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Book Excerpt

The artist differs from the ordinary person partly by his ability to make what he sees a public object, but chiefly in the range and depth of vision itself.  The first depends upon technical training and competence, but this simply as a matter of skill is far from qualifying any one for the production of authentic works of art.  A work of art is a creation, and the creation is not accomplished in the act of embodying in a material object what is already in the artist’s mind, but in the act of insight into the objective world by virtue of which it assumes form and order.  Hence the artist is primarily the discoverer, just as the scientist is; the scientist discovers abstract symbols which may be used for purposes of calculation and prediction; the artist, the qualities of thing which heighten their human significance.  What these qualities are depends upon the individual artist and the medium in which he works.  The comic, the pathetic, the ironic, the sublime, and the tragic are aspects of experience which can best be expressed by the writer, since they appear fully only in situations which develop in time, and a picture, though its perception takes time, obviously cannot depict a course of events.  The painter is not debarred from the use of such values, since he can show manifestations of them in the visible world -the satire of Goya or Daumier, the natural majesty of Claude le Lorrain, the religious mysticism of El Greco, the human poignancy of Rembrandt are obvious instances- but the qualities which lie most immediately in his province are those more directly apprehended by sight.  Color, line, light, mass -these things, as immediately experienced, are illuminated for us by the painter.  Upon them he focuses the funded experience which, richer in him than in the ordinary man, enables him to single out whatever is moving or significant, and set it in the context of relations needed to reveal its intrinsic nature.  The revelation of significance is what constitutes the expression of the artist, and the fact that it is a revelation, not merely a game or indulgence in the make-believe, appears from the dissatisfaction we feel when the object set before us turns out to be illusory of fraudulent.  Expressive form in other words, always involves the perception of something real.

– The Art in Painting by Albert C. Barnes, copyright 1925, third edition 1937

Categories: Art History, Uncategorized
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