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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Moral Influence of Art
By Charles Blanc (1813–1882)
 
From ‘Grammar of Painting and Engraving’

PAINTING purifies people by its mute eloquence. The philosopher writes his thoughts for those who can think and read. The painter shows his thought to all who have eyes to see. That hidden and naked virgin, Truth, the artist finds without seeking. He throws a veil over her, encourages her to please, proves to her that she is beautiful, and when he has reproduced her image he makes us take her, and takes her himself, for Beauty.  1
  In communicating to us what has been seen and felt by others, the painter gives new strength and compass to the soul. Who can say of how many apparently fugitive impressions a man’s morality is composed, and upon what depends the gentleness of his manners, the correctness of his habits, the elevation of his thoughts? If the painter represents acts of cruelty or injustice, he inspires us with horror. The ‘Unhappy Family’ of Proudhon moves the fibres of charity better than the homilies of a preacher…. Examples of the sublime are rare in painting, as the painter is compelled to imprison every idea in a form. It may happen, nevertheless, that moved by thoughts to which he has given no form, the artist strikes the soul as a thunderbolt would the ear. It is then by virtue of the thought perceived, but not formulated, that the picture becomes sublime.  2
 
 
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