Why Greek art became plastic rather than picturesque.
Why, however, should this art have expressed itself in Sculpture rather than, for instance, in Painting? Art gives pleasure by form, by colour, by sound, or, as in poetry, by the reminiscence of all these combined with the delight of motion. But the mind has had a history; and the very degree in
which the resources of a particular art are limited or
ample may give it a special affinity with an earlier or a later stage of the mind. Architecture corresponds
with the phase when man's thoughts about himself are still indistinct; the building may hint, but it cannot express, the artist's personality: Egyptian art has been called a Memnon waiting for the day.
Painting, Music and Poetry are the modern and romantic arts, with a range of expression adequate to every subtlety and intricacy of self-analysis. Between this group and Architecture comes Sculpture, the art
kindred with that phase in the mind's history when man has just attained to recognition of himself and is observing his own typical characteristics of form and spirit with wonder and with joy, but, as yet, without the impulse towards analysis. In all the greatest sculpture there breathes the unshamed and innocent surprise of a child just waked from sleep. But this of itself implies renouncement; the limits
The limit of expression in Sculpture not irksome, but congenial, to the Greek.
of possible expression in Sculpture are severe. If, then, the Greek was contemplating his own soul as well as his own body, why, it might be asked, had he recourse to a medium of interpretation for which the spiritual subtleties of painting and poetry are impossible? The answer is,—Because he was not observing the soul apart from the body, but as one with the body in a godlike union; and because, to him, any expression of spiritual subtleties was not a gain but a loss, if it was effected at the expense of that in which he was absorbed—the contemplation of man as man, in his totality, as the paragon of animals. Sculpture cannot express a complex or refined situation; but its very limitations on that
side make it the clearest interpretation of a character or a type. The Greek's attention was fixed on the typical, unchanging, divine lineaments of man, as he stood forth under the blue heaven, his outlines clear against the sunlit sea; and, for the Greek's purpose, sculpture was the more fitting just because it
The best soulpture is not cold nor vague.
eliminates what is restless or accidental. But he did not mean sculpture to be cold or rigid; he did not mean it to be blank or vague; and assuredly he made it none of these things. The ‘Adorante’ lifting up his hands in praise for victory, the cousinship of Love with Death hinted in the Genius of Eternal Slumber,—let these works and such as these be witnesses.