Emerson, Ralph Waldo - Art - The purpose of art
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
Ralph Waldo Emerson - Art
Historically viewed, it has been the office of art to educate the perception of beauty... Because the soul is progressive, it never quite repeats itself, but in every act attempts the production of a new and fairer whole. This appears in works both of the useful and the fine arts. If we employ the popular distinction of works according to their aim, either at use or beauty.
Thus in our fine arts not imitation, but creation is the aim.... the painter should give the suggestion of a fairer creation than we know. The details, the prose of nature, he should omit and give us only the spirit and splendour. What is that abridgement and selection we observe in all spiritual activity, but itself the creative impulse.
The reference of all production at last to an aboriginal power explains the traits common to all the works of the highest art – that they are universally intelligible, that they restore to us the simplest states of mind and are religious. Since what skill is therein shown is the reappearance of the original soul, a jet of pure light.
Art has not yet come to maturity if it do not put itself abreast with the most potent influences of the world, if it is not practical and moral, if it do not stand in connection with the conscience, if it do not make the poor and uncultivated feel that it addresses them with a voice of lofty cheer.
The source of the experienceEmerson, Ralph Waldo
Concepts, symbols and science items
Activities and commonsteps
SuppressionsBeauty, art and music
Being left handed
Communing with nature
Contemplation and detachment