Skip to main content

Full text of "Art's Collaboration with Literature"

See other formats


Early Journal Content on JSTOR, Free to Anyone in the World 

This article is one of nearly 500,000 scholarly works digitized and made freely available to everyone in 
the world by JSTOR. 

Known as the Early Journal Content, this set of works include research articles, news, letters, and other 
writings published in more than 200 of the oldest leading academic journals. The works date from the 
mid-seventeenth to the early twentieth centuries. 

We encourage people to read and share the Early Journal Content openly and to tell others that this 
resource exists. People may post this content online or redistribute in any way for non-commercial 
purposes. 

Read more about Early Journal Content at http://about.jstor.org/participate-jstor/individuals/early- 
journal-content . 



JSTOR is a digital library of academic journals, books, and primary source objects. JSTOR helps people 
discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content through a powerful research and teaching 
platform, and preserves this content for future generations. JSTOR is part of ITHAKA, a not-for-profit 
organization that also includes Ithaka S+R and Portico. For more information about JSTOR, please 
contact support@jstor.org. 



ART'S COLLABORATION WITH LITERATURE 



By Edward King 



With original illustrations by C. S. Rein hart. 



If any proof were needed that the really satisfactory results 
in art and literature are secured by accurate reproduction of 
visible objects, joined to deep study of the hidden meanings of 
life and nature, it would be furnished by the illustrators of to- 
day. Even the novelist, in his endeavor to portray the 
emotions of men and women, succeeds only if able to 
place the characters in perfectly natural surroundings. 
This analytical generation, which has parted with most 
of its illusions, views with suspicion any attempt to cre- 
ate a new one. No man of genius could now arouse 
enthusiasm in the public if, having* created a series of 
typical characters, he should venture, through negli- 
gence, to give them an unreal background. We are at 
present as far removed from the art of Chateaubriand 
as from that of the naive artificers who fabricated ro- 
mances like " Amadis de Gaule." 
Victor Hugo, with his unerring instinct, and impelled by the experience of a 
long lifetime of careful observation, made his Jean Valjean immortal by placing 
him in the centre of a faultless picture of the France and Paris of the earlier half 

of this century. He drew every figure in that picture 
with consummate care. The buttons and shoe-buckles 




CARICATURE OF WM. M. CHASE 




STREET-NOTES IN EUROPE 



9° 



Art's Collaboration with Literature 




AT CORDOVA 



of a rich bourgeois, the 
rags of Cosette, and the 
very bristles on the for- 
bidding features of " La 
Thenardiere/' are as 
closely studied, as ad- 
mirably rendered, as 
are the soul - struggles 
of Valjean. When the 
lambent light of genius 
fell upon the work the 
effect was marvellous. 
Th ere was romance 
enough in it for the most exacting, but romance reposing 
upon the solid foundations of the best and most instructive realism. 

Hugo's early years had been passed in the society of artists and men of letters 
who were practically in revolt against the real, but he never for an instant lost 
sight of the immense importance of first copying it exactly in order to interpret 
it aright. He was a pioneer toward the right kind of realism ; and his romantic 
revolt against the elder classicists was his first step toward the new goal. 

Then came Balzac, who poured out his strength in passionate and persistent 
effort to copy from life a whole gallery of human types, and who was not satisfied 
merely with making portraits ; he painted a wart on a hand or a mole on a cheek 
with the same loving care, the same conscientious expenditure of minute attention, 
that he bestowed on the beautiful eyes or the exquisite form of one of his heroines. 
The artists caught this inspiration, and men arose who painted garter-buttons 
and military plumes with as cunning finish, as absolute technical mastery of their 
models, as they exhibited in their interpretations of the human face. Thencefor- 
ward the brethren of the brush went on conquering and to conquer. They had 
found the right formula, adhered to it, and marched to rare new successes. Mean- 
time, curiously enough, the brethren of the pen had relinquished their hold upon the 
new method and 
were returning 
into the domain 
of fantasy, where 
they would have 
ended by forget- 
ting all about the 
real world if the 
artists had not 
rallied them. 

No writer of 
talent in France 
can tell how 
much he owes to 
the constant in- 
fluence of that 
patient art which 




SUNDAY EVENING, BERLIN 



Art's Collaboration with Literature 



9 1 




has shamed him, a hundred times, into more complete accuracy in his efforts to 
depict life and its myriads of accessories. The lesson is more conspicuous in 
France than elsewhere, because art has made greater advances there than in other 
lands in the present century, and because literature is more completely emanci- 
pated, and has wider freedom in choice of subjects. 

The theatre has gained immensely by this sincerity in pictorial art. The old 
sovereigns of the past century, who were content to behold " Phedre " played in a 
court dress with a train, would be amazed if they could see the scrupulous care in 
costume employed by Sarah Bernhardt when 
she assumes the tragic role. The painstak- 
ing research of a Sardou, making archas- 
ological studies for twenty-five years 
before venturing to place " Theo- 
dora " upon the stage, would 
have seemed to the playwrights \: 

of the Court Theatre at Ver- 
sailles the vagary of a mono- 
maniac. Yet Sardou's theory is 
the accepted one to-day. 

It is not until we begin to 
study things in detail that we 
gain a correct idea of their rela- 
tions to their surroundings. No 
writer would, I presume, deny, at 
this stage of the realistic revolu- 
tion, that it would be idle to at- 
tempt a monograph of a shop-girl, 
for instance, without delving deeply 
into the history of her class, the 
character of her guild, her per- 
sonal antecedents and parentage, 
her outward demeanor, and the 
effects of environment on her men- 
tal development. In the days when 







A HARVESTER 



9 2 



Art's Collaboration with Literature 



art was unreal, when the artist merely poetized and idealized 
figures which he dimly and hastily saw in the throng, how 
much more difficult such a monograph would have been than 
it is now, when a hundred artists in every great city are 
laboriously and enthusiastically studying and jotting down 
the peculiarities of every class, and the character of each 
emotion in the scale of human sorrow or joy. 

It is to art's precious and often unacknowledged col- 
laboration that we owe some of the finest triumphs of liter- 
ature. A prince of illustrators, who, like Mr. Reinhart, 
scatters abroad with lavish hand the wealth of sketches 
made in a dozen lands, is doing for the novelist, the poet, the 
essayist — even the political economist — a service, the value 
of which cannot be estimated in money. This service opens 
to the writer a thousand new channels of thought, shows 
him sources of inspiration of which he had not dreamed, 
and saves him from errors which the critics would visit 
upon him, and upon those of his school who come after him, 
even to the third and fourth generation. It banishes preju- 
dice, which is such an enemy of real literature ; it saves men 
from undertaking long journeys ; it brings one nation to 

the doors of another. The 





sketch-book of the illustrator is like the lamp 
which Aladdin rubbed when he wanted some- 
thing wonderful. Open the book, and you are 
straightway beyond frontiers ; you look down 
on nations ; you traverse seas and pierce the 
hearts of continents. A thousand new and 
brilliant thoughts, which had been, as it were, 
congealed on the very end of the author's pen, 
melt and flow in the mellow sunshine of this art 
which comes with its strong realism to give the 
note of truth. 

Naturally it is no part of my purpose to exalt 
the pictorial art above that of the pen. The 
masters in literature study nature and life in 
the same steadfast and minute way adopted by 
the masters in art, and even without the aid of 
the latter they work an enchantment which is 
abiding. But the minor workers in literature, 
who try to substitute generalizations for veritable 
descriptions, should have the need of following the 
examples of the best masters in art daily dinned 
into their ears. Let them try, by way of proving to 
themselves how much they would gain by the adop- 
tion of realism, to describe in words, and in an in- 
teresting manner, a picture of Napoleon First in the 
uniform which he customarily wore at the Tuileries. 



Art's Collaboration with Literature 



93 




TU* 



+*&- 




COMMON SPANISH TYPES, TOLEDO 



If they will but catalogue all 
its points faithfully, and omit 
nothing for the sake of prej- 
udice or individual notions, 
and then compare this de- 
scription, crude though it 
may be, with most of the 
hasty pen - pictures of the 
" Little Corporal " by Ma- 
dame de Remusat, or other 
writers of " Memoirs " of Na- 
poleon's time, they will find 
their own production infi- 
nitely the most interesting. 
How can any sketch writ- 
ten from memory hope to 
compete with the careful 
" letters survive " when almost all the 




SAAL-DIENER, SKETCHED 
IN REICHSTAG, BERLIN 



picture from the model ? I know that 
other visible memorials of a civilization perish. The 
" Iliad " has travelled down to our day, while thousands 
of reproductions in art of its heroes have been swept so 
far below the dust of the centuries that they can never 
profit us. But I like to think that the fortieth-century 
students of our epoch will be able to see the tens of thou- 
sands of illustrations of the serious and comic phases of 
our every-day life in this period of democracy. If we 
had anything like so good materials for appreciating the 
life of the ancients, how different might have been our 
notion of them ! Let artists of distinction, like Mr. Rein- 
hart, be of good cheer, for science will probably find out 
a way of preserving their delicate and useful work for the 
* delectation and wonder of the coming generations. 

And there will be no excuse for the historical novelist 

of the future if he does not produce an accurate 

picture of his heroes. The photographer, the 

illustrator, the phonograph, will have done so 

much for him that there will be little 

need for his imagination. Will this de- 

tf§^% tract from the romance of history? 

Vy^ Who can say ? Certainly the his- 

^ ®^ V -P-- -: t or i c fi eat r e w i 1 1 b e c o m e 1 e ss sh a d - 



owy ; it must, in fact,, stand in 
the glare of the real : the role of 
the legendary will be lessened if 
not annihilated. But there will 
still be the enchanting glamour 
of the past about the men and the 
history-dramas in which they act. 




ATTITUDES