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Elements Of Beauty

( Originally Published 1922 )



WHEN the decorator, having mastered the grammar of his art and studied the architectural requirements of the room to be furnished and the needs and tastes of its occupants, sets out to make the room beautiful, he is immediately confronted by the puzzling question : What is beauty? Fitness and comfort he can ensure by the due exercise of care and common sense. But how ensure beauty, an intangible and elusive quality which he can neither define nor even recognize with assurance? How go about it to give what is at best but a vague ideal concrete expression? How make a start in the actual processes of selection and arrangement? And, seeing that what one calls beautiful another calls unbeautiful, and that indeed there seem to be no fixed standards or norms of beauty, how shall he know, when his room is finished, whether it is beautiful or not?

These considerations do not trouble the great artist, who does what he has to do, as Lord Bacon noted, "by a kind of felicity." Nor do they trouble the great number of house-furnishers who do it in the same way, minus the felicity. But to those of us who are neither great artists nor indifferent to beauty, and who must see the ground beneath our feet before we take a step, they are questions of the most serious importance.

If we turn to books for answers to these questions we find that writers on interior decoration have for the most part ignored them, contenting themselves either with description and illustration, or with generalities too loose to be markedly helpful in practice; while from the writers on esthetics we learn that although philosophers from Pythagoras to Croce have sought to define it, beauty is after all a quality too subtle for definition. Like electricity, or like the life-force itself, we can experience it but we cannot tell what it is.

At first thought this looks like an impasse. How-ever, the case is not as bad as it looks; for while it is true that beauty is beyond definition, and that no formulas exist for its creation, it is also true that the elements of beauty, or rather the conditions under which it appears, are fairly constant. If, therefore, we can cause these conditions to be present in our rooms we can be sure that beauty, in some degree at least, will be present also. The first of these elements or conditions, the one most easily apprehensible and most nearly susceptible in practice of reduction to general statement, and the one that constitutes the essential principle of beauty in the art of interior decoration, is the imaginative or sensuous expression of unity in variety.

Simply expressed, this means that before beauty can appear in it any work of art, whether it be a picture, a chair, or a furnished room, must consist of many parts ; which parts, however numerous or di-verse, must be so combined that they appear to, concur in forming one whole. That is, they must present themselves to the mind as a unit, with a single aim, design and purpose. No bare room, no room which lacks a diversity of lines, shapes, colors and textures, of lights and shadows, of plain and ornamented surfaces, can be beautiful. Nor can any room be beautiful which, possessing this diversity, fails to fuse it into an essential unity. Conversely, no room so decorated that it reveals a stimulating degree of diversity, while at the same time its unity is perceptible instantly and without effort, can be wholly lacking in beauty.

It is therefore clear that the decorator will do well to disregard, at the outset, the more intangible and spiritual elements of beauty, which demand for their creation both imaginative power and a high degree of technical skill. These more subtle elements will come later, with the growth of creative power. At the out-set it will be enough for him to arrive at principles of selection and arrangement through which the diversity of forms and colors necessarily appearing in the walls, floor and ceiling of his room, in its furniture and upholstery fabrics, its hangings, lamps, shades and pictures, can be coordinated and fused into the unity without which the room and its furnishings will be merely a congeries of unrelated parts, and as such unbeautiful. It is manifest that unity or the lack of it can be perceived only by the mind. To the nature of the mind, therefore, we must look for the solution of the problem.

The human mind is so constituted that it can grasp but a limited number of impressions at one time. Before it can comprehend a great variety of phenomena it must divide these phenomena into classes or groups, according to some principle of order. This principle is the arrangement of like with like. Thus primitive man, surveying the multitude of living creatures about him, observes that some fly in the air, and these he calls birds; while others, which live in the water, crawl upon the earth, or walk upright upon four feet, he calls fish, reptiles and animals. Observing further that some of the animals eat flesh, he marks off the carnivores, which are in turn divided into genera—as the canines and felines—and finally separated into individual species. Of course his groupings will not satisfy a later science. He will call the whale a fish, and the bat a bird. But the point is that they will satisfy his mind. When things look alike, or behave in the same manner—that is, when they have the same dominant qualities—he groups them together and is satisfied. Out of this process of grouping like with like have grown all the cosmologies, religions, sciences and arts, which, however widely they may differ in content, have for their common purpose the arrangement of like with like, and the organization of the phenomena with which they are concerned, whether they be gods or butterflies, in an order of dominance and subordination.

Since the mind works this way in all things, it will work this way in its apprehension of beauty; and with-out venturing into the field of physiological psychology we may assume the fact that whenever the mind is able without difficulty to recognize easily perceptible likenesses among a relatively wide range of objects and effects seen at the same time esthetic pleasure will result. That is, the mind will in some degree, however slight, feel the thrill of beauty. If it cannot recognize such likenesses, or can recognize them only with difficulty, or if the objects and effects perceived lack diversity, esthetic pleasure will not result. Thus the mind could see no beauty, but only confusion, in a hundred straight lines and right angles drawn at random on a sheet of paper, because of the total absence of likenesses among such stimuli. Nor could it see beauty in four of these lines arranged to form a square, and six more of them arranged to form a swastika, because of the lack of variety in the effects thus presented to it. But if the entire hundred were arranged in a design of squares and swastikas and border lines to form a Greek fret, the mind, easily perceiving the resemblances in the complex whole, would call it beautiful. The fret, to be sure, would not appear to possess a high degree of beauty because of its relative lack of diversity; but it would reveal some beauty because it would constitute an imaginative expression of variety in unity, one in the manifold.

A furnished room necessarily presents to the mind of one who enters it a wide variety in form, texture, hue, tone and significance. When, surveying the varying lines and shapes in such a room, the mind is able without difficulty to recognize resemblances among them. it is more or less keenly aware of the presence of beauty in the room. When it also recognizes likenesses in hue and tone among a diversity of hues and tones this consciousness of beauty is intensified. And if to these purely physical stimuli be added the perception of like significance or emotional values—as when color and form and texture converge in the expression of an emotional idea like that of tranquillity or elegance or daintiness—the consciousness of beauty is still further heightened.

Thus it appears that in the creation of beauty through unity in diversity the fundamental principle of composition, the basic requirement and sine qua non of all good work, is to ensure unity by putting together things that are alike. These like elements may of course be more or less alike. They may be exactly alike or only partially alike. They may be alike in physical appearance or in emotional significance. The degree of likeness may be perfectly obvious or exquisitely subtle. But whether obvious or subtle, it is absolutely essential to the beauty of the finished room that manifold resemblances reveal themselves among its parts, and that these resemblances be perceptible without effort; for mental effort is fatal to the perception of beauty.

Thus it appears that in the creation of beauty through unity in diversity the fundamental principle of composition, the basic requirement and sine qua non of all good work, is to ensure unity by putting together things that are alike. These like elements may of course be more or less alike. They may be exactly alike or only partially alike. They may be alike in physical appearance or in emotional significance. The degree of likeness may be perfectly obvious or exquisitely subtle. But whether obvious or subtle, it is absolutely essential to the beauty of the finished room that manifold resemblances reveal themselves among its parts, and that these resemblances be perceptible without effort; for mental effort is fatal to the perception of beauty.

Even yet there remains one step, necessitated by the mind's insistence upon the principle of subordination, and hence upon a dominant element in every composition. Wherever there is a division of parts one part must be greater than the others. Among all the colors one color must be in the ascendant. Among all the lines one type of line must make its presence in the room most strongly felt. Among several emotional ideas one idea must be most forcefully expressed. The esthetic importance of the dominant element is apparent in the earliest beginnings of art. It underlies all sound artistic practice, since it is based upon the constitution of the mind itself.

In the light of these considerations we would expect to find, as in fact we do find, that there are in practice two methods of insuring unity in the decoration of houses. One of these methods consists essentially in putting like with like. The other consists essentially in making one element of a composition first in importance, and all other elements subordinate. We may call the first the method of repetition, and the second the method of principality. In practice they must of course be applied conjointly, so that each supplements and confirms the other.

The Craftsman chair shown in Figure to lacks a dominant element, since the distance from seat to top of back is the same as that from seat to floor. It possesses the unity due to constant repetition of straight lines and rectilinear shapes, but lacks diversity in line, ornamental detail, hue and tone. It appears to be substantial, enduring and well-contrived, but austere, ungraceful and uninviting. The Queen Anne chair, on the contrary, reveals the presence of a dominant element, not only in the chair as a whole, but also in the design of the individual members. This chair reveals a wide variety in line, contour, and ornamental detail, yet its important lines are all related to a dominant type—the cyma recta, or "line of beauty" curve—and hence are unifying. The chair is an excellent example of beauty due to the convergent employment of the two methods, repetition and principality.

In practice the question of principality must be settled at the outset. The decorator will first of all insure a measure of unity by choosing a motive, or dominant emotional idea, around which to build his decorative treatment. He will further insure the unity of his room by making one hue dominant by methods to be studied later, and by making one tone, or rather a register of closely related tones, dominant by methods to be studied in the chapter on light and shade. It is no less essential so to arrange the furniture and other architectural and decorative elements of the room that a single object or group of closely related objects is made dominant. Thus the eye, confronted by a variety of shapes, sizes and ornamental motives in the room as a whole, is left in no perplexity as to the degree of attention due to the various elements, but rests naturally and without effort on the most important.

In a hall, or in any room where it can be kept fairly free from furniture and from competition with pictures and other counter-attractions, a rug can be made the dominant element of a decorative treatment. In other rooms, owing to the disposition of the mind to look for the meaning of things to the top rather than to the bottom—to the flower and not the stem; the face and not the feet—a rug cannot be made the dominant element without subjecting the whole treatment to a serious strain. Ordinarily rooms are given unity through principality by the fireplace with its over-mantel, by a group of windows with their hangings, by a console table and mirror, a tapestry, a picture, or a reading table with its lamp and shade. In important rooms the choice of the dominant feature is usually determined by the tastes of the decorator. In all rooms, whether important or otherwise, it must always be conditioned by the architecture, and particularly by the size and shape of the room and the distribution of its voids and masses. It is of course obvious that no decorative feature should be given principality unless it is intrinsically worthy of the attention thus forced upon it. If it is not worthy the effect of unity will have been gained at the cost of a perpetual sense of distaste.

When the dominant element has been determined the first concern of the decorator, paradoxical as the statement may seem, is to keep it from becoming too conspicuous. It is a law of the mind that, other things being equal, we must attend to the strongest stimulus ; and if the dominant element is permitted to catch and hold the eye and constantly to obtrude itself upon the mind, whether by reason of its size, shape, color or position, it will inevitably shut out of consciousness the subordinate elements of the composition, which are no less essential to the beauty of the whole, since they insure the necessary effect of diversity. The dominant element must accordingly be related to the subordinate elements so cunningly that it appears to pervade the room rather than to rule over it. For example, in a small living room the fireplace, if symmetrically placed, would normally be made the dominant feature of the decorative treatment, both because of its architectural importance and because it is the cause and center of social intercourse. A relatively large fireplace, particularly if it were faced with tile or brick either lighter or darker in tone than the walls, or if it projected, with its chimney breast, for some distance into the room, would of necessity be so heavy in a decorative sense that it might very easily be made to seem over-important and destructive of the organic harmony of the room. Therefore any marked increase in its importance, caused, let us say, by the addition of a paneled over-mantel, a large and conspicuous picture or mirror, or of a number of vases, easel pictures, or other objects of striking outline and pronounced coloring, would mar the decorative balance and imperil the beauty of the room. Accordingly he would doubtless find it desirable to confine the embellishment of such a mantel to a few small objects—three, say, or at the most five—or to a plastic frieze toned to analogy if not to identity with the wall. On the other hand, a smaller fireplace in the same room, or the same fireplace in a larger room, might require to have its importance as the dominant element emphasized in the treatment of the over-mantel either by larger and more ornate shapes or more striking coloring, or both.

While the subject will be discussed at length in the chapter on the dominant hue, we may note in this connection that a given hue may be made first in importance by either of two methods. One method is to make all the important hues appearing in the room blood-relations by a process of infusion, technically called keying, in which the dominant hue appears as a constituent of all the other hues. Thus in a scheme of orange, yellow and green the decorator might use light golden brown walls, antique ivory ceiling, olive carpet, olive and gold hangings trimmed with old gold, écru curtains, soft yellow lamp shades, nut-brown furniture and woodwork, and olive, brown and gold furniture coverings. Here all the hues would be keyed to yellow, and the unity of the treatment would be ensured by the predominance of that element. Such a color scheme, as we shall see later, would require to be vivified by a note of the complementary color; but this requirement does not affect the general principle involved.

The second method is to cover two-thirds or more of all the decorative surfaces of the room with tones of the hue, depending upon its complementary, helped out by small accents of other harmonious colors, for the necessary variety. When either method is skill-fully employed the dominant hue, as it appears in relatively neutral tones in the background surfaces of the room, unifies the whole decorative treatment while permitting a wide variety among the subordinate elements. In a particularly happy way it realizes the ideal of principality through pervasion rather than ascendancy, since it permits the mind to follow its natural inclination to concern itself with the positive factors of its environment—that is, with the objects in the room—while at the same time the unifying element lies at the back of consciousness.

In the effort to acquire a sure taste for effects of unity, principality in form must be studied carefully and should be studied progressively, beginning with the simplest leaf and flower forms, wherein may be noted the way in which one part of a leaf is dominant, and one leaf in a spray of leaves. Simple examples of principality are found in the anthemion motive, in the volutes of Ionic capitals, in vases and pottery. More complex examples are afforded by many Persian rugs, in which the lanceolate ellipse of the medallion, reénforced by analogous lines in the corner pieces and the inner medallion, dominates the whole composition. In many of the Gothic cathedrals a single spire dominates the whole edifice and gives it unity, as does the dome of the Capitol at Washington.

By the method of repetition unity is insured through the recurrence of identical or more or less similar lines, shapes, hues, tones, textures, and proportions. The method can be applied to any room, under any conditions, and may be made to yield an effect either marked or slight, obvious or subtle, according to the manner in which it is employed. The unifying and esthetically pleasurable effect of repetition has a double basis. It is in part physiological, and is due to the fact that the perception of like or repeated elements involves little muscular effort, whereas the perception of unlike elements necessitates a constant movement and adjustment of the eye. Psychologically, repetition is associated in the mind with the ideas of succession, order and regularity, and hence with the sense of repose and quiet well-being which always results from order and regularity in the affairs of life. On the other hand, change and non-succession are associated with the ideas of disorder, irregularity and disquietude. Thus the recurrence of similar lines and shapes, as in the repetition of a pleasing ornamental motive or the mechanical repetition of an inconspicuous pattern on the walls or floor, affects the mind, as does the recurrence of musical cadences or the rhythmic repetition of rhymed syllables, with a sense of quietude, order, and calm unity.

In good decoration the method of repetition is employed in three forms : (a) in its simplest and most common form, as repeating diaper pattern, which is used in wall papers, in damasks, tapestries and other drapery and upholstery stuffs, in all-over carpets and in many ornamental plaster ceilings, to cover entire surfaces with the same motive repeated continuously; (b) in its most obvious form, as symmetrical repetition, wherein each color, outline or mass on one side of a real or ideal center is balanced by a like color, outline or mass on the other side; and (c) in its most subtle form, as the recurrence, in many and often in widely separated parts of a composition, of identical or similar lines, shapes, colors or significances.

The use and decorative value of diaper pattern will be discussed in the chapters on proportion and excellence in design, while symmetry will be studied in the chapter on balance. This latter form of repetition has a marked unifying power. Because the like elements lie immediately before the eye, symmetry makes it easier for us to see and grasp the significance of things than is possible in non-symmetrical arrangements of decorative features. Thus a pair of identical candlesticks, placed at equal distances from the center of a mantel, would have an effect upon the mind at once unifying and obvious. Symmetrical repetition, whether it appears in the two halves of the same unit, as in a chair, a rug, or a window hung with draperies, or in arrangements of several units as groups, as in the case of a console table with a mirror above it and identical chairs at equal distances from either end, is never subtle. Its effect is always obvious and always formal, and when over-emphasized, as may very easily happen, it results in over-formality and stiffness.

The use of recurring lines and shapes and echoed colors lies at the basis of all fine work in interior decoration, as in architecture and the other visual arts. The constant repetition of similar combinations in both outline and ornament constitutes a large part of the charm of what we call the period styles. In the nature of things it must constitute a large part of the charm of any beautiful room, since, as we have seen, it provides one of the conditions in the absence of which beauty cannot be made to appear. Thus the repetition of similar straight lines, as in the architecture and decoration of Craftsman houses, makes for unity; and so, far more subtly, does the repetition of identical or similar curves.

For example, the cabriole legs found in Louis XV, Dutch, and Queen Anne furniture, and in many fine Chippendale pieces, and illustrated in Figure Io, are based on the cyma recta, or line of beauty curve, and in a room in which important pieces of furniture of this type are used a subtle effect of unity in variety can be produced by repeating variations of this same curve in the outline or ornamental details of lambrequins, mirror tops, lighting fixtures, lamps, candle-sticks, vases, mantel clocks, andirons and firescreens; in the legs and finials of bookcase, desk or cabinet; in the border stripes of rugs, the seats and backs of chairs, the molding of cornice, trim and picture frames. Of course this does not mean that this curve must appear in all these situations. In fact, as will be developed in the chapter on Contrast, over-emphasis of any type of line, however pleasing in itself, results in monotony and the loss of decorative charm. What it does mean is that the curve must be repeated a good many times and in various situations in order to yield a marked yet subtle effect of unity, and that, within reasonable limits, every such repetition will add to the mind's pleasure.

In the same way the elliptical medallion of a rug may be repeated in an elliptical table, in a mirror, in chair-backs, vases, lamps, candlesticks, small easel pictures, ferneries or tea tables ; and suggested more or less definitely by such features as the arc of a half-elliptical wall table, the tops of book-blocks, or the defining curves of valances or tied-back draperies. The oval of many Hepplewhite chair-backs may be echoed in bowls, lamps, Italian candlesticks, andirons, bellows, in a lamp surmounted by a mushroom shade, in the echinus or egg and dart molding. A round dining table may be related to an oblong dining room by means of an oblong rug with a rounded elliptical medallion, by hangings or a frieze having a pattern based on the circle or hexagon, by a round bowl of flowers, a round Sheffield tray, a Lazy Susan, or by the wheels of a tea wagon. Similar triangles may appear in pediments, lamp shades or mantel clocks, as well as in groupings of furniture and small decorative objects; and similar oblongs in ceilings, wall spaces, windows, doors, rugs, table tops, pictures or books.

The repetition of color is absolutely essential. Each important hue must be recalled, once at least and often many times, in small masses and in more or less widely varying tones throughout the room. Because of the direct appeal of color the mind finds a peculiar pleasure in the progressive recognition of color likenesses, and will accept no excuse for their absence. Thus when the hue dominant in the hangings is found to be echoed in many parts of the rug, in the table runner, furniture coverings, screens, the trimming of lamp shades, in cushions, potteries, pictures, book bindings and flowers, the mind, successively perceiving the likenesses as the eye turns from one view of the room to another, is filled with an increasing delight.

In all good work the decorator will of course repeat both form and color, extending the process to include both material likenesses, as in the repetition of shapes, colors, textures and ornamental motives, and likenesses in significance, as in the employment of shapes and colors which affect the mind in the same way. Likenesses in emotional value or significance confirm and vitalize the purely physical resemblances, and make powerfully yet subtly for artistic unity. Thus we cannot say that an overstuffed davenport and a big, low-toned rug look alike, except as they reveal likenesses in hue or tone ; but it is certainly true that they similarly affect the mind, and are accordingly unifying when used together in composition. The creation of these convergences of expression is an urgently important part of the decorator's work, and the artistic aims and processes involved will be discussed in several of the later chapters.

While the mere presence of recurring elements, of whatever sort, tends to unify any decorative composition, it is clear that this tendency will be the more marked in the degree (a) that the like elements approach identity; (b) that like elements in both form and color are repeated convergently ; and (c) that these like elements are so placed as to make their likenesses immediately apparent to the eye.

Order is the basic esthetic quality, and orderly arrangements are most pleasing and convincing. Effects of parallelism, in which analogous lines or forms, or varying tones of a given hue are arranged in series, whether vertically, horizontally or obliquely, are as essential to good work in decoration as they are in architecture or painting.

The unity of a decorative treatment will be at once most strongly and most subtly emphasized by so combining the methods of principality and repetition that the dominant element in the room is made the focus or point of departure for the important or characteristic lines and colors used throughout the room, as the dominant member of each subordinate group of related objects is made the focus for the important lines and colors of the other members of the group.

As illustrating this principle, let us consider that a drawing room is to have as its dominant element a Georgian fireplace, and that the over-mantel of this fireplace is to be embellished with a mirror and a pair of vases. Assuming that a rectangular mirror would resemble the space it was to adorn so closely as to be obvious and inartistic, while an elliptical mirror would be so strikingly unlike the space in outline as not to seem an organic part of the fireplace group, we might compromise upon a triptych mirror in antique gold, having a rectangular base and a half elliptical top, and place near either end of it an elliptical vase in corn-flower blue. To set up an effect of parallelism we could use a firescreen having a similar rectangular base supported by half-elliptical feet, and a top line which repeated the top curve of the mirror; while the method could be extended by the use of a rug having a running vine border or an elliptical medallion center, or both. The parallelism would of course be repeated in color by using in both rug and screen more or less blue of the same hue but different in tone and purity—say, navy blue in the rug and gentian blue in the screen.

In the case of a subordinate group in the same room, to be formed, for example, by a console table between two windows, we might use full length hangings caught back by a collar in such a way as to describe with their inner lines quarter-elliptical curves, and a lambrequin or valance in the design of which curved lines adapted from the arc of an ellipse were freely employed. The table, too, would be half-elliptical. The wall space might be adorned by an elliptical mirror, by a painting having the middle of the frame at the top carved into a half-elliptical ornamental motive, or by an old brocade or damask with a large elliptical vase on the table in front of it. The same processes would be applied to the selection and arrangement of subordinate members of the group, and to the coloring; provided, of course, that the processes of repetition stopped short of the point where the effect ceased to be subtle and interesting and became monotonous and tiresome.

In as much as we are here concerned with the general principle only and not with its application, it is unnecessary to carry this idea further, or to point out the many ways in which the two methods of insuring unity are interwoven in practice, so that principality in color is affirmed by repetition both of form and color, and principality in form is affirmed by repetition both of color and form, until the mind is conscious of a multitude of resemblances, and only the elements required for contrast are unrelated to the rest. The thing is obviously simple. And yet, simple as it is, it lies at the basis of all decorative art and of all art, and within a hand's breadth of the secret of beauty.

It must be remembered that in the perception of beauty the mind is at play. It cannot be forced, and is in fact curiously childlike. If a child is given a picture puzzle and finds the solution too easy he loses interest at once; if he finds it too difficult he tosses the puzzle away and turns to something else. The likenesses of line, form, color and significance designed by the decorator to produce an effect of unity, and thus to make beauty possible, must not be too obvious, nor must they be obscure. For example, if upon a relatively high and narrow wall space a relatively long and narrow rectangular mirror be hung—assuming, for the purposes of this illustration, that it is hung alone, and not above another piece of furniture—the likenesses in the two forms in both outline and pro-portion will be instantly perceptible, being the more obvious in the degree that the mirror approaches identity with the wall space in size and in the ratio of width to length. If a long and narrow elliptical mirror be substituted, the mind, in spite of the difference in outline, will at once recognize the likeness in proportion, and may easily find pleasure in the increasing subtlety of the resemblance. In the case of a circular mirror the mind will instantly perceive the total dissimilarity in both outline and proportion, and will accept the contrast for what it may be worth in the decorative total of the room. But if a short, wide mirror be used—that is, if the axis of the one first used be reversed—there will be perplexity and displeasure; first, because the eye must suddenly reverse its direction in order to see both forms, and this takes time and breaks the rhythm unpleasantly, and, secondly, because the mind must suddenly change from the idea of vertical to that of horizontal extension, and is thus conscious of unlikeness in significance at the same time that it slowly becomes aware that both forms are oblongs. This fact, that likenesses to be esthetically pleasurable must be neither too easy nor too hard to see, largely conditions beauty of proportion, and will be discussed in the chapter dealing with that topic.

On the other hand, it must be remembered that likenesses by no means imply identity, and that in the degree that one's taste is cultivated and his mind enriched by knowledge of the field of ornament and design he will reject the obvious and find pleasure in the subtle. The old-fashioned parlor set has been banished, not because it was inherently unfitting and ugly, but rather because its constant repetition of the same elements was esthetically unstimulating and tire-some, just as the ceaseless iteration of a single musical phrase, which is enough to satisfy primitive man, gives place with advancing culture to complex harmonies, varying rhythms, and delicate nuances of expression.

It is therefore clear that the power to perceive and enjoy decorative resemblances will vary with each individual, and that for this reason the decorator must be concerned even in this most elusive quality of beauty with considerations of fitness. A cultivated taste will perceive subtle correspondences imperceptible by the uncultivated, and to each must be offered such things as he can see. To the scientist palm and pine are alike, and a single fossil bone is enough to reveal complete a creature that perished unnumbered ages ago. The world of ornament, like the world of nature, is an enormous complex in which many widely varying forms are in some way, however distant and obscure, related; and of these relations one man will see more than another. To the one the interlacing vines and leaves of an old Gothic tapestry, copied and used to cover the chair in which he sits, may have nothing in common with the stiff, crudely branching form that appears in the Beloochistan rug before his hearth; but to another the symbolism of the tree forms in each makes them alike, and together they carry his fancy backward, past Druid rites, past Norse mythology, past Chaldea and Babylon, past the Garden of Eden itself, to the dim beginnings of religion, where a potent goddess lived in the roots of a tree and gave forth life to all the world.

Without variety in unity, one in the manifold, there can be no beauty in decoration. Unity alone means monotony and ennui; variety alone means confusion and fatigue. But though variety and unity must appear together in the same decorative treatment, they need not appear in the same degree and they can in fact appear only in inverse proportions. To increase the effect of either is to diminish correspondingly that of the other. This is of course true of all the arts. Increasing complexity and richness must always be paid for in diminishing simplicity and force. The clearness of the aria is lost in the intricacies of the fugue. King Lear is richer than the Antigone, and Faust is richer than Lear ; but the irresistible march of the Greek tragedy is impeded in the English, and all but lost in the German.

In periods of bad decorative art diversity is emphasized to the total neglect of the requirements of unity, and in periods of reaction from bad art unity is likely to be emphasized to the total neglect of the requirements of diversity. In a general way, esthetic pleasure seems to increase with the increasing complexity of the stimuli until the point is reached where unity is lost, and complexity degenerates into confusion. Thus there is an inevitable tendency toward increasing complexity, as from Doric to Alexandrian architecture, or from the Dutch splat chair back to the ribbon back of Chippendale. After the point of confusion has been passed—often long after—a reaction sets in, simpler ideas are restored, and the long process begins all over again. Sometimes this reaction is gentle, as when Louis XV decoration was supplanted by that of Louis XVI, and sometimes it is violent. Decadent classicism gives way to primitive Christianity, and the excesses of the Cavaliers are succeeded by the austerities of Puritanism.

The rooms of thirty years ago were for the most part unbeautiful because they were filled with diversities in form and color to the total neglect of any principle of likeness and subordination. On the other hand, our Craftsman rooms, with their exclusively plain surfaces, meager colors, and unornamented straight-line furniture, are for the most part unbeautiful because they neglect the variety equally essential to beauty.

Between these two extremes there is, however, opportunity for a wide range of variation in relative emphasis, and here, as everywhere, we must be guided in practice by considerations of fitness to purpose. Relative emphasis upon the unity or the diversity of a decorative treatment affects us emotionally, the former inducing a feeling of repose, the latter of animation and cheerfulness. These states, which have bases at once physical, intellectual and emotional, are directly and strongly affected by the home environment, and are accordingly in a very considerable measure under the control of the decorator. They are manifestly antithetical, the one implying restfulness and tranquillity, the other animation and buoyancy. Each is essential to the well-being of all normal persons, and both can of course exist coincidentally, but only in inverse pro-portions. When the intensity of either is increased that of the other is diminished, as one scale of a balance must go up when the other is weighted down. The decorator must accordingly see to it that where in the decoration of a given room repose is the first consideration his emphasis is placed upon unity, and that where cheerfulness or gayety is the first consideration the emphasis is placed upon variety. It will be obvious, of course, that in general the complexity and strain of modern life make emphasis of the quality of repose desirable in all rooms to be occupied continuously for any length of time. Tired nerves are rested, depleted vitality restored, and efficiency increased by it. In the average family of socially inclined, sport-loving, theater-going people there is more danger in over-emphasis of variety than of unity. Moreover, the decorator must always remember that he has many resources at his command, and that it would be bad practice artistically to over-use any one of them. Effects of repose, as we have seen, may be produced by the emphasis of horizontal extension; by the use of cool colors, of low tones of any hues, and of closely related colors; by reducing the number of objects, shapes and colors in a room; by increasing the degree of likeness characterizing these objects, shapes and colors; and by emphasizing the importance of the dominant element. The same wealth of resources is available for the expression of any other motive. Thus there is opportunity for the widest play of individual fancy. A room need not be bare in order to be restful or restrained, or crowded with ornament to be cheerful.



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