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Essence of Architecture (Classic Reprint)

Essence of Architecture (Classic Reprint)

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Excerpt from Essence of Architecture

In each age and environment the reaction called Beauty has been accomplished by a distinct group of external influences. "Beauty is tested," Kuskin writes, "not by any fixed standard, but by the chances of association." To the negro the negro is beautiful, to the Celt the Celt, to the Eskimo the Eskimo. Familiarity is the basis of beauty in all its manifestations. Too much familiarity breeds contempt and the appeal of beauty disappears. On the other hand the appeal is never found at all in utter strangeness. That external influence which is in the main familiar but which has an clement of the new and strange in it - a touch of surprise - has the chief elements of beauty.

Chinese music when heard for the first time by a Westerner finds no responsive chord, but after many trials, the Western mind becomes familiar with its idiosyncrasies, and a pleasing reaction ensues.

Familiarity with the object of art is one thing. Familiarity with the art itself is quite another. A scholarly acquaintance with an art produces a very marked change in taste. Yet erudition alone is not sufficient to explain the practical universality of this change. If it were, change in taste would stop when progress in scholarly acquaintance with the art stopped. This is not what happens. Senses fed with an unvarying aesthetic formula lose their appetite. A study of the history of art shows that novelty must always be introduced, and that change is as vital and fundamental as any other element in Beauty. The layman remarks that it takes an artist to see anything in the new order of painting. The artist speaks patronizingly of his fellow artist who painted in the mode of twenty-five years ago. By the time the layman learns to appreciate a mode of art expression, the artist has come to deprecate it.

Ihe greatest art in the world is not imitated. Even though it is regarded with awe and admiration, it is not emulated.

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