Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The birth of Impressionism


Walter Horatio Pater (1839-94), a quiet Oxford don, gained fame and notoriety upon the publication of his Studies in the History of the Renaissance in 1873. The most famous section of this work is his description of La Gioconda, or The Mona Lisa, by Leonardo Da Vinci (of Da Vinci Code fame -- shudder) . I have not chosen to include that description here, even though it marks the beginning of the age of Impressionism, but have instead included a couple paragraphs that, in my mind, give a greater definition of what it means to be an Impressionist. And for those who think, hey, this Impressionist stuff is way over my head, have you ever heard of the phrase "Art for Art's sake?" That's Impressionism. It is an accessible approach that even a Loves Park hill billy like myself could appreciate.

"The service of philosophy, of speculative culture, towards the human spirit, is to rouse, to startle it to a life of constant and eager observation. Every moment some form grows perfect in hand or face; some tone on the hills or the sea is choicer than the rest; some mood of passion or insight or intellectual excitement is irresistibly real and attractive to us,--for that moment only. Not the fruit of experience, but experience itself, is the end. Acounted number of pulses only is given to us of a variegated, dramatic life. How may we see in them all that is to seen in them by the finest senses? How shall we pass most swiftly from point to point, and be present always at the focus where the greatest number of vital forces unite in their purest energy?To burn always with this hard, gemlike flame, to maintain this ecstasy, is success in life. In a sense it might even be said that our failure is to form habits: for, after all, habit is relative to a stereotyped world, and meantime it is only the roughness of the eye that makes any two persons, things, situations, seem alike. While all melts under our feet, we may well grasp at any exquisite passion, or any contribution to knowledge that seems by a lifted horizon to set the spirit free for a moment, or any stirring of the senses, strange dyes, strange colours, and curious odours,or work of the artist's hands, or the face of one's friend. Not to discriminate every moment some passionate attitude in those about us, and in the very brilliancy of their gifts some tragicdividing of forces on their ways, is, on this short day of frost andsun, to sleep before evening. With this sense of the splendour ofour experience and of its awful brevity, gathering all we are into one desperate effort to see and touch, we shall hardly have time to make theories about the things we see and touch."

1 comment:

Jorn said...

Please add a link to the image's source-page