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

Sargent, Irene
Indian basketry: its structure and decoration,   pp. 321-334 PDF (5.2 MB)


Page 322


INDIAN BASKETRY
which is the last evolutionary stage of the alligator design: the ser-
rated line standing for the spine of the animal, and the dots contained
within the points representing the scales of the hide. The case of
historical change, or progression: that is, the effort of the design to
adapt itself to material, may be illustrated by the lotus-flower, which,
in the Egyptian wall-paintings, appeared in a series of isolated units,
copied quite realistically from the plant, as it rose from the Nile. In
the first stage, the design was incomplete artistically, since it lacked
a
continuous base line; in the second stage, the missing element was
bestowed upon it by the Assyrians, who, as a people devoted to the
textile art, naturally added a connecting line between the units, in the
form of threads, or strands. Frequently, too, they inverted the de-
sign; using it as a fringe pattern, when the lotus flowers and buds
transformed their calyxes into tassels pendent from cords, which, in
the original pattern, were the plant stems.
    From these fragmentary illustrations it will be clear to the person
who has never given thought to the development of design, that the
decorative art of a highly civilized people is a very complex matter
whose complete solution would be an impossible task. But the sub-
ject, of much more general interest than would at first appear, is so
closely allied with every branch of race development, that it is worth
while to pursue it through its confusing mazes; always provided that
,the study be begun with the art of primitive peoples, since the less the
complication, the greater facility for a comprehensive survey. It
may be said in passing also that much respect should be paid to the
idea of independent discovery and development on the part of the
peoples studied, and that resemblances in design should more often
be attributed to necessities of material and structure, to notions of
symmetry inherent in the human being irrespective of race, rather
than to more or less direct or remote imitation, unless the transmission
of ideas can be easily established, as, for instance, in the case of the
Egyptians, Assyrians and Greeks, who form, as to their artistic devel-
opment, one unbroken series. Independence must necessarily char-
acterize all primitive expressions of the arts of design, since "orna-
ment is the first spiritual need of the barbarous man," who, compara-
tively isolated, and therefore more impulsive and sincere, follows his
own ideas for the pure pleasure that he derives from realizing them.
In this case, theory is sustained by fact, as it has been proven by thor-
322


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