Camera Work: A Photographic Quarterly — 1905 (Heft 9)

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Stirling, William B. Dyer, one of the finest, gentlest, and most poetic
natures in the photographic world; William James, a rare combination
of vigor and delicate fancy, and others; a school whose finest work
is so delicate as to defy reproduction; a school, the charm of whose
work is often too subtle to appeal to the public. To-day, except with the
human grist whose slavings make it possible, Life, especially in the great
metropolitan centers, which are of necessity the centers of art, has grown
more voluptuous and material and selfish, has largely abandoned itself to the
pleasures of sense, become drunk with the excessive materiality of the age.
Art, the esthetic mirror of Life, reflects its salient features, and the world
by popular approval gives to the most familiar reflections the stamp of truth.
On the theory perhaps that truth is beauty. The public eye, color-blind as
a rule to subtlety of expression is always held by brilliant flesh-tones, volup-
tuous drapery, or by saccharine prettiness or themes that are familiar. Thus,
a Stuck, or a Bouguereau, are sure of prompt recognition, where to a
Segantini, or a Millet, it is accorded reluctantly and after bitter years. " The
multitude has neither the time nor the patience,” says Balzac, "to under-
stand the immense power concealed beneath an appearance of uniformity.”
" Only the great reasoners understand that one should never pass one's
goal—they only respect the potentiality that is evidenced by a perfect
achievement which imparts to every work the profound tranquillity,” also
writes Balzac. It does not necessarily follow that Stuck, for example, is not
a great painter, because prompt recognition has been accorded him, any
more than it is inevitable that he is a great painter who is a painter of great
thoughts. Indeed there are many portrayers of great thoughts who are but
poor painters. The very greatness of their thought seems to conflict with
their artistic progress, to render them incapable of pausing long enough or
stooping to the drudgery of learning the language of art.
In the world of the photography, as in that of the painter, idealist and
realist are strongly represented, the one by the abandon of expression, the
other by the strength of reserve. There, more than elsewhere, is the high-
pitched harmony of spiritualized art accorded fair hearing and prompt recog-
nition among the exponents of the various schools. There, as elsewhere, so
long as its art-public is made up of mixed humanity, whose taste is governed
by human feeling and material desire rather than by superiority of knowledge,
the brutally strong saccharine, the familiar must win earliest popular recognition.
There, infinitely more than elsewhere, is it imperative that the recognized
standard must be of the very highest. There, as elsewhere, the masterpiece
of to-daymay be as the " Rose of Yesterday” to-morrow. There, as else-
where, will time be the final classifier and judge.
" For still .........
There bides unflinching, unescapable,
That even quest, that silent, troubled search,
Behind the ceaseless, traceless shift of things.”
Joseph T. Keiley.

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