Mr. Edward Robinson, of the Boston Art Museum, delivered last evening in the Jefferson Physical Laboratory, an address on the "Study of the Fine Arts." The lecture was the second in a series of lectures arranged by the Committee on the Reception of Students.
Mr. Robinson spoke of the great mass of students who will not follow art as a profession. He said, in effect, the following:
The study of the Fine Arts is of the greatest value and profit to every college man, no matter what his prospects may be. Viewed simply as a personal pleasure, a knowledge of the Fine Arts affords a most attractive resource, and a relaxation from professional and business routine.
But of higher importance is the refinement which the Fine Arts add to an education, of mere book-lore. There is a cultivation, a delicacy of perception, to be obtained by the study of art, which can not be acquired elsewhere. Following the changes of style and technique through the history of ancient art, the student feels the moral conditions which were expressed by those changes in art. Thus he must perceive the bold sincerity which marks the style of a risingschool, and the gradual loss of sincerity which always accompanies the decline. These perceptions of moral causes help strongly in forming noble traits of character.
Furthermore, college graduates have a heavy responsibility thrust upon them in this matter of art. The general public looks to the college bred man to direct its taste in art. The wealthy turn to them to guide in the eredtion of public museums, galleries, or monuments. The call is urgent and practical. With this lofty purpose in view, the study of Fine Arts surely deserves serious and earnest application.
The courses presented here in Cambridge are the best means of pursuing this study. But it must be remembered that though much of the knowledge of Fine Arts must be acquired from books, the true artistic perception can only be gained by intimate personal intercourse with the works of art themselves. Thus alone can the eye and the instinct be trained.
Again, art must not be approached through philosophy. It is worse than useless to attempt to see a picture or a statute through the arbitrary line of a rule or a formula.
Finally, there is no absolute standard by which to judge art. Nothing is perfect in art, nothing entirely useless. Every man must judge art through his own personality. If he has reached his opinions surely and carefully, no disagreement can overthrow that opinion.
No one critical work may be set as a standard, but, on the contrary, every one has freedom to develop his own taste and perception. This elasticity in the standards of art is shown by the chaging ideals, varying from the days of the Egyptians, to our own times.
In the vicinity of Cambridge the facilities for personal study of works of art or their reproductions are unequalled in the United States. A good representative collection of Egyptian art is available at the Boston Museum of Fine Arts. In the Peabody Museum, Cambridge, is the best Assyrian and Chaldaean collection in the United States. Greek art is represented by a magnificent collection in the Boston Art Museum, arranged in chronological order, and said to rank fourth in completeness of those now existing. There is also a rich collection of Greek vases at the same place.
Mediaeval art, being chiefly architectural, is difficult to reproduce, but the Art Renaissence is well illustrated by the fine collection of photographs in the Fogg Art Museum. Mr. Robinson concluded by urging all men in College to avail themselves of these opportunities for studying art as it should be studied.