Wednesday, April 11, 2007

On Art and Craft.

"In the best periods of art there was no professional art criticism, but art was linked up with the crafts. Painters started as goldsmiths, sign-painters, or craftsmen of some sort or another. Painting and sculpture took their rightful place as the flowers of the crafts--flowers whose roots and branches were in all the works of man--and good craftsmanship was the basis of all painting. Not that craftsmanship is art, but good craftsmanship is a healthier soil for art to grow in than fine theories about aesthetics. Nowadays art is like a flower cut off from its roots and branches, a curiosity, a stranger to the ordinary economy of life, something precious to be collected and shut up carefully in museums, an exotic to tickle the tired palates of jaded critics and dilettanti.

"When our ordinary commodities were made by independent craftsmen who carried their tools on their backs and took a pride in the work they did, and everywhere the spirit of the craftsman was alive in the land, the artist was not such a curious phenomenon, but developed naturally out of an environment into which he fitted perfectly. But since the introduction of machine tools, far too expensive to be owned by a simple craftsman, and too complicated to be managed by him, the whole control of production has passed to a different set of individuals, commercial men, whose chief interest is not in the quality of the work done, but in the amount of profit made. We are beginning to realise all this, and to see that something will have to be done to connect the things we manufacture with the art ability there is in the nation that should be directing these new machine tools as it formerly directed the hand tools.

"Modern life is so much engrossed by intellectual pursuits that the inner emotional life to which art appeals is starved, and the appeal is in vain. The only relaxation we allow ourselves is sport. And although this offers some outlet for the craftsman spirit which the commercial spirit of the time has so much supplanted, it is a poor substitute for the aesthetic experience we need. And in an intellectual age such as this, when interest in knowledge is so much greater than interest in feeling, the "point of view" of a painting is the thing that excites most notice, and the quality of expression as feeling is ignored, if not flouted. The whole weight of this intellectual interest is being concentrated on pictures painted in extreme manners; as they offer much more for the intellect to bite on to, than pictures whose distinction is solely in the quality of the emotional expression."

-Harold Speed - 1924

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