« ZurückWeiter »
of the passage would be dead to us, and it would ever thence forward require some effort to fix and recover it. The music of it would not mean while have aided the business in hand, wliile its own delightfulness would thenceforward be in a measure destroyed. It is the same with every other form of definite thought. If you violently press its expression to the senses, at times when the mind is otherwise engaged, that expression will be ineffective at the time, and will have its sharpness and clearness destroyed for ever.
Apply this to expressions of thought received by the eye. Remember that the eye is at your mercy more than the ear. “The eye it cannot choose but see.” Now, if you present lovely forms to it when it cannot call the mind to help it in its work, and among objects of vulgar use and unhappy position, you will neither please the eye nor elevate the vulgar object. But you will fill and weary the eye with the beautiful form. It will never be of much use to you any more _its freshness and purity are gone.
Hence then a general law, of singular importance in the present day, a law of common sense—not to decorate things belonging to purposes of active and occupied life. Wherever you can rest, there decorate ; where rest is forbidden, so is beauty. You must not mix ornament with business, any more than you may mix play. Work first, and then rest. Work first, and then gaze, but do not use golden ploughshares, nor bind ledgers in enamel. Do not thrash with sculptured fails ; nor put bas-reliefs on millstones.
The most familiar position of Greek mouldings is in these days on shop-fronts--ornaments which were invented to adorn temples and beautify kings' palaces. There is not the smallest advantage in them where they are. Absolutely valueless -utterly without the power of giving pleasure, they only satiate the eye, and vulgarise their own forms. It is curious, and it says little for our national probity on the one hand, or prudence on the other, to see the whole system of our street decoration based on the idea that people must be baited to a shop as moths are to a candle.
Must not beauty, then, it will be asked, be sought for in the forms which we associate with our every-day life? Yes, if you do it consistently, and in places where it can be calmly seen Put it in the drawing-room, not into the workshop; put it upon domestic furniture, not upon tools of handicraft. All men have sense of what is right in this manner, if they would only use and apply that sense.
There is no subject of street ornament so wisely chosen as the fountain, where it is a fountain of use; for it is just there that perhaps the happiest pause takes piace in the labor of the day, when the pitcher is rested on the edge of it, and the breath of the bearer is drawn deeply, and the hair swept from the forehead, and the uprightness of the form declined against the marble ledge, and the sound of the kind word or light laugh mixes with the trickling of the falling water, heard shriller and shriller as the pitcher.fills. What pause is so sweet as that—so full of the depth of ancient days, so softened with the calm of pastoral solitude ?
Proportion and Abstraction are the two especial marks of architectural design as distinguished from all other.
Proportions are as infinite as possible airs in music; and it is just as rational an attempt to teach a young architect how to proportion truly and well by calculating for him the proportions of fine works, as it would be to teach him to compose melodies by calculating the mathematical relations of the notes in Beethoven's Adelaïde or Mozart's Requiem. The man who has eye and intellect will invent beautiful proportions, and cannot help it; but he can no more tell us how to do it than Wordsworth could tell us how to write a sonnet, or than Scott could have told us how to plan a romance.
There is no proportion between equal things; they can have symmetry only, and symmetry without proportion is not composition. To compose is to arrange unequal things, and the first thing to be done in beginning a composition is to determine which is to be the principal thing. “Have one large thing and several smaller things, or one principal thing and several inferior things, and bind them well together.”
Proportion is between three terms at least.
All art is abstract in its beginnings; that is to say, it expresses only a small number of the qualities of the thing represented.
The form of a tree on the Ninevite sculptures is much like that which, some twenty years ago, was familiar upon samplers. There is a resemblance between the work of a great nation, in this phase, and the work of childhood and ignorance.
In the next stage of art there is a condition of strength, in which the abstraction which was begun in incapability is continued in free will.
“Greater completion marks the progress of art, absolute completion usually its decline.”
It is well that the young architect should be taught to think of imitative ornament as of the extreme grace of language ; not to be regarded at first, not to be obtained at the cost of purpose, meaning, force, or conciseness, yet, indeed, a perfection—the least of all perfections, and yet the crowning one of all,—one, which by itself, and regarded in itself, is an architectural coxcombry, but yet is the sign of the most highly-trained mind and power when it is associated with others. It is a safe manner to design all things at first in severe abstraction, and to be prepared, if need were, to carry them out in that form; then to mark the parts where high finish would be admissible.
I think the colors of architecture should be those of natural stones, partly because more durable, but also because more perfect and graceful.
I do not feel able to speak with any confidence respecting the touching of sculpture with color. I would only note one point, that sculpture is the representation of an idea, while architecture is itself a real thing. The idea may, as I think, be left colorless, and colored by the beholder's mind; but a reality ought to have reality in all its attributes; its color should be as fixed as its form.
The following list of noble characteristics occurs more or less in different buildings, some in one and some in another :
1. Projection towards the top. 2. Breadth of flat surface. 3. Square compartments of that surface. 4. Varied and visible masonry. 5. Vigorous depth of shadow, exhibited especially by pierced traceries. 6. Varied proportion in ascent. 7. Lateral symmetry. 8. Sculpture most delicate at the base. 9. Enriched quantity of ornament at the top. 10. Sculpture abstract in inferior ornaments and mouldings, complete in animal forms, both to be executed in white marble. 11. Vivid color introduced in flat geometrical patterns, and obtained by the use of naturally colored stones.
These characteristics all together, and in their highest possible relative degrees, exist, as far as I know, only in one building in the world, the Campanile of Giotto at Florence. I remember well how, when a boy, I used to despise that Campanile, and think it meanly smooth and finished. But I have since lived beside it many a day, and looked out upon it from my windows by sun-light and moonlight, and I shall not soon forget how profound and gloomy appeared to me the savageness of the Northern Gothic, when I afterwards stood, for the first time, beneath the front of Salisbury Cathe. dral.
The contrast is indeed strange, if it could be quickly felt, between the rising of those grey walls out of their quiet swarded space, like dark and barren rocks out of a green lake, with their rude, mouldering, rough-grained shafts, and triple lights, without tracery or other ornament than the martins' nests in the height of them, and that bright, smooth, sunny surface of glowing jasper, those spiral shafts and fairy traceries, so white, so faint, so crystalline, that their slight shapes are hardly traced in darkness on the pallor of the Eastern sky, that serene height of mountain alabaster, colored like a morning cloud, and chased like a sea-shell. And if this be, as I believe it, the model and mirror of perfect architecture, is there not something to be learned by looking back to the early life of him who raised it ?
I said that the Power of the human mind had its growth in the Wilderness ; much more must the love and the conception of that beauty, whose every line and hue we have seen to be, at the best, a faded image of God's daily work, and an arrested ray of some star of creation, be given chiefly in the places which he has gladdened by planting there the fir tree and the pine. Not within the walls of Florence, but among the faraway fields of her lilies, was the child trained who was to raise that headstone of Beauty above the towers of watch and war. Remember all that he became; count the sacred thoughts with which he filled the heart of Italy; ask those who followed him what they learned at his feet; and when you have numbered his labors, and received their testimony, if it seem to you that God had verily poured out upon this His servant no common nor restrained portion of His Spirit, and that he was indeed a king among the children of men, remember also that