Frederick S. Robinson [1897]

Each object is the record of a human effort, short or prolonged, as the case may be, but still human, not of the machine–an effort, too, of the highest part of our nature, that which competes and strives to obtain the best of which it is capable. For in the realms of the finest art there is no standing still, no attaining to a fixed level of capacity. A man shall not say, “I will execute this adequately, and so succeed.” No, of the most that we see here the craftsman has said, “This time I will surpass myself.” So it is that these objects of art which thousands pass by with a careless glance to gape at something which bulks larger to the eye, are so many expressions of the unspoken poetry of art, so many examples of the effort for perfection. Often, too, the craftsman has been in his grave a thousand years or more before the full meed of appreciation is paid him. By then his name has long been lost, and his handiwork, perhaps, is crumbling to decay. Then at last we awake to the artistic value of some neglected trifle of which the original giver but lightly thought, and the recipient valued only for the giver’s sake. The artist cherished his work, no doubt, and was loath to part with it, as every artist is, even for the sum received, which was not great, but was consoled to think that perhaps one here or there might appreciate its delicacies. Years pass by, and at last there are found a few who can enter into the feeling which inspired the patient skilful craftsman, can note his advancement in design, and appraise the freedom of execution which the hesitating hand has at last attained. Those who can do this are collectors born. To them the artist and the craftsman need no justification. They know that his art was to the artist in great part his religion, and that no bad way of praising God is to do the best with the artistic talent He has given you.–The Connoisseur: Essays on the Romantic and Picturesque Associations of Art

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