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Artistic Temperament -- Angelo de Prosse.


Artists, it is said, possess a temperament of a peculiar kind, without which they could never reach the Parnassus of their profession. Webster defines temperament as “the peculiar physical and mental character of an individual.” Webster also defines artist as “one who professes and practices one of the liberal arts in which science and taste preside over the manual execution.”

Men and women possessing this so-called “Artistic Temperament” are excused for many shortcomings; every sort of idiosyncrasy is charitably overlooked. The world is accustomed to regard a person following any of the liberal arts as a crank or a half-idiot. If an artist be a slave to drink, tobacco, morphine, or opium, the artistic temperament is blamed.

In our enlightened age we ought to find more artists than we do, who are physically, mentally, and morally equally developed. If it is an absolute necessity for men and women artists to be cranky or crazy, it were better that we stop cultivating art for a century. It cannot be denied that an artistic temperament is indispensable to those who follow the liberal arts, but it must be the result of inspiration and enthusiasm. The pianist who lacks these qualities finds his superior in the new invention called “Self-playing Piano.” The organist without these qualities might change place with the organ-grinder on the street without harm to the hand-organ. The singer might just as well exchange with the wooden Indian whom we find before cigar-stores. Let the young men and women attend to the mental and physical development foremost, and the “artistic temperament” will take care of itself. Proper physical exercises will aid a healthy growth of mentality or thinking power. Of course, the instrumentalist has to avoid such exercises as would interfere with the flexibility of wrists and fingers. There are many excellent physical exercises, other than dumb-bells, horizontal bars, punching-bags, etc., which develop the muscles.

It is often asked: Why are artists almost without exception cranks? Does the pursuance of art cause men and women to be such? Does the pursuance of the liberal arts make men and women immoral? Is it possible for any sane man to believe that God endows his creatures with the highest gifts known to humanity, and at the same time inflicts upon them sin and sorrow-bringing vices? No orthodox or advanced thinker will dare to affirm this. Without dipping too deeply in the philosophic side of this question, it can be asserted that the early training of an artist is, in a great degree, responsible for his future. Parents who detect an artistic tendency in their child begin by fondling, caressing, and spoiling it, before it can take the first rudimental steps toward the temple of art.

The prodigy, or wonder-child, must not conform to conventionalities in dress or style. If a boy, the hair must be long; if a girl, it must be short; the boy must look like a girl, and the girl like a boy; femininity is encouraged in the boy, masculinity in the girl. The wonder-child can have no companions, physical culture is not tolerated, because if perchance the boy is a violinist and became an artist, it would hardly do to see a finely-shaped and well-developed man on the platform; people might not believe him to be an artist.

Public singers are the only ones who are permitted to attain physical development, because it is said that a singer must have good lungs and chest; otherwise very often the mental faculties remain dormant.

The assertion that parents are directly responsible for the future of the child with the artistic temperament may sound very harsh, but nevertheless it is true. When parents and educators realize the importance of their mission and duty toward the new generation, the question of how to bring up artists who will be every inch whole and hearty will easily be solved.

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