By Mary Austin
Art Influence in the West By MARY AUSTIN Author of “A Woman of Genius,” “Love and the Soul Maker,” etc.
WHOEVER undertakes to discuss art influence brings up sooner or later at the Greeks. I prefer to begin there, and to begin with that one of its sources which is not peculiarly Greek, but eternal: I mean with Greece. Whatever a people may make will resemble the thing that people look on most; so that the first guess as to what is likely to come out of any quarter is a knowledge of the land itself, its keen peaks, round-breasted hills, and bloomy valleys. Greek polity had never so much to do with the surpassingness of Hellenic art as the one thing the Hellenes had nothing whatever to do with–the extraordinary beauty of the land in which they lived.
However much it is possible to derive the varied and intimate art of Italy from Greek influence, it is impossible to ignore the variations that mark just the differences between the topographies–mass, contour and color–of the two peninsulas. In attempting to forecast the probable shapes of art in any quarter of America, it becomes of prime importance to know whether the contours of that region are austere, dramatic, or slow and gracious, and, above all, whether it is colorful. Given to all quarters an equal chance at man, the richest in color will bring the quickest reactions. And of all America the most strikingly colored is the strip lying along the south Pacific coast “nearest to the terrestrial paradise,” as the old Spanish romance puts it, “called Californias.”
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