Artistic Lines from Joan Justis May 2013 An Old Book

Artistic Lines

from Joan Justis

May 2013

Book The ArtsI have picked up a book that I inherited from my mother entitled The Arts written and illustrated by Hendrik Willem van Loon.  It is the original with a copyright of 1937 published in New York.  His goal was to give the reader “a better understanding and a greater appreciation of everything that has been done within the realm of painting and architecture and music and sculpture and the theater…from the beginning of time until the moment we come so close to them that we begin to lose our perspective”. 

He was so ambitious that the original had 1800 pages.  So he cut and slashed with a blue pencil until he had a “mere” 800 pages.  It cost my mother $3.95.  Today you can buy it used for $.85 or with the dust jacket in collectible condition for $50.00.


Book Jacket
He has illustrated the fly leaves with a hand drawn and hand written outline of the development of the arts from the prehistoric to the modernist.  The dust jacket is a large illustrated graph or map, as he calls it, that has been folded in half to fit the book.  It is an extraordinary diagram of the history of the arts and philosophy of man.  What a treasure!
He submits that art is man’s effort to express his innermost feelings when confronted with the “indescribable splendor of the world as created by the Gods”, whether it is by playing the violin or by designing a useful object.   An artist, he says, is “merely someone who says, ‘I think I see’, and who thereupon reveals to us what he thinks he has seen in such a way that we too may see it if our eyes happen to be attuned to his own vision.”  He maintains that children need to be exposed to beauty and harmony within the home and not just in a museum or at a concert, because “the arts are universal and underlie all the manifestations of our average, everyday human existence”.
What is Art?  I’ve decided that it is the product of humanity’s need to create, which we have inherited as children of our Creator.  Some of us ache with the desire to show the beauty and others want to awake us to the wrongs that need to be righted.  Art enables us to see into the history of humankind.  Art is a universal means of expression and communication.  All of us are creative in some way!
Please share your answer to the ancient question “What is Art?”

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