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The direct sources are chiefly Plato (Jowett’s translation) and Xenophon. Indirect sources: chiefly Aristotle, Metaphysics; Diogenes Laertius’s Lives of Philosophers; Grote’s History of Greece; Brandis’s Plato, in Smith’s Dictionary; Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Representative Men; Cicero on Immortality; J. Martineau, Essay on Plato; Thirlwall’s History of Greece. See also the late work of Curtius; Ritter’s History of Philosophy; F.D. Maurice’s History of Moral Philosophy; G. H. Lewes’ Biographical History of Philosophy; Hampden’s Fathers of Greek Philosophy; J.S. Blackie’s Wise Men of Greece; Starr King’s Lecture on Socrates; Smith’s Biographical Dictionary; Ueberweg’s History of Philosophy; W.A. Butler’s History of Ancient Philosophy; Grote’s Aristotle.
I suppose there is no subject, at this time, which interests cultivated people in favored circumstances more than Art. They travel in Europe, they visit galleries, they survey cathedrals, they buy pictures, they collect old china, they learn to draw and paint, they go into ecstasies over statues and bronzes, they fill their houses with bric-a-brac, they assume a cynical criticism, or gossip pedantically, whether they know what they are talking about or not. In short, the contemplation of Art is a fashion, concerning which it is not well to be ignorant, and about which there is an amazing amount of cant, pretension, and borrowed opinions. Artists themselves differ in their judgments, and many who patronize them have no severity of discrimination. We see bad pictures on the walls of private palaces, as well as in public galleries, for which fabulous prices are paid because they are, or are supposed to be, the creation of great masters, or because they are rare like old books in an antiquarian library, or because fashion has given them a fictitious value, even when these pictures fail to create pleasure or emotion in those who view them. And yet there is great enjoyment, to some people, in the contemplation of a beautiful building or statue or painting,—as of a beautiful landscape or of a glorious sky. The ideas of beauty, of grace, of grandeur, which are eternal, are suggested to the mind and soul; and these cultivate and refine in proportion as the mind and soul are enlarged, especially among the rich, the learned, and the favored classes. So, in high civilizations, especially material, Art is not only a fashion but a great enjoyment, a lofty study, and a theme of general criticism and constant conversation.
It is my object, of course, to present the subject historically, rather than critically. My criticisms would be mere opinions, worth no more than those of thousands of other people. As a public teacher to those who may derive some instruction from my labors and studies, I presume to offer only reflections on Art as it existed among the Greeks, and to show its developments in an historical point of view.