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Concerning the Spiritual in Art

expression” was dictated by anything but ignorance of
representative methods and defective materials. Such people are
numbered among the bitterest opponents of Post-Impressionism, and
indeed it is di?cult to see how they could be otherwise.
”Painting,” they say, ”which seeks to learn from an age when art
was, however sincere, incompetent and uneducated, deliberately
rejects the knowledge and skill of centuries.” It will be no easy
matter to conquer this assumption that Primitive art is merely
untrained Nat uralism, but until it is conquered there seems
little hope for a sympathetic understanding of the symbolist
The task is all the more di?cult because of the analogy drawn
by friends of the new movement between the neo -primitive vision
and that of a child. That the analogy contains a grain of truth
does not mak e it the less mischievous. Freshness of vision the
child has, and freshness of vision is an import ant element in the
new movement. But beyond this a parallel is non-existent, must be
non-existent in any art other than pure arti?ciality. It is one
thing to ape ineptitude in technique and another to acquire
simplicity of vision. Simplicity–or rather discrimination of
vision–is the trademark of the true Post-Impressionist. He
OBSERVES and then SELECTS what is essential. The result is a
logical and very sophisticated synthesis. Such a synthesis will
?nd expression in simple and even harsh technique. But the
process can only come AFTE R the naturalist process and not before
it. The child has a direct vision, becaus e his mind is
unencumbered by association and because his power of
concentration is unimpaired by a multiplicity of interests. His
method of drawing is immature; its variations from the ordinary
result from lack of capacity.
Two examples will mak e my meaning clearer. The child draws a
landscape. His picture cont ains one or two ob jects only from the
number before his eyes. These are the ob jects which strike him as
important. So far, good. But there is no relation between them;
they stand isolated on his paper, mere lumpish shapes. The Post -
Impressionist, however, selects his ob jects with a view to
expressing by their means the whole feeling of the landscape. His
choice falls on elements which sum up the whole, not those whic h
?rst attract immediate attention.
Again, let us take the case of the de?nitely religious picture.
[Footnote: Religion, in the sense of awe, is present in all true
art. But here I use the term in the narrower sense to mean
pictures of which the sub ject is connected with Christian or
other worship.]
It is not often that children draw religious scenes. More often
battles and pageants attract them. But since the revival of the
religious picture is so noticeable a factor in the new movement,
since the Byzantines painted almost entirely religious sub jects,
and ?nally, since a book of such drawings by a child of twelve
has recently been published, I prefer to take them as my example.
Daphne Alien’s religious drawings have the graceful charm of
childhood, but they are mere childish echoes of conventional
prettiness. Her talent, when mature, will turn to the charming
rather than to the vigorous. There could be no greater contrast
between such drawing and that of–say–Cimabue. Cimabue’s