INTENDED, FIRST OF ALL, FOR THE NEW ART MUSEUMS SPRINGING UP ALL OVER THE COUNTRY. BUT THE BOOK IS FOR OUR UNIVERSITIES AND INSTITUTIONS OF LEARNING. IT CONTAINS AN APPEAL TO OUR WHOLE CRITICAL AND LITERARY WORLD, AND TO OUR CREATORS OF SCULPTURE, ARCHITECTURE, PAINTING, AND THE AMERICAN CITIES THEY ARE BUILDING. BEING THE 1922 REVISION OF THE BOOK FIRST ISSUED IN 1915, AND BEGINNING WITH AN AMPLE DISCOURSE ON THE GREAT NEW PROSPECTS OF 1922
From the book of the scribe Ani, translated from the original Egyptian hieroglyphics by Professor E.A. Wallis Budge.
The Art of the Moving Picture, as it appeared six years ago, possessed among many elements of beauty at least one peculiarity. It viewed art as a reality, and one of our most familiar and popular realities as an art. This should have made the book either a revelation or utter Greek to most of us, and those who read it probably dropped it easily into one or the other of the two categories.
For myself, long a propagandist for its doctrines in another but related field, the book came as a great solace. In it I found, not an appeal to have the art museum used—which would have been an old though welcome story—not this, but much to my surprise, the art museum actually at work, one of the very wheels on which our culture rolled forward upon its hopeful way. I saw among other museums the one whose destinies I was tenderly guiding, playing in Lindsay's book the part that is played by the classic myths in Milton, or by the dictionary in the writings of the rest of us. For once the museum and its contents appeared, not as a lovely curiosity, but as one of the basic, and in a sense humble necessities of life. To paraphrase the author's own text, the art museum, like the furniture in a good movie, was actually "in motion"—a character in the play. On this point of view as on a pivot turns the whole book.
In The Art of the Moving Picture the nature and domain of a new Muse is defined. She is the first legitimate addition to the family since classic times. And as it required trained painters of pictures like Fulton and Morse to visualize the possibility of the steamboat and the telegraph, so the bold seer who perceived the true nature of this new star in our nightly heavens, it should here be recorded, acquired much of the vision of his seeing eye through an early training in art. Vachel Lindsay (as he himself proudly asserts) was a student at the Institute in Chicago for four years, spent one more at the League and at Chase's in New York, and for four more haunted the Metropolitan Museum, lecturing to his fellows on every art there shown from the Egyptian to that of Arthur B. Davies.
Only such a background as this could have evolved the conception of "Architecture, sculpture, and painting in motion" and given authenticity to its presentation. The validity of Lindsay's analysis is attested by Freeburg's helpful characterization, "Composition in fluid forms," which it seems to have suggested. To Lindsay's category one would be tempted to add, "pattern in motion," applying it to such a film as the "Caligari" which he and I have seen together and discussed during these past few days. Pattern in this connection would imply an emphasis on the intrinsic suggestion of the spot and shape apart from their immediate relation to the appearance of natural objects. But this is a digression. It simply serves to show the breadth and adaptability of Lindsay's method.
The book was written for a visual-minded public and for those who would be its leaders. A long, long line of picture-readers trailing from the dawn of history, stimulated all the masterpieces of pictorial art from Altamira to Michelangelo. For less than five centuries now Gutenberg has had them scurrying to learn their A, B, C's, but they are drifting back to their old ways again, and nightly are forming themselves in cues at the doorways of the "Isis," the "Tivoli," and the "Riviera," the while it is sadly noted that "'the pictures' are driving literature off the parlor table."
With the creative implications of this new pictorial art, with the whole visual-minded race clamoring for more, what may we not dream in the way of a new renaissance? How are we to step in to the possession of such a destiny? Are the institutions with a purely literary theory of life going to meet the need? Are the art schools and the art museums making themselves ready to assimilate a new art form? Or what is the type of institution that will ultimately take the position of leadership in culture through this new universal instrument?
What possibilities lie in this art, once it is understood and developed, to plant new conceptions of civic and national idealism? How far may it go in cultivating concerted emotion in the now ungoverned crowd? Such questions as these can be answered only by minds with the imagination to see art as a reality; with faith to visualize for the little mid-western "home town" a new and living Pallas Athena; with courage to raze the very houses of the city to make new and greater forums and "civic centres."
For ourselves in Denver, we shall try to do justice to the new Muse. In the museum which we build we shall provide a shrine for her. We shall first endeavor by those simple means which lie to our hands, to know the areas of charm and imagination which remain as yet an untilled field of her domain. Plowing is a simple art, but it requires much sweat. This at least we know—to the expenditure we cheerfully consent. So much for the beginning. It would be boastful to describe plans to keep pace with the enlarging of the motion picture field before a real beginning is made. But with youth in its favor, the Denver Art Museum hopes yet to see this art set in its rightful place with painting, sculpture, architecture, and the handicrafts—hopes yet to be an instrument in the great work of making this art real as those others are being even now made real, to the expanding vision of an eager people.GEORGE WILLIAM EGGERS