the line of beauty (via hogarth)

The Line of Beauty is a term and theory in Art or Aesthetics used to describe a serpentine line (that S-shape) that appears within an object or as the boundary line in a work of art or even the boundary line of several compositional forms within a single work of art.  This theory originated with the 18th century  English artist & satirist, William Hogarth.  His treatise, Analysis of Beauty (1753) discusses the particular effects this form has on the viewer; it excites the attention of the viewer through its liveliness & vitality.   Of course, the Line of Beauty is not a dominant line in the work of art, but part of a series of lines all forming the composition.

Hogarth explains his theory through six principles:

1.  Fitness:  It is not the source of beauty, but could be considered the cause of beauty.

2. Variety:  the source of beauty.  Our eyes grow weary from a lack of variety and we are offended by sameness.  However, it is this sameness that we seek out in variety for respite and relief, a resting place before continuing our journey of discovery of beauty.

3.  Regularity:  variety must have compostional factors that are an inherent part of fitness.

4.  Simplicity: the helpmate of regularity.  Simplicity enhances the pleasure of variety by being pleasing to the eye.

5.  Intricacy:  the pursuit of beauty is its own reward.   The eye’s journey is closely followed by that of the “Mind’s Eye”, a singular glowing line that softly illuminates what our physical eye is perceiving.  It is this intricate relationship that adds its substance to the notion of the line of beauty.

6.  Quantity:  the sublimity of greatness, although excessive quantity can lead to the absurd, the measure of beauty is in its sublime nature.


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© Robert Patrick, and Cultivar, 2008-2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts, photographs and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Robert Patrick and Cultivar with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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