Mr. Richard Westmacott, B,A., in a recent lecture upon the above subject, said that the production of beauty in art depends much upon truth of proportion, and truth of proportion is governed by certain fixed laws, which, within certain lim- its, cannot be violated. For instance, there are certain proportions between parts of the bones in all human beings,which are, practically speaking, always the same, though masked more or less, sometimes, by the fleshy covering. He would illustrate this by first drawing a circle and bisecting it by a line. Then he would divide this line inside the circle into thre& equal, parts, denoted by the ends of lines 2, 3, and 4. In drawing a well-proportioned face, 3 would be the line of the eyes, 2 of the parting of the hair, and 4 of the end of the nose. By this rule the eyes always come at the center of the egg-shaped outline, between 1 and 5. This canon law of art holds good in the best of Grecian faces, and when it is departed from a little here and there, the faces will lose much of their ideal beauty, and look more like portraiture. The lecturer stated certain other rules as to the proportions of other parts of the human frame. He said that while in Rome, he and others devoted much attention to this subject of proportions, and talked it over at numerous meetings. Although every artist ought to know these rules,they should not follow them blindly, as it is impossible to produce fine works of art by mathematical laws Alone. The sculp ture of Egypt and Assyria was not fine art, for those who executed the work were bound down by such cottv?entiona rules that no improvement yas possible. The early Greeks, who, so far as he could ascertain, did not in any way get their first lessons in art front Assyria or Egypt, did not recognize portraiture as a branch of Bculpture. Their statues were all devoted to high religious and national purposes. Alexander the Great was the first to apply it to portraiture, and he did so out of personal vanity, in his desire to equal Jupiter Ammon. Until his time none but the features of the gods had been stamped upon the, coinage, and he seemed afraid to interfere with. the custom at once, for, the first time he altered thaheads upon the coins, he stamped upon them a kind of confusion between his own head and that of Jupiter Ammon. From that time art steadily declined. The car,ly Greeks jirst began art study 600 or 700 B.C., and in a little more than 150 years, made enormous projpgss, for, at about 450 B.C., in the time of Phidias, Grecian art waa perfection. Some of the works of this period are now in the British Museum, and he wished that, at stated hours, a lecturer or other competent teacher were present there to point out the -beauties of these works of antiquity., It ie one thing for the public to possess art treasures, and another thing to be able to appreciate them. The grand and noble school of Phidias, which was perfection, was succeeded by that of Praxiteles, whose figures were life itself, but who gave art a sensuous direction. He first introduced the partly draped female figure, but, under ccnsderable fear that the priests or the government would interfere. But they did not, and soon the drapery disappeared altogether, though works of fine art were still used only for the adornment of temples and other high purposes. Lastly, Alexander the Great, out of personal vanity, introduced portraiture, and from that time art declined, and has not altogether recovered since. Roman art was very poor, though, in all directions, Rome is and was rich in the finest art specimens, nearly all being the work of the Greeks. So little did the Romans understand the beauty of these works, that one of their emperors threatened, that if his subjects broke any of them in the carriage they should be compelled to make others like them. Had they attempted such a feat, the result would have been of a very distressing character. The lecturer said that, although native Roman art was always at a low ebb, it would not be fair to omit the statement, that several individuals in that nation gave encouragement to art. Among these were Csar and Hadri-an,the latter of whom tried to introduce Egyptian religion and sculpture into Italy. When, after the time of Alexander, art began to decline in Greece the sculptors migrated into other parts of Europe. In the- year 323 Con-stantine carried the seat of his empire, and a taste for art along with it, to Constantinople, and ornamented that city in a manner almost beyond conception. But Alaric, and other invaders, overthrew. the empire, and destroyed most of the beauties of Constantinople. After the time of Alexander, the 162 Great, art declined all over Europe. It never revived; for what is commonly called the revival of the fine. arts in Europe, was, in reality, a new birth. The early Christians, in their works of art.had a strong and obstinate prejudice against imitating, in any way, the beauty of form displayed in the works of the pagan Greeks, and they had neither the taste nor the ability for the accurate imitation of nature. Hence, 800 years after Christ, art in Europe was in a much lower state than it had been 300 years before his time. At last a quarrel broke out between the Eastern and Western Churches respecting the introduction of beautiful works of art into their temples. The Eastern Church objected to the innovation, and to this day, the art displayed in the Greek Church is of the most barbarous description. The Latin Church, however, gradually improved, and possessed specimens of very good art workmanship in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. These works are now plentiful in Italy, at Pisa and Florence. About the twelfth century Gothic architecture was introduced, but had not sufficient vitality, from intrinsic imperfections, to last more than 350 years. An attempt is now being made to re-introduce it into England, but the idea the lecturer thought to be as absurd as an attempt to bring ancient Assyrian art into fashion. An idea prevails in the minds of many people that ths Gothic is an essentially Christian style, whereas, it was completely unknown till Christianity had been in the world for 1200 years. Its figures are usually absurd and grotesque, representing busts supporting brackets and roofs, and water spouts carved to resemble monks or nuns. Its recumbent figures have their drapery arranged in straight lines like organ pipea.and the folds are just the same in the prostrate as in the standing figures. People speak of the purity of the Gothic, Taut the fact is that many Gothic carvings in old English churches are so blasphemous and indecent that the wood has had to be re-screwed in its place,face downward.or against the walls, and ometimeB the representations have had to be planed off or plastered over. He did not care about giving names, yet could mention many English churches wherein these works can now be seen. Asa milder specimen of grotesque Gothic carving, he called attention to a picture upon tho wall of a pew door from a church. It represented a bishop with the head of a fox watching birds and nondescript animals, while belowhis feet was a monkey roasting a sucking pig. No modern church would ever disgrace itself by such works of art. It fact, it is scandalous to say that, in these days, we must go back to the Goths to learn what art should be, and if people have a passion for imitating ancient art.they need not choose a bad school to copy, but go to the Greeks, who had a good one. St. Peters,and other churches in Rome, abound with very interesting specimens of ancient art, but the subjects are such as, in many cases, should never be introduced into a place of worship. They are not of a religious character, and he was glad that, in England, churches are not now adorned with similar figures to those prevalent in churches in the south of Italy.
This article was originally published with the title "Production of Beauty in Art"