Source Book For Social Origins

Comment on Part V: Art, Ornament, Decoration

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The papers on "Indian Mythologies" and "The Medicine-Man and the Occupations," in Part II, and Frazer's paper on magic in Part VI are closely related to art.

While I have classed "myth," in Part VI, along with religion, the mythology of a people may equally be considered as artistic material. No systematic study off myth from the standpoint of art has been made. Some materials for such a study will be found in the bibliography of Part VI.

The interesting results presented by Holmes on the origin of form in the plastic arts should be followed up in other papers by the same writer indicated in the bibliography, and in Haddon's Evolution in Art. Ornamental and decorative art have the advantage of being profuse, visible, and relatively permanent, corresponding somewhat to our written records, and the eminent Swedish student Stolpe reached the view that "one real key to a scientific treatment of ethnographic objects is found in the comparative study of ornamental art."

Art has also an element in common with religion. Both religion and art are characterized by high states of emotion, resulting in change of habit. In religion this is called conversion, and is conspicuously associated with the generation of a fund of emotion through large assemblies of people and the operation of mass suggestion. In the same connection the student should consider the periodic assemblies of primitive societies, particularly the orgiastic practices and states of mind there developed, as leading to later artistic representation. Consult the bibliographies of Parts VI and VII.


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