These "fantastic forms" alone need concern the artist. If by some potent magic he can precipitate them into the world of sensuous images so that they make music to the eye, he need not even enter into the question of their reality, but in order to achieve this transmutation he should know something, at least, of the strange laws of their being, should lend ear to a fairy-tale in which each theorem is a paradox, and each paradox a mathematical fact.
He must conceive of a space of four mutually independent directions; a space, that is, having a direction at right angles to every direction that we know. We cannot point to this, we cannot picture it, but we can reason about it with a precision that is all but absolute. In such a space it would of course be possible to establish four axial lines, all intersecting at a point, and all mutually at right angles with one another. Every hyper-solid of four-dimensional space has these four axes.
The regular hyper-solids (analogous to the Platonic solids of three-dimensional space) are the "fantastic forms" which will prove useful to the artist. He should learn to lure them forth along them axis lines. That is, let him build up his figures, space by space, developing them from lower spaces to higher. But since he cannot enter the fourth dimension, and build them there, nor even the third—if he confines himself to a sheet of paper—he must seek out some form of representation of the higher in the lower. This is a process with which he is already acquainted, for he employs it every time he makes a perspective drawing, which is the representation of a solid on a plane. All that is required is an extension of the method: a hyper-solid can be represented in a figure of three dimensions, and this in turn can be projected on a plane. The achieved result will constitute a perspective of a perspective—the representation of a representation.
This may sound obscure to the uninitiated, and it is true that the plane projection of some of the regular hyper-solids are staggeringly intricate affairs, but the author is so sure that this matter lies so well within the compass of the average non-mathematical mind that he is willing to put his confidence to a practical test.
It is proposed to develop a representation of the tesseract or hyper-cube on the paper of this page, that is, on a space of two dimensions. Let us start as far back as we can: with a point. This point, a, [Figure 14] is conceived to move in a direction w, developing the line a b. This line next moves in a direction at right angles to w, namely, x, a distance equal to its length, forming the square a b c d. Now for the square to develop into a cube by a movement into the third dimension it would have to move in a direction at right angles to both w and x, that is, out of the plane of the paper—away from it altogether, either up or down. This is not possible, of course, but the third direction can be represented on the plane of the paper.
Let us represent it as diagonally downward toward the right, namely, y. In the y direction, then, and at a distance equal to the length of one of the sides of the square, another square is drawn, a'b'c'd', representing the original square at the end of its movement into the third dimension; and because in that movement the bounding points of the square have traced out lines (edges), it is necessary to connect the corresponding corners of the two squares by means of lines. This completes the figure and achieves the representation of a cube on a plane by a perfectly simple and familiar process. Its six faces are easily identified by the eye, though only two of them appear as squares owing to the exigencies of representation.
Now for a leap into the abyss, which won't be so terrifying, since it involves no change of method. The cube must move into the fourth dimension, developing there a hyper-cube. This is impossible, for the reason the cube would have to move out of our space altogether—three-dimensional space will not contain a hyper-cube. But neither is the cube itself contained within the plane of the paper; it is only there represented. The y direction had to be imagined and then arbitrarily established; we can arbitrarily establish the fourth direction in the same way. As this is at right angles to y, its indication may be diagonally downward and to the left—the direction z. As y is known to be at right angles both to w and to x, z is at right angles to all three, and we have thus established the four mutually perpendicular axes necessary to complete the figure.
The cube must now move in the z direction (the fourth dimension) a distance equal to the length of one of its sides. Just as we did previously in the case of the square, we draw the cube in its new position (ABB'D'C'C) and also as before we connect each apex of the first cube with the corresponding apex of the other, because each of these points generates a line (an edge), each line a plane, and each plane a solid. This is the tesseract or hyper-cube in plane projection. It has the 16 points, 32 lines, and 8 cubes known to compose the figure. These cubes occur in pairs, and may be readily identified.
The tesseract as portrayed in A, Figure 14, is shown according to the conventions of oblique, or two-point perspective; it can equally be represented in a manner correspondent to parallel perspective. The parallel perspective of a cube appears as a square inside another square, with lines connecting the four vertices of the one with those of the other. The third dimension (the one beyond the plane of the paper) is here conceived of as being not beyond the boundaries of the first square, but within them. We may with equal propriety conceive of the fourth dimension as a "beyond which is within." In that case we would have a rendering of the tesseract as shown in B, Figure 14: a cube within a cube, the space between the two being occupied by six truncated pyramids, each representing a cube. The large outside cube represents the original generating cube at the beginning of its motion into the fourth dimension, and the small inside cube represents it at the end of that motion.
These two projections of the tesseract upon plane space are not the only ones possible, but they are typical. Some idea of the variety of aspects may be gained by imagining how a nest of inter-related cubes (made of wire, so as to interpenetrate), combined into a single symmetrical figure of three-dimensional space, would appear from several different directions. Each view would yield new space-subdivisions, and all would be rhythmical—susceptible, therefore, of translation into ornament. C and D represent such translations of A and B.
In order to fix these unfamiliar ideas more firmly in the reader's mind, let him submit himself to one more exercise of the creative imagination, and construct, by a slightly different method, a representation of a hexadecahedroid, or 16-hedroid, on a plane. This regular solid of four-dimensional space consists of sixteen cells, each a regular tetrahedron, thirty-two triangular faces, twenty-four edges and eight vertices. It is the correlative of the octahedron of three-dimensional space.
First it is necessary to establish our four axes, all mutually at right angles. If we draw three lines intersecting at a point, subtending angles of 60 degrees each, it is not difficult to conceive of these lines as being at right angles with one another in three-dimensional space. The fourth axis we will assume to pass vertically through the point of intersection of the three lines, so that we see it only in cross-section, that is, as a point. It is important to remember that all of the angles made by the four axes are right angles—a thing possible only in a space of four dimensions. Because the 16-hedroid is a symmetrical hyper-solid all of its eight apexes will be equidistant from the centre of a containing hyper-sphere, whose "surface" these will intersect at symmetrically disposed points. These apexes are established in our representation by describing a circle—the plane projection of the hyper-sphere—about the central point of intersection of the axes. (Figure 15, left.) Where each of these intersects the circle an apex of the 16-hedroid will be established. From each apex it is now necessary to draw straight lines to every other, each line representing one edge of the sixteen tetrahedral cells. But because the two ends of the fourth axis are directly opposite one another, and opposite the point of sight, all of these lines fail to appear in the left hand diagram. It therefore becomes necessary to tilt the figure slightly, bringing into view the fourth axis, much foreshortened, and with it, all of the lines which make up the figure. The result is that projection of the 16-hedroid shown at the right of Figure 15. Here is no fortuitous arrangement of lines and areas, but the "shadow" cast by an archetypal, figure of higher space upon the plane of our materiality. It is a wonder, a mystery, staggering to the imagination, contradictory to experience, but as well entitled to a place at the high court of reason as are any of the more familiar figures with which geometry deals. Translated into ornament it produces such an all-over pattern as is shown in Figure 16 and the design which adorns the curtains at right and left of pl. XIII. There are also other interesting projections of the 16-hedroid which need not be gone into here.
For if the author has been successful in his exposition up to this point, it should be sufficiently plain that the geometry of four-dimensions is capable of yielding fresh and interesting ornamental motifs. In carrying his demonstration farther, and in multiplying illustrations, he would only be going over ground already covered in his book Projective Ornament and in his second Scammon lecture.
Of course this elaborate mechanism for producing quite obvious and even ordinary decorative motifs may appear to some readers like Goldberg's nightmare mechanics, wherein the most absurd and intricate devices are made to accomplish the most simple ends. The author is undisturbed by such criticisms. If the designs dealt with in this chapter are "obvious and even ordinary" they are so for the reason that they were chosen less with an eye to their interest and beauty than as lending themselves to development and demonstration by an orderly process which should not put too great a tax upon the patience and intelligence of the reader. Four-dimensional geometry yields numberless other patterns whose beauty and interest could not possibly be impeached—patterns beyond the compass of the cleverest designer unacquainted with projective geometry.
The great need of the ornamentalist is this or some other solid foundation. Lacking it, he has been forced to build either on the shifting sands of his own fancy, or on the wrecks and sediment of the past. Geometry provides this sure foundation. We may have to work hard and dig deep, but the results will be worth the effort, for only on such a foundation can arise a temple which is beautiful and strong.
In confirmation of his general contention that the basis of all effective decoration is geometry and number, the author, in closing, desires to direct the reader's attention to Figure 17 a slightly modified rendering of the famous zodiacal ceiling of the Temple of Denderah, in Egypt. A sun and its corona have been substituted for the zodiacal signs and symbols which fill the centre of the original, for except to an Egyptologist these are meaningless. In all essentials the drawing faithfully follows the original—was traced, indeed, from a measured drawing.
Here is one of the most magnificent decorative schemes in the whole world, arranged with a feeling for balance and rhythm exceeding the power of the modern artist, and executed with a mastery beyond the compass of a modern craftsman. The fact that first forces itself upon the beholder is that the thing is so obviously mathematical in its rhythms, that to reduce it to terms of geometry and number is a matter of small difficulty. Compare the frozen music of these rhymed and linked figures with the herded, confused, and cluttered compositions of even our best decorative artists, and argument becomes unnecessary—the fact stands forth that we have lost something precious and vital out of art of which the ancients possessed the secret.
It is for the restoration of these ancient verities and the discovery of new spatial rhythms—made possible by the advance of mathematical science—that the author pleads. Artists, architects, designers, instead of chewing the cud of current fashion, come into these pastures new!
[Footnote 1: The eight cubes in A, Figure 14, are as follows: abb'd'c'c; ABB'D'C'C; abdDCA; a'b'd'D'C'A'; abb'B'A'A; cdd'D'C'C; bb'd'D'DB; aa'c'C'CA.]
[Footnote 2: The sixteen cells of the hexadehahedroid are as follows: ABCD: A'B'C'D': AB'C'D': A'BCD: AB'CD: A'BC'D: ABC'D: A'B'CD': ABCD': A'B'C'D: ABC'D': A'B'CD: A'BC'D: AB'CD': A'BCD': AB'C'D.]
HARNESSING THE RAINBOW
Reference was made in an antecedent essay to an art of light—of mobile color—an abstract language of thought and emotion which should speak to consciousness through the eye, as music speaks through the ear. This is an art unborn, though quickening in the womb of the future. The things that reflect light have been organized aesthetically into the arts of architecture, painting, and sculpture, but light itself has never been thus organized.
And yet the scientific development and control of light has reached a stage which makes this new art possible. It awaits only the advent of the creative artist. The manipulation of light is now in the hands of the illuminating engineers and its exploitation (in other than necessary ways) in the hands of the advertisers.
Some results of their collaboration are seen in the sky signs of upper Broadway, in New York, and of the lake front, in Chicago. A carnival of contending vulgarities, showing no artistry other than the most puerile, these displays nevertheless yield an effect of amazing beauty. This is on account of an occult property inherent in the nature of light—it cannot be vulgarized. If the manipulation of light were delivered into the hands of the artist, and dedicated to noble ends, it is impossible to overestimate the augmentation of beauty that would ensue.
For light is a far more potent medium than sound. The sphere of sound is the earth-sphere; the little limits of our atmosphere mark the uttermost boundaries to which sound, even the most strident can possibly prevail. But the medium of light is the ether, which links us with the most distant stars. May not this serve as a symbol of the potency of light to usher the human spirit into realms of being at the doors of which music itself shall beat in vain? Or if we compare the universe accessible to sight with that accessible to sound—the plight of the blind in contrast to that of the deaf—there is the same discrepancy; the field of the eye is immensely richer, more various and more interesting than that of the ear.
The difficulty appears to consist in the inferior impressionability of the eye to its particular order of beauty. To the average man color—as color—has nothing significant to say: to him grass is green, snow is white, the sky blue; and to have his attention drawn to the fact that sometimes grass is yellow, snow blue, and the sky green, is disconcerting rather than illuminating. It is only when his retina is assaulted by some splendid sunset or sky-encircling rainbow that he is able to disassociate the idea of color from that of form and substance. Even the artist is at a disadvantage in this respect, when compared with the musician. Nothing in color knowledge and analysis analogous to the established laws of musical harmony is part of the equipment of the average artist; he plays, as it were, by ear. The scientist, on the other hand, though he may know the spectrum from end to end, and its innumerable modifications, values this "rainbow promise of the Lord" not for its own beautiful sake but as a means to other ends than those of beauty. But just as the art of music has developed the ear into a fine and sensitive instrument of appreciation, so an analogous art of light would educate the eye to nuances of color to which it is now blind.
It is interesting to speculate as to the particular form in which this new art will manifest itself. The question is perhaps already answered in the "color organ," the earliest of which was Bambridge Bishop's, exhibited at the old Barnum's Museum—before the days of electric light—and the latest A.W. Rimington's. Both of these instruments were built upon a supposed correspondence between a given scale of colors, and the musical chromatic scale; they were played from a musical score upon an organ keyboard. This is sufficiently easy and sufficiently obvious, and has been done, with varying success in one way or another, time and again, but its very ease and obviousness should give us pause.
It may well be questioned whether any arbitrary and literal translation, even though practicable, of a highly complex, intensely mobile art, unfolding in time, as does music, into a correspondent light and color expression, is the best approach to a new art of mobile color. There is a deep and abiding conviction, justified by the history of aesthetics, that each art-form must progress from its own beginnings and unfold in its own unique and characteristic way. Correspondences between the arts—such a correspondence, for example, as inspired the famous saying that architecture is frozen music—reveal themselves usually only after the sister arts have attained an independent maturity. They owe their origin to that underlying unity upon which our various modes of sensuous perception act as a refracting medium, and must therefore be taken for granted. Each art, like each individual, is unique and singular; in this singularity dwells its most thrilling appeal. We are likely to miss light's crowning glory, and the rainbow's most moving message to the soul if we preoccupy ourselves too exclusively with the identities existing between music and color; it is rather their points of difference which should first be dwelt upon.
Let us accordingly consider the characteristic differences between the two sense-categories to which sound and light—music and color—respectively belong. This resolves itself into a comparison between time and space. The characteristic thing about time is succession—hence the very idea of music, which is in time, involves perpetual change. The characteristic of space, on the other hand, is simultaneousness—in space alone perpetual immobility would reign. That is why architecture, which is pre-eminently the art of space, is of all the arts the most static. Light and color are essentially of space, and therefore an art of mobile colour should never lack a certain serenity and repose. A "tune" played on a color organ is only distressing. If there is a workable correspondence between the musical art and an art of mobile color, it will be found in the domain of harmony which involves the idea of simultaneity, rather than in melody, which is pure succession. This fundamental difference between time and space cannot be over-emphasized. A musical note prolonged, becomes at last scarcely tolerable; while a beautiful color, like the blue of the sky, we can enjoy all day and every day. The changing hues of a sunset, are andante if referred to a musical standard, but to the eye they are allegretto—we would have them pass less swiftly than they do. The winking, chasing, changing lights of illuminated sky-signs are only annoying, and for the same reason. The eye longs for repose in some serene radiance or stately sequence, while the ear delights in contrast and continual change. It may be that as the eye becomes more educated it will demand more movement and complexity, but a certain stillness and serenity are of the very nature of light, as movement and passion are of the very nature of sound. Music is a seeking—"love in search of a word"; light is a finding—a "divine covenant."
With attention still focussed on the differences rather than the similarities between the musical art and a new art of mobile color, we come next to the consideration of the matter of form. Now form is essentially of space: we speak about the "form" of a musical composition, but it is in a more or less figurative and metaphysical sense, not as a thing concrete and palpable, like the forms of space. It would be foolish to forego the advantage of linking up form with colour, as there is opportunity to do. Here is another golden ball to juggle with, one which no art purely in time affords. Of course it is known that musical sounds weave invisible patterns in the air, and to render these patterns perceptible to the eye may be one of the more remote and recondite achievements of our uncreated art. Meantime, though we have the whole treasury of natural forms to draw from, of these we can only properly employ such as are abstract. The reason for this is clear to any one who conceives of an art of mobile color, not as a moving picture show—a thing of quick-passing concrete images, to shock, to startle, or to charm—but as a rich and various language in which light, proverbially the symbol of the spirit, is made to speak, through the senses, some healing message to the soul. For such a consummation, "devoutly to be wished," natural forms—forms abounding in every kind of association with that world of materiality from which we would escape—are out of place; recourse must be had rather to abstract forms, that is, geometrical figures. And because the more remote these are from the things of sense, from knowledge and experience, the projected figures of four-dimensional geometry would lend themselves to these uses with an especial grace. Color without form is as a soul without a body; yet the body of light must be without any taint of materiality. Four-dimensional forms are as immaterial as anything that could be imagined and they could be made to serve the useful purpose of separating colors one from another, as lead lines do in old cathedral windows, than which nothing more beautiful has ever been devised.
Coming now to the consideration, not of differences, but similarities, it is clear that a correspondence can be established between the colors of the spectrum and the notes of a musical scale. That is, the spectrum, considered as the analogue of a musical octave can be subdivided into twelve colors which may be representative of the musical chromatic scale of twelve semi-tones: the very word, chromatic, being suggestive of such a correspondence between sound and light. The red end of the spectrum would naturally relate to the low notes of the musical scale, and the violet end to the high, by reason of the relative rapidity of vibration in each case; for the octave of a musical note sets the air vibrating twice as rapidly as does the note itself, and roughly speaking, the same is true of the end colors of the spectrum with relation to the ether.
But assuming that a color scale can be established which would yield a color correlative to any musical note or chord, there still remains the matter of values to be dealt with. In the musical scale there is a practical equality of values: one note is as potent as another. In a color scale, on the other hand, each note (taken at its greatest intensity) has a positive value of its own, and they are all different. These values have no musical correlatives, they belong to color per se. Every colorist knows that the whole secret of beauty and brilliance dwells in a proper understanding and adjustment of values, and music is powerless to help him here. Let us therefore defer the discussion of this musical parallel, which is full of pitfalls, until we have made some examination into such simple emotional reactions as color can be discovered to yield. The musical art began from the emotional response to certain simple tones and combinations, and the delight of the ear in their repetition and variation.
On account of our undeveloped sensitivity, the emotional reactions to color are found to be largely personal and whimsical: one person "loves" pink, another purple, or green. Color therapeutics is too new a thing to be relied upon for data, for even though colors are susceptible of classification as sedative, recuperative and stimulating, no two classifications arrived at independently would be likely to correspond. Most people appear to prefer bright, pure colors when presented to them in small areas, red and blue being the favourites. Certain data have been accumulated regarding the physiological effect and psychological value of different colors, but this order of research is in its infancy, and we shall have recourse, therefore, to theory, in the absence of any safer guide.
One of the theories which may be said to have justified itself in practice in a different field is that upon which is based Delsarte's famous art of expression. It has schooled some of the finest actors in the world, and raised others from mediocrity to distinction. The Delsarte system is founded upon the idea that man is a triplicity of physical, emotional, and intellectual qualities or attributes, and that the entire body and every part thereof conforms to, and expresses this triplicity. The generative and digestive region corresponds with the physical nature, the breast with the emotional, and the head with the intellectual; "below" represents the nadir of ignorance and dejection, "above" the zenith of wisdom and spiritual power. This seems a natural, and not an arbitrary classification, having interesting confirmations and correspondencies, both in the outer world of form, and in the inner world of consciousness. Moreover, it is in accord with that theosophic scheme derived from the ancient and august wisdom of the East, which longer and better than any other has withstood the obliterating action of slow time, and is even now renascent. Let us therefore attempt to classify the colors of the spectrum according to this theory, and discover if we can how nearly such a classification is conformable to reason and experience.
The red end of the spectrum, being lowest in vibratory rate, would correspond to the physical nature, proverbially more sluggish than the emotional and mental. The phrase "like a red rag to a bull," suggests a relation between the color red and the animal consciousness established by observation. The "low-brow" is the dear lover of the red necktie; the "high-brow" is he who sees violet shadows on the snow. We "see red" when we are dominated by ignoble passion. Though the color green is associated with the idea of jealousy, it is associated also with the idea of sympathy, and jealousy in the last analysis is the fear of the loss of sympathy; it belongs, at all events to the mediant, or emotional group of colors; while blue and violet are proverbially intellectual and spiritual colors, and their place in the spectrum therefore conforms to the demands of our theoretical division. Here, then, is something reasonably certain, certainly reasonable, and may serve as an hypothesis to be confirmed or confuted by subsequent research. Coming now finally to the consideration of the musical parallel, let us divide a color scale of twelve steps or semi-tones into three groups; each group, graphically portrayed, subtending one-third of the arc of a circle. The first or red group will be related to the physical nature, and will consist of purple-red, red, red-orange, and orange. The second, or green group will be related to the emotional nature, and will consist of yellow, yellow-green, green, and green-blue. The third, or blue group will be related to the intellectual and spiritual nature, and will consist of blue, blue-violet, violet and purple. The merging of purple into purple-red will then correspond to the meeting place of the highest with the lowest, "spirit" and "matter." We conceive of this meeting-place symbolically as the "heart"—the vital centre. Now "sanguine" is the appropriate name associated with the color of the blood—a color between purple and purple-red. It is logical, therefore, to regard this point in our color-scale as its tonic—"middle C"—though each color, just as in music each note, is itself the tonic of a scale of its own.
Mr. Louis Wilson—the author of the above "ophthalmic color scale" makes the same affiliation between sanguine, or blood color, and middle C, led thereto by scientific reasons entirely unassociated with symbolism. He has omitted orange-yellow and violet-purple; this makes the scale conform more exactly with the diatonic scale of two tetra-chords; it also gives a greater range of purples, a color indispensable to the artist. Moreover, in the scale as it stands, each color is exactly opposite its true spectral complementary.
The color scale being thus established and broadly divided, the next step is to find how well it justifies itself in practice. The most direct way would be to translate the musical chords recognized and dealt with in the science of harmony into their corresponding color combinations.
For the benefit of such readers as have no knowledge of musical harmony it should be said that the entire science of harmony is based upon the triad, or chord of three notes, and that there are various kinds of triads: the major, the minor, the augmented, the diminished, and the altered. The major triad consists of the first note of the diatonic scale, or tonic; its third, and its fifth. The minor triad differs from the major only in that the second member is lowered a semi-tone. The augmented triad differs from the major only in that the third member is raised a semi-tone. The diminished triad differs from the minor only in that the third member is lowered a semi-tone. The altered triad is a chord different by a semi-tone from any of the above.
The major triad in color is formed by taking any one of the twelve color-centers of the ophthalmic color scale as the first member of the triad; and, reading up the scale, the fifth step (each step representing a semi-tone) determines the second member, while the third member is found in the eighth step. The minor triad in color is formed by lowering the second member of the major triad one step; the augmented triad by raising the third member of the major triad one step, and the diminished triad by lowering the third member of the minor triad one step.
These various triads are shown graphically in Figure 18 as triangles within a circle divided into twelve equal parts, each part representing a semi-tone of the chromatic scale. It is seen at a glance that in every case each triad has one of its notes (an apex) in or immediately adjacent to a different one of the grand divisions of the colour scale hereinbefore established and described, and that the same thing would be true in any "key": that is, by any variation of the point of departure.
This certainly satisfies the mind in that it suggests variety in unity, balance, completeness, and in the actual portrayal, in color, of these chords in any "key" this judgment is confirmed by the eye, provided that the colors have been thrown into proper harmonic suppression. By this is meant such an adjustment of relative values, or such an establishment of relative proportions as will produce the maximum of beauty of which any given combination is capable. This matter imperatively demands an aesthetic sense the most sensitive.
So this "musical parallel," interesting and reasonable as it is, will not carry the color harmonist very far, and if followed too literally it is even likely to hamper him in the higher reaches of his art, for some of the musical dissonances are of great beauty in color translation. All that can safely be said in regard to the musical parallel in its present stage of development is that it simplifies and systematizes color knowledge and experiment and to a beginner it is highly educational.
If we are to have color symphonies, the best are not likely to be those based on a literal translation of some musical masterpiece into color according to this or any theory, but those created by persons who are emotionally reactive to this medium, able to imagine in color, and to treat it imaginatively. The most beautiful mobile color effects yet witnessed by the author were produced on a field only five inches square, by an eminent painter quite ignorant of music; while some of the most unimpressive have been the result of a rigid adherence to the musical parallel by persons intent on cutting, with this sword, this Gordian knot.
Into the subject of means and methods it is not proposed to enter, nor to attempt to answer such questions as to whether the light shall be direct or projected; whether the spectator, wrapped in darkness, shall watch the music unfold at the end of some mysterious vista, or whether his whole organism shall be played upon by powerful waves of multi-coloured light. These coupled alternatives are not mutually exclusive, any more than the idea of an orchestra is exclusive of that of a single human voice.
In imagining an art of mobile color unconditioned by considerations of mechanical difficulty or of expense, ideas multiply in truly bewildering profusion. Sunsets, solar coronas, star spectra, auroras such as were never seen on sea or land; rainbows, bubbles, rippling water; flaming volcanoes, lava streams of living light—these and a hundred other enthralling and perfectly realizable effects suggest themselves. What Israfil of the future will pour on mortals this new "music of the spheres"?
PROPHET OF DEMOCRACY
Due tribute has been paid to Mr. Louis Sullivan as an architect in the first essay of this volume. That aspect of his genius has been critically dealt with by many, but as an author he is scarcely known. Yet there are Sibylline leaves of his, still let us hope in circulation, which have wielded a potent influence on the minds of a generation of men now passing to maturity. It is in the hope that his message may not be lost to the youth of today and of tomorrow that the present author now undertakes to summarize and interpret that message to a public to which Mr. Sullivan is indeed a name, but not a voice.
That he is not a voice can be attributed neither to his lack of eloquence—for he is eloquent—nor to the indifference of the younger generation of architects which has grown up since he has ceased, in any public way, to speak. It is due rather to a curious fatality whereby his memorabilia have been confined to sheets which the winds of time have scattered—pamphlets, ephemeral magazines, trade journals—never the bound volume which alone guards the sacred flame from the gusts of evil chance.
And Mr. Sullivan's is a "sacred flame," because it was kindled solely with the idea of service—a beacon to keep young men from shipwreck traversing those straits made dangerous by the Scylla of Conventionality, and the Charybdis of License. The labour his writing cost him was enormous. "I shall never again make so great a sacrifice for the younger generation," he says in a letter, "I am amazed to note how insignificant, how almost nil is the effect produced, in comparison to the cost, in vitality to me. Or perhaps it is I who am in error. Perhaps one must have reached middle age, or the Indian Summer of life, must have seen much, heard much, felt and produced much and been much in solitude to receive in reading what I gave in writing 'with hands overfull.'"
This was written with reference to Kindergarten Chats. A sketch Analysis of Contemporaneous American Architecture, which constitutes Mr. Sullivan's most extended and characteristic preachment to the young men of his day. It appeared in 1901, in fifty-two consecutive numbers of The Interstate Architect and Builder, a magazine now no longer published. In it the author, as mentor, leads an imaginary disciple up and down the land, pointing out to him the "bold, upholsterrific blunders" to be found in the architecture of the day, and commenting on them in a caustic, colloquial style—large, loose, discursive—a blend of Ruskin, Carlyle and Whitman, yet all Mr. Sullivan's own. He descends, at times, almost to ribaldry, at others he rises to poetic and prophetic heights. This is all a part of his method alternately to shame and inspire his pupil to some sort of creative activity. The syllabus of Mr. Sullivan's scheme, as it existed in his mind during the writing of Kindergarten Chats, and outlined by him in a letter to the author is such a torch of illumination that it is quoted here entire.
A young man who has "finished his education" at the architectural schools comes to me for a post-graduate course—hence a free form of dialogue.
I proceed with his education rather by indirection and suggestion than by direct precept. I subject him to certain experiences and allow the impressions they make on him to infiltrate, and, as I note the effect, I gradually use a guiding hand. I supply the yeast, so to speak, and allow the ferment to work in him.
This is the gist of the whole scheme. It remains then to determine, carefully, the kind of experiences to which I shall subject the lad, and in what order, or logical (and especially psychological) sequence. I begin, then, with aspects that are literal, objective, more or less cynical, and brutal, and philistine. A little at a time I introduce the subjective, the refined, the altruistic; and, by a to-and-fro increasingly intense rhythm of these two opposing themes, worked so to speak in counterpoint, I reach a preliminary climax: of brutality tempered by a longing for nobler, purer things.
Hence arise a purblind revulsion and yearning in the lad's soul; the psychological moment has arrived, and I take him at once into the country—(Summer: The Storm). This is the first of the four out-of-door scenes, and the lad's first real experience with nature. It impresses him crudely but violently; and in the tense excitement of the tempest he is inspired to temporary eloquence; and at the close is much softened. He feels in a way but does not know that he has been a participant in one of Nature's superb dramas. (Thus do I insidiously prepare the way for the notion that creative architecture is in essence a dramatic art, and an art of eloquence; of subtle rhythmic beauty, power, and tenderness).
Left alone in the country the lad becomes maudlin—a callow lover of nature—and makes feeble attempts at verse. Returning to the city he melts and unbosoms—the tender shaft of the unknowable Eros has penetrated to his heart—Nature's subtle spell is on him, to disappear and reappear. Then follow discussions, more or less didactic, leading to the second out-of-door scene (Autumn Glory). Here the lad does most of the talking and shows a certain lucidity and calm of mind. The discussion of Responsibility, Democracy, Education, etc., has inevitably detached the lurking spirit of pessimism. It has to be:—Into the depths and darkness we descend, and the work reaches the tragic climax in the third out-of-door scene—Winter.
Now that the forces have been gathered and marshalled the true, sane movement of the work is entered upon and pushed at high tension, and with swift, copious modulations to its foreordained climax and optimistic peroration in the fourth and last out-of-door scene as portrayed in the Spring Song. The locale of this closing number is the beautiful spot in the woods, on the shore of Biloxi Bay:—where I am writing this.
I would suggest in passing that a considerable part of the K.C. is in rhythmic prose—some of it declamatory. I have endeavoured throughout this work to represent, or reproduce to the mind and heart of the reader the spoken word and intonation—not written language. It really should be read aloud, especially the descriptive and exalted passages.
There was a movement once on the part of Mr. Sullivan's admirers to issue Kindergarten Chats in book form, but he was asked to tone it down and expurgate it, a thing which he very naturally refused to do. Mr. Sullivan has always been completely alive to our cowardice when it comes to hearing the truth about ourselves, and alive to the danger which this cowardice entails, for to his imaginary pupil he says,
If you wish to read the current architecture of your country, you must go at it courageously, and not pick out merely the little bits that please you. I am going to soak you with it until you are absolutely nauseated, and your faculties turn in rebellion. I may be a hard taskmaster, but I strive to be a good one. When I am through with you, you will know architecture from the ground up. You will know its virtuous reality and you will know the fake and the fraud and the humbug. I will spare nothing—for your sake. I will stir up the cesspool to its utmost depths of stench, and also the pious, hypocritical virtues of our so-called architecture—the nice, good, mealy-mouthed, suave, dexterous, diplomatic architecture, I will show you also the kind of architecture our "cultured" people believe in. And why do they believe in it? Because they do not believe in themselves.
Kindergarten Chats is even more pertinent and pointed today than it was some twenty years ago, when it was written. Speech that is full of truth is timeless, and therefore prophetic. Mr. Sullivan forecast some of the very evils by which we have been overtaken. He was able to do this on account of the fundamental soundness of his point of view, which finds expression in the following words: "Once you learn to look upon architecture not merely as an art more or less well, or more or less badly done, but as a social manifestation, the critical eye becomes clairvoyant, and obscure, unnoted phenomena become illumined."
Looking, from this point of view, at the office buildings that the then newly-realized possibilities of steel construction were sending skyward along lower Broadway, in New York, Mr. Sullivan reads in them a denial of democracy. To him they signify much more than they seem to, or mean to; they are more than the betrayal of architectural ignorance and mendacity, they are symptomatic of forces undermining American life.
These buildings, as they increase in number, make this city poorer, morally and spiritually; they drag it down and down into the mire. This is not American civilization; it is the rottenness of Gomorrah. This is not Democracy—it is savagery. It shows the glutton hunt for the Dollar with no thought for aught else under the sun or over the earth. It is decadence of the spirit in its most revolting form; it is rottenness of the heart and corruption of the mind. So truly does this architecture reflect the causes which have brought it into being. Such structures are profoundly anti-social, and as such, they must be reckoned with. These buildings are not architecture, but outlawry, and their authors criminals in the true sense of the word. And such is the architecture of lower New York—hopeless, degraded, and putrid in its pessimistic denial of our art, and of our growing civilization—its cynical contempt for all those qualities that real humans value.
We have always been very glib about democracy; we have assumed that this country was a democracy because we named it so. But now that we are called upon to die for the idea, we find that we have never realized it anywhere except perhaps in our secret hearts. In the life of Abraham Lincoln, in the poetry of Walt Whitman, in the architecture of Louis Sullivan, the spirit of democracy found utterance, and to the extent that we ourselves partake of that spirit, it will find utterance also in us. Mr. Sullivan is a "prophet of democracy" not alone in his buildings but in his writings, and the prophetic note is sounded even more clearly in his What is Architecture? A Study in the American People of Today, than in Kindergarten Chats.
This essay was first printed in The American Contractor of January 6, 1906, and afterwards issued in brochure form. The author starts by tracing architecture to its root in the human mind: this physical thing is the manifestation of a psychological state. As a man thinks, so he is; he acts according to his thought, and if that act takes the form of a building it is an emanation of his inmost life, and reveals it.
Everything is there for us to read, to interpret; and this we may do at our leisure. The building has not means of locomotion, it cannot hide itself, it cannot get away. There it is, and there it will stay—telling more truths about him who made it, than he in his fatuity imagines; revealing his mind and his heart exactly for what they are worth, not a whit more, not a whit less; telling plainly the lies he thinks; telling with almost cruel truthfulness his bad faith, his feeble, wabbly mind, his impudence, his selfish egoism, his mental irresponsibility, his apathy, his disdain for real things—until at last the building says to us: "I am no more a real building than the thing that made me is a real man!"
Language like this stings and burns, but it is just such as is needful to shame us out of our comfortable apathy, to arouse us to new responsibilities, new opportunities. Mr. Sullivan, awake among the sleepers, drenches us with bucketfuls of cold, tonic, energizing truth. The poppy and mandragora of the past, of Europe, poisons us, but in this, our hour of battle, we must not be permitted to dream on. He saw, from far back, that "we, as a people, not only have betrayed each other, but have failed in that trust which the world spirit of democracy placed in our hands, as we, a new people, emerged to fill a new and spacious land." It has taken a world war to make us see the situation as he saw it, and it is to us, a militant nation, and not to the slothful civilians a decade ago, that Mr. Sullivan's stirring message seems to be addressed.
The following quotation is his first crack of the whip at the architectural schools. The problem of education is to him of all things the most vital; in this essay he returns to it again and again, while of Kindergarten Chats it is the very raison d'etre.
I trust that a long disquisition is not necessary in order to show that the attempt at imitation, by us, of this day, of the by-gone forms of building, is a procedure unworthy of a free people; and that the dictum of the schools, that Architecture is finished and done, is a suggestion humiliating to every active brain, and therefore, in fact, a puerility and a falsehood when weighed in the scales of truly democratic thought. Such dictum gives the lie in arrogant fashion, to healthful human experience. It says, in a word: the American people are not fit for democracy.
He finds the schools saturated with superstitions which are the survivals of the scholasticism of past centuries—feudal institutions, in effect, inimical to his idea of the true spirit of democratic education. This he conceives of as a searching-out, liberating, and developing the splendid but obscured powers of the average man, and particularly those of children. "It is disquieting to note," he says, "that the system of education on which we lavish funds with such generous, even prodigal, hand, falls short of fulfilling its true democratic function; and that particularly in the so-called higher branches its tendency appears daily more reactionary, more feudal. It is not an agreeable reflection that so many of our university graduates lack the trained ability to see clearly, and to think clearly, concisely, constructively; that there is perhaps more showing of cynicism than good faith, seemingly more distrust of men than confidence in them, and, withal, no consummate ability to interpret things."
In contrast to the schoolman he sketches the psychology of the active-minded but "uneducated" man, with sympathy and understanding, the man who is courageously seeking a way with little to guide and help him.
Is it not the part of wisdom to cheer, to encourage such a mind, rather than dishearten it with ridicule? To say to it: Learn that the mind works best when allowed to work naturally; learn to do what your problem suggests when you have reduced it to its simplest terms; you will thus find that all problems, however complex, take on a simplicity you had not dreamed of; accept this simplicity boldly, and with confidence, do not lose your nerve and run away from it, or you are lost, for you are here at the point men so heedlessly call genius—as though it were necessarily rare; for you are here at the point no living brain can surpass in essence, the point all truly great minds seek—the point of vital simplicity—the point of view which so illuminates the mind that the art of expression becomes spontaneous, powerful, and unerring, and achievement a certainty. So, if you seek and express the best that is in yourself, you must search out the best that is in your people; for they are your problem, and you are indissolubly a part of them. It is for you to affirm that which they really wish to affirm, namely, the best that is in them, and they as truly wish you to express the best that is in yourself. If the people seem to have but little faith it is because they have been tricked so long; they are weary of dishonesty, more weary than they know, much more weary than you know, and in their hearts they seek honest and fearless men, men simple and clear in mind, loyal to their own manhood and to the people. The American people are now in a stupor; be on hand at the awakening.
Next he pays his respects to current architectural criticism—a straining at gnats and a swallowing of camels, by minds "benumbed by culture," and hearts made faint by the tyranny of precedent. He complains that they make no distinction between was and is, too readily assuming that all that is left us moderns is the humble privilege to select, copy and adapt.
The current mannerisms of Architectural criticism must often seem trivial. For of what avail is it to say that this is too small, that too large, this too thick, and that too thin, or to quote this, that, or the other precedent, when the real question may be: Is not the entire design a mean evasion? Why magnify this, that, or the other little thing, if the entire scheme of thinking that the building stands for is false, and puts a mask upon the people, who want true buildings, but do not know how to get them so long as Architects betray them with Architectural phrases?
And so he goes on with his Jeremiad: a prophet of despair, do you say? No, he seeks to destroy only that falsity which would confine the living spirit. Earlier and more clearly than we, he discerned the menace to our civilization of the unrestricted play of the masculine forces—powerful, ruthless, disintegrating—the head dominating the heart. It has taken the surgery of war to open our eyes, and behold the spectacle of the entire German nation which by an intellectual process appears to have killed out compassion, enthroning Schrecklichkeit. In the heart alone dwells hope of salvation. "For he who knows even a genuinely little of Mankind knows this truth: the heart is greater than the head. For in the heart is Desire; and from it come forth Courage and Magnanimity."
You have not thought deeply enough to know that the heart in you is the woman in man. You have derided your femininity, where you have suspected it; whereas, you should have known its power, cherished and utilized it, for it is the hidden well-spring of Intuition and Imagination. What can the brain accomplish without these two? They are the man's two inner eyes; without them he is stone blind. For the mind sets forth their powers both together. One carries the light, the other searches; and between them they find treasures. These they bring to the brain, which first elaborates them, then says to the will, "Do"—and Action follows. Poetically considered, as far as the huge, disordered resultant mass of your Architecture is concerned, Intuition and Imagination have not gone forth to illuminate and search the hearts of the people. Thus are its works stone blind.
It is the absence of poetry and beauty which makes our architecture so depressing to the spirits. "Poetry as a living thing," says Mr. Sullivan, "stands for the most telling quality that a man can impart to his thoughts. Judged by this test your buildings are dreary, empty places." Artists in words, like Lafcadio Hearn and Henry James, are able to make articulate the sadness which our cities inspire, but it is a blight which lies heavy on us all. Theodore Dreiser says, in Sister Carrie—a book with so much bitter truth in it that it was suppressed by the original publishers:
Once the bright days of summer pass by, a city takes on the sombre garb of grey, wrapped in which it goes about its labors during the long winter. Its endless buildings look grey, its sky and its streets assume a sombre hue; the scattered, leafless trees and wind-blown dust and paper but add to the general solemnity of color. There seems to be something in the chill breezes which scurry through the long, narrow thoroughfares productive of rueful thoughts. Not poets alone, nor artists, nor that superior order of mind which arrogates to itself all refinement, feel this, but dogs and all men.
The excuse that we are too young a people to have developed an architecture instinct with that natural poetry which so charms us in the art of other countries and other times, Mr. Sullivan disposes of in characteristic fashion. To the plea that "We are too young to consider these accomplishments. We have been so busy with our material development that we have not found time to consider them," he makes answer as follows:
Know, then, to begin with, they are not accomplishments but necessaries. And, to end with, you are old enough, and have found the time to succeed in nearly making a fine art of—Betrayal, and a science of—Graft. Know that you are as old as the race. That each man among you had in him the accumulated power of the race, ready at hand for use, in the right way, when he shall conclude it better to think straight and hence act straight rather than, as now, to act crooked and pretend to be straight. Know that the test, plain, simple honesty (and you all know, every man of you knows, exactly what that means) is always at your hand.
Know that as all complex manifestations have a simple basis of origin, so the vast complexity of your national unrest, ill health, inability to think clearly and accurately concerning simple things, really vital things, is easily traceable to the single, actual, active cause—Dishonesty; and that this points with unescapable logic and in just measure to each individual man!
The remedy;—individual honesty.
To the objection that this is too simple a solution, Mr. Sullivan retorts that all great solutions are simple, that the basic things of the universe are those which the heart of a child might comprehend. "Honesty stands in the universe of Human Thought and Action, as its very Centre of Gravity, and is our human mask-word behind which abides all the power of Nature's Integrity, the profoundest fact which modern thinking has persuaded Life to reveal."
If, on the other hand, the reader complains, "All this is above our heads," Mr. Sullivan is equally ready with an answer:
No, it is not. It is close beside your hand! and therein lies its power.
Again you say, "How can honesty be enforced?"
It cannot be enforced!
"Then how will the remedy go into effect?"
It cannot go into effect. It can only come into effect.
"Then how can it come?"
"And what will Nature say?"
Nature is always saying: "I centre at each man, woman and child. I knock at the door of each heart, and I wait. I wait in patience—ready to enter with my gifts."
"And is that all that Nature says?"
That is all.
"Then how shall we receive Nature?"
By opening wide your minds! For your greatest crime against yourselves is that you have locked the door and thrown away the key!
Thus, by a long detour, Mr. Sullivan returns to his initial proposition, that the falsity of our architecture can be corrected only by integrity of thought. "Thought is the fine and powerful instrument. Therefore, have thought for the integrity of your own thought."
Naturally, then, as your thoughts thus change, your growing architecture will change. Its falsity will depart; its reality will gradually appear. For the integrity of your thought as a People, will then have penetrated the minds of your architects.
Then, too, as your basic thought changes, will emerge a philosophy, a poetry, and an art of expression in all things; for you will have learned that a characteristic philosophy, poetry and art of expression are vital to the healthful growth and development of a democratic people.
Some readers may complain that these are after all only glittering generalities, of no practical use in solving the specific problems with which every architect is confronted. On the contrary they are fundamental verities of incalculable benefit to every sincere artist. Shallowness is the great vice of democracy; it is surface without depth, a welter of concrete detail in which the mind easily loses those great, underlying abstractions from which alone great art can spring. These, in this essay, Mr. Sullivan helps us to recapture, and inspires us to employ. He would win us from our insincerities, our trivialities, and awaken our enormous latent, unused power. He says:
Use it for the common good.
For it is as true today as when one of your wise men said it:—
"The way to resume is to resume!"
COLOR AND CERAMICS
The production of ceramics—perhaps the oldest of all the useful arts practised by man; an art with a magnificent history—seems to be entering upon a new era of development. It is more alive today, more generally, more skilfully, though not more artfully practised than ever before. It should therefore be of interest to all lovers of architecture, in view of the increasing importance of ceramics in building, to consider the ways in which these materials may best be used.
Looking at the matter in the broadest possible way, it may be said that the building impulse throughout the ages has expressed itself in two fundamentally different types of structure: that in which the architecture—and even the ornament—is one with the engineering; and that in which the two elements are separable, not in thought alone, but in fact. For brevity let us name that manner of building in which the architecture is the construction, Inherent architecture, and that manner in which the two are separable Incrusted architecture.
To the first class belong the architectures of Egypt, Greece, and Gothic architecture as practised in the north of Europe; to the second belong Roman architecture of the splendid period, Moorish architecture, and Italian Gothic, so called. In the first class the bones of the building were also its flesh; in the second bones and flesh were in a manner separable, as is proven by the fact that they were separately considered, separately fashioned. Ruined Karnak, the ruined Parthenon, wrecked Rheims, show ornament so integral a part of the fabric—etched so deep—that what has survived of the one has survived also of the other; while the ruined Baths of Caracalla the uncompleted church of S. Petronio in Bologna, and many a stark mosque on many a sandy desert show only bare skeletons of whose completed glory we can only guess. In them the fabric was a framework for the display of the lapidary or the ceramic art—a garment destroyed, rent, or tattered by time and chance, leaving the bones still strong, but bare.
This classification of architecture into Inherent and Incrusted is not to be confused with the discrimination between architecture that is Arranged, and architecture that is Organic, a classification which is based on psychology—like the difference between the business man and the poet: talent and genius—whereas the classification which the reader is asked now to consider is based rather on the matter of expediency in the use of materials. Let us draw no invidious comparisons between Inherent and Incrusted architecture, but regard each as the adequate expression of an ideal type of beauty; the one masculine, since in the male figure the osseous framework is more easily discernible; the other feminine, because more concealed and overlaid with a cellular tissue of shining, precious materials, on which the disruptive forces in man and nature are more free to act.
It is scarcely necessary to state that it is with Incrusted architecture that we are alone concerned in this discussion, for to this class almost all modern buildings perforce belong. This is by reason of a necessity dictated by the materials that we employ, and by our methods of construction. All modern buildings follow practically one method of construction: a bony framework of steel—or of concrete reinforced by steel—filled in and subdivided by concrete, brick, hollow fire-clay, or some of its substitutes. To a construction of this kind some sort of an outer encasement is not only aesthetically desirable, but practically necessary. It usually takes the form of stone, face-brick, terra-cotta, tile, stucco, or some combination of two or more of these materials. Of the two types of architecture the Incrusted type is therefore imposed by structural necessity.
The enormous importance of ceramics in its relation to architecture thus becomes apparent. They minister to an architectural need instead of gratifying an architectural whim. Ours is a period of Incrusted architecture—one which demands the encasement, rather than the exposure of structure, and therefore logically admits of the enrichment of surfaces by means of "veneers" of materials more precious and beautiful than those employed in the structure, which becomes, as it were, the canvas of the picture, and not the picture itself. For these purposes there are no materials more apt, more adaptable, more enduring, richer in potentialities of beauty than the products of ceramic art. They are easily and inexpensively produced of any desired shape, color, texture; their hard, dense surface resists the action of the elements, is not easily soiled, and is readily cleaned; being fashioned by fire they are fire resistant.
So much then for the practical demands, in modern architecture, met by the products of ceramic art. The aesthetic demand is not less admirably met—or rather might be.
When, in the sixteenth century, the Renaissance spread from south to north, color was practically eliminated from architecture. The Egyptians had had it, hot and bright as the sun on the desert; we know that the Greeks made their Parian marble glow in rainbow tints; Moorish architecture was nothing if not colorful, and the Venice Ruskin loved was fairly iridescent—a thing of fire-opal and pearl. In Italian Renaissance architecture up to its latest phase, the color element was always present; but it was snuffed out under the leaden colored northern skies. Paris is grey, London is brown, New York is white, and Chicago the color of cinders. We have only to compare them to yellow Rome, red Siena, and pearl-tinted Venice, to realize how much we have lost in the elimination of color from architecture. We are coming to realize it. Color played an important part in the Pan-American Exposition, and again in the San Francisco Exposition, where, wedded to light, it became the dominant note of the whole architectural concert. Now these great expositions in which the architects and artists are given a free hand, are in the nature of preliminary studies in which these functionaries sketch in transitory form the things they desire to do in more permanent form. They are forecasts of the future, a future which in certain quarters is already beginning to realize itself. It is therefore probable that architectural art will become increasingly colorful.
The author remembers the day and the hour when this became his personal conviction—his personal desire. It happened years ago in the Albright Gallery in Buffalo—a building then newly completed, of a severely classic type. In the central hall was a single doorway, whose white marble architrave had been stained with different colored pigments by Francis Bacon; after the manner of the Greeks. The effect was so charming, and made the rest of the place seem by contrast so cold and dun, that the author came then and there to the conclusion that architecture without polychromy was architecture incomplete. Mr. Bacon spent three years in Asia Minor, and elsewhere, studying the remains of Greek architecture, and he found and brought home a fragment of an antefix from the temple of Assos, in which the applied color was still pure and strong. The Greeks were a joyous people. When joy comes back into life, color will come back into architecture.
Ceramic products are ideal as a means to this end. The Greeks themselves recognized their value for they used them widely and wisely: it has been discovered that they even attached bands of colored terra-cotta to the marble mouldings of their temples. How different must have been such a temple's real appearance from that imagined by the Classical Revivalists, whose tradition of the inviolable cold Parian purity of Greek architecture has persisted, even against archaeological evidence to the contrary, up to the present day.
In one way we have an advantage over the Greek, if we only had the wit to profit by it. His palette, like his musical scale, was more limited than ours. Nearly the whole gamut of the spectrum is now available to the architect who wishes to employ ceramics. The colors do not change or fade, and possess a beautiful quality. Our craftsmen and manufacturers of face-brick, terra-cotta, and colored tile, after much costly experimentation, have succeeded in producing ceramics of a high order of excellence and intrinsic beauty; they can do practically anything demanded of them; but from that quarter where they should reap the greatest commercial advantage—the field of architecture—there is all too little demand. The architect who should lead, teach and dictate in this field, is often through ignorance obliged to learn and follow instead. This has led to an ignominious situation—ignominious, that is, to the architect. He has come to require of the manufacturer—when he requires anything at all—assistance in the very matter in which he should assist: the determination of color design. It is no wonder that the results are often bad, and therefore discouraging. The manufacturers of ceramics welcome co-operation and assistance on the part of the architect with an eagerness which is almost pathetic, on those rare occasions when assistance is offered.
But the architect is not really to blame: the reason for his failure lies deep in his general predicament of having to know a little of everything, and do a great deal more than he can possibly do well. To cope with this, if his practice warrants the expenditure, he surrounds himself with specialists in various fields, and assigns various departments of his work to them. He cannot be expected to have on his staff a specialist in ceramics, nor can he, with all his manifold activities, be expected to become such a specialist himself. As a result, he is usually content to let color problems alone, for they are just another complication of his already too complicated life; or he refers them to some one whom he thinks ought to know—a manufacturer's designer—and approves almost anything submitted. Of course the ideal architect would have time for every problem, and solve it supremely well; but the real architect is all too human: there are depressions on his cranium where bumps ought to be; moreover, he wants a little time left to energize in other directions than in the practice of his craft. One of the functions of architecture is to reveal the inherent qualities and beauties of different materials, by their appropriate use and tasteful display. An onyx staircase on the one hand, and a portland cement high altar on the other, alike violate this function of architecture; they transgress that beautiful necessity which decrees that precious materials should serve precious uses and common materials should serve utilitarian ends. Now color is a precious thing, and its highest beauties can be brought out only by contrast with broad neutral tinted spaces. The interior walls of a mediaeval cathedral never competed with its windows, and by the same token, a riot of polychromy all over the side of a building is not as effective, even from a chromatic point of view, as though it were confined, say, to an entrance and a frieze. Gilbert's witty phrase is applicable here:
"Where everybody's somebody, nobody's anybody."
Let us build our walls, then, of stone, or brick, or stucco,—for their flat surfaces and neutral tints conduce to that repose so essential to good architectural effect: but let us not rest content with this, but grant to the eye the delight and contentment which it craves, by color and pattern placed at those points to which it is desirable to attract attention, for they serve the same aesthetic purpose as a tiara on the brow of beauty, or a ring on a delicate white hand. But just as jewelry is best when it is most individual, so the ornament of a building should be in keeping with its general character and complexion. A color scheme should not be chosen at random, but dictated by the prevailing tone and texture of the wall surfaces, with which it should harmonize as inevitably as the blossom of a bush with its prevailing tone of stems and foliage. In a building this prevailing tone will inevitably be either cold or warm, and the color scheme just as inevitably should be either cold or warm; that is, there should be a preponderance of cold colors over warm, or vice versa. Otherwise the eye will suffer just that order of uneasiness which comes from the contemplation of two equal masses, whereas it experiences satisfaction in proportionate unequals.
Nothing will take the place of an instinctive colour-sense, but even that needs the training of experience, if the field be new, and a few general principles of all but universal application will not be amiss.
First of all it should be remembered that the intensity of color should be carefully adjusted to its area. It is dangerous to try to use high, pure colors, unrelieved and uncontrasted, in large masses, but the brightest, strongest colors may be used with safety in units of sufficiently restricted size. For harmony, as well as for richness, the law of complementaries, in its most general application, is the safest of all guides, but it must be followed with fine discrimination. Complementary colors are like married pairs, if they find the right adjustment with one another they are happy—that is, there is an effect of beauty—but lacking such adjustment they are worse off together than apart. Every artist who experiments in color soon finds out for himself that instead of using two colors directly complementary, it is better to "split" one of them, that is, use instead of one of them two others, which combined will yield the color in question. For example, the color complementary to red is green-blue. Now green-blue is equidistant between yellow-green and blue-violet, so if for red and blue-green; red, yellow-green and blue-violet be substituted the combination loses its obviousness and a certain harshness without losing anything of its brilliance, or without departing from the optical law involved. Such a combination corresponds to a diminished triad in music.
Another important consideration with regard to color as employed by the architect dwells in those optical changes effected by distance and position: the relative visibility of different colors and combinations of colors as the spectator recedes from them, and the environmental changes which colors undergo—in bright sunlight, in shadow, against the sky, and with relation to backgrounds of different sorts.
The effect of distance is to make colors merge into one another, to lower the values, but not all equally. Yellow loses itself first, tending toward white. The effect of distance, in general, is to disintegrate and decompose, thus giving "vibration" as it is called. A knowledge of these and kindred facts will save the architect from many disappointments and enable him to obtain wonderful chromatic effects by simple means.
Many architects unused to color problems design their ornament with very little thought about the colors which they propose to employ, making it an after-consideration; but the two things should be considered synchronously for the best final effect. There is a cryptic saying that "color is at right angles to form," that is, color is capable of making surfaces advance toward or recede from the eye, just as modelling does; and for this reason, if color is used, a great deal of modelling may be dispensed with. If a receding color is used on a recessed plane, it deepens that plane unduly; while on the other hand if a color which refuses to recede—like yellow for example—is used where depth is wanted, the receding plane and the approaching color neutralize one another, resulting in an effect of flatness not intended. The tyro should not complicate his problem by combining color with high relief modelling, bringing inevitably in the element of light and shade. He should leave that for older hands and concern himself rather with flat or nearly flat surfaces, using his modelling much as the worker in cloisonne uses his little rims of brass—to confine and define each color within its own allotted area. Then, as he gains experience, he may gradually enrich his pattern by the addition of the element of light and shade, should he so decide.
Now as to certain general considerations in relation to the appropriate and logical use of ceramics in the construction and adornment of buildings, exterior and interior. In our northern latitudes care should be taken that ceramics are not used in places and in ways where the accumulation of snow and ice render the joints subject to alternate freezing and thawing, for in such case, unless the joints are protected with metal, the units will work loose in time. On vertical surfaces such protection is not necessary; the use of ceramics should therefore be confined for the most part to such surfaces: for friezes, panels, door and window architraves, and the like. When it is desirable for aesthetic reasons to tie a series of windows together vertically by means of some "fill" of a material different from that of the body of the wall, ceramics lend themselves admirably to the purpose—better than wood, which rots; than iron, which rusts; than bronze, which turns black; and than marble, which soon loses its color and texture in exposed situations of this sort.
On the interior of buildings, the most universal use of ceramics is, of course, for floors, and with the non-slip devices of various sorts which have come into the market, they are no less good for stairs. There is nothing better for wainscoting, and in fact for any surface whatsoever subject to soil and wear. These materials combine permanent protection and permanent decoration. But fired by the zeal of the convert the use of ceramics may be overdone. One easily recalls entire rooms of this material, floors, walls, ceilings, which are less successful than as though a variety of materials had been employed. It is just such variety—each material treated in a characteristic, and therefore different way—that gives charm to so many foreign churches and cathedrals: walls of stone, floors of marble, choir-stalls of carved wood, and rood-screen of metal: it is the difference between an orchestra of various instruments and a mandolin orchestra or a saxaphone sextette. Ceramics should never invade the domain of the plasterer, the mural painter, the cabinet maker. Do not let us, in our zeal for ceramics, be like Bottom the weaver, eager to play every part.
Ceramics have, as regards architecture, a distinct and honorable function. This function should be recognized, taken advantage of, but never overpassed. They offer opportunities large but not limitless. They constitute one instrument of the orchestra of which the architect is the conductor, an instrument beautiful in the hands of a master, and doubly beautiful in concert and contrast with those other materials whose harmonious ensemble makes that music in three dimensions: architectural art.
SYMBOLS AND SACRAMENTS
Architecture is the concrete presentment in space of the soul of a people. If that soul be petty and sordid—"stirred like a child by little things"—no great architecture is possible because great architecture can image only greatness. Before any worthy architecture can arise in the modern world the soul must be aroused. The cannons of Europe are bringing about this awakening. The world—the world of thought and emotion from whence flow acts and events—is no longer decrepit, but like Swedenborg's angels it is advancing toward the springtide of its youth: down the ringing grooves of change "we sweep into the younger day."
After the war we are likely to witness an art evolution which will not be restricted to statues and pictures and insincere essays in dry-as-dust architectural styles, but one which will permeate the whole social fabric, and make it palpitate with the rhythm of a younger, a more abundant life. Beauty and mystery will again make their dwelling among men; the Voiceless will speak in music, and the Formless will spin rhythmic patterns on the loom of space. We shall seek and find a new language of symbols to express the joy of the soul, freed from the thrall of an iron age of materialism, and fronting the unimaginable splendors of the spiritual life.
For every aesthetic awakening is the result of a spiritual awakening of some sort. Every great religious movement found an art expression eloquent of it. When religion languished, such things as Versailles and the Paris Opera House were possible, but not such things as the Parthenon, or Notre Dame. The temples of Egypt were built for the celebration of the rites of the religion of Egypt; so also in the case of Greece. Roman architecture was more widely secular, but Rome's noblest monument, the Pantheon, was a religious edifice. The Moors, inflamed with religious ardor, swept across Europe, blazing their trail with mosques and palaces conceived seemingly in some ecstatic state of dream. The Renaissance, tainted though it was by worldliness, found still its inspiration in sacred themes, and recorded its beginning and its end in two mighty religious monuments: Brunelleschi's and Michael Angelo's domical churches, "wrought in a sad sincerity" by deeply religious men. Gothic art is a synonym for mediaeval Christianity; while in the Orient art is scarcely secular at all, but a symbolical language framed and employed for the expression of spiritual ideas.
This law, that spirituality and not materialism distils the precious attar of great art, is permanently true and perennially applicable, for laws of this order do not change from age to age, however various their manifestation. The inference is plain: until we become a religious people great architecture is far from us. We are becoming religious in that broad sense in which churches and creeds, forms and ceremonies, play little part. Ours is the search of the heart for something greater than itself which is still itself; it is the religion of brotherhood, whose creed is love, whose ritual is service.
This transformed and transforming religion of the West, the tardy fruit of the teachings of Christ, now secretly active in the hearts of men, will receive enrichment from many sources. Science will reveal the manner in which the spirit weaves its seven-fold veil of illusion; nature, freshly sensed, will yield new symbols which art will organize into a language; out of the experience of the soul will grow new rituals and observances. But one precious tincture of this new religion our civilization and our past cannot supply; it is the heritage of Asia, cherished in her brooding bosom for uncounted centuries, until, by the operation of the law of cycles, the time should come for the giving of it to the West.
This secret is Yoga, the method of self-development whereby the seeker for union is enabled to perceive the shining of the Inward Light. This is achieved by daily discipline in stilling the mind and directing the consciousness inward instead of outward. The Self is within, and the mind, which is normally centrifugal, must first be arrested, controlled, and then turned back upon itself, and held with perfect steadiness. All this is naively expressed in the Upanishads in the passage, "The Self-existent pierced the openings of the senses so that they turn forward, not backward into himself. Some wise man, however, with eyes closed and wishing for immortality, saw the Self behind." This stilling of the mind, its subjugation and control whereby it may be concentrated on anything at will, is particularly hard for persons of our race and training, a race the natural direction of whose consciousness is strongly outward, a training in which the practice of introspective meditation finds no place.
Yoga—that "union" which brings inward vision, the contribution of the East to the spiritual life of the West—will bring profound changes into the art of the West, since art springs from consciousness. The consciousness of the West now concerns itself with the visible world almost exclusively, and Western art is therefore characterized by an almost slavish fidelity to the ephemeral appearances of things—the record of particular moods and moments. The consciousness of the East on the other hand, is subjective, introspective. Its art accordingly concerns itself with eternal aspects, with a world of archetypal ideas in which things exist not for their own sake, but as symbols of supernal things. The Oriental artist avoids as far as possible trivial and individual rhythms, seeking always the fundamental rhythm of the larger, deeper life.
Now this quality so earnestly sought and so highly prized in Oriental art, is the very thing which our art and our architecture most conspicuously lack. To the eye sensitive to rhythm, our essays in these fields appear awkward and unconvincing, lacking a certain inevitability. We must restore to art that first great canon of Chinese aesthetics, "Rhythmic vitality, or the life movement of the spirit through the rhythm of things." It cannot be interjected from the outside, but must be inwardly realized by the "stilling" of the mind above described.
Art cannot dispense with symbolism; as the letters on this page convey thoughts to the mind, so do the things of this world, organized into a language of symbols, speak to the soul through art. But in the building of our towers of Babel, again mankind is stricken with a confusion of tongues. Art has no common language; its symbols are no longer valid, or are no longer understood. This is a condition for which materialism has no remedy, for the reason that materialism sees always the pattern but never that which the pattern represents. We must become spiritually illumined before we can read nature truly, and re-create, from such a reading, fresh and universal symbols for art. This is a task beyond the power of our sad generation, enchained by negative thinking, overshadowed by war, but we can at least glimpse the nature of the reaction between the mystic consciousness and the things of this world which will produce a new language of symbols. The mystic consciousness looks upon nature as an arras embroidered over with symbols of the things it conceals from view. We are ourselves symbols, dwelling in a world of symbols—a world many times removed from that ultimate reality to which all things bear figurative witness; the commonest thing has yet some mystic meaning, and ugliness and vulgarity exist only in the unillumined mind.
What mystic meaning, it may be asked, is contained in such things as a brick, a house, a hat, a pair of shoes? A brick is the ultimate atom of a building; a house is the larger body which man makes for his uses, just as the Self has built its habitation of flesh and bones; hat and shoes are felt and leather insulators with which we seek to cut ourselves off from the currents which flow through earth and air from God. It may be objected that these answers only substitute for the lesser symbol a greater, but this is inevitable: if for the greater symbol were named one still more abstract and inclusive, the ultimate verity would be as far from affirmation as before. There is nothing of which the human mind can conceive that is not a symbol of something greater and higher than itself.
The dictionary defines a symbol as "something that stands for something else and serves to represent it, or to bring to mind one or more of its qualities." Now this world is a reflection of a higher world, and that of a higher world still, and so on. Accordingly, everything is a symbol of something higher, since by reflecting, it "stands for, and serves to represent it," and the thing symbolized, being itself a reflection, is, by the same token, itself a symbol. By reiterated repetitions of this reflecting process throughout the numberless planes and sub-planes of nature, each thing becomes a symbol, not of one thing only, but of many things, all intimately correlated, and this gives rise to those underlying analogies, those "secret subterranean passages between matter and soul" which have ever been the especial preoccupation of the poet and the mystic, but which may one day become the subject of serious examination by scientific men.
Let us briefly pass in review the various terms of such an ascending series of symbols: members of one family, they might be called, since they follow a single line of descent.
Take gold: as a thing in itself, without any symbolical significance, it is a metallic element, having a characteristic yellow color, very heavy, very soft, the most ductile, malleable, and indestructible of metals. In its minted form it is the life force of the body economic, since on its abundance and free circulation the well-being of that body depends; it is that for which all men strive and contend, because without it they cannot comfortably live. This, then, is gold in its first and lowest symbolical aspect: a life principle, a motive force in human affairs. But it is not gold which has gained for man his lordship over nature; it is fire, the yellow gold, not of the earth, but of the air,—cities and civilizations, arts and industries, have ever followed the camp fire of the pioneer. Sunlight comes next in sequence—sunlight, which focussed in a burning glass, spontaneously produces flame. The world subsists on sunlight; all animate creation grows by it, and languishes without it, as the prosperity of cities waxes or wanes with the presence or absence of a supply of gold. The magnetic force of the sun, specialized as prana (which is not the breath which goes up and the breath which goes down, but that other, in which the two repose), fulfils the same function in the human body as does gold in civilization, sunlight in nature: its abundance makes for health, its meagreness for enervation. Higher than prana is the mind, that golden sceptre of man's dominion, the Promethean gift of fire with which he menaces the empire of the gods. Higher still, in the soul, love is the motive force, the conqueror: a "heart of gold" is one warmed and lighted by love. Still other is the desire of the spirit, which no human affection satisfies, but truth only, the Golden Person, the Light of the World, the very Godhead itself. Thus there is earthy, airy, etheric gold; gold as intellect, gold as love, gold as truth; from the curse of the world, the cause of a thousand crimes, there ascends a Jacob's Ladder of symbols to divinity itself, whereby men may learn that God works by sacrifice: that His universe is itself His broken body. As gold in the purse, fire on the forge, sunlight for the eyes, breath in the body, knowledge in the mind, love in the heart, and wisdom in the understanding, He draws all men unto Him, teaching them the wise use of wealth, the mastery over nature, the care of the body, the cultivation of the mind, the love of wife and child and neighbour, and, last lesson of all, He teaches them that in industry, in science, in art, in sympathy and understanding, He it is they are all the while knowing, loving, becoming; and that even when they flee Him, His are the wings—
"When me they fly, I am the wings."
This attempt to define gold as a symbol ends with the indication of an ubiquitous and immanent divinity in everything. Thus it is always: in attempting to dislodge a single voussoir from the arch of truth, the temple itself is shaken, so cunningly are the stones fitted together. All roads lead to Rome, and every symbol is a key to the Great Mystery: for example, read in the light of these correspondences, the alchemist's transmutation of base metals into gold, is seen to be the sublimation of man's lower nature into "that highest golden sheath, which is Brahman."
Keeping the first sequence clearly in mind, let us now attempt to trace another, parallel to it: the feminine of which the first may be considered the corresponding masculine. Silver is a white, ductile metallic element. In coinage it is the synonym for ready cash,—gold in the bank is silver in the pocket; hence, in a sense, silver is the reflection, or the second power of gold. Just as ruddy gold is correlated with fire, so is pale silver with water; and as fire is affiliated with the sun, so do the waters of the earth follow the moon in her courses. The golden sun, the silver moon: these commonly employed descriptive adjectives themselves supply the correlation we are seeking; another indication of its validity lies in the fact that one of the characteristics of water is its power of reflecting; that moonlight is reflected sunlight. If gold is the mind, silver is the body, in which the mind is imaged, objectified; if gold is flamelike love, silver is brooding affection; and in the highest regions of consciousness, beauty is the feminine or form side of truth—its silver mirror.
There are two forces in the world, one of projection, the other of recall; two states, activity and rest. Nature, with tireless ingenuity, everywhere publishes this fact: in bursting bud and falling seed, in the updrawn waters and the descending rain; throw a stone into the air, and when the impulse is exhausted, gravity brings it to earth again. In civilized society these centrifugal and centripetal forces find expression in the anarchic and radical spirit which breaks down and re-forms existing institutions, and in the conservative spirit which preserves and upbuilds by gradual accretion; they are analogous to igneous and to aqueous action in the formation and upbuilding of the earth itself, and find their prototype again in man and woman: man, the warrior, who prevails by the active exercise of his powers, and woman, "the treasury of the continued race," who conquers by continual quietness. Man and woman symbolize forces centrifugal and centripetal not alone in their inner nature, and in the social and economic functions peculiar to each, but in their physical aspects and peculiarities as well, for man is small of flank and broad of shoulder, with relatively large extremities, i.e., centrifugal: while woman is formed with broad hips, narrow shoulders, and small feet and hands, i.e., centripetal. Woman's instinctive and unconscious gestures are towards herself, man's are away from himself. The physiologist might hold that the anatomical differences between the sexes result from their difference in function in the reproduction and conservation of the race, and this is a true view, but the lesser truth need not necessarily exclude the greater. As Chesterton says, "Something in the evil spirit of our time forces people always to pretend to have found some material and mechanical explanation." Such would have us believe, with Schopenhauer and Bernard Shaw, that the lover's delight in the beauty of his mistress dwells solely in his instinctive perception of her fitness to be the mother of his child. This is undoubtedly a factor in the glamour woman casts on man, but there are other factors too, higher as well as lower, corresponding to different departments of our manifold nature. First of all, there is mere physical attraction: to the man physical, woman is a cup of delight; next, there is emotional love, whereby woman appeals through her need of protection, her power of tenderness; on the mental plane she is man's intellectual companion, his masculine reason would supplement itself with her feminine intuition; he recognizes in her an objectification, in some sort, of his own soul, his spirit's bride, predestined throughout the ages; while the god within him perceives her to be that portion of himself which he put forth before the world was, to be the mother, not alone of human children, but of all those myriad forms, within which entering, "as in a sheath, a knife," he becomes the Enjoyer, and realizes, vividly and concretely, his bliss, his wisdom, and his power.
Adam and Eve, and the tree in the midst of the garden! After man and woman, a tree is perhaps the most significant symbol in the world: every tree is the Tree of Life in the sense that it is a representation of universal becoming. To say that all things have for their mother prakriti, undifferentiated substance, and for their father purusha, the creative fire, is vague and metaphysical, and conveys little meaning to our image-bred, image-fed minds; on the physical plane we can only learn these transcendental truths by means of symbols, and so to each of us is given a human father and a human mother from whose relation to one another and to oneself may be learned our relation to nature, the universal mother, and to that immortal spirit which is the father of us all. We are given, moreover, the symbol of the tree, which, rooted in the earth, its mother, and nourished by her juices, strives ever upward towards its father, the sun. The mathematician may be able to demonstrate, as a result of a lifetime of hard thinking, that unity and infinity are but two aspects of one thing; this is not clear to ordinary minds, but made concrete in the tree—unity in the trunk, infinity in the foliage—any one is able to understand it. We perceive that all things grow as a tree grows, from unity to multiplicity, from simplicity and strength to beauty and fineness. The generation of the line from the point, the plane from the line, and from the plane, the solid, is a matter, again, which chiefly interests the geometrician, but the inevitable sequence stands revealed in seed, stem, leaf, and fruit: a point, a line, a surface, and a sphere. There is another order of truths, also, which a tree teaches: the renewal of its life each year is a symbol of the reincarnation of the soul, teaching that life is never-ending climax, and that what appears to be cessation is merely a change of state. A tree grows great by being firmly rooted; we too, though children of the air, need the earth, and grow by good deeds, hidden, like the roots of the tree, out of sight; for the tree, rain and sunshine: for the soul, tears and laughter thrill the imprisoned spirit into conscious life.
We love and understand the trees because we have ourselves passed through their evolution, and they survive in us still, for the arterial and nervous systems are trees, the roots of one in the heart, of the other in the brain. Has not our body its trunk, bearing aloft the head, like a flower: a cup to hold the precious juices of the brain? Has not that trunk its tapering limbs which ramify into hands and feet, and these into fingers and toes, after the manner of the twigs and branches of a tree?
Closely related to symbolism is sacramentalism; the man who sees nature as a book of symbols is likely to regard life as a sacrament. Because this is a point of view vitalizing to art let us glance at the sacramental life, divorced from the forms and observances of any specific religion.