Arts and sciences in one and the same century have arrived at great perfection; and no wonder, since every age has a kind of universal genius, which inclines those that live in it to some particular studies; the work then, being pushed on by many hands, must go forward.
The study of art possesses this great and peculiar charm, that it is absolutely unconnected with the struggles and contests of ordinary life. By private interests, by political questions, men are deeply divided and set at variance; but beyond and above all such party strifes they are attracted and united by a taste for the beautiful in art. It is a taste at once engrossing and unselfish, which may be indulged without effort, and yet has the power of exciting the deepest emotions,a taste able to exercise and to gratify both the nobler and softer parts of our nature,the imagination and the judgment, love of emotion and power of reflection, the enthusiasm and the critical faculty, the senses and the reason.
In no circumstance whatever can man be comfortable without art. The butterfly is independent of art, though it is only in sunshine that it can be happy. The beasts of the field can roam about by day, and couch by night on the cold earth, without danger to health or sense of misfortune. But man is miserable and speedily lost so soon as he removes from the precincts of human art, without his shoes, without his clothes, without his dog and his gun, without an inn or a cottage to shelter him by night. Nature is worse to him than a stepmother,he cannot love her; she is a desolate and howling wilderness. He is not a child of nature like a hare. She does not provide him a banquet and a bed upon every little knoll, every green spot of earth. She persecutes him to death if he do not return to that sphere of art to which he belongs, and out of which she will show him no mercy, but be unto him a demon of despair and a hopeless perdition.
The power, whether of painter or poet, to describe rightly what he calls an ideal thing, depends upon its being to him not an ideal but a real thing. No man ever did or ever will work well, but either from actual sight, or sight of faith.
The object of science is knowledge; the objects of art are works. In art, truth is the means to an end; in science, it is the only end. Hence the practical arts are not to be classed among the sciences.