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The craftsman
Vol. VII, No. 3 (December 1904)

Stickley, Gustav
From ugliness to beauty,   pp. 310-320 PDF (4.0 MB)

Page 310

            ITH more than a semblance of justice, it may be con-
Itended that beauty and ugliness are relative terms: their
Idefinition differing with stages of civilization, among
Iraces of equal culture at the same period, and even among
             individuals of the same class. But admitting these state-
             ments to be partial truths, the subject is still open to dis-
 cussion. The idea of beauty seeks satisfaction among all peoples, as
 soon as the first physical necessities are satisfied. The savage crudely
 adorns his person, his weapons and his utensils. The barbarous man
 follows, better able to express himself artistically, because better con-
 nection exists between his brain and his hand; because, also, his own
 impressions of the world about him are more precise and mature.
 His needs are comparatively few. The materials ready at his hand
 are restricted in number. He has no artificial wants. But with his
 advancement from the savage state, his desire for beauty in his belong-
 ings and surroundings has kept pace. The objects which he creates
 are too near the period of their origin to disguise their structural qual-
 ities. They are ornamented in a way which excites no comment;
 which appears natural and fitting, because it is adapted to the thing
 and the substance on which it is wrought; because it has not suffered
 and lost in its migrations from article to article, and its transference
 from medium to medium. The barbarian finally arrives at civiliza-
 tion. Primitive passions weaken and self-indulgence develops with
 alarming rapidity. The dwelling reflects the character of its inmate.
 Superfluity spreads everywhere like a noxious parasite to sap, blight
 and drain the vitality upon which it feeds. But after the passage of
 much time, the parasitic growth is uprooted and cast away, as royalty
 and nobility were thrown down in the "terrible year" of France.
 Revolution is as sure in the world of art as in the world of politics. It
 is now in. progress, and it will end by setting up for intelligent worship
 the real "Goddess of Reason." The spiral line is the line of advance,
 and art is turning backward upon itself: as the French say, "recoiling
 the better to spring forward." It is returning to the old frankness
 expression, the primitive emphasis upon structure, the natural adap-
 tation of ornament to material; returning not to the old point of depar-
 ture, but to one corresponding to it on a higher plane of progress.

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