Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 17.djvu/87

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77
THE PLEASURE OF THE VISUAL FORM.

gained a high official position in universities and academies are often actuated by a jealousy very similar to that which we have traced among ecclesiastics. They establish a certain scientific orthodoxy, based often to a great extent on mere conjecture and assertion, and seek to frown down and to silence the unknown outsider who calls in question one of their dogmas, or who discovers a truth which they have overlooked. That any region of research should be officially tabooed is a humiliating circumstance. The dread of truth, the jealousy of discovery, is not confined to the Holy Inquisition, and no disestablishment of churches, no secularization of schools and colleges, not even the suppression of every religion—were such a step possible—would put an end to its action.—Journal of Science.

 

THE PLEASURE OF VISUAL FORM.
By JAMES SULLY.
II.

HAVING thus determined what means of appreciating formal elements and relations are at the command of the eye, our next inquiry will naturally be, What modes of æsthetic intuition—in other words, what intellectual perceptions of pleasing and beautiful relations of form—are possible by help of these means? Fortunately, this side of the subject has been pretty fully investigated already, and I shall be able to pass it over with a very few words.

I here assume, what is agreed on by most writers, that beauty of form—so far as it is independent of sensuous pleasure on the one hand, and pleasures of association and suggestion on the other, is resolvable into the presence of a certain order among manifold details, which order is commonly spoken of as unity in variety. With respect, first of all, to the way in which the element of variety and contrast presents itself in visible form, a word or two will suffice. Direction and magnitude of lines, degree of change of direction, whether appearing as an angle or as a curve, each offers a field for the perception of difference and contrast. And each figure formed by a single arrangement of lines may, in its turn, become an element of variety in a larger scheme. It is worth noting that these elements of variety may be indefinitely present to the mind, as in the perception of all relations of distance and direction between points which are not connected by lines. The appreciation of superficial and solid, as distinguished from linear form, clearly involves a countless number of such less definite elements of visual perception.

The study of the various modes of securing a pleasing unity in visual form is a little more intricate. Speaking roughly, one may say