It is improbable that more nonsense has been written about aesthetics than about anything else: the literature of the subject is not large enough for that (Clive Bell)


The Index is found here

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

John White: Present Problems

(this is chapter 17 of John White's "Birth and Rebirth of Pictorial Space".
Quoted text is in YELLOW.
Text quoted from other authors is in GREEN)

Ivon Hitchens (1893-1979)

The artists of today are still experimenting with the possibilities of artificial perspective, and still rediscovering those aspects of reality which led to the development of synthetic perspective. In some cases they're even using the latter as a whole, in its developed, curvilinear form.

For example, lyon Hitchins, many of whose works seemed to me to reflect a fully developed synthetic type of perspective, told me that as far as he was aware he had never read anything on the subject, but that he had, during a period of prolonged and intense observation, become aware objectively straight lines did in fact appear to him to be subtly curved, and that such observations formed the basis of these compositions.


White's final chapter only runs for 3 pages, includes no specific examples, and mentions only one artist (and even then, only in a footnote)

But I do appreciate the introduction to Ivon Hitchins.

How I wish there might be a special exhibit of Hitchins along with the watercolors of his near-contemporary, John Marin.

Once again, White discusses pictorial space as if it were primarily created and controlled by the treatment of straight lines and rectangular solids.

The already long list of artists who have used approximations to synthetic perspective lengthens continually with the passage of time. It reveals that although, for practical, as well as for aesthetic reasons, synthetic perspective has been relatively little used as a complete system, the ideas which led to its invention, and those which it subsequently inspired, have been a powerful factor in the history of European art throughout the last six centuries. Their influence upon the final flowering of antique design was hardly less extensive.

In much the same way, artificial perspective was, from its beginnings, as important when its rules were only partially applied, or else deliberately dislocated, as it was when it appeared as a complete, consistently executed system. The fact that so many sensitive artists of so many nationalities, at such widely separated periods of time, have tended to see artistic reality from a point of view that leads towards, or is dependent on one system or the other, seems to imply that any argument that denies the value of either may be more polemical than sound.

And so the book comes to end, with one final, passionate but polite, plea for the importance of theoretical systems of pictorial space.

But how many times has White suggested to us that artists have been working empirically rather than theoretically?

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