most easily by a comparison with the phenomena o f {114} colour in the plastic arts. Comparison of the arts is, in fact, far

the best means by which an understanding of the methods and resources of any one of them can be attained. W e must be care­ ful o f course not to compare the wrong features of two arts and not to find merely fanciful or insecurely grounded analogies. The dangers both of too close assimilation and too wide separa­ tion of the structures of different arts are well illustrated in criti­ cism, both before and since the days of Lessing. Only a thor­ ough psychological analysis will allow them to be avoided, and those whose experience leads them to doubt whether analogies are of service, may be asked whether their objection is not directed merely to attempts to compare different arts without a sufficient analysis. With such an analysis, comparison and the elaboration of analogies involve no attempt to make one art leg­ islate for another, no attempt to blur their differences or to destroy their autonomy.