Guides to Fine Arts Like Painting, Designing, Architecture, Sculpture, Photography and More

ANCIENT PAINTING, FROM THE EARLIEST TIMES TO THE CHRISTIAN ERA.

In speaking of art we often contrast the useful or mechanical arts with the Fine Arts; by these terms we denote the difference between the arts which are used in making such things as are necessary and useful in civilized life, and the arts by which ornamental and beautiful things are made.

The fine arts are Architecture, Sculpture, Painting, Poetry, and Music, and though we could live if none of these existed, yet life would be far from the pleasant experience that it is often made to be through the enjoyment of these arts.

In speaking of Painting, just here I wish to include the more general idea of pictures of various sorts, and it seems to me that while picture-making belongs to the fine or beautiful arts, it is now made a very useful art in many ways. For example, when a school-book is illustrated, how much more easily we understand the subject we are studying through the help we get from pictures of objects or places that we have not seen, and yet wish to know about. Pictures of natural scenery bring all countries before our eyes in such a way that by looking at them, while reading books of travel, we may know a great deal more about lands we have never seen, and may never be able to visit.

Who does not love pictures? and what a pleasure it is to open a magazine or book filled with fine illustrations. St. Augustine, who wrote in the fourth century after Christ, said that “pictures are the books of the simple or unlearned;” this is just as true now as then, and we should regard pictures as one of the most agreeable means of education. Thus one of the uses of pictures is that they give us a clear idea of what we have not seen; a second use is that they excite our imaginations, and often help us to forget disagreeable circumstances and unpleasant surroundings. The cultivation of the imagination is very important, because in this way we can add much to our individual happiness. Through this power, if we are in a dark, narrow street, in a house which is not to our liking, or in the midst of any unpleasant happenings, we are able to fix our thoughts upon a photograph or picture that may be there, and by studying it we are able to imagine ourselves far, far away, in some spot where nature makes everything pleasant and soothes us into forgetfulness of all that can disturb our happiness. Many an invalid—many an unfortunate one is thus made content by pictures during hours that would otherwise be wretched. This is the result of cultivating the perceptive and imaginative faculties, and when once this is done, we have a source of pleasure within ourselves and not dependent on others which can never be taken from us.

Harp-player. From an Egyptian painting.
Harp-player. From an Egyptian painting.

It often happens that we see two persons who do the same work and are situated in the same way in the world who are very different in their manner; one is light-hearted and happy, the other heavy and sad. If you can find out the truth, it will result that the sad one is matter-of-fact, and has no imagination—he can only think of his work and what concerns him personally; but the merry one would surprise you if you could read his thoughts—if you could know the distances they have passed over, and what a vast difference there is between his thought and his work. So while it is natural for almost every one to exclaim joyfully at the beauty of pictures, and to enjoy looking at them simply, I wish my readers to think of their uses also, and understand the benefits that may be derived from them. I have only hinted at a few of these uses, but many others will occur to you.

When pictures are composed of beautiful colors, such as we usually think of when we speak of the art of painting, the greatest charm of pictures is reached, and all civilized people have admired and encouraged this art. It is true that the remains of ancient art now existing are principally those of architecture or sculpture, yet there are a sufficient number of pictures in color to prove how old the art of painting is.

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