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SCIENCE AND PHILOSOPHY
By CELEN SABBRIN.
Wer gegenwartig iiber Kunst schreiben will, der sollte einige Ahnung haben von dem,
was die Philosophic geleistet hat, und zu leisten fortfahrt.— Goethe.
WM. F. FELL & CO.,
1220-24 Sansom St.
Copyright, 1886, by Wm. F. Fell.
SCIENCE AND PHILOSOPHY IN ART:
Summary : Art as one of the highest forms of scientific and philo-
sophic expression — This illustrated by the impressionist school —
Elements of their method — Triangulation — Examples — Motion
and force — Theory of lines — Theory of Dissymmetry — Dissym-
metry in mind and thought — Technique and coloring — Psycho-
logical effect of colors — Focal visual point and perspective —
Examples — Water effects — Tone motifs — Philosophic analysis of
two landscapes — Comments on Renoir and Sisley — Conclusion.
The mainspring of happiness to the philosophic mind is
to penetrate into the internal structure of things, and to
analyze the complex to its ultimate elements. This principle
x has been accepted consciously or unconsciously, and under-
lies the works of the best r representatives of the impressionist
sdiool of painting. The truths of geometry and the laws of
force have been also recognized by them, whether consciously
or unconsciously, as the only correct basis upon which to
proceed, in order to produce on the mind of the observer
those subjective effects which are the highest expression of
Art, and of which this school, par excellence, is the most able
exponent. The pictures of Claude Monet come first as the
latest art expressions of scientific and philosophic thought.
This is clearly shown both by the treatment and the
subject. The simplest elements are introduced and managed
with such consummate skill as to form a combination in the
* A review of the work of the Impressionists of Paris exhibited at the American Art
Association Rooms, New York, during the Spring of 1886.
4 SCIENCE AND PHILOSOPHY IN ART.
highest degree complex. These pictures are the work of a
genius, of a master thinker, who feels the power of the infi-
nite, and can reflect it to others. This familiar association
with the eternal problems, is where the master spirit of
Claude Monet manifests itself. None in art before him has
ever approached so near the domain of the philosopher. The
inflexible principles of geometry give the form to his charm-
ing color harmonies. The line between the aesthetic and the
intellectual is so lightly traced in his creations, that the
slightest touch effaces it, and thus almost proclaims their
identity. Nature is rendered more lovely by this revelation
of her mechanism and the sources of her activity, which are
clearly brought out by study of his pictures ; though to
those minds unprepared for and incapable of grasping the
laws of the universe, these pictures will offer little of inter-
est. But to the thinker, the canvases of Claude Monet are
records of what the sensitive mind sees in nature. It is not
the pitiless laws of growth and decay which present them-
selves, but humanity with its hopes and fears shining forth,
with which the true soul alone can sympathize.
The compositions of Claude Monet are animated evidences
of what some one has said, that the true source of knowledge
can be derived alone from the subjective. He does not paint
what nature is, or as she presents herself to the ordinary
mind through the medium of the imperfect senses, but he
paints those thoughts which she impresses upon him by
means of subtle forces to which only the sensitive mind
The idea of triangulation is clearly expressed in the works
of most of the followers of the impressionist school. It
would be difficult for one unacquainted with this school's
teachings to say if this is purely unconscious or by design.
It is not accidental. Of this there can be no doubt ; for in
each picture of Monet's, as well as of those other painters
whose pictures have been studied, the same theory is ex-
pressed. It is along the hypotenuse of the right-angled
triangle that the attention of the observer is, as a rule,
directed. This line is used as a framework upon which to
construct the picture. The lights and shadows and objects,
when introduced for the main effect, are always along this line.
Nor is there only one line, but a parallel series, always
running at the same angle. So with shadows, trees, eleva-
tions, depressions, or with whatever objects the picture is com-
posed. Numerous examples can be brought forward from his
pictures. One may refer to No. 250, i( Le Jardin de Monet
It represents a garden rising from the foreground. This
is occupied by an open space a little to the left of a
right line drawn from the median line of the canvas. This
space is a very high light, with deep shadows of dark blue.
On each side are blue figured vases filled with flowering plants,
the shadows on the space and vases being along the diagonal
line. A staircase, which is interrupted by a narrow terrace,
( leads from the space upward to the right, to a second terrace
on which are the houses. Nearly the entire canvas is occu-
pied, and the narrow space above is a deep blue sky. On
either side of the staircase are numerous tall plants, their
yellow flowers rising one higher tharv the other, like a flight
of steps. This is ended by a lattice work running along the
second terrace. The light falls along the hypotenuse line
D SCIENCE AND PHILOSOPHY IN ART.
through the flowers to the left, across the stone steps, and
vanishes beyond to the right-hand lower corner. The same
is true of the shadows. The lattices of the little fence
around the terrace are distinctly seen only where the slats are
arranged in the direction of the hypotenuse. The left-
hand corner, which corresponds to the right angle of the
triangle, is where the objects are most clearly represented,
and the coloring is richer in tone. As the right-hand upper
corner of the picture is examined, it will be seen that the
objects are less distinctly painted, but the lines which p©rre-
spond to the direction of the hypotenuse are more distinct,
and the color of the picture seems to fade away, and only
the geometrical basis remains. - The sky is cloudless, but a
vapor-like effect can be detected by close observation, draped
over^the sky's form, in directions corresponding to the hy-
potenuse. This light drapery is a most appropriate clothing
for the heated sky. The coloring of the sky is remarkable; the
appearance is one familiar to those who have seen it in south-
ern France and Spain. The rich colored vault is apparently
brought almost within reach. On gazing at it steadily, the
eye becomes fatigued, and the sky is no longer blue, but of a
leaden color. This can also be seen on examining the picture
by gaslight ; the sky, by artificial light, loses its blue tone and
assumes the dull, leaden hue. It may be noted that the skies
of Monet are the most carefully painted of any parts of his
Two little children stand on the flight of steps leading to
the dwelling, in a diagonal line. The immediate impression
conveyed by this scene is one of warmth and vitality. Rich
tones of green, blue, red and orange, are used with won-
MOTION AND FORCE. /
drous skill.; It is a mid-summer scene ; the vegetation is at
its highest ; the air sultry and heavy with heat. It is a pic-
ture of the present moment, and the only pause to check the
joy which such a surrounding offers, is the sky, by its depth
suggestive of the impenetrability, to human understanding, of
the termini of life.
Everywhere is seen this theory of triangulation. It is the
painter's guide for composition. In these color idyls,
drawing is scarcely present. The artist's mind rests upon
this simple geometrical foundation, and his thoughts are
turned into a perfect form, because true to nature. Fre-
quently the pictures can be divided into several triangles ;
these triangles are formed by shadows, lights, clouds, fields,
the sea, houses, or lines of trees ; and are always significant of
the underlying truths of life, which these painters have felt.
In 123, "Mail Post at Etretat," the roll of the waves, the dip
of the rock, and the direction in which the clouds are flying,
are all expressed in lines corresponding to the hypotenuse.
The oblique parallelism of the picture is indicative of move-
ment. Motion is suggested by every stroke of the knife.
The sunlight is coming from the same direction as the lines
run ; and the shadow of the great rock upon the water is
in motion. As the observer moves from one to the other
side of the picture, the shadow seems to change its position.
The effect is strange. The sea is shimmering in the sunlight
and seems to be many fathoms deep. Its lovely transparency,
which is finally lost in depth, reminds us of how we are
lured on in our search after truth — simplicity and clearness at
the start, ever increasing dimness following. The high swells
of the sea are coming on in a stately procession, each bending
8 SCIENCE AND PHILOSOPHY IN ART.
before the mighty rocky arch, and then rushing upon it as
if to reach to its summit. These great billows are composed
of small waves, and upon them rise smaller ones still, until
the little ripples come, as a bright smile upon a loved face.
The prevailing color tones of greens, blues and pinks, offer a
harmony of incomparable composition. One can sniff the
fresh salt breezes, and hear the heavy thud of the waters
coming against the rock. On viewing such a scene, we
cannot but feel that we are looking upon, more than nature
has to offer in her cold way. It is the thoughts which the
artist had on painting this picture which we see and feel,
in addition to the sea, rock and waves.
The theory of triangulation should be considered at this
stage. It was stated above, that in No. 123 movement is
forcibly expressed, by all the objects in the picture being
painted along parallel diagonal lines. Motion can only be
represented by ideas of force. Force is always exerted in
straight lines, whether as initial or deflected force. The
triangle is selected as the simplest figure enclosing space, and
thus represents the lines of force in their simplest elements.
The hypotenuse offers the opportunity of introducing the
idea of dissymmetry. It is to M. Pasteur that we owe the
acknowledgment of presenting molecular dissymmetry in its
widest bearing. Dissymmetry is essential to the conditions of
life. The results of synthesis in the laboratory of the chemist
are always symmetrical, because the forces employed are
non-dissymmetrical. On the contrary, all chemical products
made in the plant cell are dissymmetrical, for they are formed
by forces of dissymmetry. How should the chemist break
away from his methods, which are, from this point of view, ob-
solete and imperfect ? He should have recourse to the action
of solenoids, of magnetism, of the dissymmetrical movement
of light, and the reactions of substances themselves dissym-
metrical. A vast field opens here for future investigations
into the origin of life. Dissymmetry is not only the basis of
organic life, but of the universe, for the cosmic forces are
Some bodies which are not symmetrical on the right and
the left are constructed on a general plane of symmetry.
A chair has a plane of symmetry; it is the vertical plane
passing through the middle of the back and of the seat. But
the two halves of the chair, separated by this plane, are not
symmetrical; the right is- not superposable upon the left.
There is a marked separation between the organic kingdom
and the mineral kingdom. Dissymmetry and symmetry, or
function and crystallization, are the modes of cosmic forces.
The nearer the approach to the symmetrical, so much the
nearer to a condition of crystallization and cessation of
so-called vital functions. The transition from the dissym-
metrical to the symmetrical is at the expense of force, con-
sequently involves motion. Symmetry is equalized force,
dissymmetry is unequalized force. When force is in a state
of equilibrium it is symmetrical, and conversely.
The striving of the human mind to attain the symmetrical
ot ideal, also carries with it the idea of movement. A deeper
meaning underlies this. In the human struggle after perfec-
tion, or symmetry geometrically expressed, should such a state
be reached, every further progress would end — human effort
would be changed to a stable condition or one of crystal-
lization. Perfection would be fixation. Absolute truth, if
10 SCIENCE AND PHILOSOPHY IN ART.
achieved, would terminate all thought, as the crystal termi-
nates all directive motion. A geometrical formula expressing
all life, would be also expressive of all death. Relative truth
is dissymmetrical ; absolute truth symmetrical.
That this conclusion seems to be where scientific thought
will eventually drive the world is imminent, and the thought
crops out from many of the canvases of Monet. Many of
the , tricks which painters of other schools employ to give
motion to their pictures, are disregarded by the Impression-
ists. They have penetrated to the source of motion, and
they recognize force as the cause. - This fact that force
manifests itself in . straight lines is not only expressed in
generality, but in the details or technique of their pictures.
On close inspection, their pictures are masses of short, straight
lines, and all their effects are produced in this way. Curved
lines are only employed when it is desired to express the
idea of retardation, and when curves are used, they are
formed of short, straight lines, much as, in modern geo-
metrical teaching, a circle is held to be formed of innumer-
able straight lines.
The right angle of the triangle, which includes all the
elements of the picture, falls sometimes .outside the canvas.
The hypotenuse, however, is never absent. Without it,
there could be no basis for the composition. Sometimes
the right angle of the triangle is occupied with the most
prominent objects of the painting, and to these the focal
point of vision is directed. No. 184, "The Setting Sun,"
by Monet, is a conspicuous example of this. The focal point
of vision is thrown entirely to the left, where are seen the
coast line and the setting sun ; to the right is a vast expanse
PSYCHOLOGICAL EFFECT OF COLORS. 11
of sea. A mistiness pervades the picture ; the sky and sea
blend to shut off forever from the soul the knowledge of
what lies beyond. ,
Another extraordinary picture is No. 198, "Fog Effect near
Dieppe." The sandy bank and trees are to the right. The
technique and coloring of these trees are startling ; straight
lines mark the canvas, reproducing this mood of nature with
a masterly insight. The sea dashes with violence against the
coast. A faint light shines through the waves, and the foam
rests on their proud, crested heads, like a bridal wreath.
On just such a coast line might life have originated, as the
sport of accident, by the cruel sea, indifferent to the origin,
progress and destiny of this life, to which she had given birth.
.The color tints of pinks and grays delineate the outlines.
Monet's pictures are noticeable for the psychological effect
they produce by their coloring. His colors are like an
orchestra of instruments in perfect tune, and the pitch of his
scale is given by the foundation tone of his pictures.
On close examination, it would be reasonable to conclude
that the canvases were first coated by a uniform tint of
paint ; this is the "pitch to which all the other colors are
tuned, and the different effects in his pictures are produced
by heavy straight lines of suitable colors, according with
the pitch. For Monet's pictures are essentially harmonies
of color tones, in distinction to Renoir's pictures, which are
The color scale of Monet's pictures is original, and essen-
tially calculated to produce upon the observer an intense
psychological impression. As the pitch is high or low, so his
colors vary in strength. Some of his most beautiful water
12 SCIENCE AND PHILOSOPHY IN ART.
and sea effects are reached by combinations of pale nile
green, blue and .violet tints, of varying. shades.
Some of his views are bathed in an atmosphere of magic
grace and purity. The tone pitch is often taken from the
visual forms. In No. 131, " Cap D' Antifer" the prevailing
tones are violet and lilac colors. It is a late afternoon scene ;
with wonderful distinctness the cliff stands out \ along its
rugged edge runs the road, twisting and turning, but always
true to a parallelism with the coast-line, our line of dissym-
metry. The light through the picture follows the same line,
though the light is symmetrical with regard to the oblique
line, for it is equal in intensity on both sides, and it fades
away equally towards the right of the picture.
To obtain their full effect, the pictures of the Impression-
ists should be studied in the light in which the scene was
painted ; and this is a very important point to be remem-
bered in judging the works of these artists. A noticeable
example of this was a picture by Besnard, "By Candle
Light.' ' The light of day detracts a great deal from the
beauty of this painting.
Not only does Monet excel in painting water in motion,
but also in representing it when at rest. No. 28, "Breaking
of Ice on the Seine," is an example. The middle distance is
the point to which the eye is attracted. We feel how cold
the water must be. Its marvelous transparency and depth
are startling, and in contrast with the opacity of the blocks of
ice floating on its surface. It is like a silvered mirror, with
here and there the coating effaced. The foreground is rough,
and in blue, green and , gray tints. The picture is con-
structed on the principle of dissymmetry, and the effects of
WATER EFFECTS. 1
distance, depression and rising ground are well portrayed.
The valley, between the lines of trees which follow the bend
of the river and the distant hills, is only observable after
"The Low Tide at Pourville," by Claude Monet, shows
the facility of this artist. The cloudy sky is reflected in the
moist sands, and the eye is carried along the beach to the
distant blue sea, which is painted with much distinctness.
In many of Monet's pictures, the middle or far distances
are brought out with great force. It is a natural inclination
of the mind, on viewing a scene, to gaze v beyond the imme-
diate foreground. Consequently, Monet's foregrounds are
usually indistinct, and especially in his highest psychological
studies, where this indistinctness of foreground has a philo-
In point of fact, it is impossible to see cleanly more than
one object at a time; all surroundings are less distinct, or
reflect the color of the focal visual object. Monet's "Cabin
at Pourville," No. 169, illustrates this statement. The central
object of .interest is a little shrimp-colored house. The
atmospheric conditions doubtless influence the mind of the
observer, but the tone most deeply impressed on the house is
reflected on the entire scene, on the hill beyond and even iii
the sky. This same idea is brought out in Renoir's pictures,
where the background, though often very indistinct, echoes
the prevailing rich colors of the figure which occupy the
Monet's No. 168, "The Seine at Giverny," is a picture
which at once attracts attention. The view suggests calmness
and purity. A delicious fragrance steals over the senses, and
14 SCIENCE AND PHILOSOPHY IN ART.
the delicate perfume of lilacs permeates the mind. The
transparency and depth of the water are finely represented.
The shadows of the trees growing along the banks are
reflected in the water, and again carry out the theory of dis-
symmetry. For clearness and crispness of coloring, this
picture is excelled by none in the collection.
No. 108, " Scene at Port Villers," carries out several of
the originalities of Monet's style. The canvas is covered by
a thin layer of a pale gray tint. In places there is apparently
an absence of all color, and it is the canvas that shows. The
prevailing tones are pinkish grays. The last layers of color
are laid on very heavily, and thus the scene is admirably
represented. The theory of triangulation and dissymmetry
is clearly expressed by the lines of trees to the right, forming
the hypotenuse. The edge of the bank is a .transverse line,
prominently shown, and the ground rises above it in ragged
outline against the sky, broken, dissymmetrical. The hill is
reproduced in the river by reflection. This general effect is
one of the best illustrations of symmetry in any of Monet's
works. The subjective side of this picture is produced by
adherence to simple and exact principles. The ground-plan
is triangular, and the tints are in those colors which subject-
ively produce the sensations of chilliness.
Monet's " Morning at Pourville," No. 216, is an interest-
ing study of shadow effects. The rock which boldly rises in
the foreground is reflected in the rolling sea as a triangle.
Here let us note how frequently any distinct object in the
foreground of Monet's pictures is sure to be inorganic, inani-
mate, massive, stable, recalling the blind, immutable forces of
unsympathetic nature. The extraordinary sheen of the water
TONE MOTIFS. 15
is most noticeable ; straight lines of light aid the mind
to realize that it is real water upon which the observer looks.
The delusion is complete. The gallery and all surroundings
vanish, and it is the sea which spreads before you, with its
restlessness. Innocence is depicted upon the siren's counte-
nance. In the past, how many adventurous mariners she has
lured on to repose upon her trustful bosom, only to drag them
to her distant abode, the dwelling of death.
When Monet obtains his best water effects for depth and
transparency, he employs thin, delicate colors. Pale green
and blue exert a marked psychological influence upon the
aesthetic emotions, reviving peaceful or agitating thoughts in
the soul, as the conditions of the picture exact. For late
evening effects, salmon pinks and dark greens are used with
telling results, as in 219, "Evening on the Seine. "
The " Wheat Field," of Monet, No. 158, will instantly attract
the observer, as more than a landscape; in fact, in the ordi-
nary sense, none of Monet's pictures are landscapes, but
The middle distance is the field of wheat, ripe, and await-
ing the labor of man, to be applied to its greatest usefulness.
The rich salmon coloring of the wheat inspires the feeling of
hope in the human breast, and encourages the struggle of toil.
The sky above echoes this happy thought of effort being re-
warded. The few red poppies at the sides of the immediate
foreground add to the brilliant scene of the present, and it
seems as if for the minute nature had relented, and given
promise to the weary worker of a haven of eternal joy. The
strong red hues of the foreground, tinged with this most
potent of colors, are suggestive of the vigor of life, the pleni-
16 SCIENCE AND PHILOSOPHY IN ART.
tude of the powers ; and soon they fade into the uncertain
shades, the feebler tones of the further distance.
The eye travels beyond the wheat, past trees and green
fields, to the distant blue hills, and just beyond the salmon-
pink color is discernible, also suggesting the thought of toil.
The pinkish haziness of the far distance suggests a town and
busy industries, they in turn some day to be silenced and
dead, even as the wheat field after the harvest will leave only
stubble and straw. The wheat will relieve the immediate
hunger of man, and the industry that of his soul's longing,
but only as a temporary aliment. This picture, a color poem,
is a step in advance of art ; it is the cry of humanity.
Wagner, in his operas, has used with telling effect his
tone motifs. Our ear always tells us what our eye should
see on the stage; the motif is indicative of the personality of
his characters, or forewarns us what we have to expect. So
with these creations of Monet, his tone ??iotifs are his combi-
nations of colors. He has certain color scales which he uses,
and to which the mind responds. This is too well marked to be
passed over, and in so many of his pictures, which are emi-
nently philosophical studies, his use of reds and peculiar
greens is constant.
"A Farm," No. 135 of the catalogue, is a study in red-
orange tones. The axes of dissymmetry are the lines, lights
and shadows of the picture, and are so used as to be suggestive
of motion. The key-note of the scene is force. In the fore-
ground is a marshy pond, on which are floating some ducks ; a
roadway limits the extent of the water, and the row of piles
which support the side of the road is one of the diagonal
lines. The fence back of the road, the trunks of the trees,
PHILOSOPHIC ANALYSIS. 17
the lights and shadows, the rising ground, the outline of the
roofs against the sky, and the clouds, all follow the direction
of the, hypotenuse. The visual focus is, as usual, dissymmet-
rical, and in the diagonal. It is to the left of the centre of
the scene. The strong sunlight pouring down upon the side
of the farm house, and the intense shadows of the trees upon
it, all indicate energy, the very power of the cosmic forces
themselves. The reddish-orange color of the roof contrasted
with the sky gives to the latter a greenish tinge, which adds
to the color harmony of the whole. The two sides of the
picture .differ as to intensity of coloring, and distinctness
of form, and in these respects further illustrate the dissym-
metrical principles which underlie.
Monet's pictures, 270, "Poppies in Bloom, " and 212,
"Landscape at Giverny," are companion pictures, inasmuch
as one is the continuation of the other, and an expression of
philosophical thought. The prevailing color tones of the two
pictures are brilliant reds, and peculiar bluish greens. Atten-
tion was called above to this color rule, as being used in what
are most properly the highest philosophical studies of this
artist. As art expressions of scientific and philosophical
thought, these two pictures occupy the most prominent place
of any in the collection.
No. 270 is the best illustration of the theory of triangula-
tion to be found in Monet's pictures. From the foreground
and running diagonally from left to right is the poppy field,
and the ground rising above it forms a green, grassy amphi-
theatre, closing out from sight all objects beyond the fore-
ground, thus inviting to progress. The narrow expanse of sky
is seen above the hilly bank. Its depth is interminable, and
18 SCIENCE AND PHILOSOPHY IN ART.
a sense of solemnity steals over the observer. - He is brought
most terribly near the source and origin of things. The sky
is in marked contrast to the poppy field and hill, where it is
the present that offers. Here is the beginning of life's course.
Unconscious of what is back of the hill, the soul is absorbed
by the immediate ; though she may step forward, through the
gay-flowered field, "onward to her future, the past is locked
in mystery. Nature throws no obstacle to her progress \
? there is no warning hand to hold the soul from running to
her own destruction ; v and the indifference of nature to suffer-
ing or happiness is terrible to contemplate. The grassy bank
is covered with many colored grasses, the different colors
giving the effect of light and shadow. These different
patches are formed like triangles. The entire picture can be
looked upon as the interior of a geometrical solid. The
poppy field is a parallelogram ; diagonal lines run across it
from one to the opposite corner, and these large triangles can
in turn be divided into smaller ones. The effect of triangu-
lation can be well seen at a distance, but is very much plainer
by a near inspection of the canvas. It is significant that in
one of Monet's highest expressions of thought the unbending
principles of geometrical form are the. most clearly discernible.
It may be claiming too much to say that mathematical prin-
ciples are the basis of all truth, but that the two are nearly
related must be acknowledged.
No. 212, "A Landscape at Giverny," is an expression of
hopelessness, of the unattainableness of absolute truth, and
a confirmation of science's teachings, in the ultimate. useless-
ness of human effort. To the appreciative such a picture
would be unbearable as a constant companion ; though it is
PHILOSOPHIC ANALYSIS. 19
the crowning effort of Monet's genius, and proclaims him
.the philosopher of the impressionist school.
The mathematical principles are fully expressed in this
picture, and vivify the thought that geometry is soulless,
and that natural forces are relentless and pitiless. In the
immediate foreground runs a gay poppy field, which might
well be the poppy field of No. 270 continued, and we may
accept it as the continuation of the soul's history. Bounding
this field, along a diagonal line, are some deserted houses ;
beyond, and to the right, are a series of fields and lines of
trees alternating. A bright light strikes one of these fields,
and gives the effect of water. On and on the eye travels to
the right corner of the background, where the deep blue of
the hill range looms up. Above all, lowers a heavy gray sky,
blank and cheerless. Speculation can go no further; what
is beyond these hills may never be known. The heart
weakens and the soul is faint at what she sees. It is the end
of the struggle of the human race; all work and thought
have been of no avail; the fight is over and inorganic forces
proclaim their victory. The scene is a striking reality.
Nature is indifferent, and her aspects are meaningless, for
what indications of the unavoidable end come from seeing
that gay flowered field? It is a mockery, and that mind
which has once felt the depth of the thoughts expressed in
this painting, can only seek safety in forgetfulness.
Monet does not offer any solution to the result to which
his pictures lead. He is occupied in giving expression to
the most serious truths of our life. He is recording the
chronicles of modern thought.
The pictures of Renoir and Sisley are of great interest, as
20 SCIENCE AND PHILOSOPHY IN ART.
offering, solutions to the ideas which run through Monet's
pictures ; or if not solutions, at least those painters may be
considered in the light of physicians, who are engaged in
alleviating human suffering, so that the patient may forget the
incurableness of his malady.
Renoir offers a course which so many of our day gladly
follow. " The Breakfast at Bougival," and his studies of the
nude, clearly show the direction of his thought. The latter
are void of expression. The idea of the immediate present in
its sensual aspects is expressed by subject and treatment. The
figures are prominently in the foreground. The coloring is
rich and intense, and the backgrounds are indistinct, and
echo the coloring of the objects of the foreground. He
would teach us not to look into the distant, for all there is
indifferent; we can never outline the forms of the future.
Life is impenetrable, and why should we trouble ourselves
with what will only result in failure and disappointment?
Renoir has presented this side of the situation with a masterly
hand, but the dangers of his teaching are great, and the
character who hopes to forget, by these means, is utterly lost
to himself and to others.
Sisley's pictures offer scenes of industry, home life, and the
peace that results from leading an honorable and pure career.
He sings the song of work. His pictures are beautiful, and
if examined in this spirit, are powerful lessons.
In the Eternal City built on Seven Hills there is a piazza
from which three streets lead into different districts of the
city. This great piazza, with its open gate and plashing
fountain, is the expression of the reality forced upon us by
scientific thought, and the wearied pedestrian, who cannot
rest here, must decide which of the three streets he will fol-
low. Who can say by what accident his steps may be turned
to the way which Renoir has depicted, or to the flower-
strewn path of Sisley, or to the embrace of dogma? Each
one of these three mas leads across Rome, and at a life's
close, when standing on the walls of that city, and the hour
for the fatal plunge into the moat has come, who can say, but
the soul alone, if the choice has been well?
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