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From the October 1908 issue of The Christian Science Journal

ART in itself is not a thing apart from our daily lives. It finds its expression in the details of our homes and garments as well as in public buildings and statues. As I am, however, writing principally from the point of view of the painter, let me begin with an elucidation of the province of the painter's art; that is, decorative painting and its outgrowth, the so-called easel picture. This art is a language no less than as though it were tongue-spoken. It is not an idea, or a collection of ideas, any more than words are ideas; like them, it is rather a "translation of the spiritual original into the language which human thought can comprehend" (Science and Health, p. 210).

A great thought ungrammatically expressed is still a great thought, and as such counts; but its value in full to our present consciousness is obtained when, by obeying the human-made laws of rhetoric and grammar, it is clearly communicated to others. So in the pictorial art there are laws to be obeyed, though less rigid than those of literature, and of such comparatively recent birth that we find no difficulty in tracing their growth up from the ancient picture-writing. From the first the mission of art has been twofold, that of story-telling, the literal side, and that of embellishing. The gradual perfecting of a written and printed literature absorbed to a great extent the storytelling, so that picture-making found its most rapid development in the unfolding of structural, decorative, and picturesque beauty. In this the province of its song is as peculiarly its own, and as untranslatable into words as is the harmony of sound in music and line and proportion in architecture. This latter function of painting is fundamental,—the essence, the fiber of the fabric,—but it is often misread or totally ignored by the layman.

To make this more clear I would like to cite, as an example, some decorations in the Boston Public Library. One of these is Edwin A. Abbey's "Quest of the Holy Grail." and the first instinctive concern on seeing this series of paintings is for the story,—to learn their meaning. To obtain the explanatory tablet and with it make a tour of the room, tracing the story in the pictures, seems imperative. Having done this, I have heard many exclaim, "How scientific!" while without the tablet there would be nothing to call forth such an exclamation, proving that it is indeed just this description, the literary side only, that has appealed to the beholder as being scientific. In the hallway of the building are two other decorations, by Puvis de Chavannes, vaguely interesting in their subjects, but taking their place in the harmony of the whole with a compelling restfulness. It is this harmony of the whole, not the desire to assert himself or to create a sensation, that has been the artist's first consideration. With high-minded humility, noble in its spacings as the architecture itself, the big, soft, blue-toned decorations take their place harmoniously behind, not before, the yellow marble. In these structural qualities they are as scientific as any paintings that have decorated our walls since the first flowering of Christian art.