Full text: The little review (9 (1923), 4)

55 
THE ESTHETICS OF THE MACHINE 
MANUFACTURED OBJECTS 
ARTISAN AND ARTIST 
CONTINUED 
T HE coming of mechanical beauty, of all these beautiful objects without 
any art intention, justifies me in making a rapid revision of old values, 
long considered definitive. 
The Italian Renaissance (La Joconde, 15th century) is considered by the 
entire world as a summit, a height, an ideal to struggle toward. The School of 
Fine Arts founds its whole existence upon a servile imitation of this period. 
Could there be a more colossal error? The 15th century was a period of almost 
total decadence in the plastic realm. It was a period of imitation, of servile 
copying of the subject as opposed to the preceding epoch, called Primitive, which 
was great and immortal precisely because it invented its own forms and its own 
methods. 
The Renaissance, not content with taking the means for the end and having 
a fixed belief in the fine subject, added two capital errors: the spirit of imitation 
and the copying of the fine subject. 
The men of the Renaissance, thinking themselves superior to their predecessors, 
the Primitives, in imitating natural forms instead of seeking their inner rhythm, 
reproduced with complacency on enormous canvases the most striking and theat 
rical gestures and actions of their period. They were victims of the fine subject. 
If a subject is beautiful, an object beautiful, a form beautiful it is a value absolute 
in itself, rigourous, intangible. 
One neither imitates nor copies a beautiful thing, one simply admires it; one 
can at the most create by his own talent an equivalent work. 
The Renaissance, with its ecstasy for the fine subject, has produced the malady 
which we know as the School of Fine Arts. They longed for a thing which is 
materially impossible, a beautiful object cannot be copied, cannot be reproduced 
in the scientific sense of the word; the banal experience of thirty pupils before 
a beautiful object in the same light, at the same time and each one of the thirty 
making a different copy is conclusive enough: scientific methods like casting and 
photography are no happier in their results. Every manifestation of beauty, 
whatever it may be, bears within itself an unknown element which will always 
be a mystery to its admirer, as it is already to its creator, who caught between 
his conscious and unconscious self is incapable of determining the line between 
the two; the objective and the subjective in a continual struggle are so interwoven 
that the resulting creation always remains a partial enigma to the artist. The 
beautiful machine is the modern fine subject, it also cannot be copied. Although 
I tried personally in 1918 to catch in several pictures the equivalence of the 
beautiful mechanical object I always carefully avoided making a copy. 
The mechanical object, even if it is not completely beautiful, can serve as well
	        

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