Pater on Media

Walter Pater on the Separation of Media.

It is the mistake of much popular criticism to regard poetry, music, and painting—all the various products of art—as but translations into different languages of one and the same fixed quantity of imaginative thought, supplemented by certain technical qualities of colour, in painting—of sound, in music—of rhythmical words, in poetry. In this way, the sensuous element in art, and with it almost everything in art that is essentially artistic, is made a matter of indifference; and a clear apprehension of the opposite principle—that the sensuous material of each art brings with it a special phase or quality of beauty, untranslatable into the forms of any other, an order of impressions distinct in kind—is the beginning of all true aesthetic criticism. For as art addresses not pure sense, still less the pure intellect, but the “imaginative reason” through the senses, there are differences in kind in aesthetic beauty, corresponding to the differences in kind of the gifts of sense themselves. Each art, therefore, having its own peculiar and incommunicable sensuous charm, has its own special mode of reaching the imagination, its own responsibilities to its material.

The Renaissance (1901) 130-131

*noted not because I agree, but because it typifies the nineteenth century attitude towards artistic media.

1 thought on “Pater on Media”

  1. I am not sure if it is just because I am a stupid dreaming idealist, but I believe the above article. How many people do you know that persue life as art that do not truely contribute to society?

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