Love And Death By Gf Watts

A noble composition, founded on the power of the right angle in the figure of Death, in contrast with the curved lines in the figure of

Love. (See diagram opposite.)

Photo Hollyer

In the diagram accompanying the reproduction of this picture I have tried to indicate in diagrammatical form some of the chief lines of its anatomy.

In these diagrams of the anatomy of compositions the lines selected are not always very obvious in the originals and are justly much broken into by truths of natural appearance. But an emotional significance depending on some arrangement of abstract lines is to be found underlying the expression in every good picture, carefully hidden as it is by all great artists. And although some apology is perhaps necessary for the ugliness of these diagrams, it is an ugliness that attends all anatomy drawings. If the student will trace them and put his tracing over the reproductions of the originals, they will help him to see on what things in the arrangement the rhythmic force of the picture depends.

Other lines, as important as those selected, may have been overlooked, but the ones chosen will suffice to show the general character of them all.

There is one condition in a composition, that is laid down before you begin, and that is the shape of your panel or canvas. This is usually a rectangular form, and all the lines of your design will have to be considered in relation to this shape. Vertical and horizontal lines being parallel to the boundaries of rectangular pictures, are always right and immediately set up a relationship, as we have seen.

The arresting power of the right angle exists at each corner of a rectan1g6u0lar picture, where the vertical sides meet the horizontal base, and this presents a difficulty, because you do not wish the spectator's attention drawn to the corners, and this dramatic combination of lines always attracts the eye. A favourite way of getting rid of this is to fill them with some dark mass, or with lines swinging round and carrying the eye past them, so that the attention is continually swung to the centre of the picture. For lines have a power of directing the attention, the eye instinctively running with them, and this power is of the greatest service in directing the spectator to the principal interest.

It is this trouble with the corners that makes the problem of filling a square so exacting. In an ordinary rectangular panel you have a certain amount of free space in the middle, and the difficulty of filling the corners comfortably does not present itself until this space is arranged for. But in a square, the moment you leave the centre you are in one or other of the corners, and the filling of them governs the problem much more than in the case of other shapes. It is a good exercise for students to give themselves a square to fill, in order to understand this difficulty and learn to overcome it.

Other lines that possess a direct relation to a rectangular shape are the diagonals. Many compositions that do not hang on a vertical or horizontal basis are built on this line, and are thus related to the bounding shape.

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Plate XXXVI.


When vertical, horizontal, or diagonal lines are referred to, it must not16b21e assumed that one means in all cases naked lines. There is no pure vertical line in a stone pine or cypress tree, nor pure horizontal line in a stretch of country, but the whole swing of their lines is vertical or horizontal. And in the same way, when one speaks of a composition being hung upon a diagonal, it is seldom that a naked diagonal line exists in the composition, but the general swing is across the panel in harmony with one or other diagonal. And when this is so, there is a unity set up between the design and its boundaries. A good instance of vertical, horizontal, and diagonal lines to unite a picture is Velazquez's "The Surrender of Breda," here reproduced. Note the vertical chord in the spears on the left, continued in the leg of the horse and front leg of the figure receiving the key, and the horizontal line made by the dark mass of distant city, to be continued by the gun carried over the shoulder of the figure with the slouch hat behind the principal group. Velazquez has gone out of his way to get this line, as it could hardly have been the fashion to carry a gun in this position, pointing straight at the head of the man behind. Horizontal lines also occur in the sky and distant landscape, one running right through the group of spears. The use of the diagonal is another remarkable thing in the lines of this picture. If you place a ruler on the slanting line of the flag behind the horse's head to the right, you find it is exactly parallel to a diagonal drawn from the top right-

hand corner to the lower left-hand corner. Another line practically parallel to this diagonal is the line of the sword belonging to the figure offering the key, the feeling of which is continued in the hand and key of this same figure. It may be noted also that the back right leg of the horse in the front is parallel to the other diagonal, the under side of it being actually on the diagonal and thus brought into relation with the bounding lines of the picture. And all these lines, without the artifice being too apparent, give that well-knit, dignified look so in harmony with the nature of the subject.

Curved LinCurved lines have not the moral integrity of straight lines. Theirs is not so much to minister to the expression of the sublime as to woo us to the beauteous joys of the senses. They hold the secrets of charm. But without the steadying power of straight lines and flatnesses, curves get out of hand and lose their power. In architecture the rococo style is an example of this excess. While all expressions of exuberant life and energy, of charm and grace depend on curved lines for their effect, yet in their most refined and beautiful expression they err on the side of the square forms rather than the circle. When the uncontrolled use of curves approaching the circle and volute are indulged in, unrestrained by the steadying influence of any straight lines, the effect is gross. The finest curves are full of restraint, and excessive curvature is a thing to be avoided in good drawing. We recognise this integrity of straight lines when we say anybody is "an upright man" or is "quite straight," wishing to convey the impression of moral worth.

Rubens was a painter who gloried in the unrestrained expression of the zeal to live and drink deeply of life, and glorious as much of his work is, and wonderful as it all is, the excessive use of curves and rounded forms in his later work robs it of much of its power and offends us by its grossness. His best work is full of squarer drawing and planes.

Always be on the look out for straightnesses in curved forms and for planes in your modelling.

Let us take our simplest form of composition again, a stretch of sea and sky, and apply curved lines where we formerly had straight lines. You will see how the lines at A, page 164 [Transcribers Note: Diagram XIV], although but slightly curved, express some energy, where the straight lines of our former diagram expressed repose, and then how in B and C the increasing curvature of the lines increases the energy expressed, until in D, where the lines sweep round in one vigorous swirl, a perfect hurricane is expressed. This last, is roughly the rhythmic basis of Turner's "Hannibal Crossing the Alps" in the Turner Gallery.

One of the simplest and most graceful forms the tying lines of a composition may take is a continuous flow, one line evolving out of another in graceful sequence, thus leading the eye on from one part to another and carrying the attention to the principal interests.

Two good instances of this arrangement are Botticelli's "Birth of Venu67 and the "Rape of Europa," by Paolo Veronese, reproduced on pages 166 [Transcribers Note: Diagram XV, Plate XXXVII] and 168 [Transcribers Note: Diagram XVI, Plate XXXVIII]. The Venetian picture does not depend so much on the clarity of its line basis as the Florentine. And it is interesting to note how much nearer to the curves of the circle the lines of Europa approach than do those of the Venus picture. Were the same primitive treatment applied to the later work painted in the oil medium as has been used by Botticelli in his tempera picture, the robustness of the curves would have offended and been too gross for the simple formula; whereas overlaid and hidden under such a rich abundance of natural truth as it is in this gorgeous picture, we are too much distracted and entertained by such wealth to have time to dwell on the purity of the line arrangement at its base. And the rich fullness of line arrangement, although rather excessive, seen detached, is in keeping with the sumptuous luxuriance the Venetian loved so well to express. But for pure line beauty the greater restraint of the curves in Botticelli's picture is infinitely more satisfying, though here we have not anything like the same wealth and richness of natural appearance to engage our attention, and the innocent simplicity of the technique leaves much more exposed the structure of lines, which in consequence play a greater part in the effect of the picture.

Homosexual Science Space From 1888

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Diagram XIV.



Watts Science

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Diagram XIV.


Watts Love And Death

Diagram XV.

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