Centenary volume on Darwin (Cambridge University Press).
My subject is art and thought about art. I deal with aesthetics only so far as they concern art, that is to say I shall not attempt any purely philosophic speculations about the nature of art and I shall speak of the speculations of others, such as Croce and Tolstoy, only so far as they seem to me likely to have a practical effect upon art. My subject is the art of to-day and our ideas about it. We are beginning at last to connect aesthetics with our own experience of art and to see that our beliefs about the nature and value of art will affect the art we produce. Hence a new aesthetic is very slowly appearing; but I have to confess it has not yet appeared.
Indeed there are at present two conflicting theories of art, one or other of which is held consciously or unconsciously by most people who are interested in art at all, and both of which I think are not only imperfect but to some extent false. They are theories about the relation of the artist to the public, and because of the conflict between them and the falsity of each, we are confused in our ideas about art, and the artists are often confused in their practice of it.
The first theory has been expressed, not philosophically but with great liveliness, by Whistler in his Ten O’clock, and has had great influence both upon the thought of many people who care about art and upon the practice of artists. It is, put shortly, that the artist has no concern with the public whatever, nor the public with the artist. There is no kind of necessary relation between them, but only an accidental one; and the less of that the better for the artist and his art.