such ideals ; so their absence is passed over unremarked. Coherent design is the weakest point of British art, which falls back on technical execution. A moment's comparison between London and Paris is all that is wanted to demonstrate this. Think but for an instant of the splendid sequence of the Tuileries and the Champs Elysees up to that great gateway of the Arc de Triomphe ; think of the terraced gardens falling away from the Trocadero to the Seine and their continuation onward past the Eiffel Tower. Think again of the Esplanade whose perspective, at one end closed by the Invalides, runs out at the other between the Grand and Petit Palais des Beaux-Arts to join the greater artery of the Champs Elysees. Then again there is the vista extending from the Luxembourg to the Observatory ; but it is needless to prolong the list, in rivalry with which London can but show us Kingsway and the unbalanced avenue leading from Trafalgar Square to Buckingham Palace ; on one side of it are buildings, on the other is the park; as planning, it is a makeshift.
This book is not entitled The Art and Craft of English Drawing, for it proposes to treat of drawing and its various ideals wherever they may be found ; I am thus obliged to point out the relative successes and failures of different artistic systems to the best of my ability. But it may be asked on what shall be based the estimation of the relative worth of aesthetic factors ? Simply on a co-ordinated examination of all the aesthetics ; from it one can finally extract a kind of table of aesthetic factors presented in a more or less valid order of worth, much in the same way as the exchange value of the moneys of the different countries is established, and the pound sterling or the dollar is declared to be above or under par, although at that particular moment it may be that no currency is actually at par. The whole matter is merely relative. There must also be taken into account the conviction of a critic who has taken the trouble to penetrate as far as possible into the aesthetic ideals of various peoples and who has brought to each a determinedly unbiased interest. But the price one pays for taking up such a detached position is that one remains necessarily isolated. Art is world-wide it is true, but each manifestation of it is to a great degree separate and individual, and is made for a particular public, to satisfy its particular needs. The case of Gothic architecture is, however, special. Whether it be carried out in France or in England it deals with approximately the same formulae. While it becomes a very difficult problem to estimate the relative aesthetic worth of Chinese and Greek Art on account of the wide separation between both the ideals and the technical methods employed, while it may even be idle to propose such a problem at all, I cannot help feeling that two conceptions of the same art, that of constructing Gothic churches, may justifiably be compared. It is regrettable if the English architects have not known how to produce the better result. Can it be other than right to consider the English Art inferior to the French, seeing that the estimation of the superiority of French buildings is based on their successful homogeneity, a factor common to arts so widely different as the Chinese and the Greek, a factor whose worth we learn to appreciate in our studies of that source of all plastic art, Nature herself.
But it is perhaps time to leave this study of a special subject, to leave it on this note of subtle co-ordination and inter-grouping of parts which constitutes the basis of all true art, this homoge'neity of detail with the whole that we can so excellently study on the nude, the more proper subject of this volume.
This excursion into the regions of mass organization in its architectural aspect has for a moment led us into what, considering the main line of our present argument, must be looked on as a by-way, though in reality we have been dealing with the least-mixed expression of the most important and fundamental fact of all plastic art, and so of our subject. Still one must, under menace of becoming unwieldy, split into the usually accepted divisions what should be treated as uniform in kind, or as simple varieties of result depending on one single system of laws and facts. So we must leave architecture to special treatment- in special volumes and do no more here than indicate the point or points of contact which exist between it and our present study.
Before touching upon building-construction, we had discussed the remarkable statement of the methods of mass insertion into mass that a Rembrandt drawing set before us. It is always dangerous to present to the reader only one example executed in one particular technical way ; he may be convinced of the exactitude of the analysis in that particular case, but does not feel inclined to take on faith the comparative work done by the author, who thus fails to convince him of the general application of his thesis.
The human body is a machine ; as such it is subject to the ordinary mechanical laws. It is the most efficient machine that we know. The force furnished by a muscle may be taken as proportional to its volume. Though the artist may take liberties with natural form, it is thought to be advisable that at least a memory of mechanical possibility should be preserved ; for it seems probable that our sense of aesthetic balance is really drawn from our experience of mechanical balance. The variations of the pose of a nude offer the best opportunity for studying the relation between aesthetic and mechanical balance. The underlying distribution of mass must be conserved, although we clothe it with, and conceal it behind, surface and other rhythmic arrangement. The various volumes of the body must be thrown into perspective in a realistic drawing. Genius is the power first to conceive great co-ordinations intuitively, and at the same time to feel intensely ; then to reconstruct calmly, employing every essential component of the subject The student must learn to feel in a subconscious way the limits of flexure of each part of the body. The system of the levers that constitute the limbs must be understood. The main facts of the mass arrangements must be fully grasped. The importance of the pelvis as a constructional starting-point ; the rigidity of the sacral triangle, and the iliac crests ; the flexure of the upper torso on the pelvis ; the flexibility of the thorax ; its introduction into the shoulder mass ; the insertion of limbs into the trunk ; all these facts are noted in a very summary Rembrandt drawing ; which should be compared with a Michael-Angelo. Michael-Angelo and Rembrandt employ chiaroscuro differently. The continuation of a same rhythm 4 farther on ' in the drawing. All chiaroscurist that Rembrandt was, his first care was to prepare the Solid basis over which his light and shade was to play. Turner did the same There should be no such thing as 4 drawing by light and shade Part-rotation of the chest with regard to the pelvis. The line that the backbone takes in space is all-important, and should always be considered. Nude-drawing is an excellent school of architecture. Rhythmic structural ensemble is needed in architecture. The lack of keen conception of ensemble in England. The body is largely a tensional system. The tendency of modern reinforced concrete is towards tensional systems. The conception of Salisbury Cathedral lacks in ensemble. True plastic ensemble is replaced by uniformity of detail. Bad conception of Lincoln façade. Romanesque, Gothic, and Renaissance may be combined satisfactorily. Subterfuge of hiding want of plastic co-ordination behind tidy technique. Inter fitting of the masses of the Château d'O. Architecture must be conceived as a rhythmic organization of masses. Weakness of junction between central tower and radiating roofs in many English cathedrals. Bad composition of Peterborough façade. A comparison is effected between the non-co-ordinate conception of the parts of Peterborough and the co-ordinate conception of those of Beau vais. The abuse of completely detached pinnacles in English churches is reproved. The want of sense of ensemble is illustrated by the non-existence of satisfactory vistas in London 5 there are many vistas in Paris. Though a quantitative estimation of the relative worth of Greek and Chinese Art may be unjustifiable, a comparison between two conceptions of Gothic Art may be made.
Was this article helpful?