Let us take a single blade of grass; it will give problems difficult enough for the mind. It is as much "nature" as any other of the innumerable waving things that make up the meadow. We have drawn it as it was found in the field, - Fig. 3, where it was beautiful because it was part of the whole; here it is not beautiful in its detached form but it contains elements of beauty, and our art can realize them and thus insure a pleasurable emotion to the beholder. One reason why it is not beautiful here is that it contains a contradiction and the mind is worried, for the suggestion is conveyed that the eye shall look in two directions at the same time. That being a physical impossibility, the attempt is a strain resulting in failure and disappointment. Making out of Fig. 3 arrows as in Fig. 4, we find that the eye surely cannot follow both at once. There is a "pulling apart" and not a "unit," but unity can be produced simply by twisting the stem. Thus in Fig. 5 the fragment has been turned until the leaf points along the line of its chief support, bringing itself into harmony with the main intent, which is upward movement. Figure 6 emphasizes the same point. The result may be obtained in another way. If we cut the stem short, - Fig. 7, we find that line A no longer points independently outward as in Figs. 3 and 4, but rather forms a starting-point for the eye, directing it upward with a circular sweep as is shown in the dotted line in Fig. 8, thus again creating one movement. Here we learn that certain divisions of space form the basis of this principle of obtaining beauty, and controlling the meaning by directing the observer's attention according to the artist's will. For instance, in Fig. 3, re-copied in Fig. 9, the leaf II is central between I and III. When we are walking through an unknown country and come to an interesting cross-road, we are puzzled as to which path to take, - Fig. 10. The mind is alike troubled in Fig. 3 and Fig. 9 and knows not whither to turn
But if the road terminates as at A in Fig. 11, and continues toward B, it will not require an unpleasant mental effort to choose the way. Quite the same sensations are produced in Fig. 7. There is no puzzle, no contradiction, nothing to worry the mind; it easily follows the indicated direction and the "oneness," a "unit," is created. Thus freedom from strain or effort is a first condition for sense of pleasure.
There are still other ways of producing "oneness," but they need not now claim our attention. We have seen enough to understand that everything we wish to picture is of necessity but a fragment amputated from nature as a whole, and to that extent it is either unnatural or "dead" until our mind again manipulates it and makes of it a thing living in art, that is, a thing capable of being grasped by the mind and touching the emotion. Herein lies the difference between science and art. The scientist does not look at the grass as does the man endowed with artistic susceptibilities. The former notes the growth, dissects the plant, and carries with him a number of facts relative to this dissection, for-classification. The process is largely intel- lectual. The artist studies the shapes and spaces with a view of discovering a harmony that is to be preserved in the mind or on paper for a lasting pleasure, chiefly emotional. But the artist goes still further; his office is to perpetuate beauty, to create emotion out of shapes he sees in nature, and that emotion is to be expressed upon a flat surface, paper or canvas. This brings with it new conditions.
In Figs. 2 through 11, we were considering a bit of nature held in the hand and we discovered certain laws of beauty in it. When we try to reproduce this fragment on a flat surface, we at once meet with the question of proportion. It would be senseless to represent this blade of grass, Fig. 3, on the wall of a room. The space would not only be too large but there would be no apparent limit to it. When the eye looks at any object, it demands that the object should have relation to something. Now of necessity a drawing of a blade of grass is a stationary thing, and it would be opposed to natural law to make it appear detached in a vast space that is blank. If the grass is blown through the air by the wind, it is at least moving, never suspended motionless.
As soon as we make a reasonable boundary to the space in which the grass is to be represented, this incongruity is obviated. Such a limit must necessarily be an artificial one; it is commonly called a frame. In Fig. 12 we have such a frame containing the grass stalk. The eye can at the same time see the grass and be conscious of the frame, for a relation is established between the two; but as it here stands no one will say that the result is beautiful or impressive. Therefore we have to face another principle. A logical relation must be established between the motive (which in this case is the grass), the frame, and the full area bounded by the frame. The motive should always hold our interest, therefore it must dominate the space. When this blade of grass is impressively placed upon the picture plane, it causes certain space divisions, and it is the character of these divisions that makes or prevents beauty. Contrasting Fig. 13 with Fig. 12, the space-dominating character of the grass in Fig. 13 seems logical and impressive as compared to its condition in Fig. 12. Figure 13 is faulty, however, in one essential, namely, its sameness of space division, which in Fig. 14 is exposed. The grass cuts the picture space so that
C-D and A-B are the same in length; the space G resembles closely Gx, the latter being inverted. The only element having variety in this arrangement is the small blade I as shown in Fig. 15, the space above being larger than that below. This blade of grass by creating an unequal division preserves the "unit' of the surface area. As here drawn it affects us as a line, not as a leaf, thereby removing the necessity of accounting for its floating.
A motive submits to being arranged upon the frame-bounded surface.
Do we not now begin to understand the law that art is not nature, not direct copying of nature, not even arrangement of nature in her concrete forms ? Art in its highest sense reduces nature to abstract form. Nature furnishes us with shapes; we accept the lines, spots, masses, etc., furnished by these shapes, and we make art by breaking up a surface with them and creating beautiful arrangement. Whether the lines, spots, etc., are formed by one blade of grass or by many, by trees, drapery, or a person's face and figure, they must be considered and treated in their abstract quality before the perfect space-filling can be attained.
Referring again to the photograph heading this chapter, we find that the woman, like the bunch of grass, is simply a fragment of nature presented to us with accessories that hardly remind us of the objects with which she is constantly associated. We must confess, therefore, that there is less naturalness in the picture than in the bunch of grasses. There is something repulsive in this affectation, it is destructive of the sense of reality we would have when representing human beings pictorially. Art is not "make believe," it is not artificiality, it deals in its healthiest state with truth. When making a picture of this woman we need not sacrifice her distinct character in order to make her attractive. We shall see in a later chapter how a desirable result has been attained.
Art takes its material from realities, but art consists not of the realities. It is more nearly the impression of the realities and of the most vital truths, physical and spiritual. Art is from within.