CENTRAL-POINT, SETTING, PARALLELISM, AND SYMMETRY
Especial importance of arrangement in the composition of features alike by way of congruity
Connection between this fact and the methods now to be considered
Difficulty of determining the term central point, and objections to other terms
Appropriateness of this
Same difficulties and objections to terms for the second method
Appropriateness of the term setting
Connections between central-point and principality, and setting and subordination
Symmetry and its connection with the methods preceding it
how nature suggests these methods: the vanishing point and radiation or central-point
laws of linear perspective
radiation allied to principality and unity
setting in nature
parallelism in lines of horizon, rivers, hills, trees, etc.
manifestation in individual forms of nature, of central-point, setting, parallelism and symmetry.
We have found that the object of congruity is to produce like effects upon thought; and that it is attained, largely, by means of objects in themselves unlike. It is in these circumstances, particularly, that they need to be made to seem alike by methods of composition. If, for instance, there is into relationship in appearance between a man, a horse, a dog, a sheep, a tree, and a bush, all of which, nevertheless have to be brought together, it is more important than when they are alike by way of repetition or consonance that a relationship should be created between them by the way in which they are arranged. In accordance with this conception, the methods of securing order, to be next considered here, as those most
[The Genesis of Art-Form by G.L. Raymond, chapter X, page 150]
nearly connected with congruity, are such as have to do with dividing up the time and space occupied by congruous or incongruous features in ways intended to produce effects of likeness, in spite of opposing suggestions in the forms. It will be found, for instance, that by distributing objects of sound or sight on lines, real or ideal, meeting at a central-point, or, in some regular way, upon lines which furnish a setting for this, all the features of a composition. can be made to become, in almost equal degrees, factors of the same general effect. So, by adjustments of a composition, a relationship by means of parallelism may be created, say, between the sound of a trumpet or a flute and the rattle of a drum, or between the body of a horse and the road over which he moves; or between the forms of bushes and of the robes of men, although, at the same time, none of these things, when compared, are sufficiently alike in themselves to be grouped distinctively by way of repetition or consonance. The same is true, too, of the representation of the balancing of the outlines or accents of many different features, some of them essentially in essence, which we find in symmetry. Artistic arrangements of a composition, therefore, intended to secure effects according to the methods that we are now to consider, are especially important when like is put with like by way of congruity.
Before we go on, an explanation is needed of the terms to be employed here. It has been difficult to decide upon the first two of these. Radiation, ordinarily used for a part, at least, of what is here meant by central-point is, for the purpose, in one sense, too narrow, and in another too broad. It signifies the concentration of lines at one centre, or of light at one focus; but it fails to apply, except very metaphorically, to the concentration of words or
[The Genesis of Art-Form by G.L. Raymond, chapter X, page 151]
tones. Besides this, it signifies rather dispersion, or movement from a centre, than concentration, or movement to it. We might, therefore, use the term concentration; but this is already in use, and often, too, in order to designate something entirely differentthat which is meant by massing.
Convergence, again, is a term that might be used. But thisand the same might be said of all the other terms suggestedemphasizes less than seems desirable the production in a composition of not many effects of this kind, but of a single effect. For such reasons a term less likely to be misunderstood, and at the same time inclusive of all that is intended, seems to be afforded in central-point.
Point is a word that is used when referring both to sights and sounds; and central-point includes all that can be signified by either radiation, concentration, or convergence, with much more besides. Moreover, the method to which it is to be applied, as may be seen by glancing at the scheme on page 131, is that which gives principality to effects of congruity; in other words, to effects produced upon thought. What term could better indicate these? When we speak of the point of a story or picture, to what do we refer but to the effect upon our thoughts produced by the way in which the ideas that are illustrated in each are brought to a centre or focus? Let us use this term, then, for the method through which this end is attained. With all due acknowledgment, too, of the subordinate importance in general of mere terminology, here seems to be an exception to the rule. It would be not a slight but a great gain for art, were it universally recognized, as it should be, that an essential condition of successful arrangement in a composition, is to bring not only all its factors, but also, through them, all the thought behind its factors to a point, and this, too, a central-point.
[The Genesis of Art-Form by G.L. Raymond, chapter X, page 152]
The second method is, in itself, easy enough to understand. We are all familiar with its effects. The difficulty is to find a term, appropriate for it, which has not already so many other uses as to deprive it of definite applicability here. As central-point implies bringing things to a centre, we might suppose that the antithetic condition could be expressed by circumference, contour, or outline. But these words are too limited in meaning; and although terms like relief, surrounding, environment, digressiveness, excursiveness, embellishment, circumstances might answer the purpose, they already have meanings which make them suggest something a little different from that for which we are now in search.
On the whole, the word setting seems to meet the requirements better than any other. Meaning that which encases or surrounds an object of chief interest, like a gem, it suggests an appropriate antithesis to central-point; and while it may refer to outlines constituting a contour, it may refer also to many other and very different things between the contour and the centre. It has, therefore, the breadth of meaning that is desirable in a word to be used in this connection. Besides this, like point, it is already employed in the arts both of sound and of sight, and in both is applied to relations of thought as well as of form. We speak of the setting of, a story or of a melody, meaning its accompaniment, almost as frequently as of that of a play or a picture; and this setting of the storyand the same analogy holds good in the other casesmay mean either the thoughts and feelings that it is made to suggest, the spiritual atmosphere, as we sometimes call it, surrounding the whole; or the form in which it is presented,if this be of verse, the form of verse employed.
Setting, moreover, is allied, to subordination, just as
[The Genesis of Art-Form by G.L. Raymond, chapter X, page 153]
central-point is to principality. [footnote 1] As a rule, it is a principal consideration that appearances should have a centre; and at this, too, is usually their principal feature. The setting is a subordinate consideration. Many objects in nature, like smoke, clouds, and distant hills and mountains, melt into surrounding objects by such imperceptible degrees that, at a little distance from what, as related to our point of view, is their centre, they become indistinguishable; but we should not recognize that they existed at all, could we not perceive the latter.
A line, as long as it continues equidistant from another line having the same direction as itself, is parallel to it. We apply the term chiefly to straight lines; but it need not be restricted to these. Series of circles, too, described about a common centre are parallel. Nor need the term be confined even to lines. As will be shown presently, it has been used for centuries to signify any effects, whether of sight or sound, that are analogous to those of lines thus related.
The same relation that central-point sustains to principality and setting to subordination, parallelism evidently sustains to complement, and, in case the parallelism be between features on either side of a common middle or centre, to balance. [footnote 1] The latter, as thus produced, needs only to be developed, and it becomes symmetry. [footnote 1] This results when either curved or straight outlines describing a figure are so disposed that if, by a straight line passing perpendicularly through its middle, it be divided into two parts, these parts, when one is folded over the other, will everywhere coincide. Symmetry, therefore, is an effect produced by a figure when all its parts on one side of a line drawn per-
[footnote 1] Compare what is said here with the arrangement of methods on page 131.
[The Genesis of Art-Form by G.L. Raymond, chapter X, page 154]
pendicularly through its central-point balance those on the other side of this line. In other words, as stated in Chapter III., the method involves the principle of complement or balance made applicable not to a few but to all the factors of a composition. For this reason, it involves also the contemplation of figures as wholes; and, in connection with this, as follows naturally, it is universally acknowledged to be realized in perfection in the degree in which objects in nature or art possess, like living creatures, perfectly organized forms. Like central-point, setting, and parallelism, the term symmetry, too, is applied metaphorically to effects of thought as well as of form. A conception viewed only as such, in which the ideas presented are perfectly organized and balanced at every point, for this reason alone is said to have symmetry. Notice, however, that, when considered as an effect either of form or of thought, this kind of balance of all the factors cannot be completely manifested except in connection, by way of suggestion, if no more, with central-point, setting, and parallelism, from a combination of all of which, therefore, it is developed. In fact, as the necessity for these arises in a comprehensive combination of the congruous and incongruous, symmetry, as a method of organizing form, may be said to be connected logically with them also, and therefore with all the six methods preceding it in the list on page 131.
To recapitulate, central-point, setting, parallelism, and symmetry may, all of them, as primarily used with reference to lines, be said to have to do with direction. Lines extending through space may converge at a common point or centre, and thus radiate; or they may be described in such ways as to form a setting for the centre; or, whether doing this or not, they may coincide in their directions and be parallel; or several lines may do all
[The Genesis of Art-Form by G.L. Raymond, chapter X, page 155]
these things in a similar way as related to the same centre or center line, and so cause a figure to have symmetry.
Now let us consider, for a little, certain correspondences between these methods, as used in art, and the methods in which different objects are seen to be arranged in nature, which, in this as in every regard, is the teacher of art. Central-point, setting, parallelism, and symmetry are all illustrated, almost without exception, in every view of the world about us that the eye can see. It is scarcely just, then, to term them tricks of composition, as is sometimes done by those who have never come to recognize the connection between them and the conditions of nature. Even Corot, who, on account of selecting for representation certain effects of color not unnatural but not previously studied, is supposed to have been especially free from slavery to established methods of composition, did not disregard those that we are now considering. No effects of radiation and parallelism as produced by Claude (see Fig. 40, page 119), or Turner (see Fig. 51, page 175), could be more marked than the same as produced by Corot in Fig. 47, page 157, or even in Fig. 7.3, page 223.
But to be more specific, central-point, as used in art, is merely a developmentsometimes, as is the case with many effects in art, an excessive developmentof the natural fact that an object in the extreme distance is always related to an object nearer us in such a way that, if there were parallel lines drawn between the two, and extended far enough into space, such lines would meet in the distance and form a point. For instance, to one looking down a long street, or the tracks of a railway, the lines formed by the sidewalks and foundations and roofs of the houses, if they be of equal height, or of the two or more tracks of the railway, all converge in the distance, and,
[The Genesis of Art-Form by G.L. Raymond, chapter X, page 156]
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Fig. 47 The Canal, by Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot
[The Genesis of Art-Form by G.L. Raymond, chapter X, page 157]
though not actually meeting, suggest that they would meet, could a man see far enough. The point where, if extended, they would meet, is what the painter calls the vanishing point, and if he wishes to be mathematically exact in determining the sizes of his figures as represented at a certain distance, he will do so by drawing converging lines from the top, bottom, and sides of a like figure in the foreground, and making these, where they cross the place in which the figure is to be represented, measure the height and breadth. (See the trees in Fig. 47, page 157.)
This principle, as applied to art, is the basis of the laws of linear perspective. When carried out in a painting it makes all the objects represented appear to sustain the same relations to each other as in nature. Besides this, moreoverand here is the connection of the principle with our present subjectit can make all these objects sustain subordinate relations to one object of interest which, being in front of the vanishing point from which all the lines ideally radiate, necessarily suggests that everything is pointing toward it; and that it therefore was the principal object of consideration in the mind of him who produced the picturethe object at which, when painting, he was directly looking (see Fig. 50, page 173.) Thus we see how central-point, as indicated by radiation, augments the effect of principality.
But besides having a point which is a centre of radiation, and therefore of principal importance, all views in nature have that which augments the effect of subordination. It is found in the outlines which form the setting of this centre, outlines often dim and vague because of their distance in the background, but by which it is made clear, at least, that the range of vision, as well
[The Genesis of Art-Form by G.L. Raymond, chapter X, page 158]
as the lines of radiation, are brought to an end. It is interesting to notice, too, that the extreme limits of these outlines, as in those of the horizon and zenith not only, but also in the contour of any field of vision that can be comprehended in a single glance of the eye, are necessarily circular. This furnishes an additional reason for the use of the arched, or semi-arched, or oval contour, noticed on page 115, as so frequently suggested by the arrangements of figures in groups.
Once more, in addition to having a vanishing point which is a centre of radiation, and outlines that give this a setting, every view of nature has a horizon line, and with this usually a large number of lines parallel to it, described, if in a sea view, by the caps of the waves; if in a land view, by the bank-lines of rivers, by the tops of forests, by the ridges of hills, or by the snow-lines of mountains. Besides this, moreover, the view necessarily includes parallel upright directions taken by the trunks of trees and plants, not to speak of the necessary parallelism wherever stand human beings, or their buildings. See Figs. 47, page 157, [Fig.] 51, page 175,and [Fig.] 66, page 203.
Besides being exemplified in the arrangements, as related to each other, of all the forms made visible in a whole field of vision, the same methods, augmented usually, in this case, by those of symmetry, are exemplified in the arrangements by which the features of every single form are related. Whether we study the veinings of a leaf, or the branches of a tree, the adjustment of the nerves, veins, or muscles of any living creature, or of the hands, feet, and limbs of a man, we find in all a tendency toward radiation. Sometimes the limbs on each side of a tree diverge from a point in its trunk; sometimes, apparently, from a point on the opposite side of the tree
[The Genesis of Art-Form by G.L. Raymond, chapter X, page 159]
from that on which they are situated. As Ruskin says in his Elements of Drawing, Letter III., from which this Fig. 48 is taken, there are any number of places where ideally the centres of radiation may be; but that they are somewhere, the slightest examination will usually reveal. To such an extent at least is this true, that no one can question the statement that the limbs of almost all plants and animals, each in a way peculiar to itself, have a tendency to radiate from the body to which they belong. This is a fact of nature to which we have become accustomed. Notice now that, as a result of this fact,
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Fig. 48 Radiation in natural forms.
the mind, whenever it perceives any features, and not only so, but any objects whatever, arranged on lines radiating thus, is prompted to infer, in fulfilment of the law of association, that they are organically connected both with each other and with that in which the lines of radiation converge. Accordingly the use of these lines enhances the effect not only of principality, as already indicated, but also of organic form and unity.
The same general principle applies to setting, parallelism, and symmetry. We use them to secure unity in an art-product, because we have become familiar with them in connection with the same effect in a product of nature.
[The Genesis of Art-Form by G.L. Raymond, chapter X, page 160]
In a leaf or limb, for instance, whatever lines radiating from a centre it contains are usually ended by a setting of other lines described about this, and necessarily so by the lines of contour, which alone, as a rule, enable us to recognize that the object described by them is a single object. Scarcely less common than either of these methods, and often very closely related to both, is parallelism.
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Fig. 49 Japanese compositions.
In some trees, branches that begin by radiating become parallel soon, and continue so to their ends. In others, as in pines, parallelism seems to take the place of radiation altogether; and although radiation has been said to be exemplified in the arrangements of the nerves and muscles in the bodies of men and animals, nevertheless the arms, legs, fingers, toes, claws, as well as the two limiting sides of these separate members, and of the body as a whole, furnish examples of parallelism. As a rule, too, the way in which all the features on either side of a common middle, whether in the trunk of an animate or inanimate object, balance each other, illustrates symmetry.
No people, perhaps, apply the methods treated in this chapter more artistically than the Japanese, though often represented as ignoring them. Notice proofs of this in all four compositions in Fig. 49, re[pro]duced from Fine Art Pictures, a Tokyo publication, by Katsugaro Yenouge.
[The Genesis of Art-Form by G.L. Raymond, chapter X, page 161]