Dynamic Symmetry: The Greek Vase

Dynamic Symmetry: The Greek Vase

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Dynamic Symmetry: The Greek Vase

Dynamic Symmetry: The Greek Vase

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Excerpt

Some twenty years ago, the writer, being impressed by the incoherence of modern design and convinced that there must exist in nature some correlating principle which could give artists a control of areas, undertoook a comparative study of the bases of all design, both in nature and in art. This labor resulted in the determination of two types of symmetry or proportion, one of which possessed qualities of activity, the other of passivity. For convenience, the active type was termed dynamic symmetry, the other, static symmetry. It was found that the passive was the type which was employed most naturally by artists, either consciously or unconsciously; in fact, no design which would be recognized as such--unless, indeed, it were dynamic--would be possible without the use, in some degree, of this passive or static type. It is apparent in nature in certain crystal forms, radiolaria, diatoms, flowers and seed pods, and has been used consciously in art at several periods.

The principle of dynamic symmetry is manifest in shell growth and in leaf distribution in plants. A study of the basis of design in art shows that this active symmetry was known to but two peoples, the Egyptians and the Greeks; the latter only having developed its full possibilities for purposes of art. The writer believes that he has now recovered, through study of natural form and shapes in Greek and Egyptian art, this principle for the proportioning of areas.

As static symmetry is more or less known and its principles easily understood, its explanation will be reserved for a chapter at the end of this book. Dynamic symmetry, on the contrary, is entirely unrecognized in modern times. It is more subtle and more vital than static symmetry and is pre-eminently the form to be employed by the artist, architect and craftsman. After an explanation of the fundamental principles of this method of proportioning spaces, the writer will attempt a complete exposition of its application in art through analyses of specific examples of Greek design. He believes that nothing better can be found for this purpose than Greek pottery, inasmuch as it is the only pottery which is absolutely architectural in all its elements. There is no essential difference between the plan of a Greek vase and the plan of a Greek temple or theater, either in general aspect, or in detail. The curves found in Greek pottery are identical with the curves of mouldings found in Greek temples. There are comparatively few temples and theaters, while there are many thousands of vases, many of these being perfectly preserved. Other reliable material for study is furnished by the bas-relief of Egypt, many of which, like the vases of Greece, are still intact.

The history of dynamic symmetry may be given in a few words: at a very . . .

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