CHAPTER III.

ORDER, CONFUSION, COUNTERACTION, PRINCIPALITY, SUBORDINATION, AND BALANCE IN CLASSIFICATION AND COMPOSITION

Order—

Follows Variety and Complexity, Owing to a Reassertion of the Mind’s requirements—

Confusion in Poetry, in Music, in the Arts of Sight—

Counteraction—

Its influence in classification—

In Art—

In Poetry—

In Music—

In the arts of sight—

Principality—

Connection between the Mental conception and the object Forming the Nucleus of the Class—

Balance—

Its relations to complement, counteraction, and symmetry—

To twin Products in Nature.

 

To attain unity of effect has been said to be the primary aim of all efforts at classification and art-composition.  When, owing to variety and complexity, this aim cannot be attained through a use of forms as they exist in nature, it must be attained through a method of using them; in other words, through order.  Order, in fact, cannot be defined better than by saying that it is an arrangement of factors in accordance with some apparent method.  No matter what the particular method is, so long as any is visible, order is visible.  A number of straight sticks thrown carelessly, one upon the other, and crossing at all conceivable angles, are usually in disorder, but if we make them parallel, either lying down or standing up; or make them cross or radiate at like angles or from like points,—in any such cases, though differently obtained, we have effects of order; and we could apply a similar

 

[The Genesis of Art-Form by G.L. Raymond, chapter III, page 034]


principle to the blending of colors or tones.  The important fact is that order is a result of method.  This being so, everything that is to follow in the present volume has to do with it as differently developed in different circumstances; and we need not stop to illustrate its general effects.

 

Notice, however, its relationship to the line of thought that is now being followed.  Order results from an assertion of the mind's requirements, notwithstanding opposing conditions of nature.  When, allowing to these, the effect of unity cannot be obtained—because it does not exist—in a likeness manifested in all the members of a class, the course pursued is something like this.  Thought contents itself with likeness manifested in a few forms, which are then grouped so as to emphasize their similarity.  The moment that this grouping is begun, there begins to be some order.  But only later does it come to have its perfect work.  Very soon slight differences are seen to separate even the members that at first seemed alike, while the differences that at first seemed to separate others are diminished. Finally, throughout all nature it is found that there are links enabling one to connect every class with  others on both sides of it, and thus to connect all possible classes together.  When an attempt is made to do this, the factors composing each class, and also the classes composing all those of nature, come to be grouped according to their degrees of difference in a regularly graded series.  We may express this fact by saying that the classes and the system of classification as a whole come to have group-form.  Only when this result is reached is the work of order completed.  Of course the same principle applies to the bringing together of the factors composing any given art-form.

 

[The Genesis of Art-Form by G.L. Raymond, chapter III, page 035]


When the conditions of nature necessitate such an effect of variety that there is no order, we have that lack of arrangement preceding and necessitating classification which is termed confusion.  But, because confusion exists in nature, it may sometimes be legitimately introduced into art.  It is this fact that in poetry justifies an occasional, but only an occasional, use, when demanded by confusion of thought, of mixed metaphors.  In these, terms rightly characterizing different objects or conditions which are compared, arc used when referring to the same object or condition.  Of course the effect conveyed is that the mind does not clearly distinguish the two but confuses them; e.g.:

 

Or take up arms against a sea of troubles,

And by opposing, end them.

Hamlet, iii, I: Shakespeare

 

So with ellipsis, in which a phrase or sentence, before being completed, is interrupted by another.  This causes the meanings of both to be confused; e.g.:

O life, life-breath,

Life-blood.—ere sleep come travail, life ere death.

This life stream on my soul, direct, oblique,

But always streaming. Hindrances? They pique—

Helps? Such…but why repeat, my soul o’ertops

Each height, than every depth profoundlier drops?

Enough that I can live and would live.  Wait

For some transcendent life reserved by Fate

To follow this.  O never.  Fate I trust

The same, my soul to; for, as who flings dust,

Perchance—so facile was the deed, she checked

The void with these materials to affect

My soul diversely—these consigned anew

To naught by death, what marvel if she threw

A second and superber spectacle

Before it?

                        --Sordello, book vi.: Browning

 

[The Genesis of Art-Form by G.L. Raymond, chapter III, page 036]


Broken rhythm in the same way illustrates confusion of form; e.g.:

 

Let me behold thy face. Surely this man

Was born of woman.

Forgive my general and exceptless rashness

You perpetual-sober gods.

Timon of Athens, w., 3: Shakespeare.                        

 

The same principle justifies in music the use of mere noise, as in the sounds of gongs, cymbals, drums, or of accompaniments or interruptions of any kinds, that introduce into the melody or harmony discrepancy or discord.  It justifies, in the arts of sight also, whether painting, sculpture, or architecture, the representation of the appearances on trees or vines of leaves and branches when they seem like mere daubs of color in the distance, also of wool on sheep, and of hair, if at all disordered, on the human head, as well as of mixed and broken effects of different patterns, sizes, and colors, in the wood, stone, and glass of lattice-work, masonry, and windows.  Notice the foliage covering the left wing of the “Chateau of Montigny,” Fig. 72, page 221, also some of the work in the “Ancient Koran Case,” Fig. 9, page 38, in the “Window of the Alhambra,” Fig. 74, page 225, and in the “Arch in the Aljaferia,” Fig. 96, page 290.

 

It is evident, however, that although a little confusion, like a little contrast, may sometimes, by way of variety, add greatly to the attractiveness of that with which it is associated, it nevertheless needs to be used in such a way as to suggest the dominance of unity and order.  How can this be done?  A little thought will reveal to us that, even in connection with confusion, order can manifest itself, and manifest itself clearly by way of counteraction. Nature, even to the primitive man, could not have seemed wholly

 

[The Genesis of Art-Form by G.L. Raymond, chapter III, page 037]


chaotic, from the moment that experience of night and day and seed-time and harvest had enabled him to recognize order behind them.  So an animated tangle of wool

 [click here to enlarge image]

Fig. 9 – Ancient Koran Case (Escurial Library, Spain.)
(See pages 37. 224.)

 

or hair does not have the effect of mere confusion, from the moment that a glimpse of a method of contour with which we are familiar shows that it belongs to the order

 

[The Genesis of Art-Form by G.L. Raymond, chapter III, page 038]


of the dog or the sheep. In such cases, recalling that both order and confusion are effects, we can say that what confusion or variety needs, before any effect of unity or order is produced, is counteraction. Carl Blanc, indeed, in the introduction to his “Art in Ornament and Dress,” termed it “balanced confusion.”  By this he means that which keeps confusion within the compass of some rhythm, tune, form, or color; and causes the whole, in spite of opposing elements, to manifest method.  If he applied his thought to music, he would mean that which causes gongs or drums to be struck so as to augment the rhythmic effect of the general movement. Applied to painting, at all events, he means that which causes tangled masses of wool, or foliage, to hang about animals, trees, or towers, in such ways as to introduce more or less variety into the order that in general characterizes them.  He means that which, through the use of a background of mathematical architectural forms, holds together and makes a unity of the otherwise confused groups of men in Raphael's “School of Athens.” See Fig. 10, page 41.  But the term balance, as we shall find hereafter, has a slightly different meaning from that which he assigns to it, while counteraction would answer all his purposes.

 

Counteraction, it is true, underlies balance; but it is a principle of different and broader applicability. We have noticed some of its uses in connection with confusion.  But these uses are as wide in their range as the whole field of art-production.  It is not too much to say that, without counteraction, it would be impossible to turn the formless confusion of nature into any art-forms whatever.  To go back to classification in order to show this, suppose that we are dealing with the bats.  They have hair, teeth, and other characteristics that make them

 

[The Genesis of Art-Form by G.L. Raymond, chapter III, page 039]


compare with the mice, or belong to that order; but besides this they have wings, and these cause them to contrast with the mice, and to be confused with the birds.  It is evidently appropriate to say that the two conditions counteract each other.

 

This fact, moreover, has other effects.  It gives a class, as a whole, a mixed character, which causes certain of its members to be allied not only to it, but to other classes, between which and it, therefore, these members serve as connecting links; as the bat does between the mammal and the bird, and, as the seal between the mammal and the fish.  It is counteraction, therefore, that enables us to perceive upon what other classes on different sides any given classes, metaphorically speaking, border.  It is this that enables us to assign limits or outlines to different groups, as well as to bring together those that are the most nearly related.  In other words, counteraction furnishes us with the first condition of that which, as applied, to individual or collective factors, we may term form.

 

This will appear more evident as we go on to consider counteraction in art-composition. Here it is manifested whenever we have in the same product or part of a product opposing effects. We have to show that these exist almost universally, and that, whenever found, they are necessary to the constitution of the form.  The fact that they exist is so patent that it is remarkable that more attention has not been directed to it.

 

Corresponding to the double character—spiritual and material—of all the phenomena of life, we find necessarily present in almost every sound, whether produced in nature or in art, syllables or notes of long and short duration, loud and soft force, upward and downward pitch,

 

[The Genesis of Art-Form by G.L. Raymond, chapter III, page 040]


 [click here to enlarge image]

Fig. 10 – School of Athens, by Raphael.
(See pages 39, 82, 242) 

[The Genesis of Art-Form by G.L. Raymond, chapter III, page 041]


and full and thin quality.  We find in almost every object of sight, lines of opposing length and shortness, perpendicularity and horizontality, curvature and straightness; and colors of opposing light and shade, gayety and graveness, brilliancy and dullness.  This is true not only of products considered in whole but in part. In a comic utterance of the expression “All I live by is the awl,” the latter single syllable contains opposing elements of sound of every possible variety—duration, force, pitch, and quality. And one can hardly paint a single plum hanging in the sunshine without something to suggest every possible opposing element of sight.

 

But to mention a few particulars, the measures of poetry and music owe their origin to a combination of accented and unaccented parts.  Without both of these they could not exist.  As a rule, too, they must manifest every possible kind of counteraction; contain, that is, both long and short, loud and soft, upward and downward, high and low, and full and thin tones.  Very often, too, in poetry, and almost invariably in music, successive phrases as they follow each other, also oppose each other in certain characteristics of their movements.

 

Notice how this is true in the following:

 

Or, if on joyful wing,

Cleaving the sky,

Sun, moon, and star forgot,

Upward I fly.

Nearer my God to thee: S.F. Adams.           

 

In music, most of us know what is meant by counterpoint, a form of composition which, for our present purposes, might be said to be a combination of opposing effects about a single point.  Most of us too are acquainted with the terms thesis and anti-thesis, strophe and

 

[The Genesis of Art-Form by G.L. Raymond, chapter III, page 042]


anti-strophe.  The very words suggest their relevancy in this connection.  The principle underlying them may be illustrated in the upward and downward movements that in the following are set to the successive and contrasting lines marked A and B or B+, and C, or C+.  This arrangement illustrates effects of counteraction, such as in this art are almost universal.

 

—Bethany: L. Mason.

[click here to enlarge image or click here to play music sample]

 

A corresponding fact is exemplified in products of the arts of sight. We can scarcely copy or originate a form in any of these without having it exemplify all the opposing possibilities of outline and hue.   Think of the innumerable deviations from straight lines to angles and curves in the contour of a single animal, and of the end-

 

[The Genesis of Art-Form by G.L. Raymond, chapter III, page 043]


less variety of the play of sunshine upon the colors of a single landscape.  This counteraction, moreover, is not only actual, but necessary.  It would be impossible for any visible object to have a definite shape unless there were at least two opposing tendencies of line giving it a contour and two of color giving it light and shade; and the same, as in poetry and music, is true of every part of the whole. This is so much more apparent here, than in the arts of sound, that there is no necessity of illustrating it.

 

In making a practical application of the requirements of order and of the methods associated with it, some member of a class is always considered first, after which are arranged in order second, third, fourth, and other members.  But of all these, the first is evidently the most important. It is the nucleus about which the others are grouped; and, theoretically considered, we should judge that it would be typical of them all.  Practically, too, it is so.  Classification is invariably begun by observing a few details characterizing some one form—say a palm-tree or a wolf—to which is given what is sometimes termed principality.  About this form are then grouped other forms, all of which are said to belong—as the case may be—to the palm family or the wolf family.

 

As preparatory to recognizing the exact analogy between this method and what is done in art-composition, it is important to recognize that, in connection with the observation of the object which forms the nucleus of the grouping, there inevitably arises in the mind a mental conception which becomes the ideal criterion to be applied to every member admitted to the class.  At first, however, this conception and the object are apprehended together in such a way that the mind cannot dissociate

 

[The Genesis of Art-Form by G.L. Raymond, chapter III, page 044]


the two.  In the case just mentioned, for instance, the conception of the palm or wolf is merely that which is represented in the form of this particular tree or animal, and vice versa.  So, as we shall find by and by, the conception of a theme in poetry, music, painting, sculpture, or architecture is virtually identical with a particular form apprehended by the mind.  When this form or, if it be only such, this feature is given principality, it follows, as an axiom, that all other forms or features associated with it must be given subordination.  This is so evident, and so evidently necessitated as a condition accompanying principality of any kind, that the statement needs no illustration.

 

Once more, wherever there is a principal factor and also a subordinate or many subordinate factors, the endeavor to arrange them together leads to a consideration of what is termed balance.  Balance is an effect of equilibrium obtained by arranging like features on both sides of a real or ideal centre.  It makes no difference whether they are alike in quantity, which is the first suggestion given by the word, or in quality,—in actuality or in mere appearance.  All that is necessary is that in some way they should be or seem alike.  In this regard balance differs from either complement or counteraction; for in both of these the essential consideration is unlikeness.  At the same time, all three have much in common.  One arm, for instance, thrust forward from a bending body and one leg thrust backward from it, may contrast strongly both in appearance and position; and in this regard may resemble complement.  Undoubtedly too they counteract each other.  But because they present an appearance of equilibrium in that like quantities seem to be on each side of the centre, our first thought is

 

[The Genesis of Art-Form by G.L. Raymond, chapter III, page 045]


not that they complement or counteract but that they balance.  Notice this too in the groupings in Fig. 49, page 161.

 

The close connection between these three, complement, counteraction, and balance, accounts for the fact that in ordinary language and conception they are not clearly distinguished.  Nor is it often important that they should be.  In one regard, at least, they are all alike.  They are all developments of the same principle.  Complement produces unity in a natural way from things different.  Counteraction  applies the principle underlying complement to things that are not complementary by nature, and produces, as we have seen, effects that are essential to the very existence of form.  Balance, going still farther, applies the same principle, to things that are neither complementary nor counteractive, in such a way as to give a more satisfactory appearance to the form by adding to it the effect of equilibrium.  A still later development of the same principle, preceding which, however, there need to be some intervening stages, results in symmetry.

 

In this regard these four, complement, counteraction, balance and symmetry, are related, as we shall find hereafter, in much the same way as are comparison, congruity, repetition, and consonance, as well as many other of the art-methods arranged in the same columns in the list on page 131.  Complement and balance are especially related because they are practically inseparable.   Between complements, as between red and blue-green, there is often great apparent difference, but at the same time, there must be a ground of resemblance.  Between balancing factors, as between red on one side of a picture and red also on its other side, there is usually great apparent likeness, but at the same time there is often a ground of difference. These being the conditions, the factors to which

 

[The Genesis of Art-Form by G.L. Raymond, chapter III, page 046]


 the one or the other term can apply, according as they are less or more alike, fluctuate all the way between two extremes, at one of which there is only complement and at the other only balance.  But where the two separate

 [click here to enlarge image]

Fig. 11 – Gate of Serrano, Valencia, Spain.
See pages 48, 79, 87, 96 

 it is impossible to determine. All that we can know definitely in that somewhere between the extremes, we are furnished with all the data necessary to explain any and all of the arrangements based upon the principle from which both spring.  For this reason, in giving illustrations

 

[The Genesis of Art-Form by G.L. Raymond, chapter III, page 047]


from the different arts, no endeavor need be made here to separate clearly those that exemplify complement from those that exemplify balance. The two terms will be used almost interchangeably, in recognition of the fact that sometimes that which the one represents, and sometimes that which the other represents, is most prominent; and that both are really necessary in order to account for all the conditions.   For instance, a desire to perceive effects of balance alone, as the word is ordinarily understood, does not fully explain why both in the external world and as represented in art, man derives satisfaction from twin trees, towers, houses, and figures of men and animals; as in Fig. 11, page 47; as well as in the “Investment of a Bishop by a King,” Fig. 25, page 80.  Read, too, what is said of a painting by Turner when illustrating repetition in connection with Fig. 66, page 203.  But the moment that we recall that nature is full of twin effects, some of them as unlike as a pair of chickens, some as like as a pair of sparrows, we see, sufficiently for our purpose, without making too nice distinctions, how, in the principle underlying both complement and balance, art got the warrant for its method.  The effects in nature illustrating this principle thus considered, too, may differ in almost all degrees possible.  They may be as unlike as heads and feet, or as the top and the bottom of a tree; or as alike as two eyes, ears, arms, and wings.  To the relations between some of them we should naturally apply the term balance; but it is not even questionable whether, had art not tendered it allowable, we should apply it in all cases.

 

In arranging principal, subordinate, and balancing factors, the principal and one or more of the subordinate are sometimes balanced; sometimes two or more of the sub-

 

[The Genesis of Art-Form by G.L. Raymond, chapter III, page 048]


 [click here to enlarge image]

Fig. 12 – The Church of the Sacred Heart, Montmartre, Paris.
(See pages 18, 50, 190, 264)

photo credit: Didier B (Wikimedia Commons)

 

[The Genesis of Art-Form by G.L. Raymond, chapter III, page 049]


ordinate; and sometimes both those conditions exist.  This general fact can scarcely fail to reveal itself to the most superficial glance at any art-product.  A few notes—only the suggestion, perhaps, of a melody—furnish a form and with it a principal theme expressive of some musical idea.  Other subordinate series of notes, supposed for some reason to be more or less like the first, or, if not, at least complementing, counteracting, or balancing it or each other, are arranged in order about it, and through the use of them is developed a work like a symphony. A few phrases containing certain accented and unaccented syllables, perhaps only one word like the “Nevermore” of Poe's “Raven,” furnish a form and with it a principal theme expressive of some poetic idea; and by a similar process there is developed a whole epic or lyric.  A few lines or colors constituting a face or feature, sometimes merely a flush, smile, or gesture full of grace and meaning, furnish a form and with it a principal theme suggestive of pictorial treatment; a few angles or arches constituting part of a door, a window, a gable, a tower, furnish the same, suggestive of architectural treatment, and from them in a similar way are developed a painting, a statue, a palace, a cathedral.  Notice how all the forms used in the interior of the “Church of the Sacred Heart,” of Paris (Fig. 12, page 49), are built upon the primitive conception in the Norman arch.

 

As with the other art-methods, these methods, too, are suggested by conditions found in nature.  In hearing the song of a bird or a man, we may observe chiefly the time filled by the different tones or their movements up and down the scale; in looking at a tree we may observe chiefly the outlines formed by its leaves, branches, or general contour, or by its color; but whatever we may

 

[The Genesis of Art-Form by G.L. Raymond, chapter III, page 050]


observe, it seems to be a law of the mind that usually only one of the many features perceived attracts special attention.  The fact that this is so, has much to do with causing the song or tree—notwithstanding the different effects of its component parts—to appear to be one thing and not many.   That which attracts special attention in these cases—whatever it may be—is that which seems to the observer to have principality. Everything else, of course, appears subordinate, while the degree in which all the factors together—whether principal or subordinate—blend so as to suggest the completeness or equilibrium of the whole gives the measure of the complement or balance.

 

[The Genesis of Art-Form by G.L. Raymond, chapter III, page 051]



Previous chapter (Chapter II)                       Home                 Next chapter (Chapter IV)