The Sense of Form in Art: A Comparative Psychological Study

By H. Wolfflin; Alice Muehsam et al. | Go to book overview

II. REGULARITY AND ORDER

ALL ART, AS THE WORK OF MAN, is differentiated from nature by a conformity to laws which, while apparent in individual natural products (although never in pure form), is at all events lacking in nature as a whole. Against nature's arbitrariness, we set the order of art. Wherever trees stand in a straight row, there human hands have been at work; the freely growing wood knows no rules. Civilized man needs to establish himself in the world in orderly fashion--we could not live without straight lines and right angles.

But the other realm, the realm that is free and not subject to rules is, after all, not a bad thing either. Besides geometric order, there is free form which cannot be apprehended, it is true, in terms of laws, but which nevertheless is not the same as formlessness. Both the architectonic column and the natural tree have their beauty; but in the one it is the beauty of a life restrained by tectonic laws, in the other the beauty of free organic life.

The tastes of nations are divided with respect to the preference for either severe or free form. It is not that they one-sidedly recognize only one of the two kinds of beauty: it is simply a question of the relative value assigned to each. When we think of Italy, we see clearly that the principle of tectonic regularity predominated there to the same degree that the principle of free rhythmicality did in the North. The South read the column into the tree, the North the tree into the column. Thus, architecture was the leading art in Italy; and it can also be said that the painters of the Renaissance saw everything sub specie architecturae.

Although we hold architecture in general to be the art of rule and order, we can nevertheless draw a distinction between one rule and another. During the Italian Renaissance, the notion of rule was realized so decisively and consistently that, in comparison, the Ger-

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The Sense of Form in Art: A Comparative Psychological Study
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 1
  • Preface 3
  • Contents 7
  • List of Illustrations 8
  • Introduction 13
  • I. Form and Contour 21
  • Ii. Regularity and Order 87
  • Iii. the Whole and Its Parts 119
  • Iv. Relaxed Tension 150
  • V. Grandeur and Simplicity 166
  • Vi. Types and Generality 180
  • Vii. the Relief Conception 190
  • Viii. Clarity and the Subject in Art 202
  • Conclusion 224
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