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in the way of public sentiment and public interest. This sentiment, combined with the Monroe doctrine, is chiefly accountable for the introduction of such Bills as the present into Congress.
Should the Hepburn Bill pass the Senate, it remains to be seen whether the President will hold the same view as President Cleveland did in 1885, when he withdrew the Frelinghuysen-Zavala treaty from the Senate owing to its terms being in contravention of the general principle laid down in the Clayton-Bulwer treaty. It is to be hoped that he will, and further, will find himself strong enough to induce the Senate to ratify the Convention of the 5th of February, 1900, unamended, and thereby place the United States in a position to construct a canal under conditions that cannot fail to meet with the approval of the whole world.
VARYING IDEALS OF HUMAN BEAUTY
If we want to form an idea of what bygone races looked like, there is practically only one source of knowledge-the representations left of them by their artists. But artists are very untrustworthy folk: they are born idealists, and have a troublesome way of representing people, not as they are, but as they would like to be. They far too commonly, even in their portraiture, represent the race's ideal of beauty, rather than the actual appearance of the individuals of the race.
It is an interesting question how far this artistic ideal departs from the true racial type. Does it merely select the choicest specimens of the race, or does it invent a creature that has never existed? For instance, does a Greek statue present to us merely an exceptionally handsome Greek man or woman, or is it what the Greek man or woman would have liked to resemble, but never did?
The question is not easy to answer with regard to the Greeks. Certainly the statue represents a possible human being, so why not the true racial type? Of course, at its best. But there have been other ideals which are impossible. For instance, there is the familiar early Victorian female ideal, to be found in the books of beauty and many fashionable portraits of the time. She is quite unlike any human being that has ever lived. The eyes are too big, the forehead is too high, the nose is too long, the mouth is too small, the neck is too long, the shoulders are too sloping, and the figure generally is fortunately impossible.
It was certainly a popular ideal; it was what the early Victorian lady wanted to look like; but if future historians imagine that she did look like that they ill be grievously mistaken.
So it is obvious that we must be a little careful. Does the ideal merely mean a caricature of the prevailing type? No, not necessarily of the prevailing, but of the fashionable type. It is a caricature of the actual men and women who were most admired at the time.
We have an analogy from the sporting prints of the pre-photographic days. These represented an animal entirely unknown to natural history, but which sporting men accepted as a faithful likeness of a racehorse. If compared with a photograph of a racehorse it
will be seen at once to be grotesquely unlike the real thing, but yet these prints imposed upon men who were very shrewd judges of the animal itself.
The solution of the mystery is that they were accustomed to judge a horse by its points. The print exaggerated all these points, and made an impossible monstrosity; but the sporting man only saw that the points were there, only rather more so, and admired accordingly.
In judging representations of human beings the same principle obtains. At different times and in different civilisations certain points are popular, and in art-except in the very highest-these points are invariably exaggerated.
It is this exaggeration of the fashionable, rather than of the average, type of the race that constitutes for that race the ideal of human beauty. The form that this ideal takes is not merely of theoretical interest; it has a very important practical side.
Everyone tries to become like the fashionable ideal, and this endeavour often meets with a good deal of success. The power of adaptability latent in the female form especially has always struck me with admiring wonder. For instance, if the ideal has a small waist, most women will, somehow or other, have a small waist too, to the great detriment of their health and activity. On the other hand, a robust and athletic ideal can only be approached by healthy living and a good deal of outdoor exercise, to the immense gain of the idealists themselves and of their children after them.
There is also the marriage market to be considered. Matrimony has always been, in the rough, a matter of the choosing of favoured young women by the privileged sex. I regret that it is so. It is a bad system, and tends to make women sly and men insufferable. But the fact remains, nor in our civilisation, with its unfortunate preponderance of women, is it likely to get any better.
This power of choice on the part of the man being assumed, it is obviously a public misfortune if he admires an unhealthy and unsatisfactory type of young woman. For on the average he is sure to marry her to the detriment of the race.
Of course this applies also to the female ideal of man. It is as well that women should admire a good type of man, but owing to their inferior freedom of choice it is of less importance.
I commend these considerations to my brother artists. For Heaven's sake let their ideal types be healthy, whatever else they be. If the decadent artists ever succeed in making their monstrosities fashionable it will go far to ruin England.
Having thus demonstrated, as I fondly trust, the extreme gravity and interest of my subject, I will proceed to treat it in its main historical aspects.
The most stable artistic type ever known was undoubtedly that
of ancient Egypt. It lasted, with very slight variations, for literally thousands of years.
One curious thing about this rigidly conventionalised art is that it began with a very sturdy realism. Some of the earliest statues are singularly free from convention, and show a fine feeling for individual portraiture.
I will instance the celebrated figure of the Scribe now at the Louvre. It is one of the earliest of all historical monuments, and yet how modern it is, and how admirable!
If Egyptian art could only have progressed in this direction what wonders might we not have seen!
I once asked a very eminent man of science how he accounted for this extraordinary early promise of Egyptian art so soon getting stifled into the most rigid conventionality.
'My dear man,' he replied, 'it got into the hands of the parsons.'
I have no doubt that this is the true explanation. Art was a function of the priestly caste, and innovation became heresy.
But, curiously enough, this very devotion of art to the service of religion in one way tended to preserve that realistic feeling that we have noticed as one of its earliest characteristics.
The Egyptian belief in a future life was of a very material nature. Every man had a Ka, or double, which was a kind of soul, but this soul could not subsist as an absolutely disembodied spirit. It must have a solid substratum, as it were; as long as the man's body endured the spirit was all right. Hence the mummifying of the corpse and elaborate precautions with regard to sepulture. But even if the body decayed he had a second chance. At a pinch the Ka could make shift with another body. This was best provided by a statue of the deceased, which was buried with him, and, being made of some hard material, could be trusted to give him a very tolerable measure of immortality. But the statue had to be sufficiently like to prevent the Ka making any mistake about it. So in these funeral effigies there is generally a certain amount of individuality about the head. This being sufficient for recognition, the body was conventionalised, and represented an average man or woman in the prime of life. Occasionally, however, if there were any great peculiarity in the body, it would be reproduced in the effigy. For instance, a dwarf would have a dwarf statue.
This belief, as I have said, tended to realism, but it was not strong enough to stem the tide of conventionality that finally overwhelmed the whole of Egyptian art.
Only once or twice does this conventionality at all break down. The most striking case is during the reign of the heretic, Amenophis the Fourth. This monarch was a radical and a reformer of the deepest dye, who endeavoured to sweep away the very complicated
superstitions of his people, and to substitute for them the comparatively simple worship of the Solar disk. It is a striking evidence of the strength of the monarchical principle in ancient Egypt that for a time he was successful in his innovations. This relaxation of the bonds of orthodoxy had a very curious effect on art, so much so that in his capital of Tel-el-Amarna there have been found paintings and bas-reliefs that display an astonishing vigour and freedom from convention. There are also portrait statues of the reformer that appear to render his very unprepossessing face and form with the utmost fidelity.
But the movement did not last. No doubt the priestly caste was too strong. Egypt returned to its polytheism, and art to its conventionality. But it is precisely this conventionality that is so interesting, for it gives us the Egyptian ideal of the human form.
How shall we describe this ideal? In face the men and women were very much alike, but there is a subtle charm about the female faces that is replaced by a placid dignity in the male. In both the features are delicate and of a somewhat aquiline type, and the figures are tall and slight. There is very little indication of muscle, but the men are broad-shouldered and thin-flanked, whilst the women, in spite of their stiff attitudes, are graceful and refined. In both, the forms are soft and rounded. The resemblance between the men and women is of course increased by the men being always clean shaven.
In the paintings and bas-reliefs there are certain conventions which do not apply to the statues, and for these due allowance has to be made.
In early times all drawing and painting on the flat (and basrelief is but a form of this) had to serve two purposes. One was to convey information, the other to be ornamental. It is doubtful which is the earlier of the two. The man of the stone age, when he scratched his realistic mammoth on a piece of reindeer bone, either wanted to convey to his brother man that he had seen a fine specimen of this interesting animal, or else he did it because he thought it pretty; or he may have had both motives. In any case we have here the common origin of art and writing.
The information-picture dwindles down through hieroglyphics to mere symbols of sounds, the pictorial origin of which is entirely lost. The decorative picture gradually loses all wish to convey information, and subsists entirely for its pleasure to the eye. But the Egyptians had not got so far as that; when they drew a man, there had to be no mistake what it was. He had all to be displayed, as it were, to the best advantage. The legs were shown sideways, so as to give the whole length of the feet, and one leg was put in front of the other, so that neither should be concealed. Then there came a difficulty about the body; if that were sideways too, one shoulder would be lost; so the body must be seen frontways. The arms, again, are best