A visual work of art does never produce its entire effect all at once. First there is a general, global impression created into the mind of the audience, an aesthetic reflex. Even before we can understand the whole picture, we can sense a certain presence and a certain action beyond the visible realm.
Painting has its special kind of emotions. There is a certain impression resulting from a certain specific arrangement of colors, of lights, of shadows, etc. It is what we might actually call the music of the painting. Even before knowing what the painting represents, we get caught into this magical accord. Baudelaire used to say about Delacroix that from a distance that is too long for us to be able to analyze and decipher the subject, a Delacroix painting has already made its wonderful impression on us, be it happy or melancholy. Maurice Denis also draws our attention upon the fact that when we enter a beautiful cathedral we feel overwhelmed by an irresistible excitement even before studying its architecture, its harmonious assemble made of windows, good proportions, ornaments, height, well-chosen colors, etc.
We are all familiar with the privileged freshness and the fascinating power of the very first glance. A singing voice can touch us before our fully perceiving the melody or the musical details of the piece of art. And poetry also touches us quite in a similar way, if we consider the fact that it starts by a musical impression, by plunging us into an atmosphere of rhythm and sonority. We usually search for the meaning of this rhythmical movement and composition, to which we like to abandon ourselves. And we look for the development of its meaning in the presentation that is given to our voice and ears. Each stage of this psycho-sensorial display seems to contain all the others so that in the end, we may find the whole work of art standing there in front of us.
Delacroix says that this can be most true if the poem touches us deeply. The lyrical poet can suggest to us his attitude by means of his composition, by the choice and processing of his rhythms and sonorities, so that all of a sudden, we find ourselves where we ought to be. Or at least that is the feeling we have. Time and space are strongly related and they are simultaneously displayed in front of the consciousness they are carried by, since time implies the differentiation of its own moments. So the time of art's aesthetic contemplation is the time which is built, stylized, the docile, rhymed, spiritual kind of time. Art begins to liberate us from the confused time, from the anguish and boredom of time, always too short, always too long.
Art can also open up to us extraordinary depths. Time and space grow deeper; the feeling of existence is intensified by art. In certain almost supernatural spiritual states of mind, the deepness of life is revealed to us through the show displayed before our eyes, hence the impression of time standing still, of eternity. Delacroix asserts the idea that eternity is the time of ecstasy. When we have an overwhelming artistic perception, we can lose any notion of time and space, they do not matter anymore, all that counts are the beatitude and supremacy of the moments of perceiving such amazing work of art. Thus, art can do the miracle of setting us free from limitations of time and space imposed to us by life itself.
Maine de Biran once said that a bunch of violets contains the fragrance of several springs. Beauty is self-sustaining but it is also rich in elements that are a stranger to its essence, to its nature. A beautiful work of art has no limits of meaning. It is surrounded by all that it used to be, all that it ought to be and all the "ghosts" of what it could have been but which the strict, limiting form calls forth and chases away at the same time. Delacroix stresses the idea that the aesthetic impression is always emotionally overcharged and multidetermined. But a powerful spiritual presence is not necessarily a declaration of identity.