A theory of pure design - PDF by Denman Waldo Ross

A theory of pure design - harmony, balance, rhythm

A theory of pure design
A theory of pure design

From Author introduction:
My purpose in this book is to elucidate, so far as I can, the principles that underlie the practice of drawing and painting as a Fine Art. Art is generally regarded as the expression of feelings and emotions which have no explanation except per- haps in such a word as inspiration, which is expletive rather than explanatory. 

Art is regarded as the one activity of man which has no scientific basis, and the appreciation of Art is said to be a matter of taste in which no two persons can be expected to agree. It is my purpose in this book to show how, in the practice of Art, as in all other practices, we use certain terms and follow certain principles. Being defined and explained, these terms and principles may be known and understood by everybody. They are, so to speak, the form of the language. 

While an understanding of the terms and principles of Art will not, in itself, enable anyone to produce important works, such works are not produced without it. It must be understood, however, that the understanding of terms and principles is not, necessarily, an understanding in words. It may lie in technical processes and in visual images and may never rise, or shall I say fall, to any formulation in words, either spoken or written. 

The terms and principles of Art have, as a rule, been understood by the artist in the form of technical processes and visual images, not in words. It is in words that they will become generally understood. It is in words that I propose to explain them in this book. I want to bring to definition what, until now, has not been clearly defined or exactly measured.

 In a sense, this book is a contribution to Science rather than to Art. It is a contribution to Science made by a painter, who has used his art in order to understand his art, not to produce Works of Art. In a passage of Plato  (Philebus,  55) Socrates says: "If arithmetic, mensuration, and weighing be taken out of any art, that which remains will not be much." "Not much, certainly," was the reply. 

The only thing which remains in Art, beyond measurable quantities and qualities, is the personality, the peculiar ability or genius of the artist himself. That, I believe, admits of no explanation. The element of personality is what we mean when we speak of the element of inspiration in a Work of Art. Underlying this element of personality are the terms and principles of the art. In them the artist has found the possibility of expression; in them, his inspiration is conveyed to his fellowmen. 

I propose to explain, not the artist, but the mode of expression which the artist uses. My purpose, in scientific language, is to define, classify, and explain the phenomena of Design. In trying to do that, I have often been at a loss for terms and have been obliged, in certain instances, to use terms with new meanings, meanings which differ, more or less, from those of common usage and from those of writers in other branches of learning.\

In all such cases, I have taken pains to define my terms and to make my meanings perfectly clear. I do not expect anyone to read this book who is not willing to allow to my terms the meanings I have given them. Those who are unwilling to accept my definitions will certainly not follow me to my conclusions. I am giving this book to the Public with great reluctance. 

Though I have had it in mind for many years and have put no end of thought and work into it, it seems to me inadequate and unsatisfactory. It will hardly be published before I shall discover in it errors both of omission and commission. The book presents a new definition of principles, a new association of ideas. It is inconceivable that this, my first published statement, should be either consistent or complete. It will be a long time, I am sure, before it can be brought to a satisfactory shape. It is simply the best statement that I can make at this time. One reason, perhaps my best reason, for publishing this Theory, before it is completely worked out is to bring other students into the investigation. 


Introduction 1
Positions in harmony, balance, and rhythm 9
Lines in harmony, balance, and rhythm 37
Outlines in harmony, balance, and rhythm 96
Tones and tone-relations 131
Sequences of values and colours 143
Tone-harmony 158
Tone-balance 172
Tone-rhythm 182
Composition. General rules 186
The study of order in nature and in works of art . . 190
Conclusion 192
Paragraph index. 195

the book details :
  • Author: Denman Waldo Ross
  • Publication date: 1907
  • Company: Boston, Houghton, Mifflin

  • Download 23 MB

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