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Sculpture And Art

( Originally Published Early 1900's )


One fact always affords a strong argument in support of the theory that Greek sculpture was produced mainly by an application of mathematical principles, and this is the conventional character of the face of the statue. With few exceptions, the nose, mouth, eyes, and forehead all show the results of the same relative measurements ; and the question is asked very pertinently, If the face were conventional why was not the form also? To answer this question, makes it necessary to direct attention to something which we moderns find it difficult to understand, . . . that character and thought are expressed in the whole human figure. Of this, the face forms a very small part. If we be in circumstances where we can see the whole figure, there, by a necessary law of the mind, we think mainly of that which occupies the main part of the field of vision. If we have analyzed our own thoughts, when witnessing a scene in which the clothing of the performers was less ample than that allotted by our standards of civilization,—an athletic exhibition, or the bathing of boys on the seashore,—we shall recall that those with the finest forms and most graceful movements invariably attracted our attention and won our admiration, no matter how ugly may have been their countenances. In such circumstances, we scarcely seem to notice countenances at all. . . . Many beautiful forms that served as models for the Greek artists were undoubtedly surmounted by ugly faces. The Greek did not believe in ugliness anywhere; and for this reason, in place of the faces that he found, he may have substituted his conventional face, probably itself a copy of some face which common opinion had pronounced beautiful. Moreover, by using this face and no other, he would avoid giving offense to those who might desire to have him reproduce their countenances as well as forms. Besides this, too, large numbers of his statues represented gods, and it would scarcely have been considered appropriate had he represented these by using a literal portrait of a living person. Once more, it must not be supposed, even though it be admitted that the Greek used models freely, that he was often content to have all the parts of any one statue literally reproduce all the parts of any one model. On the contrary, the history of the best period of his art is a record of changes in forms, as these were developed with more or less gradualness, the one from the other.... There is another consideration which, in studying the proportions of the human body, necessitates taking the observation of nature for the point of departure. This is the fact that different forms of men, even when conforming to accepted standards, or conforming sufficiently to be all equally well proportioned, differ in their measurements. . . . Such variations may be ascribable to differences not only in occupation, age, and sex, but also in temperament,—the mental, the vital, and the motive which are respectively expressive of very different intellectual and physical traits, each tending to a different general contour. Proportion and Harmony of Line and Color, VII.



Statuary is the representation of arrested movement, not of movement in itself ; and to work upon the supposition that it is the latter is to deviate from the legitimate purpose of the art. At the same time, the statue must suggest that some movement has taken place or is to do so. The opposite tendency can be made too prominent only at the expense of impressions of intelligibility and animation. That which was meant for a statue will then become, like many of the monuments of our public men, merely an effigy,—as if, forsooth, its object were to remind one, above all things, that the man is dead !—The Representative Significance of Form, XXIV.


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