Walter Pater

 

 

The School of Giorgione.

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To regard all products of art as various forms of poetry is the mistake of much popular criticism. For this criticism, poetry, music, and painting are but translations into different languages of one and the same fixed quantity of imaginative thought, supplemented by certain technical qualities of colour in painting, of sound in music, of rhythmical words in poetry. In this way, the sensuous element in art, and with it almost everything in art that is essentially artistic, is made a matter of indifference; and a clear apprehension of the opposite principle, that the sensuous material of each art brings with it a special phase or quality of beauty, untranslateable into the forms of any other, an order of impressions distinct in kind, is the beginning of all true æsthetic criticism. For, as art addresses not the pure sense, still less the pure intellect, but the imaginative reason through the senses, there are differences of kind in æsthetic beauty corresponding to the differences in kind of the gifts of sense themselves. Each art, therefore, having its own peculiar and incommunicable sensuous charm, has its own special mode of reaching the imagination, its own special responsibilities to its material. One of the functions of æsthetic criticism is to define these limitations, to estimate the degree in which a given work of art fulfils its responsibilities to its special material: to note in a picture that true pictorial charm which is neither a mere poetical thought or sentiment on the one hand, nor a mere result of communicable technical skill in colour or design on the other; to define in a poem that true poetical quality which is neither descriptive nor meditative merely, but comes of an inventive handling of rhythmical language, the element of song in the singing; to note in music the musical charm, that essential music which presents no words, no definable matter of sentiment or thought, separable from the special form in which it is conveyed to us.

To such a philosophy of the variations of the beautiful, Lessing's analysis of the spheres of sculpture and poetry in the "Laocoon" was a rememberable contribution. But a true appreciation of these things is possible only in the light of a whole system of such art-casuistries. And it is in the criticism of painting that this truth most needs enforcing, for it is in popular judgments on pictures that that false generalisation of all art into forms of poetry is most prevalent. To suppose that all is mere technical acquirement in delineation or touch, working through and addressing itself to the intelligence on the one side, or a merely [527] poetical or what may be called literary interest, addressed also to the pure intelligence, on the other – this is the way of most spectators, and many critics, who have never caught sight all the time of that true pictorial quality which lies between, the pledge of the pictorial gift, the inventive or creative handling of line and colour only, which, as almost always in Dutch painting, as often also in the works of Titian or Veronese, is quite independent of anything definitely poetical in the subject it accompanies. It is the drawing – the design projected from that peculiar pictorial temperament or constitution in which, while it may possibly be ignorant of true anatomical proportions, all things whatever, all poetry, every idea however abstract or obscure, floats up as a visible scene or image; it is the colouring – that weaving of imperceptible gold threads of light through the dress, the flesh, the atmosphere, in Titian's Lace-girl, the staining of the whole fabric of the thing with a new, delightful physical quality. This drawing, then – the arabesque traced in the air by Tintoret's flying figures, by Titian's forest branches; this colouring – the magic conditions of light and hue in the atmosphere of Titian's Lace-girl, or Rubens's Descent from the Cross – these essential pictorial qualities, must first of all delight the sense, delight it as directly and sensuously as a fragment of Venetian glass, and by this delight only be the medium of whatever poetry or science may lie beyond it in the intention of the composer. In its primary aspect, a great picture has no more definite message for us than an accidental play of sunlight and shadow for a moment, on one's wall or floor, is itself indeed a space of such falling light, caught as the colours are caught in an Eastern carpet, but refined upon, and dealt with more subtly and exquisitely than by nature itself. And this primary and essential condition fulfilled, we may trace the coming of poetry into painting by fine gradations upwards; from Japanese fan-painting, for instance; where we get, first, only abstract colour; then just a little interfused sense of the poetry of flowers; then, sometimes, consummate flower-painting; and so onwards, until in Titian we have, as his poetry in the Ariadne, so actually a touch of true child-like humour in the diminutive, quaint figure with its silk gown, which ascends the temple stairs, in his picture of the Presentation of the Virgin, at Venice.

But although each art has thus its own specific order of impressions, and an untranslateable charm, and a just apprehension of the ultimate differences of the arts is the beginning of æsthetic criticism; yet it is noticeable that, in its special mode of handling its given material, each art may be observed to pass into the condition of some other art, by what German critics term an Anders-streben, a partial alienation from its own limitations, by which the arts are able, not indeed to supply the place of each other, but reciprocally to lend each other new forces. –

[528] Thus, some of the most delightful music seems to be always approaching to figure, to pictorial definition. Architecture, again, though it has its own laws – laws esoteric enough, as the true architect knows only too well – yet sometimes aims at fulfilling the conditions of a picture, as in the Arena chapel; or of sculpture, as in the flawless, ringing unity of Giotto's tower at Florence; and often finds a true poetry, as in those strangely twisted staircases of the châteaux of the country of the Loire, as if it were intended that among their odd turnings the actors in a wild life might pass each other unseen; there being a poetry also of memory and mere effect of time, by which it often profits much. Thus, again, sculpture aspires out of the hard limitation of pure form towards colour, or its equivalent; poetry also in many ways finding guidance from the other arts, the analogy between a Greek tragedy and a work of Greek sculpture, between a sonnet and a relief, of French poetry generally with the art of engraving, being more than mere figures of speech; and all the arts in common aspiring towards the principle of music, music being the typical, or ideally consummate art, the object of the great Anders-streben of all art, of all that is artistic, or partakes of artistic qualities.

All art constantly aspires towards the condition of music. For while in all other works of art it is possible to distinguish the matter from the form, and the understanding can always make this distinction, yet it is the constant effort of art to obliterate it. That the mere matter of a poem, for instance, its subject, its given incidents or situation; that the mere matter of a picture, the actual circumstances of an event, the actual topography of a landscape, should be nothing without the form, the spirit of the handling; that this form, this mode of handling, should become an end in itself, should penetrate every part of the matter; – this is what all art constantly strives after, and achieves in different degrees.

This abstract language becomes clear enough if we think of actual examples. In an actual landscape we see a long white road lost suddenly on the hill-verge. That is the matter of one of M. Legros' etchings; but in this etching it is informed by an indwelling solemnity of expression, seen upon it or half-seen, within the limits of an exceptional moment, or caught from his own mood perhaps; but which he maintains as the very essence of the thing throughout his work. Sometimes a momentary tint of stormy light may invest a homely or too familiar scene with a character which might well have been drawn from the deep places of the imagination. Then we say, This particular effect of light, this sudden inweaving of gold thread through the texture of the haystack, and the poplars, and the grass, gives the scene artistic qualities; it is like a picture. And such tricks of circumstance are commonest in landscape which has little [529] salient character of its own, because in such scenery the whole material detail is so easily absorbed, or saturated by that informing expression of passing light, and elevated throughout its whole extent to a new delightful effect by it. And hence the superiority for most conditions of the picturesque of a river-side in France to a Swiss valley, because on the French river-side mere topography, the simple material, counts for so little, and, all being so pure, untouched, and tranquil in itself, nature has such easy work in tuning and playing music upon it. The Venetian landscape, on the other hand, has in its material conditions much which is hard and definite; but the masters of the Venetian school have shown themselves little burdened by them. Of its Alpine background they retain certain abstracted elements only of cool colour and tranquillising line; and they use its actual details, the brown windy turrets, the straw-coloured fields, the forest arabesques, but as the notes of a music which duly accompanies the presence of their men and women, presenting us with the spirit or essence only of a certain sort of landscape, a country of the pure reason or half-imaginative memory.

Poetry, again, works with words addressed in the first instance to the mere intelligence; and it deals most often with a definite subject or situation. Sometimes it may find a noble and quite legitimate function in the expression of moral or political aspiration, as often in the poetry of Victor Hugo. In such instances it is easy enough for the understanding to distinguish between the matter and the form, however much the matter, the subject, the element which is addressed to the mere intelligence, has been penetrated by the informing, artistic spirit. But the ideal types of poetry are those in which this distinction is reduced to its minimum; so that lyrical poetry, just because in it you are least able to detach the matter from the form without a deduction of something from that matter itself, is, at least artistically, the highest and most complete form of poetry. And the very perfection of such poetry often seems to depend in part on a certain suppression or vagueness of mere subject, so that the definite meaning almost expires, or reaches us through ways not distinctly traceable by the understanding, as in some of the most imaginative compositions of William Blake, and often in Shakspere's songs, as pre-eminently in that song of Mariana's page in Measure for Measure, in which the kindling power and poetry of the whole play seems to pass for a moment into an actual strain of music.

And this principle holds good of all things that partake in any degree of artistic qualities, of the furniture of our houses and of dress, for instance, of life itself, of gesture and speech, and the details of daily intercourse; these also, for the wise, being susceptible of a suavity and charm caught from the way in which they are done, which gives them a value in themselves; wherein, indeed, lies [530] what is valuable and justly attractive in what is called the fashion of a time, which elevates the trivialities of speech, and manner, and dress, into an end in themselves, and gives them a mysterious grace and attractiveness in the doing of them.

Art, then, is thus always striving to be independent of the mere intelligence, to become a matter of pure perception, to get rid of its responsibilities to its subject or material; the ideal examples of poetry and painting being those in which the constituent elements of the composition are so welded together that the material or subject no longer strikes the intellect only; nor the form, the eye or ear only; but form and matter, in their union or identity, present one single effect to the imaginative reason, that complex faculty for which every thought and feeling is twin-born with its sensible analogue or symbol.

It is the art of music which most completely realises this artistic ideal, this perfect identification of form and matter, this strange chemistry, uniting, in the integrity of pure light, contrasted elements. In its ideal, consummate moments, the end is not distinct from the means, the form from the matter, the subject from the expression; they inhere in and completely saturate each other; and to it, therefore, to the condition of its perfect moments, all the arts may be supposed constantly to tend and aspire. Music, then, not poetry, as is so often supposed, is the true type or measure of consummate art. Therefore, although each art has its incommunicable element, its untranslateable order of impressions, its unique mode of reaching the imaginative reason, yet the arts may be represented as continually struggling after the law or principle of music, to a condition which music alone completely realises; and one of the chief functions of æsthetic criticism, dealing with the concrete products of art, new or old, is to estimate the degree in which each of those products approaches in this sense to musical law.

 

 

 

 

Erstdruck und Druckvorlage

The Fortnightly Review.
Bd. 22, New Series, 1877, 1. Oktober, S. 526-538.

Unser Auszug: S. 526-530.

Gezeichnet: Walter H. Pater.

Die Textwiedergabe erfolgt nach dem ersten Druck (Editionsrichtlinien).


The Fortnightly Review   online
URL: https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/008882609
URL: https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/006056638
URL: http://opacplus.bsb-muenchen.de/title/715786-1
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Zeitschriften-Repertorium

 

Aufgenommen in

 

 

 

Werkverzeichnis


Verzeichnis

Wright, Samuel: A Bibliography of the Writings of Walter H. Pater.
Folkestone: Dawson 1975.


Pater, Walter: Coleridge's Writings.
In: The Westminster Review.
1866, Januar, S. 106-132.
URL: http://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/000506030
URL: http://onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu/webbin/serial?id=westminsterreview

Pater, Walter: Winckelmann.
In: The Westminster Review.
1867, Januar, S. 80–110.
URL: http://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/000506030
URL: http://onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu/webbin/serial?id=westminsterreview

Pater, Walter: Poems by William Morris.
In: The Westminster Review.
1868, Oktober, S. 300-312.
URL: http://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/000506030
URL: http://onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu/webbin/serial?id=westminsterreview

Pater, Walter: Studies in the History of the Renaissance.
London: Macmillan and Co. 1873.
URL: https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/001112847
URL: https://archive.org/details/studiesinhistor01pategoog

Pater, Walter: On Wordsworth.
In: The Fortnightly Review.
Bd. 21, 1874, April, S. 455-465.
URL: https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/008882609
URL: http://opacplus.bsb-muenchen.de/title/715786-1

Pater, Walter: Romanticism.
In: Macmillan's Magazine.
Bd. 35, 1876/77, November 1876, S. 64-70.
URL: https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/000061600

Pater, Walter: The School of Giorgione.
In: The Fortnightly Review.
Bd. 22, New Series, 1877, 1. Oktober, S. 526-538..
URL: https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/008882609
URL: http://opacplus.bsb-muenchen.de/title/715786-1

Pater, Walter: Dante Gabriel Rossetti.
In: The English Poets.
Selections with Critical Introductions by Various Writers, and a General Introduction by Matthew Arnold.
Edited by Thomas Humphry Ward.
Vol. 4: Wordsworth to Rossetti.
Second Edition, Revised. London: Macmillan and Co. 1883, S. 633-641.
URL: https://archive.org/details/englishpoetswor00unkngoog

Pater, Walter: Marius the Epicurean. His Sensations and Ideas.
2 Bde. London: Macmillan and Co. 1885.
URL: https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/001910607
URL: https://archive.org/advancedsearch.php

Pater, Walter: Imaginary Portraits.
London: Macmillan and Co. and New York 1887.
URL: https://archive.org/details/imaginaryportra05pategoog
URL: https://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/001024227

Pater, Walter: Style.
In: The Fortnightly Review.
Bd. 44, 1888, Dezember, S. 728-743.

Pater, Walter: Appreciations. With an Essay on Style.
London: Macmillan and Co. and New York 1889.
URL: http://catalog.hathitrust.org/Record/001112390
URL: https://archive.org/details/cu31924104003326


Pater, Walter: The Collected Works.
Hrsg. von Lesley Higgins u. David Latham.
Oxford: Oxford University Press 2019 ff.

 

 

 

Literatur

Bann, Stephen (Hrsg.): The Reception of Walter Pater in Europe. London 2004.

Brake, Laurel (Hrsg.): Pater in the 1990s. Greensboro, NC 1991.

Bristow, Joseph (Hrsg.): The Victorian Poet. Poetics and Persona. London u.a. 1987.

Christ, Carol T.: Victorian Poetics. In: A Companion to Victorian Poetry. Hrsg. von Richard Cronin u.a. Malden, MA 2002, S. 1-21.

Conlon, John J.: Walter Pater and the French Tradition. Lewisburg, Pa. u.a. 1982.

Daley, Kenneth: The Rescue of Romanticism. Walter Pater and John Ruskin. Athens 2001.

Eastham, Andrew: Aesthetic Afterlives. Irony, Literary Modernity and the Ends of Beauty. London u.a. 2011.

Goehr, Lydia: "All Art Constantly Aspires to the Condition of Music" - Except the Art of Music: Reviewing the Contest of the Sister Arts. In: The Insistence of Art: Aesthetic Philosophy after Early Modernity. Hrsg. von Paul Kottman. New York 2017, S. 140-169.
URL: https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1x76fts.9

Hext, Kate: Walter Pater. Individualism and Aesthetic Philosophy. Edinburgh 2013.

Leighton, Angela: On Form. Poetry, Aestheticism, and the Legacy of a Word. Oxford 2007.

Lyons, Sara: Algernon Swinburne and Walter Pater. Victorian Aestheticism, Doubt and Secularisation. Leeds 2015.

Marcus, Laura u.a. (Hrsg.): Late Victorian into Modern. Oxford 2016.

Martus, Steffen u.a. (Hrsg.): Lyrik im 19. Jahrhundert. Gattungspoetik als Reflexionsmedium der Kultur. Bern u.a. 2005 (= Publikationen zur Zeitschrift für Germanistik, 11).

Østermark-Johansen, Lene: Walter Pater and the Language of Sculpture. Farnham u.a. 2011.

Teukolsky, Rachel: The Politics of Formalist Art Criticism: Pater's "School of Giorgione". In: Walter Pater: Transparencies of Desire. Hrsg. von Laurel Brake u.a. Greensboro, NC 2002, S. 151-169.

Warner, Eric / Hough, Graham (Hrsg.): Strangeness and Beauty. An Anthology of Aesthetic Criticism 1840–1910. 2 Bde. Cambridge u.a. 2009.

 

 

Edition
Lyriktheorie » R. Brandmeyer