This book focuses on art, exploring what it is. In this book, the author points out that one of the worst characteristics of modern fiction is its so-called truth to nature. For fiction is an art, as painting is, as sculpture is, as acting is. A photograph of a natural object is not art; nor is the plaster cast of a man's face, nor is the bare setting on the stage of an actual occurrence. Art requires an idealization of nature. The amateur, though she may be a lady, who attempts to represent upon the stage the lady of the drawing-room, usually fails to convey to the spectators the impression of a lady. She lacks the art by which the trained actress, who may not be a lady, succeeds. The actual transfer to the stage of the drawing-room and its occupants, with the behavior common in well-bred society, would no doubt fail of the intended dramatic effect, and the spectators would declare the representation unnaturally. However our jargon of criticism may confound terms, we do not need to be reminded that art and nature are distinct; that art, though dependent on nature, is a separate creation; that art is selected and idealized, to impress the mind with human, or even higher than human, sentiments, and ideas. We may not agree whether the perfect man and woman ever existed, but we do know that the highest representations of them in form -- that in the old Greek sculptures -- were the result of the artistic selection of parts of many living figures.
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