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Printing ceased to be an art at all, and the art of book decoration died
of neglect; the illustrator made his drawing without thought of the
type, and left it to the printer to pitch it into the text, and
reproduce it as best he could.

The low-water mark in artistic illustration was reached perhaps in the
early part of this century, and the greatest offender was Turner
himself. The illustrations which Turner made for Rogers's Poems show no
sort of modification of his habitual practice in painting. They may have
been beautiful in themselves, but it evidently never entered into
Turner's head that the method, which was admirable in a picture aided by
all the resources of colour, was beside the mark when applied to the
printed page with all the limitations of black and white and the simple
line. One looks in vain in Turner's illustrations for any evidence that
he was conscious of the existence of the rest of the page at all.
Something more than a landscape painter's knowledge of drawing is
necessary. The custom of getting illustrations from painters who have
little knowledge of decorative design has led to the invention of all
sorts of mechanical processes in order to transfer easel-work direct to
the printed page. The effect of this upon book decoration has been
deadly. Process-work of this sort has gone far to kill wood-engraving;
and as to its result, instead of a uniform texture of line woven as it
were over the entire page, the eye is arrested by harsh patches of black
or gray which show a disregard of the printed type which is little less
than brutal. Leaving recent work out of account, one exception only can
be made, and that is in the case of William Blake.

The inherent conditions of book decoration point to the line drawn by
hand, and reproduced, either by wood-engraving or by direct facsimile
process, as its proper method. Indeed, the ideal of paginal beauty would
be reached by leaving both the text and the illustrative design to hand,
if not to one hand. This, however, is out of the question; the cost
alone is prohibitive. The point for the book-decorator to consider is,
what sort of line will range best with the type. In the case of the
second division of our classification, which, in default of a better
name, may be called "record work," it is impossible to apply to the line
the amount of abstraction and selection which would be necessary in pure
design. To do so, for instance, in the case of an architectural
illustration, would destroy the "vraisemblance" which is of the essence
of such a drawing. Even in this case, however, the line ought to be very
carefully considered. It is important to recollect that the type
establishes a sort of scale of its own, and, taking ordinary lettering,
this would exclude very minute work where the lines are close together
and there is much cross-hatching; and also simple outline work such as
Retsch used to labour at, for the latter errs on the side of tenuity and
meagreness as much as process-reproduction of brush-work sins in the
opposite extreme. The line used in architectural illustration should be
free, accurate, and unfaltering, drawn with sufficient technical
knowledge of architecture to enable the draughtsman to know where he can
stop without injury to his subject. The line should not be obstinate,
but so light and subtle as to reflect without effort each thought that
flits across the artist's mind. Vierge has shown how much can be done in
this way. With a few free lines and the contrast of some dark piece of
shading in exactly the right place, he will often tell you more of a
subject than will the most elaborately finished picture. This is the
method to aim at in architectural illustration. The poetry of
architecture and its highest qualities of dignity of mass and outline
are smothered by that laborious accuracy which covers every part of the
drawing with a vain repetition of unfeeling lines.

Where, however, the illustration is purely imaginative, the decorative
standpoint should be kept steadily in view, and the process of selection
and abstraction carried very much farther. Here, at length, the
illustrator can so order his design that the drawing and the printed
type form a single piece of decoration, not disregarding the type, but
using it as in itself a means of obtaining texture and scale and
distributed effect. The type is, as it were, the technical datum of the
design, which determines the scale of the line to be used with it. With
a wiry type no doubt a wiry drawing is desirable, but the types of the
great periods of printing are firm in outline and large and ample in
distribution. Assuming, then, that one of these types can be used, the
line of the accompanying design should be strongly drawn, and designed
from end to end with full allowance for the white paper. No better model
can be followed than Dürer's woodcuts. The amount of work which Dürer
would get out of a single line is something extraordinary, and perhaps
to us impossible; for in view of our complex modern ideas and total
absence of tradition, probably no modern designer can hope to attain to
the great German's magnificent directness and tremendous intensity of
expression.

Deliberate selection, both in subject and treatment, becomes therefore a
matter of the first importance. The designer should reject subjects
which do not admit of a decorative treatment. His business is not with
science, or morals, but with art for its own sake; he should, therefore,
select his subject with a single eye to its artistic possibilities. As
to the line itself, it is impossible to offer any suggestion, for the
line used is as much a part of the designer's idea as the words of a
poem are of a poet's poetry; and the invention of these must come of
itself. But once in consciousness, the line must be put under rigid
control as simply a means of expression. There is an insidious danger in
the line. Designers sometimes seem to be inebriated with their own
cunning; they go on drawing line after line, apparently for the simple
pleasure of deftly placing them side by side, or at best to produce some
spurious imitation of texture. As soon as the line is made an end in
itself, it becomes a wearisome thing. The use of the line and the
imitation of texture should be absolutely subordinated to the decorative
purposes of the design, and the neglect of this rule is as bad art as if
a musician, from perverse delight in the intricacies of a fugue, were to
lose his theme in a chaos of counterpoint.

If, then, to conclude, we are to return to the best traditions of book
decoration, the artist must abandon the selfish isolation in which he
has hitherto worked. He must regard the printed type not as a necessary
evil, but as a valuable material for the decoration of the page, and
the type and the illustration should be considered in strict relation to
each other. This will involve a self-restraint far more rigid than any
required in etching, because the point to be aimed at is not so much the
direct suggestion of nature, as the best decorative treatment of the
line in relation to the entire page. Thus, to the skill of the
draughtsman must be added the far-seeing imagination of the designer,
which, instead of being content with a hole-and-corner success,
involving disgrace to the rest of the page, embraces in its
consciousness all the materials available for the beautification of the
page as a whole. It is only by this severe intellectual effort, by this
self-abnegation, by this ready acceptance of the union of the arts, that
the art of book illustration can again attain to a permanent value.

REGINALD BLOMFIELD.




OF DESIGNS AND WORKING DRAWINGS


The drawings which most deeply interest the workman are working
drawings - just the last to be appreciated by the public, because they
are the last to be understood. The most admired of show drawings are to
us craftsmen comparatively without interest. We recognise the
"competition" drawing at once; we see how it was made in order to secure
the commission, not with a view to its effect in execution (which is the
true and only end of a design), and we do not wonder at the failure of
competitions in general. For the man who cares least, if even he knows
at all, how a design will appear in execution is the most likely to
perpetrate a prettiness which may gain the favour of the inexpert, with
whom the selection is likely to rest.

The general public, and all in fact who are technically ignorant on the
subject, need to be warned that the most attractive and what are called
"taking" drawings are just those which are least likely to be
designs - still less _bonâ fide_ working drawings. The real workman has
not the time, even if he had the inclination, to "finish up" his
drawings to the point that is generally considered pleasing; the
inventive spirit has not the patience. We have each of us the failings
complementary to our faculties, and _vice versâ_; and you will usually
find - certainly it is my experience - that the makers of very
elaborately finished drawings seldom do anything but what we have often
seen before; and that men of any individuality, actual designers that is
to say, have a way of considering a drawing finished as soon as ever it
expresses what they mean.

You may take it, then, as a general rule that highly finished and
elaborate drawings are got up for show, "finished for exhibition" as
they say (in compliance with the supposed requirements of an exhibition
rather than with a view to practical purposes), and that drawings
completed only so far as is necessary, precise in their details,
disfigured by notes in writing, sections, and so on, are at least
genuine workaday designs.

If you ask what a design should be like - well, like a design. It is
altogether a different thing from a picture; it is almost the reverse of
it. Practically no man has, as I said, the leisure, even if he had the
ability, to make an effective finished picture of a thing yet to be
carried out - perhaps _not_ to be carried out. This last is a most
serious consideration for him, and may have a sad effect upon his work.
The artist who could afford thus to give himself away gratis would
certainly not do so; the man who might be willing to do it could not;
for if he has "got no work to do" - that is at least presumptive evidence
that he is not precisely a master of his craft.

The design that looks like a picture is likely to be at best a
reminiscence of something done before; and the more often it has been
done the more likely it is to be pictorially successful - and by so much
the less is it, strictly speaking, a design.

This applies especially to designs on a small scale, such as are
usually submitted to catch the rare commission. To imitate in a
full-sized cartoon the texture of material, the casualty of reflected
light, and other such accidents of effect, is sheer nonsense, and no
practical workman would think of such a thing. A painter put to the
uncongenial task of decorative design might be excused for attempting to
make his productions pass muster by workmanship excellent in itself,
although not in the least to the point: one does what one can, or what
one must; and if a man has a faculty he needs must show it. Only, the
perfection of painting will not, for all that, make design.

In the first small sketch-design, everything need not of course be
expressed; but it should be indicated - for the purpose is simply to
explain the scheme proposed: so much of pictorial representation as may
be necessary to that is desirable, and no more. It should be in the
nature of a diagram, specific enough to illustrate the idea and how it
is to be worked out. It ought by strict rights to commit one definitely
to a certain method of execution, as a written specification would; and
may often with advantage be helped out by written notes, which explain
more definitely than any pictorial rendering just how this is to be
wrought, that cast, the other chased, and so on, as the case may be.

Whatever the method of expression the artist may adopt, he should be
perfectly clear in his own mind how his design is to be worked out; and
he ought to make it clear also to any one with sufficient technical
knowledge to understand a drawing.

In the first sketch for a window, for example, he need not show every
lead and every piece of glass; but there should be no possible mistake
as to how it is to be glazed, or which is "painted" glass and which is
"mosaic." To omit the necessary bars in a sketch for glass seems to me a
weak concession to the prejudice of the public. One _may_ have to
concede such points sometimes; but the concession is due less to
necessity than to the - what shall we call it? - not perhaps exactly the
cowardice, but at all events the timidity, of the artist.

In a full-sized working drawing or cartoon everything material to the
design should be expressed, and that as definitely as possible. In a
cartoon for glass (to take again the same example) every lead-line
should be shown, as well as the saddle bars; to omit them is about as
excusable as it would be to leave out the sections from a design for
cabinet work. It is contended sometimes that such details are not
necessary, that the artist can bear all that in mind. Doubtless he can,
more or less; but I am inclined to believe more strongly in the _less_.
At any rate he will much more certainly have them in view whilst he
keeps them visibly before his eyes. One thing that deters him is the
fear of offending the client, who will not believe, when he sees leads
and bars in a drawing, how little they are likely to assert themselves
in the glass.

Very much the same thing applies to designs and working drawings
generally. A thorough craftsman never suggests a form or colour without
realising in his own mind how he will be able to get such form or colour
in the actual work; and in his working drawing he explains that fully,
making allowance even for some not impossible dulness of apprehension on
the part of the executant. Thus, if a pattern is to be woven he
indicates the cards to be employed, he arranges what parts are
"single," what "double," as the weavers call it, what changes in the
shuttle are proposed, and by the crossing of which threads certain
intermediate tints are to be obtained.

Or again, if the design is for wall-paper printing, he arranges not only
for the blocks, but the order in which they shall be printed; and
provides for possible printing in "flock," or for the printing of one
transparent colour over another, so as to get more colours than there
are blocks used, and so on.

In either case, too, he shows quite plainly the limits of each colour,
not so much seeking the softness of effect which is his ultimate aim, as
the precision which will enable the block or card cutter to see at a
glance what he means, - even at the risk of a certain hardness in his
drawing; for the drawing is in itself of no account; it is only the
means to an end; and his end is the stuff, the paper, or whatever it
may be, in execution.

A workman intent on his design will sacrifice his drawing to it - harden
it, as I said, for the sake of emphasis, annotate it, patch it, cut it
up into pieces to prove it, if need be do anything to make his meaning
clear to the workman who comes after him. It is as a rule only the
dilettante who is dainty about preserving his drawings.

To an artist very much in repute there may be some temptation to be
careful of his designs, and to elaborate them (himself, or by the hands
of his assistants), because, so finished, they have a commercial value
as drawings - but this is at best pot-boiling; and the only men who are
subject to this temptation are just those who might be proof against it.
Men of such rank that even their working drawings are in demand have no
very urgent need to work for the pot; and the working drawings of men
to whom pounds and shillings must needs be a real consideration are not
sought after.

In the case of very smart and highly finished drawings by comparatively
unknown designers - of ninety-nine out of a hundred, that is to say, or
nine hundred and ninety-nine out of a thousand perhaps - elaboration
implies either that, having little to say, a man fills up his time in
saying it at unnecessary length, or that he is working for exhibition.

And why not work for exhibition? it may be asked. There is a simple
answer to that: The exhibition pitch is in much too high a key, and in
the long run it will ruin the faculty of the workman who adopts it.

It is only fair to admit that an exhibition of fragmentary and
unfinished drawings, soiled, tattered, and torn, as they almost
invariably come from the workshop or factory, would make a very poor
show - which may be an argument against exhibiting them at all. Certainly
it is a reason for mending, cleaning, and mounting them, and putting
them in some sort of frame (for what is not worth the pains of making
presentable is not worth showing), but that is a very different thing
from working designs up to picture pitch.

When all is said, designs, if exhibited, appeal primarily to designers.
_We_ all want to see each other's work, and especially each other's way
of working; but it should not be altogether uninteresting to the
intelligent amateur to see what working drawings are, and to compare
them with the kind of specious competition drawings by which he is so
apt to be misled.

LEWIS F. DAY.




FURNITURE AND THE ROOM


The art of furnishing runs on two wheels - the room and the furniture. As
in the bicycle, the inordinate development of one wheel at the expense
of its colleague has been not without some great feats, yet too often
has provoked catastrophe; so furnishing makes safest progression when,
with a juster proportion, its two wheels are kept to moderate and
uniform diameters. The room should be for the furniture just as much as
the furniture for the room.

Of late it has not been so; we have been indulging in the
"disproportionately wheeled" type, and the result has been to crowd our
rooms, and reduce them to insignificance. Even locomotion in them is
often embarrassing, especially when the upholsterer has been allowed
_carte blanche_. But, apart from this, there is a sense of repletion in
these masses of chattel - miscellanies brought together with no
subordination to each other, or to the effect of the room as a whole.
Taken in the single piece, our furniture is sometimes not without its
merit, but it is rarely exempt from self-assertion, or, to use a slang
term, "fussiness." And an aggregation of "fussinesses" becomes
fatiguing. One is betrayed into uncivilised longings for the workhouse,
or even the convict's cell, the simplicity of bare boards and tables!

But we must not use our dictum for aggressive purposes merely, faulty
as modern systems may be. In the distinction of the two sides of the
problem of furnishing - the room for the furniture, and the furniture for
the room - there is some historical significance. Under these titles
might be written respectively the first and last chapters in the history
of this art - its rise and its decadence.

Furniture in the embryonic state of chests, which held the possessions
of early times, and served, as they moved from place to place, for
tables, chairs, and wardrobes, may have been in existence while the
tents and sheds which accommodated them were of less value. But
furnishing began with settled architecture, when the room grew first
into importance, and overshadowed its contents. The art of the builder
had soared far beyond the ambitions of the furnisher.

Later, the two constituents of our art came to be produced
simultaneously, and under one impulse of design. The room, whether
church or hall, had now its specific furniture. In the former this was
adapted for ritual, in the latter for feasting; but in both the contents
formed in idea an integral part of the interior in which they stood. And
while these conditions endured, the art was in its palmy state.

Later, furniture came to be considered apart from its position. It grew
fanciful and fortuitous. The problem of fitting it to the room was no
problem at all while both sprang from a common conception: it became so
when its independent design, at first a foible of luxury, grew to be a
necessity of production. As long, however, as architecture remained
dominant, and painting and sculpture were its acknowledged vassals,
furniture retained its legitimate position and shared in their triumphs.
But when these the elder sisters shook off their allegiance, furniture
followed suit. It developed the self-assertion of which we have spoken,
and, in the belief that it could stand alone, divorced itself from that
support which was the final cause of its existence. There have been
doubtless many slackenings and tightenings of the chain which links the
arts of design together; but it is to be noted how with each slackening
furniture grew gorgeous and artificial, failed to sympathise with common
needs, and sank slowly but surely into feebleness and insipidity.

We had passed through some such cycle by the middle of this century.
With the dissolution of old ties the majority of the decorative arts had
perished. Painting remained to us, arrogating to herself the rôle which
hitherto the whole company had combined to make successful. In her
struggle to fill the giant's robe, she has run unresistingly in the ruts
of the age. She has crowded her portable canvases, side by side, into
exhibitions and galleries, and claimed the title of art for literary
rather than æsthetic suggestions. The minor coquetries of craftsmanship,
from which once was nourished the burly strength of art, have felt out
of place in such illustrious company. So we have the forced art of
public display, but it has ceased to be the habit in which our common
rooms and homely walls could be dressed.

The attendant symptom has been the loss from our houses of all that
architectural amalgam, which in former times blended the structure with
its contents, the screens and panellings, which, half room, half
furniture, cemented the one to the other. The eighteenth century carried
on the tradition to a great extent with plinth and dado, cornice and
encrusted ceiling; but by the middle of the nineteenth we had our
interiors handed over to us by the architect almost completely void of
architectural feature. We are asked to take as a substitute, what is
naïvely called "decoration," two coats of paint, and a veneer of
machine-printed wall-papers.

In this progress of obliteration an important factor has been the
increasing brevity of our tenures. Three or four times in twenty years
the outgoing tenant will make good his dilapidations, and the
house-agent will put the premises into tenantable repair - as these
things are settled for us by lawyers and surveyors. After a series of
such processes, what can remain of internal architecture? Can there be
left even a room worth furnishing, in the true sense of the term? The
first step to render it so must usually be the obliteration of as much
as possible of the maimed and distorted construction, which our
leasehold house offers.

What wonder, then, if furniture, beginning again to account herself an
art, should have transgressed her limits and invaded the room? Ceilings,
walls and floors, chimneypieces, grates, doors and windows, all nowadays
come into the hands of the artistic furnisher, and are at the mercy of
upholsterers and cabinetmakers to begin with, and of the
antiquity-collector to follow. Then we bring in our gardens, and finish
off our drawing-room as a mixture of a conservatory and a bric-à-brac
shop.

The fashion for archæological mimicry has been another pitfall. The
attempt to bring back art by complete reproductions of old-day
furnishings has been much the vogue abroad. The Parisians distinguish
many styles and affect to carry them out in every detail. The Americans
have copied Paris, and we have done a little ourselves. But the weak
element in all this is, that the occupier of these mediæval or classic
apartments remains still the nineteenth-century embodiment, which we
meet in railway carriage and omnibus. We cannot be cultured Epicureans
in a drawing-room of the Roman Empire, and by the opening of a door walk
as Flemish Burgomasters into our libraries. The heart of the age will
mould its productions irrespective of fashion or archæology, and such
miserable shams fail to reach it.

If we, who live in this century, can at all ourselves appraise the
position, its most essential characteristic in its bearing upon art has


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