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Studio: international art — 1.1893

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The Naissance of Art in Photography

to our heart. Although a musical work be com-
posed in strict accordance with every rule of the
science, it will not be a work of fine art unless it
goes to the soul as well. And so a painting,
although it may have in it every element of truth,
£11 the grace of form, all the interest of a deftly
depicted episode, will yet not be a true work of
art if it lack the " something" not seen, not even
understood, which must be present to make the
painting a " heartfelt" work of art.

It is necessary to express so far our own opinions,
be they right or wrong, facts or dreams, to prevent
misunderstanding of what follows. There are
many who by no means accept such a standard
of fine art; some because they are unable to
comprehend it, some because they are unable to
act up to it, some because they honestly believe
it to be false. The truth or falsity of our idea is of
no consequence provided we make clear the claims
of photography to rank as a fine art.

Accepting the highest sense of the words, photo-
graphy has no part in fine art. It has the power
to select the fit, and to make the best of what is
actually and materially put before it, but when all
is done it remains simply a delineator. To photo-
graphy is denied the capability of bringing together
diverse beauties from various sources; we can
photograph the handsomest man, or the prettiest
woman in the world, and can even make the most
of the existing excellences of their forms and
features; but we cannot photograph a demigod
with an aggregate of beauties unknown in any one
body. Nor an angel, nor a devil. If any one
were bold enough to produce a fancy photograph
of a " Christ," he would be instantly and justly
reproved. We have seen "fancy" studies of
Tennyson's heroes and heroines produced by
photography; these, even had they not been
ludicrous, would have been wholly unsatisfying to
the many who hold Tennyson to be almost more
than human. If photography could collect the
beautiful, the fitting, the perfect, from various
quarters, and could endow its graphic productions
with the simulacrum of what we call art, even then
the fact that we knew the production to be a
matter-of-fact rendering projected by a lens upon
a plate, would of necessity break the spell, and
bring the whole performance down to the level of
a clever piece of copying. If the capability
possessed by the painter, who collects from various
sources, and introduces into his work beauties
which exist only in his imagination, be called
" Idealism," and if idealism be the highest phase
of fine art, then we say at once that photo-
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graphy cannot aspire to the highest realm of fine
art.

But is there any quality inherent in photography
which places it for ever and wholly outside the pale
of the Fine Arts ? We reply without hesitation :
No. Much photographic work has been done, and
more is daily being done, which is beyond question
artistic in the true sense of the word. An ex-
hibition of photographs at the present day consists
broadly of the following classes: First, a great
number of topographical prints, technically good,
but with no pretence of being pictures. Second, a
smaller number showing some intention of the
worker to be artistic; occasionally these are more
painful to behold than the undisguised transcripts
of bare fact, but at any rate they show a good
intention. Lastly, we find some few—but in
a proportion that is daily increasing—which are
pictures in all but the highest sense of the word;
quite as good, so far as they go, as the average of
those to be seen on the walls of exhibitions of
paintings. Leaving out of the question what we
have called Idealism, what have we to look for in
a graphic representation of any subject? Com-
position, chiaroscuro, truth, harmony, sentiment,
suggestion ? All these and more are quite within
the scope of photography. Photographs of the
" Impressionist" type have been successfully pro-
duced, and this is perhaps the most promising
class we have at present. Colour is certainly
denied to us, but, on the other hand, we have the
power of catching fleeting effects, of securing truth
in detail and perspective, and of depicting with
ease atmospheric phenomena which can only with
difficulty be reproduced at all, even by the ablest
painters. The question is not what photographers
do, but what photography can do. Photographers
commit mistakes without doubt, but the blame
must not be laid at the door of photography. If
many who have been trained to art were to express
the results of their training by photography instead
of with the brush, the capabilities of the camera
would soon be better understood and more appre-
ciated. And it is no part of our present object to
shut our eyes to the faults of photographers, or to
attempt to excuse them; on the contrary, we pro-
pose to dwell upon them at some length. Only it
must be steadily kept in mind that photographers,
and not photography, are thus attacked.

The very facility of the technique of photo-
graphy has been one of its greatest enemies. In a
few days any one of average intelligence can learn
to make what is, so far as technical quality goes, a
good photograph ; consequently we have an
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