Camera Work: A Photographic Quarterly — 1912 (Heft 39)

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an epoch of great armed struggles, and of tremendous moral and intellectual
conflicts. These offered a wide scope for artistic inspiration.
Why is it that in that epoch of tremendous political and religious up-
heavals, in which everything was revolutionized, Art, instead of revolutionizing,
evolutionized ? In my opinion, it was because of individualism. The Artist,
independent of the Monk, took refuge within himself.
Individualism considers man by himself and not as a member of society.
It makes him the only judge of everything that surrounds him, giving him
an exaggerated opinion of his rights, without pointing out to him his duties,
and abandons him to his own resources. Something of the same result is due
to Art so far as the personality of the artist is concerned; but it is quite
different in regard to the idea. In order to find out the highest reach of the
idea of man, we have to look for it beyond his individuality, and the totality
of expressions of the ideas of an individual is but the synthesis of the collective
idea. These collective ideas, condensed and synthesized by the individual
genius, are precisely those which are expressed in the masterpieces of Art.
Undeniably, no man can live outside of humanity, for no matter how
great his power of abstraction or how complete his isolation, the idea he
conceives is inalienably related to the race, the time and the place.
While humanity eagerly devoted herself to the conquest of absolute
truth, and the solution of the problem of Divinity, Art was an auxiliary, for
it contributed to the same end through the sentiment of the superhuman.
But as soon as humanity abandoned the study of the abstract for that of the
concrete, when she abandoned the search of the absolute, to consecrate herself
to the relative, Art lost its preeminence, and was reduced to a diversion for
idle intellectual people.
The principle of fraternity came to be accepted. It was faintly mur-
mured by Rousseau and later openly enunciated by the French Revolution.
Always denied by some, and defended by others in arresting controversies, it
gave rise to the formation of Altruistic, Socialistic, Communistic and Anar-
chistic sects. As if to counterbalance those forces, Capitalism and Indus-
trialism have been born as emanations of positivism. Man wants, first of all,
to enforce the right to his immediate life on this planet, seeking the largest
measure of welfare with the least amount of labor. Philosophy has been
drowned in the sea of political economy. Art, which is a striving towards the
Ideal, has succumbed to Industry, which is a striving for the Real.
But great ideas are like gigantic trees. At their death they leave their
massive trunk standing for many years, often for centuries, and their immense
roots still take nourishment from the deep soil. Sometimes, from these roots
sprouts forth shoots, of a very ephemeral life, and these give the illusion that
the tree is still alive.
And this must explain how it is that in our own day a group of men are
desirous to keep alive the spirit of Art, of the Great Art, of the Only One.
They aim, however, to produce an effect without a generating cause.
They find no fountain of inspiration because present conditions offer them
none. For this reason they go to past epochs for their inspiration.
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