THOUGHTS ON ART
Too Long; Didn't ReadPainting declines when aloof from Nature
The painter's work will be of little merit if he takes the painting of others as his standard, but if he studies from nature he will produce good fruits; as is seen in the case of the painters of the age after the Romans, who continued to imitate one another and whose art consequently declined from age to age. After these came Giotto the Florentine, who was born in the lonely mountains, inhabited only by goats and similar animals; and he, being drawn to his art by nature, began to draw on the rocks the doings of the goats of which he was the keeper; and thus he likewise began to draw all the animals which he met with in the country: so that after long study he surpassed not only all the masters of his age, but all those of many past centuries. After him art relapsed once more, because all artists imitated the painted pictures, and thus from century to century it went on declining, until Tomaso the Florentine, called Masaccio, proved by his perfect work that they who set up for themselves a standard other than nature, the mistress of all masters, labour in vain.
Thus I wish to say, in regard to these mathematical matters, that they who merely study the masters and not the works of nature are the grandchildren, and not the children, of nature, the mistress of good masters. I abhor the supreme folly of those who blame the disciples of nature in defiance of those masters who were themselves her pupils.
The first picture was a single line, drawn round the shadow of a man cast by the sun on the wall.
Vastness of the field of painting: All that is visible is included in the science of painting.
Defence of Painting
With due lamentation Painting complains that it has been expelled from the liberal arts, because it is the true daughter of nature and is practised by means of the most worthy of the senses. Whence wrongly, O writers, you have excluded painting from the liberal arts, since it not only includes in its range the works of nature, but also infinite things which nature never created.
Because writers have had no knowledge of the science of painting, they have not been able to describe its gradations and parts, and since painting itself does not reveal itself nor its artistic work in words, it has remained, owing to ignorance, behind the sciences mentioned above, but it has thereby lost nothing of its divinity. And truly it is not without reason that men have failed to honour it, because it does honour to itself without the aid of the speech of others, just as do the excellent works of nature. And if the painters have not described the art of painting, and reduced it to a science, the fault must not be imputed to painting and it is no less noble on that account, since few painters profess a knowledge of letters, as their life would not be long enough for them to acquire such knowledge. Therefore we ask, Is the virtue of herbs, stones and plants non-existent because men have been ignorant of it? Certainly not; but we will say that these herbs remained noble in themselves without the aid of human tongues or letters.