1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Drawing
DRAWING, in art. Although the verb “to draw” has various meanings, the substantive drawing is confined by usage to its artistic sense, delineation or design. The word “draw,” from a root common to the Teutonic languages (Goth, dragan, O.H.G. drahan, Mod. Ger. tragen, which all have the sense of “carry,” O. Norse draga, A.S. drazan, drazen, “draw,” cf. Lat. trahere), means to pull or “drag” (a word of the same origin) as distinct from the action of pushing. It is thus used of traction generally, whether by men, animals or machines. The same idea is preserved in “drawing” as applied to the fine arts. We do not usually say, or think, that a sculptor is drawing when he is using his chisel, although he may be expressing or defining forms, nor that an engraver is drawing when he is pushing the burin with the palm of the hand, although the result may be the rendering of a design. But we do say that an artist is drawing when he uses the lead pencil, and here we have a motion bearing some resemblance to that of traction generally. The action of the artist in drawing the pencil point with his fingers along the paper is analogous, e.g., to that of a horse or man drawing a pole over soft ground and leaving a mark behind. The same analogy may be observed between two of the senses in which the French verb tirer is frequently employed. This word, the origin of which is quite uncertain, was formerly used by good writers in the two senses of the verb to draw. Thus Lafontaine says, “Six forts chevaux tiraient un coche”; and Caillières wrote, “Il n’y a pas longtemps que je me suis fait tirer par Rigaud,” meaning that Rigaud had drawn or painted his portrait. At the present day the verb tirer has fallen into disuse amongst cultivated Frenchmen with regard to drawing and painting, but it is still universally used for all kinds of design and even for photography by the common people. The cultivated use it still for printing, as for example “cette gravure sera tirée à cent exemplaires,” in the sense of pulling. A verb much more nearly related to the English verb to draw is the French traire (Lat. trahere), which has trait for its past participle. Traire is now used exclusively for milking cows and other animals, and though the analogy between this and artistic drawing is not obvious at first, nevertheless there is a certain analogy of motion, since the hand passing down the teat draws the milk downwards. The word trait is much more familiar in connexion with art as “les traits du visage,” the natural markings of the face, and it is very often used in a figurative sense, as we say “traits of character.” It is familiar in the English portrait, derived from protrahere. The ancient Romans used words which expressed more clearly the conception that drawing was done in line (delineare) or in shade (adumbrare), though there are reasons for believing that the words were often indiscriminately applied. Although the modern Italians have both traire and trarre, they use delineare still in the sense of artistic drawing, and also adombrare. The Greek verb γράφειν appears in English in “graphic” and in many compounds, such as photograph, &c. It is worth observing that the Greeks seem to have considered drawing and writing (q.v.) as essentially the same process, since they used the same word for both. This points to the early identity of the two arts when drawing was a kind of writing, and when such writing as men had learned to practise was essentially what we should call drawing, though of a rude and simple kind. Even in the present day picture writing is not unfrequently resorted to by travellers as a means of making themselves intelligible. There is also a kind of art which is writing in the modern sense and drawing at the same time, such as the work of the medieval illuminators in their manuscripts.
The Art of Drawing.—Rather than attempt here a historical survey of the various so-called “styles” of drawing, or write a personal appreciation of them, it seems of greater use to give a logical account of drawing as an art, applicable to all times and countries. Reference to the teaching of drawing will be occasionally given rather to illustrate the argument than with a view to its being of practical use.
At the outset a distinction must be made between drawing as a means of symbolic or literary expression and drawing as the direct and only means of expressing the beauty of form. If Pharaoh wants to have it known that a hundred ducks were consumed at one meal in his court, he employs a draughtsman to register the fact on a frieze by picturing a row of cooks occupied in preparing the hundred ducks. The artist in this case does not represent the scene as he must have known it in the kitchen, with all its variety of movement and composition (as an early Greek vase painter conceived the interior of a vase factory), but all he does and is required to do is to give the sufficient number of figures and ducks. The more uniform the figures the greater will be the effect of number. Drawing has been employed here to tell a story, and it succeeds in so far as it tells the spectator plainly what could be told, perhaps less conveniently, in words. It matters not whether the figures and objects be feelingly rendered and harmoniously composed. So, to-day, a child, or any one who has a simple trick of symbolizing figures and objects in nature, can describe any event or moral by this process, provided the plot be not too elaborate to be expressed by a scene, or series of scenes, enacted by dumb symbolic figures. It is plain that the amusing pictures in Punch or Fliegende Blätter would be none the more amusing if they were done by the hand of Michelangelo, nor would the mystic designs of Blake be more full of meaning if drawn by Rembrandt, for in neither case do these works depend upon any subtle rendering of the forms of nature for their success, but upon the dramatic or intellectual imagination of the man who conceived them. When the witty or ethical man is at the same time a master draughtsman his work has two values, the “literary” content and the beauty of his drawing of natural objects. But it must be borne in mind that these values are fundamentally distinct; so much so that the spectator who has no appreciation of the forms of nature enjoys the story told and remains blind to the qualities of draughtsmanship, whilst the lover of nature’s forms may or may not trouble to unravel the literary plot but finds perfect satisfaction in the drawing. By far the greater part of illustration, and of artistic production generally, must be classed as symbolic art. Magazine stories to-day are sometimes illustrated even by photography, for the hand of the artist is not required. Symbolic art describes indirectly and in a necessarily limited scope what literature can do directly and with unlimited powers. The only content of symbolic drawing is its literary meaning; as drawing it may be quite worthless.
Pure drawing, however, whether it represent a dramatic event or a knee-joint, has a content that cannot be expressed by words, and is not necessarily directed towards literary expression. Just as a fragment of good sculpture pleases the connoisseur without any reference either to the whole original or to its spiritual significance, fine drawing can appeal to the lover of nature independently of indirect considerations.
What is the content of pure drawing? It is held by some that drawing or monochrome can suggest colour, and many people, some consciously, others unconsciously, attempt to represent in drawings the colours of figures and landscape. It seems a strange aberration to argue that by different intensities of the one colour various other colours can be suggested: it would not be more unreasonable to maintain that E flat and F could be suggested by striking the note G with varying strength. Now the draughtsman employs various intensities of his monochrome as light and shade by which to give roundness to his forms. But if on the same drawing he uses the same means in his attempt to express colour, a conflict would be at once set up between that which makes for form and that which would make for colour, and the result would generally be a confusion. Again, let one attempt to give red hair to a monochrome drawing of a man, and if the red be plain and unmistakable to all who are not the artist’s accomplices, then the artist has succeeded; otherwise it is bootless to treat of colour and colour values (which of course must depend upon the existence of colour) in monochrome. Apart from theory, if we examine the drawings, etchings and monochromes of great artists, where do we find them attempting to give colour or colour values? The hundreds of costume studies by Rembrandt might have been done from white plaster models, and there are only a few exceptions where a man has, for instance, a black hat or cloak. But in these few instances the “colour” tone is applied with such discretion that the true representation of the form is scarcely, perhaps only theoretically, impaired: they certainly have gained nothing in colour value because no specific colour is manifest in them. In Rembrandt’s, Claude’s or Turner’s drawings of landscapes the formation of the country, the architecture, &c., is expressed by line, light and shade, and enhanced by shadows cast from clouds and trees. If, in the drawings of masters, we should find objects darker or lighter than their position in the light would warrant, they have value (perhaps not quite a legitimate one) for balancing the composition as a flat pattern. They were never intended to suggest colour, nor do they. Yet, in spite of the failure to succeed, and contrary to logical argument and the practice of great draughtsmen, the student of most of the schools of Europe and America still persists in doing the hair dark, and, by attempting to give colour values to the clothes, breaks up the consistency of the whole. For the same reason that the sculptor uses uniformly coloured material in order that the natural light and shade may have full opportunity of making his forms manifest to the spectator, the draughtsman confines himself to giving light and shade only. If a monochrome has “colour tones,” the effect is similar to that produced by a draped statue made out of variously coloured marbles—an inartistic jumble.
As the immediate purpose and content of drawing there remains the representation of form only. Drawing is, therefore, essentially the same activity as sculpture, and has no additional scope. “Pupils,” says Donatello, “I give you the whole art of sculpture when I tell you to draw” (cited by Holroyd, Michel Angelo, p. 2 95), and the only practical teaching of drawing might be summed up by the inversion of the above.
Now if everything in nature—men, mountains or clouds—were as flat targets, i.e. two-dimensional, drawing could be legitimately reduced to a mechanical process,—to trace their contours upon a glass screen or even photograph them would be all that would be required. Indeed, provided the size of the drawing, the local colour and the texture be the same as those of the original, a complete illusion would be the result, in fact the proper end of one’s labours. But the presence of the third dimension in all objects causes light and shade, which in their turn bring about radical changes of the local colour, even in uniformly coloured objects. Now since drawing cannot suggest colour, local or atmospherical, any attempt to effect an illusion by a monochrome is at once defeated. If the end of drawing were to approach imitation or illusion as nearly as possible, how is it that a mere “sketch” by a master draughtsman can be for itself as valuable as his highly finished drawing? And surely a masterly outline drawing of a figure or landscape does not pretend to be an illusion. If then the draughtsman does not, and cannot hope to imitate nature, he is compelled to state only his ideas of it, ideas of three-dimensional form. For this reason only drawing must be treated as an art, and not as a mechanical act of getting an illusion.
|(From a Greek vase in the British Museum (E. 46).
|(From Bulletino arch. Napol. (1843, tom. 1, tav. 7).
|(From a drawing by Michelangelo (1854, 5, 13, i.),|
Print Room, British Museum).
It is interesting to trace in the history of an indigenous art the development of drawing that shall ultimately express ideas of three-dimensional form. Prof. Emanuel Loewy, in his Rendering of Nature in Early Greek Art, demonstrates how the early Greek sculpture (and that of all primitive peoples, children and ungifted artists) shows an aversion from depth. Their reliefs are of the flattest description, almost raised contours, and their figures in the round have at first only one aspect, or flat façade, so to speak, then three and four aspects, and finally at the date of Lysippus the figures are fully rounded out, and the members project at liberty in all directions. Then for the first time Greek sculpture showed a complete conception of the body’s corporeity (Körperlichkeit). The primitive artist, however well he may be intellectually aware of the three dimensions of an object, does not fully apprehend its true aspect as offered to the eye from one point of view. Following this conclusion, it is easy to see also in the drawing of the early Greeks, children and so on, the same lack of idea of the third dimension. The figures on the vases of the “finest period” (about 475 B.C.), despite occasional foreshortenings, have, when considered as representations of solid forms, a papery appearance. They have not half the draughtsmanship shown by the latter period of the vase industry, where the figures, though careless, stereotyped and ill-composed, come forwards (to use Prof. Loewy’s description of later sculpture), go backwards, twist and turn in space in a manner which cannot be excelled. The reproductions in figs. 1, 2, 3 will illustrate the development. The primitive draughtsman is at first bound by the silhouette. Later, he desires to fill out the interior, but this cannot be done without in great part modifying his contour lines, because they are generally merely indications of the disappearing and reappearing inner modelling, i.e. of the figure’s third dimension. Finally, the draughtsman in full possession of a feeling for the corporeity of the object will determine his contour entirely from within, a procedure which is the exact opposite to that of his first beginnings. He conceives the length, breadth and depth of an object and all its parts as solid wholes. To him a body in violent foreshortening is as easy as a simple profile, and, though it may not be as attractive, it is perhaps more interesting because its contours are more bound up with, and dependent upon, the inner modelling; in other words, it has more depth. The draughtsman’s idea of a form in nature is not a “flat idea,” but one containing three dimensions. This idea he seeks to express either by line alone or by light and shade. If an artist has not a three-dimensional “grasp” of forms, and, like a child, confines himself to the primitive tracing of the silhouette, his compositions may be of excellent flat pattern, and equal to any of the designs of ancient carpets or early Greek vases; but in the light of the above argument, and when compared with the productions of mature draughtsmen of all ages and countries, they cannot be said to be complete drawings, any more than the early unifacial statues of the Greeks can be called true plastic, simply because in neither case has the artist yet reached the highest possible development of corporeous conception, by which truly to interpret the solid objects of nature as we know them, and as master draughtsmen see them.
An attempt should be made to explain the psycho-physiological process that must take place in the mind of the real draughtsman. When we look at an object in nature we know its length and breadth by the flat image on the retina; we see also the light and shade, which at once gives us a correct idea of the object’s depth or relief. But we do not, nor could we, have this idea from the flat image on the retina alone, i.e. from the mere perception of the light and shade: our knowledge of its depth is the result of experience, i.e. of our having from infancy remarked a certain dispensation of light and shade on, and peculiar to, every form we have touched or traversed, and so, by association and inference, being early enabled to have ideas of the depth of things by their various arrangements of lights and darks without having to touch or traverse them. Nevertheless the act (generally, but by no means always, an unconscious one) of visually touching a form must necessarily take place before we can apprehend the third dimension of a form. It is, then, by the combination of the ideas derived from pure vision and the ideas derived from touch that we know the length, breadth and depth of a solid form. We have shown that the art of drawing is not an imitation, but an expression of the artist’s ideas of form; therefore all drawing of forms that merely reproduces the image on the retina, and leaves unconsulted the ideas of touch, is incomplete and primitive, because it does not express a conception of form which is the result of an association of the two senses; in other words, it does not contain an idea of the object’s relief or solidity. And all teaching of drawing that does not impress upon the student the necessity of combining the sense of vision with that of touch is erroneous, for it is thereby limiting him to a mechanical task, viz. the tracing of the flat image on the retina, which could be equally well done by mechanical means, or by photography alone.
In most of the schools of Europe and America it is true that great stress is laid upon the importance of giving life-like relief to drawings, but the method by which the students are allowed to get the relief is by employing the sense of vision only. Tracing the silhouette of the figure as minutely as possible, they then fill it out with inner-modelling, which also is done by vision alone, for the lights and darks of the original are copied down as so many flat patterns fitted together and gradated like a child’s puzzle, and are not used merely as indication by which to “feel” the depth of the object. Such a procedure is as if in drawing a brick of which three sides were visible, one were first to draw the entire contour (fig. 4, a), the subtle perspective of which he might get correct with some mechanical apparatus or by infinite mechanical pains, and then fill up the interior with its “shading” (fig. 4, b). The method would be plainly laborious, unintelligent and unedifying, and in drawing the most complicated foreshortened forms of the human body it would seem still more illogical. That this principle of instruction does not help the student to grasp the three-dimensional character properly can be proved by the twenty-minute studies of the average student who in his fourth year has won a gold medal for an astounding piece of life-like stippling. They are still unintelligent contour tracings, as if of cardboard figures, with a few irrelevant patches of dark here and there within the silhouette.
But high modelling that would make for illusion of reality is not the first aim of draughtsmanship, nor have the best draughtsmen employed it save by exception. Michelangelo, Ingres, Holbein and Rembrandt have shown us that it is possible to give sufficient relief with a mere outline drawing. Again, the desire for salience often blunts the student’s sense of the real character of the forms he is rounding out. So his elaborately modelled portrait may look very “life-like,” but when compared with the original it will generally be seen that the whole and each of the individual forms of the drawing lack the peculiar character of those of the original. It is by carefully watching for the character of each fresh variety in figure and feature that great draughtsmen have excelled, and not by “life-like” relief, or even a sophisticated exposition of anatomical details at the expense of character. Can it be seriously maintained that a masterly sudden grasp of true formal character can be developed in a student by a system in which he patiently spends many days and weeks in stippling into plastic appearance one drawing which has originally been “laid in” by a mechanical process?
It has been shown that to attempt to make an illusion of nature is neither within the power of monochrome nor has been the chief aim of draughtsmen, but that the art of drawing consists in giving a plain statement of one’s ideas, be they slight or studied, of the solid forms of nature. But the question may still be asked: Why is it that a rigorously accurate and finished drawing by a student or artist with no such ideas or conception is not good drawing, containing as it must do all that can be seen in the original, missing only its complete illusion? Why, in a word, is not a photograph a work of art?
The common explanation of the above important question is that the artist “selects and eliminates from the forms of nature.” But surely this is the principle of the caricaturist and virtuoso? A beautiful drawing, however slight, is but the precipitate of the whole in the artist’s mind. And a highly finished drawing by a master does not show even any apparent selection or elimination. The adoption of the principle of selection to differentiate art from mechanical reproduction is fundamentally vicious, and could be shown to be wholly inapplicable to the so-called formative arts. Nor could the theory of “selection” be used as a principle of teaching, for if to the first question the pupil would make, “What am I to select?” it were answered, “Only the important things,” then the next question, “What are the important things?” could be answered only by saying, “That alone the real artist knows, but cannot teach.” Certainly there are important things that can be taught the student in the initial stage of “laying-in” a figure, but when to begin selecting or eliminating no teacher could tell him, simply because he must be aware that a true draughtsman can afford to eliminate nothing when the truth of the whole is at stake. The artist’s conception and its expression may be slight or elaborate, but in neither case can selection or elimination take place, for a true conception must be founded upon the character of the whole, which is determined by the entire complex of all the parts.
To explain the essential difference between art and mechanical drawing or mechanical reproduction, a more applicable theory must be found. Compare the art of telling a story. If, to describe an incident in the street you had the entire affair re-enacted on the same spot, you would have but made a mechanical reproduction of it, leaving the spectator to simplify the affair, and construct his own conception of it. You have not given your ideas of the event, and so you have not made a work of art. So, if a man draws an object detail for detail by any mechanical process, or traces over its photograph, he has but reduplicated the real aspect of the object, and has failed to give the spectator a simple and intelligible idea of it. Starting out with the generous notion of giving all, that there may be “something for everyone,” he has given nothing. He did not originally form an intelligible and simplified idea of the figure, so how can his drawing be expected to give one to others?
But how can forms be made more simple and intelligible than by reproducing their aspect with absolute accuracy? Our combined sense of vision and touch comprehends very easily certain elementary solid forms, the sphere, the cube, the pyramid and the cylinder. No forms but these, and their modifications, can be apprehended by the mind in one and the same act of vision. Every complex form, even so simple as that of a kidney, for instance, must be first broken up into its component parts before it can be fully apprehended or remembered. Analogously with the above, Prof. Wundt has shown how the mind can apprehend as separate units any number, of marbles for instance, up to five, after which every number must be split up into lots of twos, threes, fours and fives, or twenties, thirties and so on, before it can realize the full content of that number in one and the same mental picture. So the only way to receive an intelligible idea of a complex form, such as a human figure, is first to discover in the figure itself, and then in all its parts, only modifications of the above elementary solid forms, and the drawing of a conception thus informed must needs be a very clear and intelligible one. The more the artist is capable and practised, the more clearly will he conceive and distinguish in nature each subtle modification of these elementary forms, their direction, their relation to, and their dependence upon one another. The only difference between a good draughtsman and a bad one is the degree of subtlety of his apprehension. Unless the draughtsman has seen some such clear forms in his original, his labour to produce a work of art will be grievous and fruitless. All good drawing is stamped with this kind of structural insight. The more the artist adheres to nature, and the more finished his drawing, the more will the lines and forms that he makes be, so to speak, in excess of those of nature, or dull imitation or photography. It is not to be supposed that able draughtsmen work, or need ever have worked, consciously in this manner. It is, indeed, the virtue peculiar to the artist, as interpreter of form, that he instinctively comprehends the real elemental character of complex forms, whilst the majority of people (on the showing of their own drawings) entertain but confused or no ideas of them. It is because a good drawing reduces the chaos of ideas supplied by the raw material of nature, to one intelligible manner of seeing it, that all lovers of nature welcome it with joy. It is this process of discovery and interpretation that marks the essential difference between art and mechanical drawing or reproduction. Art gives intelligible ideas of the forms of nature, mechanism attempts to reduplicate their aspects.
There are some who hold that drawing is not exclusively a matter of interpreting form, but that great artists have their own “personalities” which they infuse into their work. They will ask, How is it otherwise to be explained that two equally good draughtsmen will invariably make different drawings of the same figure? Is it not for the same reason that one man will divide up a row of eight marbles into groups of four, and another into five and three? The subjectivity of experience governs the different conceptions that good draughtsmen will form of the same object. Accordingly as a draughtsman feels form so will he draw it, and it is only because our sense apparatuses are more or less similarly constituted that we can understand and appreciate one another’s conceptions.
But if the master draughtsman gives the true character of his model’s form, why is it that his drawings are not pleasing to all alike? Whence the doubts and criticism that have been called forth by all original artists? If we first examine the attitude of the average man, artist or layman, towards nature, we can better explain his attitude towards works of art. The average man or artist has not a highly developed appreciation of form per se, whether it be the form of natural or manufactured objects. And it would seem that he is still less a disinterested spectator of the forms and features of his fellow beings and animals, their movements, their colour, their value in a room or landscape. He has sentimental, moral or intellectual preferences. In other words, he likes or dislikes only those faces or figures which hundreds of personal associations have taught him to like or dislike. The riding man’s admiration for the look of a particular horse is based upon the fact that it looks like “a horse to go,” and hence it is what he calls beautiful, while the artist, in the capacity of artist and not of sportsman, is not particular in his choice of horse-flesh, but finds each animal equally interesting for itself alone. Consequently in art any face, figure or object that does not come into the category of what the average man cares for is condemned by him even as it would be in real life, since he is no lover of form for form’s sake, but provided the subject or moral be pleasing the quality of the draughtsmanship is of small account. The picture of a dwarf, or of an anatomy lesson, or of a group of ordinary bourgeois folk would not really please him, even though he were told that the work was by Velazquez, Rembrandt or Manet. We have only to listen to the common criticism of works of art to know that it is founded upon personal predilection only. We do not hear such personal criticism upon drawings of landscape, not because artists do them better, but because natural landscape has no interest for any one other than for its form, or, at least, people do not hold such definite personal likes or dislikes with regard to its various manifestations. But the artist, though his own personal predilections may, and generally do, lead him to work within that agreeable milieu, has, in the capacity of artist, no subjective prejudices; indeed, if he had them, he could not represent them by line, light and shade. He seeks always new varieties of form; hence his subjects, and his manner of posing them, are often unpleasing to the man who is busy with other affairs, and has no great experience of nature’s forms. Let a good draughtsman make a successful likeness of the mother of some average man, and the latter will be delighted, but it by no means follows that he will delight in a drawing of the wife of the artist, though done by the same hand and with equal skill.
If drawing is the art of giving one’s ideas of the forms of nature, then all criticism of drawing must be based upon the question, “How far does such and such a work show an intimate knowledge of or intelligent visualization of the forms we know in nature?” and no other principle of judgment can be applicable to all drawing alike. Hence only those who have by natural endowment a clear sense of the forms of things, and who have made more than ordinary study of them, are in a position to apply to drawings the above criterion with any approach to infallibility. It is a fact that there are, and always have been, a certain number of people who agree perfectly in their appreciation of the works of certain draughtsmen of different times and countries, and who can state reasons for their appreciation in definite and almost identical terms, for it is based upon knowledge and experience. To such people all fine draughtsmanship owes its public fame, and its immortality lies in their safe keeping.
It may be argued that each has a right to his own opinion about form and its representation, on the supposed ground that we all see form in different ways. But there is a fallacy in this argument. If we take the average man’s drawing of any form more complex than a loaf of bread as a fair and only testimony of his power of visualization of forms, we must conclude that most of us see not differently, but wrongly, or rather confusedly and disconnectedly, and that some can visualize form scarcely at all. If this be true, the average person’s sight and ability to judge drawing is seriously diminished. If, then, drawing can be judged and appreciated only by knowledge and experience of the forms of nature, no critical formula could be made out so as to enable a child or savage or ordinary civilized adult to estimate or enjoy it. If it be argued that drawings are to be judged from some abstract or symbolic point of view, independently of its subtle representation of form, then incompetent drawing might be as beautiful as the competent, which would be absurd. However, if the competent characterization of form were admitted as at least the first condition of beautiful drawing, it would follow that any abstract value it might have must be wholly dependent upon the manner in which form is represented, and so it would be superfluous to judge it by any standard other than the direct, definite and concrete one of form. Abstract beauty, since no one has yet defined it agreeably to all, is, apparently, with those who affect a feeling for it, a matter of individual taste, and therefore cannot be questioned. But the clear visualization of the forms of nature is based upon a special endowment and knowledge, and can be criticized by demonstration. People may differ in their tastes, but they may not, nor do they, differ upon questions of real knowledge. Drawing, as the activity of giving one’s ideas of form, must therefore be judged not by taste but by knowledge.
In view of the purpose and content of drawing as here demonstrated, there is no other principle of judgment that is relevant. Yet we often hear drawing judged by criteria which are founded upon no such concrete base but upon certain vague abstractions; or, again, upon a literary or moral base which could be applicable only to symbolic art.
It is said that this or that draughtsman excels in “beauty of line.” Now in spite of the labours of many painters and theorists, it cannot reasonably be held that one purely abstract line or curve is more beautiful than another, for the simple reason that people have no common ground upon which to establish the nature of abstract beauty. It may be, however, that even as certain simple forms are more easily apprehended than complex ones, there is the same distinction with regard to lines. If then an artist of clean vision sees in an object of reality such clear characteristic lines, he draws them not for their abstract beauty, but merely because by them alone can he express his idea of the form before him. The early Greek vase painters, and all great artists of primitive periods, being attracted only by the silhouette, became very subtle to observe nature’s outlines in their most intelligible character, and to this capacity is due their “beauty of line,” and not to any preconceived notion of an abstract line of perfect beauty, and nowhere will “beauty of line” be found on Greek vases, or elsewhere, that is not informed by, and does not express, a fine conception of nature’s contours. So too in later three-dimensional drawing there is no beauty of line which does not intelligibly express not only the directions and angles of the main contour, but the inner modelling, i.e. the relief of the figure. It is only a superficial judgment that would prefer one drawing to another, even if both may be equally good, because the line of one is neat and the other “tormented.” Contour being in nature an ideal line between one form and another, it is illogical to treat it or criticize it in a drawing as an actual and specific thing, apart from the forms that make it and are made by it. If an artist drew a dragon with deliberate disregard for animal construction, his drawing would be silly, and only by a profound knowledge of the forms of nature could it be made to have beautiful lines. Truth to nature is always originality, and it is the only originality worth the name.
Again, some people judge one drawing as better than another in that it shows more “individuality” or “temperament.” Now a man’s individuality is, presumably, a vague feeling in our minds produced by the net result of the ways in which he sees, hears, loves, thinks and so on, so that we could not tell a man’s individuality from any single one of his manifestations. With his entire work as an artist before us, i.e. his manner of seeing, we could do no more than infer, with the help of outside data, from the subjects he chooses, and the neatness or boldness of his line, something about his general character, and that with small degree of certainty. To regard a man’s works of art, or indeed any of his manifestations, from this point of view, is, after all, nothing but a kind of inquisitive cheiromancy. Those who pretend to like the drawings of Watteau or Michelangelo “because they show more individuality” than the incompetent work of a beginner or poor artist cannot be skilled in their own business, because the lady who tells your character by your handwriting finds as much individuality in bad writing as in good,—sometimes even more. It may be entertaining to some to guess at the artist’s character from his works by this process of inference and comparison, but it is unreasonable to imagine that “individuality,” as such, can be made a serious criterion of aesthetic judgment. The only individuality a draughtsman can show directly by his drawing is his individual way of conceiving the forms of nature, and even this is immaterial provided the conception and drawing be good.
A word or two are necessary upon “style,” which unfortunate word has made much mystery in criticism. The great draughtsmen of every time and country are known by their own words, as well as their works, to have been infinitely respectful to the form of every detail in nature. Their drawings always recall to our minds reality as we ourselves have seen it (provided we have studied from nature and not from pictures). The drawing of a hand, for instance, by Hokusai, Ingres or Dürer, revives in us our own impressions of the forms and aspects of real hands. In short there is manifest in all good drawings, whatever their difference of medium or superficial appearance, an entire dependence upon the forms of nature. Hence we cannot imagine that they were conceived and executed with the conscious effort to obtain some abstract style independent of the material treated. The style they plainly have can spring from this common quality, their truthful and well understood representation of forms. Style, then, is the expression of a clear understanding of the material from which the artist works. Unless a drawing shows this understanding it would be as impossible as it would be gratuitous to argue that it could have style. But it would seem that some people mean by style nothing more than the mere superficial appearance of the work. They would have a draughtsman draw “in the style of Holbein,” but not “in the style” of Rembrandt. This kind of preference, as remarked above, is superficial, for it overlooks the main issue and purpose of drawing, viz. the representation, by any means whatever, of the artist’s ideas of form. It is as though one should prefer a letter from Holbein to one from Rembrandt, though both were equally expressive, simply because Holbein’s handwriting was prettier than Rembrandt’s. Each draughtsman manifests a kind of handwriting peculiar to himself even in his most faithful rendering of form; and by this we can immediately recognize the artist; many, for instance Hogarth and some Japanese, seem to have let their quirks, full stops and so on, get the upper hand at the expense of serious, sensitive draughtsmanship.
It is fair to suppose that all abstract principles of aesthetic judgment, such as beauty of line, personality, style, nobility of thought, romanticism, are merely pretexts set up by people who would still affect to admire the drawings of recognized masters when they have neither the knowledge of, nor the care for, the forms of nature by virtue of which alone these drawings are what they are, and by which alone they can be immediately appreciated. (J. R. Fo.)
Drawing-Office Work.—In modern engineering, few pieces of mechanism are ever produced in the shops until their design has been settled in the “drawing office,” and embodied in suitable drawings showing general and detailed views. This is a broad statement to which there are exceptions, to be noted presently.
Drawing-office work is divisible into four principal groups. First, there is the actual designing, by far the most difficult work, which is confined to relatively few well-paid men. The qualifications necessary for it are a good scientific, mathematical and engineering training, and a specialized experience gathered in the particular class of mechanism to which the designing relates. Second, there is the work of the rank and file who take instructions from the chiefs, and elaborate the smaller details and complete the drawings. Third, there are the tracers, either youths or girls, who copy drawings on tracing paper without necessarily understanding them. Fourth, there is a printing department in which phototypes are produced on sensitized paper from tracings.
The character of the drawings used includes the general drawings, or those which show a mechanism complete; and the detailed drawings, which illustrate portions isolated from their connexions and relationships. The first are retained in the office for reference, and copies are only sent out to the men who have to assemble or erect and complete mechanisms. The second are distributed to the several shops and departments where sectional portions are being prepared, as pattern shop, smithy, turnery, machine shop, &c. General drawings are, as a rule, drawn to a small scale, ranging say from 1⁄8 in. to 1 in. to the foot; but details are either to actual size, or to a large scale, as from 1½ in. to the foot or 3 in. or 6 in. to the foot.
A large number of minutiae are omitted from general drawings, but in the detailed ones that are sent into the shops nothing is apparently too trivial for insertion. In this respect, however, there is much difference observable in the practice of different firms, and in the best practice of the present compared with that of former years. In the detailed drawings issued by many firms now, every tiny element and section is not only drawn to actual size, but also fully dimensioned, and the material to be used is specified in every case. This practice largely adds to the work of the drawing-office staff, but it pays.
The present tendency therefore is to throw more responsibility than of old on the drawing-office staff, in harmony with the tendency towards greater centralization of authority. Much of detail that was formerly left to the decision of foremen and skilled hands is now determined by the drawing-office staff. Heterogeneity in details is thus avoided, and the drawings reflect accurately and fully the past as well as the present practice of the firm. To so great an extent is this the case that the preparation of the tools, appliances, templets, jigs and fixtures used in the shops is often now not permitted to be undertaken until proper drawings have been prepared for them, though formerly the foreman’s own hand sketches generally sufficed. The practice of turret work has been contributory to this result. In many establishments now the designing of shop tools and fixtures is done in a department of the office specially set apart for that kind of work.
The growing specialization of the engineer’s work is reflected in the drawing office. Specialists are sought after, and receive the highest rates of pay. A man is required to be an expert in some one branch, as electric cranes or hydraulic machines, steel works plant, lathes, or heavy or light machine tools. The days are past in which all-round men were in request. In those firms which manufacture a large range of machinery, the drawing-office staff is separated into departments, each under its own chief, and there is seldom any transference of men from one to another.
Although in the majority of instances designs and drawings are completed before the manufacture is undertaken, exceptions to this rule occur in connexion with the work of standardizing machines and motors, for repetitive and interchangeable manufacture on a large scale. Here it is so essential to secure the most minute economies in manufacture that the first articles made are of a more or less experimental character. Only after no further improvement seems for the time being possible are the drawings made or completed for standard use and reference. In some modern shops even standardized drawings are scarcely used, but their place is taken by the templets, jigs and fixtures which are employed by the workmen as their sole guides in machining and assembling parts. By the employment of these aids locations and dimensions are embodied and fixed absolutely for any number of similar parts; reference to drawings thus becomes unnecessary, and they therefore fall into disuse.
The mechanical work of the drawing office is confined strictly to orthographic projections and sections of objects. Perspective views are of no value, though occasionally an object is sketched roughly in perspective as an aid to the rapid grasp of an idea. Drawings involve plans, elevations, and sectional views, in vertical and angular relations.
There are a good many conventionalities adopted which have no correspondences in fact, with the object of saving the draughtsman’s time; or else, as in the case of superposition of plans and sections, to show in one view what would otherwise require two drawings. Among the convenient conventionalities are the indications of toothed wheels by their pitch lines only, of screws by parallel lines and by diagonal shade lines; and of rivets, bolts and studs by their centres only. The adoption of this practice never leads to error.
In the preliminary preparation of drawings in pencil no distinction is made between full or unbroken lines, and dotted or centre lines, and the actual outlines of the objects. These differences are made when the inking-in is being done. Indian or Chinese ink is used, because it does not run when colours are applied. There are conventional colours used to indicate different materials. But colouring is not adopted so much as formerly, because of the practice of making sun prints instead of the more expensive tracings for the multiplication of drawings. When tracings are coloured the colour is applied on the back instead of on the side where the ink lines are drawn.
The economical importance of the printing department of the drawing office cannot be overestimated. Before its introduction drawings could only be reproduced by laborious tracing on paper or cloth, the first being flimsy, the second especially liable to absorb grease from the hands of the workmen. By the sun copying processes (see Sun Copying) any number of prints can be taken from a single tracing. But even the fickle sun is being displaced by electricity, so that prints can be made by night as well as day, on cloudy days as well as on bright ones. Twenty minutes of bright sunshine is required for a print, but the electric light produces the same result within five minutes. Prints are blue, white or brown. The advantage of white is that they can be coloured. But the majority are blue (white lines on blue ground). All can be had on stout, thin or medium paper.
An innovation in drawing-office equipment is that of vertical boards, displacing horizontal or sloping ones. They have the advantage that the draughtsman is able to avoid a bending posture at his work. The objection on the ground that the tee-square must be held up constantly with one hand is overcome by supporting and balancing it with cords and weights. (J. G. H.)