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Of Imagination considered in its Relation to some of the

Fine Arts.

AMONG the Arts connected with Imagination, some not only take their rise from this power, but produce objects which are addrefled to it. Others take their rise from Imagination, but produce objects which are addressed to the power of Perception.

To the latter of these two classes of Arts, belongs that of Gardening; or, as it has been lately called, the art of creating Landscape. In this Art, the designer is limited in his creation by nature ; and his only province is to correct, to improve, and to adorn. As he cannot repeat his experiments, in order to observe the effect, he must call up, in his imagination, the scene which he means to produce ; and apply to this imaginary scene his taste and his judgment; or, in other words, to a lively conception of visible objects, he must add a power (which long experience and attentive observation alone can give him) of judging beforehand, of the effect which they would produce, if they were actually exhibited to his senses. This power forms, what Lord Chatham beautifully and expressively called, the Prophetic Eye of Taste ; that eye which (if I may borrow the language of Mr. Gray)“ sees all the beauties that a “place is susceptible of, long before they are born; “and when it plants a seedling, already fits under so the shade of it, and enjoys the effect it will have, « from every point of view that lies in the prof" pect.”* But although the artist who creates a landscape, copies it from his imagination, the scene which he exhibits is addressed to the senses, and may

*Gray's works, by Mason, p. 277.

produce its full effect on the minds of others, without any effort on their part, either of imagination or of conception.

To prevent being misunderstood, it is necessary for me to remark, that, in the last observation, I speak merely of the natural effects produced by 'a landa scape, and abstract entirely from the pleasure which may result from an accidental affociation of ideas with a particular scene. The effect resulting from such affociations will depend, in a great measure, on the liveliness with which the affociated objects are conceived, and on the affecting nature of the pict. ures which a creative imagination, when once roused, will present to the mind; but the pleasures thus arising from the accidental exercise that a landscape may give to the imagination, must not be confounded with those which it is naturally fitted to produce.

In Painting, (excepting in those instances in which it exhibits a faithful copy of a particular object,) the original idea must be formed in the imagination and, in most cases, the exercise of imagination must concur with perception, before the picture can produce that effect on the mind of the spectator which the artist has in view. Painting, therefore, does not belong entirely to either of the two classes of Arts formerly mentioned, but has something in common with them both.

As far as the Painter aims at copying exactly what he sees, he may be guided mechanically by general rules; and he requires no aid from that creative genius which is characteristical of the Poet. The pleasure, however, which results from painting, considered merely as an imitative art, is extremely trifling ; and is specifically different from that which it aims to produce, by awakening the imagination. Even in portrait-painting, the servile copyist of nature is regarded in no higher light than that of a



tradesman. Deception,” (as Reynolds has excellently observed,) « instead of advancing the art, is

in reality, carrying it back to its infant state. The « first essays of Painting were certainly nothing but “ mere imitations of individual objects; and when " this amounted to a deception, the artist had accom

plished his purpose."*

When the history or the landscape Painter indul. ges his genius, in forming new combinations of his own, he vies with the Poet in the noblest exertion of the poetical art: and he avails himself of his profeffional skill, as the Poet avails himself of language, only to convey the ideas in his mind. To deceive the eye by accurate representations of particular forms, is no longer his aim; but, by the touches of an expressive pencil, to speak to the imaginations of others. Imitation, therefore, is not the end which he proposes to himself, but the means which he employs in order to accomplish it: nay, if the imitation be carried so far as to preclude all exercise of the spectator's imagination, it will disappoint, in a great measure, the purpose of the artist,

In Poetry, and in every other species of compofition, in which one person attempts, by means of language, to present to the mind of another, the objects of his own imagination ; this power is necessary, though not in the same degree, to the author and to the reader. When we peruse a description, we naturally feel a disposition to form, in our own minds, a distinct picture of what is described ; and in proportion to the attention and interest which the subject excitės, the picture becomes steady and determinate. It is scarcely possible for us to hear much of a particular town, without forming some notion of its figure and size and situation ; and in reading history and poetry, I believe it feldom happens, that we do not annex imaginary appearances to the names of our favorite characters. It is, at the same time, almost certain, that the imaginations of no two men coincide upon such occasions; and, therefore, though both may be pleased, the agreeable impressions which they feel, may be widely different from each other, according as the pictures by which they are produced are more or less happily imagined. Hence it is, that when a person accultomed to dramatic reading, sees, for the first time, one of his favorite characters represented on the ftage, he is generally dissatisfied with the exhibition, however eminent the actor may be: and if he should happen, before this representation, to have been very familiarly acquainted with the character, the cafe may continue to be the same through life. For my own part, I have never received from any Falstaff on the stage, half the pleasure which Shakespeare gives me in the closet ; and I am persuaded, that I fhould feel some degree of uneasiness, if I were present at any attempt to personate the figure or the voice of Don Quixote or Sancho Panca. It is not always that the actor, on such occasions, falls short of our expectation. He disappoints us, by exhibiting fomething different from what our imagination had anticipated, and which consequently appears to us, at the moment, to be an unfaithful representation of the Poet's idea : and until a frequent repetition of the performance has completely obliterated our former impressions, it is impossible for us to form an adequate estimate of its merit.

* Notes on Mason's Translation of FRESNOY'S Poem on the Art of Painting, p. 114.

Similar observations may be applied to other subjects. The sight of any natural scene, or of any work of art, provided we have not previously heard of it, commonly produces a greater effect, at first, than ever afterwards ; but if in consequence of a defcription, we have been led to form a previous no

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tion of it, I apprehend, the effect will be found less pleasing, the first time it is seen, than the second. Although the description should fall short greatly of the reality, yet the disappointment which we feel, on meeting with something different from what we expected, diminishes our satisfaction. The second time we see the scene, the effect of novelty is indeed less than before; but it is still considerable, and the imagination now anticipates nothing which is not realised in the perception.

The remarks which have been made, afford a fatisfactory reason why so few are to be found who have a genuine relish for the beauties of

poetry The designs of Kent and of Brown evince in their authors a degree of imagination entirely analogous to that of the descriptive poet ; but when they are once executed, their beauties (excepting those which result from affociation) meet the eye of every spectator. In poetry the effect is inconsiderable, unless upon a mind which pofsefses some degree of the au. thor's genius ; a mind amply furnished, by its previous habits, with the means of interpreting the language which he employs; and able, by its own imagination, to co-operate with the efforts of

It has been often remarked, that the general words which express complex ideas, seldom convey precisely the same meaning to different individuals, and that hence arises much of the ambiguity of language. The same observation holds, in no inconsiderable de. gree, with respect to the names of sensible objects. When the words River, Mountain, Grove, occur in a description, a person of lively conceptions naturally thinks of some particular river, mountain, and grove, that have made an impression on his mind ; and whatever the notions are, which he is led by his imagination to form of these objects, they must necessarily approach to the standard of what he has

his art.

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