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.
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.