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BACK NUMBERS OF THE NEW ENGLANDER.
The price of the New Englander is three dollars a year, payable in advance. The price of single numbers is seventy-five cents. When payment is made in advance, the postage will be prepaid in New Haven.
COMPLETE SETS of the New Englander, in numbers, 18 Volumes, delivered in New Haven, $25; ten numbers excepted, delivered in New Haven, $15. Volumes II, III, IV, V, VI, VII, VIII, X, XI, XII, XIII, for $1.25 per volume. Single numbers, 40 cents. Volumes XIV, XV, XVI, XVII, $2 per volume. Single numbers, 75 cents. A full INDEX of all the Volumes to the present time, is completed, and will be published before January 1, 1862. WILLIAM L. KINGSLEY,
No. 30 Grove St., New Haven, Conn.
ARTICLE I.-SKETCH OF THE LIFE AND WORKS OF MICHAEL ANGELO BUONARROTI.
[Ir will be remembered by the readers of the NEW ENGLANDER that the number for November, 1858, contained an account of an exhibition of works of art which had been made during the preceding summer, in one of the halls of Yale College. In connection with that exhibition, a course of lectures was delivered by several gentlemen, on various subjects connected with the history of the fine arts. The introductory lecture was given by Mr. Edward E. Salisbury, of New Haven, who has consented to its publication as an Article in the present number of this Quarterly. It is hoped that the desire which has been very generally expressed, that all the lectures of that course might appear in these pages, may yet be gratified.
ED. NEW ENGLANDER.]
Ir seemed proper that this exhibition of works of art on college ground, in so close connection with our beloved University, encouraged as it is by the favor and active interest of college officers, who thus in a manner recognize that the
fine arts are a department of liberal education, should be improved for the purpose of directing the minds of the young to right views of art, and of attracting them to seek its humanizing and elevating influences. While the benefit and pleasure of the whole community, of course, have been a leading motive to this exhibition, we have earnestly desired and hoped that it might be a source of refined cultivation to the young gentlemen of the University, especially, conspiring with those other means of preparation for usefulness which they here so richly enjoy.
Addressing myself, then, more particularly to the younger part of my audience, I shall endeavor to express, in a few words, what seems to me to be the fundamental conception of art; to mark the principal periods in the history of modern Italian art, previous to the sixteenth century; and to sketch the artistic life of Michael Angelo, who, equally illustrious as sculptor, painter and architect, may be said to have impersonated art in all its phases.
I can only hope to bring before your minds the essential idea of art, referring to all the fine arts at once, and to all varieties of artistic expression which any one of them includes; and must leave it to your own observation and reflection to expand my brief suggestions.
Some persons speak and act as if the fine arts were but manifestations of subservience to sense, or, at best, the growth of a luxurious state of society, having no higher end than to amuse. The truth is, however, that they are the appropriate expression, and means of satisfaction, of a want deeply seated in human nature, which claims to be regarded and supplied in order to the highest culture. This natural source of all artistic effort is the tendency of the human mind to idealization. It is too commonly supposed, that the chief end of art is cunning imitation, that the best artist is he who most precisely copies the lineaments of nature. But God has not made this world of our abode without the animation of a divine spirit, a something infinite, a trace of Himself, which, if less palpable than the evidence of design, discoverable by research, appeals more directly to the deeper sensibilities of the soul. It is an echo of
His creative voice, which neither sensation nor reason can fully apprehend, addressing itself to the imaginative faculty, coming in upon and filling the reverent, waiting soul, like a tide of revelation from the spirit-land. Unless this divine glory pervading nature is recognized, one perceives only outward form; and art, without such recognition, is a mere mechanical measurement of lines and angles. All true art is founded in the reality of nature, yet it deals with that which is not external. Ideal imaginings are essential to the fullest realization of an actual scene in nature. One may look upon the beauties of a landscape with the eye of sense, and enrich his mind by its varied forms of grace and grandeur, and its infinite play of colors; or he may take a deeper view, and, with the accomplished naturalist, tracing phenomena to their causes, may have new fields of delightful improvement opened before him, and find occasions to exclaim "These are Thy glorious works, Parent of Good," which the unscientific observer altogether loses. But there is a view of nature yet farther reaching, though not analytie; and what thoughtful mind is unconscious of it, when, in the calm summer-evening, or in the stillness of a cloudless night, or with the freshness of dewy morning, emotions, aspirations, imaginations, reaching beyond all that is visibly real, though dependent upon it, take possession of the soul, and bear it upward to the unseen world? The latter is the true artist's view of nature, and it is in sympathy with and by the inspiration of such a view of nature, that all true works of art are produced. To this the landscape-painter owes all his inspiration. Nor is it less certain that no portrait of the human face, whether expressive of good qualities, or of bad, is worthy of a genuine artist, which does not, in a manner, glorify the individual; and that no historic scene is represented according to the requirements of art, unless it exhibits the event from a higher than the merely human point of view, as an act in the providence of God, so to speak, or with expressions of sentiment which interpret its divinely intended relations. Nor is architecture a fine art, except so far as its proportions, dimensions and ornaments partake of the elevating, transporting suggestiveness of nature. The same is true of landscape-gardening.
Thus is all genuine art allied to a principle of human nature widely enough removed from the impulses of sense, and from mere desire of pleasurable excitement. For proof that all efforts of true art have this scope and bearing, I appeal to any one's experience in contemplating the works of master-artists. Their power is found to lie, not so much in what they present to the eye, or to the ear, as in the infinite chain of suggestions which they awaken, opening to the mind a world of thought and emotion which only the thread of association connects with present reality.
Since, then, all productions of true art may be said to denote aspirations after ideal perfection, there is in their influence something akin to Christianity; and though susceptibility to the impressions of art is not, of necessity, a truly religious feeling, and though it must be confessed with grief that not every great artist, even of Christian times, has felt the transforming power of that radiant Cross, which is so often made the artist's center of light, yet it remains a significant fact that the greatest artists of the world have ever been most deeply moved with reverence for sacred truth.
It is not to be denied that the appliances of art may be, and have been, made to minister to low appetites and lusts. But this is only an abuse, and no more due to the intrinsic nature of that impulse by which the artist is moved and controlled, than the so common abuse of the beauty, sublimity and lavish bounty in nature, to forgetfulness and a disowning of the God and Father of all, is a legitimate result of the attractiveness of this world of sense which surrounds us. Let us but be docile, humble children of our Heavenly Father, and then that endowment of our being which originates and necessitates the productions of art, like all His rich gifts, becomes a source of unmingled good.
Nor yet have the developments of true art been limited to Christian times. To say this would be a contradiction of its fundamental idea. The spirit of artistic culture manifests itself to us as essentially one and the same, in all ages and climes, whether under the conditions of heathenism, or within reach of the influences of Christianity.