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Full text of "Science and philosophy in art"

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SCIENCE AND PHILOSOPHY 

IN ART. 






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. 



PHILADELPHIA : 

WM. F. FELL & CO., 

1220-24 Sansom St. 

1886. 









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. 

3 



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 
responds. 

The idea of triangulation is clearly expressed in the works 
of most of the followers of the impressionist school. It 



TRIANGULATION. O 

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 
a Vetheuil" 

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 
pictures. 

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- 



DISSYMMETRY. V 

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 
dissymmetrical. 

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 
color discords. 

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 



Q 



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 
long study. 

"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- 
sophical bearing. 

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 
foreground. 

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 
mental studies. 

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 



CONCLUSION. 21 

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? 



Ill 



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