THE title is a challenge. There are those who will say, ‘How can you talk of art, while hell establishes its dominion over all the world; while millions of lives are being crushed out under the reeking wheels of a new Juggernaut; while old art is crumbling under the red blast of insane devastation; while civilization itself is vanishing before our eyes? How can you talk of art, when there is nothing in the world but blood and tears, and the dominion of a blind and hateful savagery?’
Others will say, ‘How can you talk of a second coming of art since we ourselves, if memory runs to the space of a generation, have seen art break down in shameful degeneration until it disappeared in the murk of silly substitutions? We have seen the arts degraded and debased, as sometimes has happened before, but also we have seen them end, as never has happened before. And this while civilization was at its highest point; while wealth and luxury, ease and plenty were supreme, and our triumph over the forces of nature, our emancipation from the t heological, philosophical, political, and social heritage of the past, were of a degree that made this same past but a sequence of linked events in the Dark Ages. Since art died under this victory, that now reveals itself as ignominious defeat, how can you talk of art as a future possibility, while the world we have built falls in ruins around us, and beyond a peace now infinitely far away lies only the long nightmare of international bankruptcy and universal hate?’
With both these positions I have some sympathy; but in spite of the truths they express, — indeed, because of them, — I say that never before has there been a greater hope for the future of art, just as never before was there an era so inimical (and ultimately fatal) to art as our own ‘Age of Progress and Enlightenment.’
Is there any one in the whole civilized world, is there any one even in the Teutonic Empires themselves, who does not know that we are in the midst of a world-change that means the definitive downfall of all that that same century of Enlightenment has stood for, and the coming in of a new era as different as Mediævalism was from the Dark Ages, as the Renaissance from Mediævalism? It is true that all the arts perished as vital forces between 1780 and 1914; some early and suddenly, as architecture, some lingeringly and late, as music and poetry; none, however, passed the magical, if arbitrary, barrier of the twentieth century, and when we hailed its coming we welcomed a century in which, so long as it continued on the course predetermined for it, art could have no place.
And now, before the ending of its first quarter, the doom of this century is sealed. Instead of being the progressive and splendid fruition of the nineteenth century, it becomes that universal battlefield whereon is destined to perish more than armies, more than the hoarded wealth of nations. It is the death-bed of an epoch of five centuries. The war came that we might see shaken before us, for our shame and our humiliation, the things we had followed with a fatuous devotion, now revealed in all their sordid character; that we might make our choice between opposed ideals and methods, and so determine for ourselves whether the next era was to be a new and better Renaissance or a new and more terrible Dark Ages; that we might reëstimate our religion, philosophy, and conduct of life, and, if we were wise, establish a new standard of comparative values. The war came that the world might be made over, in every large and every little thing; and so it is happening even as it was ordained. Already we have come to look on all things with different eyes. Our cosmos swiftly disintegrates into its original chaos. The only thing that still remains fixed is the conviction that when the war is over it will leave, for those who survive to inherit it, a different world, and one as widely severed from its predecessor of our earlier memory, as was the era of the Dark Ages from that of Imperial Rome.
Now this catastrophic process of change has already made futile the word ‘contemporary,’ in so far as this implies anything approaching generality, in every category of life. Dogmas crumble, convictions give way, principles are in dizzy flux; even the dissolving groups that two years ago gave a semblance of coordination now resolve themselves into their component parts, and there is nothing contemporaneous save chaos.
Because, therefore, the next epoch must be absolutely different, from the one now sinking to its ghastly close, we may take heart of hope since, while the new estate of the world may be worse than the last, it may also be better, and the decision lies in our hands. It is inconceivable that millions of lives have been given in vain; inconceivable that by some treaty written on a ‘scrap of paper ’ we shall return to the status quo and all will go on as before; inconceivable that we shall learn nothing of the lesson now set us, and that therefore we shall act as Rome acted under the assaults of the Germanic barbarians, until one war after another destroys even the memory of modern civilization, and once more the Dark Ages settle on the world for another five centuries. The blood of the battle-fields of Europe has not been spilled in vain, but for the saving of nations; and they shall be saved. So the old succession will be restored, and after this unhappy episode of the last century the sequence will be reëstablished and life once more take on that quality which will express its best in the form of art.
In considering the possible new art we deal with differences. What may be will not come into being because of any acceleration, any intensification of what immediately has been, but because that, whatever its nature, has been cut short, and something wholly new has taken its place. Here is our only hope for culture and civilization as well as for art. Clearly we cannot enter on a detailed consideration of those vast and far-reaching changes that must come in the whole body of our thought and action and theory, for this would take, not an essay, but a volume. We can, however, consider our contemporary ideals, or rather prejudices, in the arts, and so deduce some conclusions as to the line the changes must follow.
But how shall we speak of ‘contemporary’ ideals in art? There were such prior to the first of August, 1914, perhaps, though their name was legion, their antagonism conspicuous, and it would require courage to attribute to some of them ideal quality. There may be such again; indeed, there must be, if history continues except as the drab annals of barbarism. But what of today, of this purgatorial period now two years old that intervenes between one definite epoch and another, yet is in itself but an interlude of destruction? Of course, in those vain lands of the neuters of Laodicea, where the war is a word and a rumor only and a cause of riches and a pretext for much writing, the ‘ideals,’ if we may call them such, of what was held to be art in the old days before the great change began, still maintain a pale continuance. We know, however, that they would vanish at the first breath of reality, at the first touch of action, and they need hardly detain us with the tale of their own insecurity. Elsewhere, in those lands where the future is being forged on the red-hot anvils of the present, there is no art, no ‘contemporary’ ideals of art, nor should there be any until the miracle of regeneration is accomplished. Art is not a product, but a by-product; not an achievement, but a result; and there are greater things in the making than architectural styles or schools of painting and sculpture and modes of verse and music and drama. Of course these will come when the greater things are accomplished; but while a world is being made over and races redeemed by fire and sword and the red testing of souls, it is well to keep silence as to art and its theories: the sad recording of the progressive destruction of the artrecords of a dishonored past is enough.
For ourselves and for the time being, this unfortunately does not hold: we are denied our part in the great Opus Dei, isolated on our peak in Darien while we await the issue of the heroism and the sacrifice of a world from which we are told to stand aloof. We may then, if we like, engage in our own speculations as to the quality of the ideals that have passed, and more profitably perhaps as to the new ideals that must assert themselves through the great purging of the world.
If we take our question in this sense, it is easier of handling than would have been the case two years ago, for the conflagration of the world lights up the past that was once our present with a spiritual X-ray that leaves nothing hid, while it reveals something of a possible future, invisible, unpredicable, before. What, then, were those ‘ideals’ of art, contemporary with the last decade of what is now an ended era? Wherein were they different from those that preceded them? Wherein must those that come to take their place differ in their turn? If we can find plausible answers, we have in a way answered the query as to contemporary ideals, for it is the mingling of the two, the passing old, the coming new, that makes up our ideals of the moment, giving them that confusion, that intricate conflict, that must inevitably mark this time of infinite and inestimable change.
When, on that fateful day in July, 1914, Prussia cast her sword into the scales and war was unloosed over the world, a century had passed since the art ideals of man had changed completely and for the first time in history. Hitherto art had been an instinct, an inevitable accompaniment of civilization, while the artist himself had been a kind of mouthpiece, an agent of his own folk, a better craftsman than they and therefore put forward to do admirably what they could only have done indifferently. From now on he was to be a creature apart, in the world but not of it, a being blighted by that eldest curse, the ‘artistic temperament,’ a chartered libertine in emotions and ideas, whose popularity depended on surprise, and the content of whose work was distinguished by its aloofness from the world. It is true that this tendency had been growing for four other centuries, ever since that enthusiastic junta of self-conscious amateurs created the Renaissance in art out of their own fertile consciousness, and imposed it on a world very well content, on the whole, with the older ways. The art of the Middle Ages was the last spontaneous and popular art, but even if it fell before the plausible propaganda of the Italian enthusiasts, the old instinct held; the new art did express to admiration the qualities of the new culture, and in a little it also became the art of a converted people; and so it remained, century after century, passing through many vicissitudes, slowly losing its momentum, yielding to increasing personality and greater and greater differentiation, disappearing at last just as the new civilization of industrialism, intellectualism, and materialism began that amazing progress which, energized by science and justified by laissez-faire evolutionary philosophy, was to control and direct all the physical, mental, and spiritual activities of man for, lo! these hundred years.
There was nothing fortuitous in this, nothing escapable. The premeditation and artificiality of the Renaissance could have had no other issue, while the new culture of materialism was bound to produce a way of life, a tendency in thought, and a material and spiritual environment comprehensively inimical to art of every kind; and with the synchronizing of these two developments, plus the final sterilization of religion through the later manifestations of the Reformation, the last flicker of the old and wholesome art ideal passed, and for the future the artist was to be the rebel and the outlaw.
From 1820 to 1830 comes an interregnum here in America, with no art either of the old mode or the new, and then personality ramps into view, and the artist of individualism begins to assert himself. Now it is a matter of personal followings, or even of personal activity without any followings, architecture leading off, as usual, with NeoGrec, Neo-Gothic, Neo-Italian modes, to be followed fifty years later by strange and novel conceits gathered from England, Southern France, Paris, Colonial America, until at last the historic echoes die away and the individuals alone remain — strong personalities which, by the very force of their individualism, have made themselves, not the styles they had annexed, the centres of influence.
For a time the other arts lagged behind, holding by the last fringes of tradition, formalized, conscientious, more or less decrepit, with here and there a Sargent, a St. Gaudens, a McDowell, a McKim, to mark unwonted heights of sporadic mastery. Then, with the new century, individualism comes with a rush, and the anarchy and nihilism fostered in Europe take control, chiefly in painting and poetry, with art nouveau, impressionism, cubism, vers libre, occupying the place left vacant by an art that died: a new thing, not art at all, but interesting as an exhibition of what the new type of cul ture produced as its own expression — ostentatiously rebellious against scientific and intellectual materialism, but as integral a part of it as Christian Science, vocational education, and the ‘movies.’
By the beginning of the century, then, architecture had settled down into certain definite followings. Gothic had superseded Romanesque and was used generally for churches without distinction of creed, Protestants and Unitarians,1 who were wholly averse to the religion that had created it, showing it greater favor than Roman Catholicism, to which it belonged by right of parentage. Colonial had risen above its earlier vagaries in the submerged eighties, and was the established domestic style in the country and the suburbs, dividing also the field of education with Gothic. Parisian of the best variety was the thing for city residences, also for the housing of finance, and excellently did it do its work. Commercial architecture was anything that offered, so far as style was concerned. At best it was rather brilliantly logical, though now and then a Venetian palace was doubled in scale and used for a shop, or mechanically reproduced ‘Gothic’ detail was applied to the steel frame of a skyscraper. Carnegie libraries developed their own type of intimate expression in a stereotyped classic, as did Christian Science; while in the extreme West the ‘mission style’ (of the same type as the ‘ mission furniture ’ made in Grand Rapids) slowly gave place to a new and unheard-of mode that was as engaging in its fantasy as it was unsusceptible of denomination.
Vagarious as it all was, there appears to have been a genuine ideal running through it all, and that was, to do each style intelligently and well. This is a good ideal so far as it goes. The success or failure depended on the individual, and as the last generation was able to count some scores of singularly gifted architects, success, when it came, was often notably distinguished. But the point is that it was the architect that counted. The public contributed nothing, the scheme of life worked as a deterrent, and the client simply wanted the most he could get for his money.
Now, before we pass to other arts, let us distinguish. It is impossible to speak exactly of ‘contemporary ’ ideals in art, even when they exist, simply because this phrase does not recognize the new position of the artist as a rebel rather than as an exponent. The ideals of the public are one thing, those of the artist are quite another. One of the astonishing things is the manner in which these artists in revolt have been able to impose their will on the people. The improvement of taste between 1880 and 1915 was due solely to the artists themselves and to the compelling force they brought to bear on society. They did an amazing work, and even if of late it has been breaking down as rapidly as it was built up, still the fact remains that for a time they were successful, and the credit should be theirs.
In speaking of ideals, therefore, we must sometimes refer to those of the generality of men, — stock-brokers, financiers, politicians, scientists, men of big business and men of little business, — sometimes to the artists themselves, since at last modern civilization had achieved its perfect work, and the two were severed by a chasm only to be bridged by purely commercial relations.
The case of painting was peculiar. The fine old tawny school of early portraiture passed with its Colonial architecture, and when a few began to paint again after some fifty years, we had, representing the ideals of the public, the J. G, Brown and Bierstadt cult; representing the ideals of the painter, Hunt, Fuller, Inness. In the latter category the output was small and fine, and, of course, purely individual, with no possible relationship to the era in which it was produced. Then with a rush came the flood of painters, pouring out of the art schools and into the exhibitions. The quality of their product was what might have been expected from its source and its destination.
It was during this era that I served my apprenticeship as art critic, and I shall never forget my amazement when the first of the Pre-Raphaelite pictures began to filter into America. It was like the first hearing of Wagner under Theodore Thomas (may his name be praised!), which occurred about the same time. Somehow a link was suddenly forged with the great past, and art schools, art clubs, art exhibitions, and art criticism vanished into thin air. But Pre-Raphaelitism died in its early youth, and in the home of its birth the Royal Academy resumed its sway.
In America painting went on much as before, only more copiously, until the progressive mechanization of life manifested itself in aesthetics. The whole matter of ‘subject,’ so pleasing at one time, fell into desuetude, and in technique alone, in clever manipulation of brush and paint, in crafty exposition of light and shade and atmosphere, was salvation to be found. Then in the latter days, on the very eve of Armageddon, came over to us the anarchy of Europe, one preposterous absurdity after another, fruit of a righteous, if riotous, rebellion against Salon and Royal Academy, and Fifth Avenue seethed with heresy and schism. What might have happened no one knows, nor does it matter; the war broke in the midst of the invasion, and now again comes an interregnum, a marking time until light comes again. Painters paint as before, but it is all unreal, uncertain, indeterminate. Something will happen; what, no one dares to say; but all know that the world is being made over, and until this desirable end is accomplished they continue their watchful waiting.
The record of sculpture is not very different: there was, first of all, the cult of Canova, of the Greek-Slave type and the Jove-like Washington in his stony toga; this was followed by the equestrian-statue period (still with us in all its ramping mediocrity), and then, in the midst of bronze and granite ‘favorite sons,’ with their trousers and chinwhiskers, came the quite unexpected phenomenon of St. Gaudens, French, MacMonnies, and the appearance of isolated masterpieces such as the Bacchante, the Minute Man, the Farragut; greatest of all, and one of the great sculptures of all time, the shrouded figure in Rock Creek Cemetery. Here again it was all pure individualism, the creations of men aloof from their kind, working out their own dreams and visions far from Wall Street and Pittsburg, from mills and stores and technical schools. The public gave answer now and then, sometimes with enthusiasm, then turned back to their trades, while no school grew up to carry on what might have become a tradition had there been behind it the push of a people instead of the vision of genius born out of due time.
Then, in the last decade, came in the new anarchy from Europe — not to achieve a following, for we have at least the saving sense of humor, but to break down the smug self-complacency that had become a mode, and open up still unexplored reaches of individualism. Now it is every man for himself and his newly discovered, if not patented, style: archaic Greek, French Gothic, Egyptian, Hindoo, Siamese, heaven knows what not, much of it undeniably clever, all of it ramping with isolated individualism. For one thing, it is different without being Rodinesque or Cubist, and it gives relief from the stereotyped and at the same time frenzied search for some new and improbable pose into which the nude female form might be contorted without too great violence to anatomy. Again we pause and await the issue.
As for music and drama, there is little to say that is creditable to our generation. Here the will of the people has entered to determine the supply, for that same people, docile before architecture, painting, and sculpture, knows in these other two arts exactly what it likes and it will take no other. It does not like good music or good drama, and its desires here are continually degenerating. There is a certain group in almost every great city, that makes Symphony orchestras and Philharmonic concerts possible, because it really loves good music; but it is not a large public and its finances are limited, so the clamor of the far larger public that wants musical comedy and gets it, puts a premium on just that sort of thing, to the general exclusion of music itself. The same is true of religious music. Who is there who wants plain-song or Russian choirs when he can have quartettes with their heads together breathing obvious harmonies, choir-boys in serried and cherubic, if strident, ranks, or, better still, men, boys, women, and girls, all in cassocks and cottas and all singing in accordance with the nineteenth-century ideal of what constituted an ‘uplifting musical service’ in the standard type of English cathedral. Organists with ingenious instruments too big for them and their churches, given by sentimental millionaires, and tempting to a plausible virtuosity; choir-masters whose ambition outruns their discretion, join in the full-voiced chorus, and the holy chant of St. Ambrose, St. Gregory, and the Eastern Church gives up the battle.
The drama? We never had much of it, properly speaking, so far as original work is concerned, but we did have great actors, and during the latter half of the nineteenth century our people loved good plays, admirably acted. Most of us can remember the time when the great cities had many theatres offering the noblest work, and crowded to the doors. Now, in the last ten years, all is changed. Good art has wholly passed except when a master from England or France comes among us in his declining years to give those ‘farewell performances’ that mark his withdrawal from active life, and the ending of a great era of dramatic art. The taste of the Tired Business Man is now the standard and the directing cause of whatever is produced; and whenever his fancy rises a degree above the silly and the humorously salacious, it soars only into the dubious realm of pathology plus pornography. No catastrophe so complete, no débâcle so humiliating has ever been recorded in any art in so brief a space of time.
So one might deal with the other major arts, and equally with the minor arts. In the case of the first we find the same dying-out of the old tradition, the swerving toward a descriptive and circumstantial realism, the entrance of absolute and very varied personality in rebellion against the obvious and the static, and, finally, the insane emphasis on surprise, nihilism, the bizarre and outré, the passion for making people ‘sit up.’ So it is in poetry, which has sunk in its vers libre as far from the eternal standards of art as the drama itself. The whole element of craftsmanship has gone, and ‘personality,’ the ‘artistic temperament,’ the ‘personal equation,’ have risen supreme above law and have returned nearer and nearer to the formless and gelatinous consistency of the primal and undifferentiated plasm or ooze.
For a time it looked as though the Arts-and-Crafts movement promised a certain rehabilitation of some of the fundamental principles of decent art. Appalled by the shocking estate of our industrial arts, a few enthusiasts attempted the forlorn hope which once fired that great seer William Morris; but in a very few years the possibilities of commercial exploitation were too patent, and the original idea was forgotten. ‘Arts and Crafts’ has now become the name, not of a method, but of a style. The commercial product that bears the name is purely mechanical in its genesis: the department stores send it broadcast: it can be acquired through ‘mail orders,’ and another chapter is closed. Yet not wholly. Out of the great failure have emerged a few true craftsmen, men and women who are blood-brothers and sisters of the great craftsmen of the old days — Kirchmayer, Koralewski, Mercer, Yellin, Stone, Miss Perry, Miss Barton, and others I cannot catalogue. They are still faithful to the great ideal, but it is as individuals, as isolated protests against the common run of things, that they exist, and in themselves they demonstrate the gulf that has opened between the old art of public expression and the new art of personal protest.
I do not think this is an unfair estimate of the vicissitudes of art in America. While it is hardly flattering, it is not unlike what was happening in the rest of the world, if we except the really great Victorian epoch of poetry in England, and the last days of German music when Wagner and Brahms marked the end of a notable era of national musical expression. In Russia and Poland, it is true, the first decade of the century saw the appearance of great composers who were exponents of a racial spirit and a national ideal; but it would be hard to find elsewhere art, no matter how able its author, that was other than a personal expression, and this in revolt against the ways and works and ideals of the time.
Nothing else was possible, since an equal change, an almost identical reversal, had taken place in life, so that the last century, during which these changes have had their full fruition, stands almost in a category by itself, cut off from past history by a breach that has severed all lines of continuity and succession. In a life such as this art does not and cannot exist. Either we are to see a continuance of these novel conditions and adapt ourselves to a life in which art has no part, or the era ends, return is made to earlier ways, and in a new phase of life, regenerated, purified, and reëstablished on wholesome lines, we may await the coming again of that art that always has performed its due and necessary part, and always will when life runs on sane and well-adjusted lines.
This is the problem offered us through the war, and on the answer we give rests the future of the world. There is no compulsion placed upon us: we are not forced to learn the lesson, nor are we controlled as to the answer we give. For my part I have no doubt of the answer. Out of this terrible testing of souls will come a great regeneration, and what we have called modern civilization will be taken in hand, curbed, chastened, transmuted, and made over into a thing of great potential beneficence. I admit that such a revolution in the essential nature of things hitherto universally accepted staggers the imagination, but nothing less in magnitude could come from a cataclysm such as this that now wracks the world, and wrecks it that it may be made over anew. How long the task may take is another of the impenetrable mysteries. It may be a decade, it may be a generation, a century — even the long weariness, as once before, of five hundred years of Dark Ages. Again, all depends on us — on our decision, on our action, on the vision we win of ultimate and final values, on our ability to confess our sins, to acknowledge our wickedness, to make amends through the penance always exacted for ill deeds. As once before, in a cathedral in the city of Rheims, the words are spoken: ‘ Bow thy proud head, Sicambrian; destroy what thou hast worshiped, worship what thou hast destroyed!’
With the great work of repentance and renunciation accomplished, we shall see at once the slow but glad coming back of vital ideals in art. No longer will the artist be the man in revolt, the voice crying in the wilderness, the pathetic speculator in his own emotions, the coiner of his soul into commodities others would buy for a price. After many days he will return to his true position, an exponent of what all would say, but saying it better than they because he adds to a vision t hat is clearer but not different in nature, a craftsmanship they have not been able to attain.
Art is after all only a kind of symbolical expression, through beauty in all its forms, of the highest things that exist, and the impulse to such expression lies not in personal incentive but in the communal push of the community, the nation, the race. It was this that made the art of the past. Pheidias was what Hellas made him, not what he made himself. The builders of St. Sophia were not rebels, but servants of a people passionately devoted to beauty. The master-builders of Chartres and Rheims and Westminster, the creators of the Arthurian poems, the writers of the great Latin hymns, the makers of the marvelous church-glass, were but mouthpieces of t heir own people, clamant trumpets proclaiming what all the world would say, but only they could say so that the world would understand.
To this we shall return, for our eyes are being opened and we are seeing things as they are. Europe already is learning: Belgium through her immortal sacrifice and martyrdom, dying that others might live, France through a heroism and a self-consecration that have lifted her to a pinnacle where she shines a beacon of hope and of glory to all people, all nations, all generations. England is learning through the selfearned humiliations that are coming upon her. Germany will learn through punishment and retribution. And we ourselves? What is the answer here? Can we look into our own souls and say that the lesson is being taken to heart? We can see hope and salvation for victors and vanquished, but unless we can see it for ourselves, make this hope and this salvation ours, as they are offered us now, freely and without price, then for us the lesson will be set again, and a second time it will not be offered us freely, for we shall pay the same price, and in the same coin, that others are paying now.
When we looked on art as an amenity of life; when we thought of it as a pleasant luxury to be produced by intensive and scientific methods of education, and acquired by commercial means to selfish and vainglorious ends, we gauged our ideals exactly. If out of the war comes knowledge of this folly and such a revelation of what is worth having and worth fighting for as gives us back a life out of which art grows naturally and joyfully, instead of by violence and artifice, then the price paid will not be too high, for with it we shall have bought for ourselves a new world that is a real world and not a delusion of efficiency.
The end of the art which, through many vicissitudes, had accompanied man from the earliest moments of history, was, in a word, viciousness: in the painting of crazy isms, in the architecture and crafts called l’art nouveau, in the drama of Broadway and the ‘movies,’ in the music of Strauss and Schönberg and their like, viciousness, deliberate and bold, covering its technical incapacity with the cloak of esoteric superiority. It was time that it was detroyed, time also that what made it possible — the modern civilization that reached its height in the first decade of the twentieth century — was also destroyed by the blind purgation of universal war.
Now we will go back, in order that we may go on when the world is made new again after the awful readjustment is completed. Wealth and plenty and efficiency and peace have failed as they have always failed to produce art-bearing conditions. We shall not be troubled by these in the future. We shall have our chance to try what hard, clean poverty will make possible — a poverty that will be such only in material things, for under a new righteousness, a sane philosophy, a restored religious sense, it will become the creator of character, the director and guardian of clean, hard, wholesome, and joyful life. All the great art of the past has grown out of life such as this, even though its loftiest reaches came just after the primal impulse had begun to fail, and corruption of manners and morals had set in. If the war does its work, we may hope for the same again, and so hoping we see the dawn of a new day for art.
Is it necessary to rehearse the details of the new art, to analyze its methods, to specify its ideals? No, only to look back at what art has been when it was great and learn from that; for in its content, in its ideals, in its modes of operation, art does not change, however great may be its variety of manifestations.
There are three fundamental reversals of all that has been held of the personal art of the immediate past, so salient, so obvious, that at least they may be named, if only for the purpose of linking up the new that is to be with the old that has ceased in the last two years. The art of the future will be an art of beauty, and this beauty will be what it always has been, from the sculptors of Egypt to St. Gaudens, from the master-builders of the Parthenon to Alberti, from the painters of Hellas to Burne-Jones, from Homer to Browning, from King David to Brahms. A definite, real, and changeless thing, not the insolent assertions of myopia, astigmatism, and color-blindness. No new cubist or post-impressionist or imagist can then claim that ugliness is beauty, because a sane society will not tolerate him. Beauty comes back because it will come again into life and thought, and men will therefore know it when they see it.
The art of the future will be an art of craftsmanship, of supreme ability on the part of the artist to do what he does as a master of craft — as a workman, not as a charlatan. All great art has been this: the exquisite craft of the hand, trained and competent, after the hard labor of achieving proficiency, directed by the sane mind at the impulse of the clear vision. The so-called art of the epoch just ended was a thing of specious assumptions; the sculptor’s chisel was handed over to the mechanical stone-cutter or to the ingenious machine; the master-builder became the gentlemanly architect with his office full of draughtsmen and emissaries of the perfectly organized construction company. The poet who could not master the intricate methods of verse-making, and could neither feel rhythm nor discover rhymes, invented a new and slovenly method that resembled poetry only in the arbitrary length of its lines: the musician too lazy and too dull to master the art of Bach and Wagner and Brahms took refuge in cacophony from the inevitable results of his indolence. But art is also craft. There is never one without the other, when we deal with art that has lived or will live. The effort has been made to substitute temperamcnt for good workmanship, and the effort has signally failed.
Finally, the new art will be the expression of the best in a community, a people, or a race, not the personal exposition of individualism. The artist himself and his idiosyncratic views of things arc matters of small moment. When society is organized on wholesome lines, when there is communal self-consciousness, sound philosophy, authoritative and universally accepted religion, and a moving spirit of righteousness in the world, then spiritual energy is generated in men, and it expresses itself through the craftsman and the artist. Out of anarchy comes order, out of war regeneration, out of suffering redemption, and the chaotic and centrifugal society of the nineteenth century gives place to its antithesis — the society that follows wear’s end.
Here then are the three marks of the new art that is also the old — Beauty, Craftsmanship, Universality; the three points in which our own art most signally failed. When we see their first evidences among the artists of our own time, we shall know that the battle has been won, the eternal enemy beaten back, and a beginning made toward the discovery of an old heaven and the building of a new earth.
- The author’s expression is unusual, and a query from the Atlantic brought the following explanation. ‘I wish to discriminate here and I think I can do so on a historic basis of fact. Protestants believe that Christ was God; Unitarians do not. Therefore, in justice to both, the fact should be recorded that there is a difference.’ The moment does not seem opportune to initiate the debate which the assertion challenges in certain quarters. — THE EDITORS.↩