Discussing Friedrich Wilhelm Joseph Schelling's "On the Relation Between the Plastic Arts and Nature" (1807) and Part 6 of System of Transcendental Idealism (1800), featuring Mark, Wes, Dylan, and Seth.
Is the goal of art to imitate nature? Schelling says "sort of." It's not supposed to just be a copy, but is supposed to convey the true inner nature of its subject: It copies nature as nature is striving to be, whether this means the ideally beautiful version of a thing, or just an evocation of the striving itself.
Art is not just about capturing beautiful forms; if this was the case, then artists could just copy directly from the ancients. Good art needs not just elements in spatial arrangements but a unifying idea that really captures the essence of the thing. Figuring out essences is also what philosophy (and "effective science") tries to do, only art enables us to do this intuitively, while philosophy is necessarily discursive. Schelling describes the presence of this essence as "grace," which (probably) means both gracefulness (indicating that the form and essence are in sync) and God's grace (since the essence is the inner, divine part of everything).
As this is still German Romanticism, we get some comments on the role of passion in creating art. It's not that artists are supposed to tame their passion via their craft, but that these things are supposed to be merged. The beauty of forms depicted and hence the truths about the subject matter are what keeps the passionate artist from merely screaming and creating a bunch of energetic, random nonsense.
The article was a speech given during a royal event that featured sculptures, and so Schelling is concerned with the way this is done in sculpture and why ancient Greece was particularly well suited for creating them (e.g. because of their mythology that encouraged them to draw godlike human forms), while painting is better suited to modern sensibilities, with its ability to represent wider vistas in unique ways.
The discussion continues with part two.