Imágenes de páginas
[graphic][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]


HILE in the practice of the profession masterpieces have lost any of their power to inall of the known recipes for the produc- terpret between us and those who went before,

tion of the work of art are being tried but because, being constructed to fill one need, by thoughtful men, it may be worth while, for they are not the logical expression of another, the moment, to take up the question from the which in its turn must find itself new forms, deother end. If we find that all masterpieces. of sired from its own character. On the other hand, whatever time, and in every sort of art, have if we attempt to use them by reviving the ancient been marked by a certain unity, that they have spirit, we find that, as that spirit lives only as consisted of related, and not merely of asso recorded in these works of art, we are restricted ciated, parts, we may assume that the works of to copying merely, on pain of foolishness. When art to come will have this characteristic also. If the inward necessity for a form no longer exists, we further conjecture that in the clearness with the utmost erudition and care cannot supply its which this unity and consistency are shown, by place-cannot by themselves maintain the unity simplicity and exclusion of the superfluous, we demanded as the first essential of the work of art. have found the quality which carries conviction Homer is forever an invaluable poet, but no and defends the work of art from time and from Iliad can be written by an American of to-day, the confusions wrought by the change of stand because the whole Greek attitude of mind and point, we are probably not far from the truth. the whole Greek environment are things of the How has this unity been secured ? How has past, and no one can reconstruct an epoch and this perfect consistency been maintained ?

live in it to the exclusion of the ideas and facts It is part of human experience that while of his own time. Even the old phrases are foreign knowledge and care may do much in this direc

to us.

Moreover, if this indeed were possible, it tion, they are far from infallible, and that per would be the surrender of the birthright of standsonal reaction against a need or cause for expres- point merely to do what had been done before. sion is the one way to the result.

A crystal is built on an inward law, not in an On this basis works have been produced of external mold, and spontaneous expression is of such force as neither taste nor judgment could the same sort. So, if the need that calls forth have commanded. On this basis, too, we obtain the work of art is able to define itself, and is that individuality in the result which is so closely allowed to work in freedom in its environment, a and universally associated with strength that, form of beauty and dignity will result as a matter although it is only a concomitant, it is often as of course. sumed as proof of greatness.

The part of genius is to know this need, and The attempt to develop a living style from the to measure it, to live and feel, to have positive relics of one that is dead, fails, not because the emotions, and as definite as strong; emotions forms themselves are outworn, nor because the that will not satisfy themselves in the forms which



[ocr errors][ocr errors]

grow about other ideas, but which build with re- origin of this work in the fertility of the designer, gard only to their own demand and the opportu- we feel that Mr. Sullivan's life-work is more than nities of their environment.

a celebration of himself and his standpoint; we This, we take to be the perennial foundation feel that it is one of the few visible centres of of art, and our purpose here is not to speak of Mr. organization of the architectural thought of this Sullivan or his work as an isolated result, but to country, that his principles and his spirit are a have especial regard to the importance and uni- much-needed example and inspiration to the versality of the principles upon which his work is whole profession, and are doing much to bring founded, his executed work being the exploitation clarity of thought and conviction into the midst of his standpoint, according to the skill with of the present confusion of ideas. His present which he has perceived the vital need for the following consists on the one hand of a few of the structure to be designed—how well he has defined younger men, who, missing the essential idea it, in fact, and how far he has satisfied the need which runs throughout his teaching, content with the means at his command.

themselves with adopting the outward manner of Born in Boston, September 3, 1856, Mr. Sul- his work, greatly to his own disgust, and, on the livan is therefore forty-five years of age. His edu- other hand, a less obvious but more important cation, beginning with special courses from pri. group of men whose work has gained in confi. mary to high school, was continued in the Boston dence as a result of his teachings. Among these Institute of Technology, after which he spent must be numbered those, who, without being several years at the École des Beaux Arts, being imitators, having seen their problems solved by a student of the Atelier Vaudremer.

Mr. Sullivan in his work, have accepted his By nature a mathematician, it was by con- answer as the true one, and have followed him, tact with Professor Clopét, a French mathema- but with the freedom and understanding which tician and an instructor in the école, that his . marks the true disciple as distinguished from the powers of exact reasoning were developed. copyist. The impression made upon him by the city of That his influence is more widespread than ap Paris was of its cleanliness and order, and its pears on the surface is seen in the fact that, while artistic wealth, and he especially liked the people he had personally nothing to do with the organifor their tendency towards the logical habit of zation of the Architectural League of America, , mind.

that body, brought together by the common desire One can easily understand from this why it is of its initiators towards the “American Renaisthat he insists that he is following the principles sance," which Mr. Sullivan has long been preachof that school but not its methods nor forms; and, ing, has been in large measure guided and as it has been well said, he is not to be regarded developed during the three years of its active life as an eccentric in any sense, but as concentric, by the force of his example and teachings. To rather, revolving about a few basic principles diffuse his ideas more effectually, he has more than which belong to him, not as an individual, but once entered the field of literature, usually as a as one who recognizes that art is the outcome of contributor to the polemics of architecture, but the reaction of temperament upon environment. often dealing with his subject in such general

The creed of his art is therefore democratic terms that his writings may be regarded as a conand progressive; it finds its inspiration neither in tribution to the literature of art as a whole. It the past nor future, but in the immediate and must be admitted that his tendency to metaphor present, and its optimisim and vitality are of the and the fluency of his thought occasionally leave kindred of the spirit that has brought forth the his writings overloaded and somewhat obscure, greatest art of the world.

bnt even in these cases he compels attention by At the present time when the minds of men his power in the construction of single sentences, are in a state of ferment in architectural matters, many of which are both original and forcible. and when we see able men rushing to and fro in With Mr. Sullivan's literary work, however, a search for the true light, or returning in weari- we have to deal only as the statement of his ness or disgust to the conventions of their fore- artistic creed. His latest example of this is the fathers, a voice like this, speaking in the confident series of “Kindergarten Chats," in which he is and victorious tone characteristic of the Middle- gradually creating an atmosphere of credible ideas West, which is Mr. Sullivan's home, is in itself a about the mind of an irreverent Western boy, notable thing, and we see the performance of new with the evident intention of leading up to a works, unlike what has gone before; and yet healthy belief in principles of art derived from with a certain balance and propriety which are personal examination of the causes and meaning the proof of fitness and the safeguard of perma- of art, unsophisticated by the theories to be found nence, when we see further evidence of the vital in so many books and schools, which, however

[graphic][ocr errors][subsumed][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]




true, do not assist the creative effort. These of design, so original, so profuse and complex. “Chats” occupy but one page each, are laid in But they who see no more than this in his work with a broad brush and with the brush-marks make a serious mistake. The vertical planes of showing—and Mr. Sullivan resuses to stop to ex- wall-surface, the height of which he emphasizes plain the jokes-nevertheless, they are telling rather than disguises, are not disturbed by the shots at the commercial, the unmeaning, and the detail with which they are enriched. Near at insincere in architecture, and are perfectly fear- hand the ornament takes its place as such, and as less in their arraignment of these faults as ex- unsurpassed of its sort, but at a distance from hibited in contemporary work, without regard to which the wall may be viewed as a surface, the the prestige of the authors concerned.

surface-detail becomes a matter of texture, and Their critical value, moreover, is the least of does not fret the eyes by enforcing its interest at their claim to consideration. In them is developed the expense of the general effect. an organic thesis, in which he has set forth the Moreover, this textural value is only enhanced fundamental philosophy of creative architecture. by the dust that settles upon it in time, herein

"The Tall Building Artistically Con- attaining to the result which is forever sought by sidered," an article of his that appeared in “Lip- the most skilful designers. pincott's” in 1896, he is at his best, and for Since Richardson, no American architect has simple and direct English the essay is only ex- attracted the interest of foreign critics to the decelled by the logic and clarity of its reasoning. gree that Mr. Sullivan has. Recently, a Danish And he has made good his thoughts and speech reviewer, writing of the art of optimism, quoted in executed buildings. As yet no one has excelled his work to uphold his belief that Europe would him in the treatment of the "sky-scraper." It ultimately have to learn architecture in America, is something more than a real-estate problem with and French and English critics in general take him; “this loftiness is to the artist-nature its him much more seriously than his own countrythrilling aspect," he says.

Some years ago, when the Commissioners The exercise of the gift that thus elevates a of the Museum of Decorative Ait in Paris were necessary characteristic to the point at which it visiting the World's Fair in Chicago, they sebecomes the keynote of a structure of beauty and cured a number of his original drawings and had unity is the function of the architect upon which many photographs and casts made of his ornament he lays stress in another essay, read before the for their museum in Paris, this being the only inA. I. A., at New York, entitled “Objective and stance in which an American was so honored. Subjective."

Later on, the same Society gave him a medal. When, in addition, it is remembered that When this exhibit was installed in Paris it Michael Angelo, Wagner, and Whitman are his created so much stir that the directors of a simiideals of the artist, held in high estimation, not lar institution in Moscow asked to bave duplibecause they departed from accepted forms, but cates made for them, and finally permission was because they created new forms, and especially granted to a firm in Paris to prepare copies for because they established independent points of various institutions througbout Europe, which view, and because he finds in their work, to para- can now be obtained by application to the Mu. phrase his own words, the highest conjunction seum above mentioned. of objective and subjective thought, it is pos- The condition of architectural thought and sible to appreciate the scope and breadth of his sentiment at this time makes the presence of thought.

such a man doubly valuable ; while we believe That he is himself one of those artist-natures that the “benumbing influence of education” is to whom the chief requirement of a new form of a reaction that can only sway personalities naturstructure constitutes a “thrilling aspect," and ally weak, and that the true need is, not of less that he is not confused by a vague wish that his teaching, but of more men like Mr. Sullivan to buildings might be like something else, marks be taught, and while the vigorous younger men him as a man whose spiritual eye sees deep and who count him as their leader sometimes seem to perceives the real native forces underlying Amer- forget that the ancient modes were once as near ican life. If, in addition, he has succeeded in to men's lives and aspirations as anything that making this loftiness thrilling to others, others the present or future can give us, and indeed are not gifted as he is or who are of another epoch the means by which we can step back into the —and this, time alone can determine-then he old standpoints and gain, as it were, a reflected ranks among those who, for want of a better and prismatic view of this world as it then term, we call inspired leaders.

seemed, nevertheless, it is through these younger By many, Mr. Sullivan is regarded as an men that a new art, the equal of the old, must "ornamentalist," so fertile is he in this branch


[ocr errors][graphic][subsumed][merged small][merged small]
« AnteriorContinuar »