4. The Practical and the Aesthetic

It is neither necessary nor possible in this book to analyze in detail the interaction of the cultivated and vernacular traditions in nineteenth-century architecture. Enough has been said to suggest the limitations of a historical or critical approach which confines its attention to the development in the United States of the western European tradition, and to indicate that wherever modem civilization has been freely accepted the characteristics of the vernacular tradition have appeared in whatever patterns people have created.

It is not a question of which examples of architecture (or painting, or literature) are "best" or "finest"; such absolute qualitative judgments are meaningless unless they are made in relation to specific criteria of judgment. By the standards of the academic tradition Memorial Hall at the Centennial Exhibition (now the Pennsylvania Museum in Fairmount Park) was a "finer" building than others which, by the standards of good facilities for exhibiting things, were far finer than it was. A striking instance of the latter was the Pomological Annex, a temporary structure which has been neglected in all discussions of the Centennial's architecture and of which only one picture seems to have been made, but which deserves attention for the striking way in which its form and spirit prefigure those of many modem buildings. (See Fig. 3.9.) The only description of it which has come to light speaks apologetically of the fact that it was designed without any effort at ornamentation, for purely utilitarian purposes. The walls rose solid to a height convenient for purposes of display, but above that point they were simply glass screens of continuous sash. The interior was light, airy, and cheerful, painted white, with a roof supported by plain joists and girders. In short, the annex was an intelligently designed structure, without any of the pretense that infected the other exhibition buildings. Even the Main Building and Machinery Hall, for all that they were competent engineering designs in iron, were dressed up in meretricious ornament copied from stone and wood forms.

Indeed, in the United States, as throughout the Western world, one of the most characteristic features of the interaction of the two traditions in the industrial and plastic arts was the way in which the materials and methods of technology were employed to perpetuate the forms and modes of craftsmanship. Nothing could be more marked, for instance, than the contrast which frequently 'existed functional design of nineteenth-century machines and the unreasonable fussiness of the objects they were used to manufacture. Indusrialization has often been accused of cheapening everything it touched, but the case was often precisely the opposite. Manufacturers 'in Europe and in America often went to a great deal of extra trouble and expense in order to satisfy cultivated taste by turning out machine-made lighting fixtures, hardware, mantel decorations, furniture, and other ornamental objects which were designed to be beautiful in the same way that handicraft objects were beautiful. (See fig. 20) It was not until the twentieth century that the custodians of culture acquired any confidence in the aesthetic merit of forms which were appropriate to machine manufacture. And by that time they faced the tremendous task of undoing the work of their predecessors who had so diligently labored to undermine popular esteem for the vernacular. Schools and museums and books and magazines had so long and so arduously taught people to despise the indigenous products of their environment that it was difficult to persuade them to cherish suddenly what they had so long ignored. Many Americans were-and for that matter are-timid or indifferent in their relationships with the so called fine arts; it is only in those areas which are outside the scope of the cultivated tradition that they universally felt-and feel-themselves to be on sure ground. As one of our art historians has said, the dealer who put on the market an automobile as inept and clumsy in design as nine out of ten public monuments would be unable to sell it. But this fact is noted as an indication only of the average American's lack of artistic sense, the historian clearly assuming that a beautiful monument is inherently more artistic than a beautiful automobile. Elsewhere in the same volume, for example, it is admitted that automobiles, airplanes, and locomotives are perhaps "the most satisfying aesthetically" of all modern products, but they are excluded from consideration on the grounds that they are in the realm of industrial design, not art.

This exclusive doctrine of art's domain is closely- allied to another doctrine which has had considerable vogue in one form or another for many years. This is the doctrine alluded to earlier in this book, which maintains that art cannot exist except in the neighborhood of a wealthy and aristocratic class. as applied to the post-Civil War period, for intance, the theory is that the newly rich, "fired with the innate human passion for conspicuous waste," Surrounded themselves with luxury and patronized art. Being alien to the aristocratic tradition, the theory continues, they did these things crudely; and yet the collections of Mr. Morgan, Mr. Altman, and Mrs. Gardner, for example, are nevertheless held to have "greatly enriched American cultural resources." This, it seems to me, is a weird mis- marriage of Veblen and snobbery! It is hard to believe that those who hold such a theory have any basic objection either to conspicuous waste or to the idea that the artist is by nature a sponge to absorb such waste. One suspects that the thing they are interested in is whether the particular sponges they happen to like are doing the absorbing.

The doctrine of artistic exclusiveness has a sturdy history. In J. L. Blake's Family Encyclopedia (1834) the orthodox view is bluntly revealed in the statement that "a general love of coarse pleasures" distinguishes the multitude from the more polite classes, and "the inferior orders of society are therefore disqualified from deciding upon the merits of the fine arts." That was the cant phrase of a camp follower of the cultivated tradition. But less than ten years later the vernacular found its first important defender.

Horatio Greenough (1805-52) has been known almost exclusively as the sculptor of a vast, almost naked Washington which horrified his contemporaries. All of his completed work was sentimentally imitative of classical sculpture; one could scarcely find an American artist whose work more clearly reflected the impotence of creative talent working in alien but admired forms. But in recent years it has become clear that Greenough's place in the history of art in the United States has little relation to his statues. It is his life, and his ideas, which now seem important.

Discouraged by the popular reaction to the statue of Washington which he had brought over from his studio in Florence in November 1842 ("A grand martial Magog," Philip Hone called it, "undressed, with a napkin lying in his lap"), and disappointed by the inadequate setting provided for it, Greenough nevertheless was a staunch and loyal democrat. He wrote to his brother Henry from Wilmington, Delaware, in the spring Of '43: "If I succeed in placing my Washington in a good light, I may dissolve my connection with the Government. I have enjoyed as much as any artist ever enjoyed in my profession. . . . My heart will always yearn after America." Having gone to Rome to study sculpture directly after finishing his studies at Harvard in 1825, he spent most of his time abroad (chiefly at Florence) until 1851, making only occasional trips to the United States. Italy appealed to him, as to all our early sculptors, because skilled marble workers were available there. But Europe was never his home, and he missed what he called the "world of living and acting men." In Liverpool, for instance, he spoke of the contrast between Englishmen and Americans and how the former had "a kind of groomed neatness which seems to be the result of police interference, -an expression of respectable servitude." Again, in Vienna he noted "the sort of military view taken of life" which "sweetens subordination to all classes... I believe that we found our institutions upon hope, they upon experience. We hoist the sail and are seasick; they anchor and dance." Although, as he wrote shortly before be died in 1852, he had been inoculated to some extent during his travels with the various ways of thinking of men of different races, creeds, and forms of civilization, he had nevertheless retained "nearly the same proportion of original Yankee conviction to afterthought that you will find of matrix to pebbles in the puddingstones of Roxbury, Mass."

In 1851 political troubles in Florence bad led him to give up his studio there and return with his family to the United States. Here he was caught up immediately by the spirit of active power which seemed to him the characteristic feature of American life. And he began work on a book which appeared in incomplete form in 1852 (the year of his death).

This extraordinary little volume--The Travels, Observations, and Experience of a Yankee Stonecutter--included several essays and lectures which Greenough had written some years earlier during visits to America, and which had been published in periodicals.

Writing in the Democratic Review for July 1843, Greenough had early declared his impatience with the doctrine of exclusiveness in art. just as the British aristocracy had come to regard the masses as "a flock to be fed, and defended, and cherished, for the sake of their mutton," he wrote, so also the Academies of Fine Arts in Europe bad made "a band of educandi the basis of a hierarchy." But Greenough could not accept such dogma. "It is the great multitude for whom all really great things are done and said and suffered," he maintained. And he added, with a humility rare in men whose own work has been damned: "The great multitude desires the best of
everything, and in the long run is the best judge of it." And again: "The monuments, the pictures, the statues of the republic will represent what the people love and wish for, -not what they can be made to accept. . . ."

Despite the recent revival of interest in Greenough's ideas, his writings have never been reprinted in their entirety and copies of his book are available in only a very few libraries.1 It will be necessary, therefore, to quote here those passages which will convey some notion of the alertness of his observation and the flavor of his genius; for this neglected writer was possessed of one of the wisest and most farseeing critical talent in American literature.

The subjects of his various chapters seem strangely assorted at first glance: "Chastity," "American Art," "Social Theories," "Aesthetics at Washington," "American Architecture." Yet all the essays are essentially related to one another; they are all, as he said of his book, meant to be signs that he, for one, "born by the grace of God in this land, found life a cheerful thing, and not that sad and dreadful task with whose prospect they scared my youth."

Living in an age of transcendentalists and social visionaries, he clung stoutly to the actual. "For these reasons," he wrote in his essay on Fourier and the other social reformers of Europe and America, "do I mistrust the theorist. Nine times in ten hath he no wholesome, working, organic relation with God's ground or with his fellow-men. . . . Nine times in ten doth he sit perched upon an income which is a dead branch of the living tree of industry, and with his belly distended by the east wind, and his heart sour with the ambition that hath struck inward, doth he spout generalities." The real test of Fourier's theoretical writings, Greenough felt, would be to read them in a German beerhouse in New York, or amid throngs of lowbrowed and big-jawed Hibernians, stepping here on shore with vast appetite and a faith that removes mountains. "I love the concrete, my brother! and I can look Sir Isaac Newton in the eye without flinching; I kneel to Willy Shakespeare, who guessed to a drop how much oil goes to a Lombard's salad. Give me the man who, seated in that fog bank between the North Sea and the Irish Channel, held horses at the playhouse and found it in his head to teach kings how to wear a crown! . . . That's the mind that I will follow, not only because he is substantial, hath an avoirdupois, a perfume and a taste, but because he is multiform, elastic, not procrustean, not monomaniacal."

With an elaborate (and not altogether successful) figure of speech in this same essay Greenough probes once more for the heart of his belief. The fruit of the tree of civilization, he says, is knowledge, or science, and the seeds within it are wisdom; but the fruit must be plucked from the tree and consigned to "that earth which we all despise so truly-the hearts and heads of common men; there must it find the soil and moisture, blood and tears, which burst its rind and evolve the godbead within."

Greenough was bound by no reverence for the conventional view of any subject. He denounces the notion of chastity, for instance, as any but a negative and relative virtue. "I know that it comes from very far east and is very old- I am, however, from very far west, and . . . disposed to look narrowly into the matter."

As for architecture, Greenough felt that Americans had mauled and misused Gothic and Greek and Roman and, even where we had succeeded in actually copying, had produced something which was only a make-believe. The number and variety of our experiments with architectural styles was a witness of our dissatisfaction with them; their expense, a witness of the strength of our desire for excellence. And the talents and abilities of the men employed were an indication that the failure to create a satisfactory architecture lay in the system, not in the men.

The Mint in Philadelphia, for instance, was in reality built to house vast engines and printing and coining machines, and the furnaces to operate them. Its Chestnut
Street front, however, was a "maimed quotation of a passage of Greek eloquence, relating to something else," while in the rear rose a huge brick chimney, talking everyday English and warning you that the facade was to be taken with some grains of allowance.

However, let us turn, says Greenough, to a structure of our own, one which by its nature and uses commands us to reject authority:

Observe a ship at seal What Academy of Design, what research of connoisseurship, what imitation of the Greeks produced this marvel of construction? Here is the result of the study of man upon the great deep, where Nature spake of the laws of building . . . in wind and waves, and be bent all his mind to hear and to obey. . . . If this anatomic connection and proportion has been attained in ships, in machines, and, in spite of false principles, in such buildings as make a departure from it fatal, as in bridges and in scaffolding, why should we fear its use in all construction!

Greenough looked about him with eyes unclouded by the cant and conventions of aesthetic tradition.

The men who have reduced locomotion to its simplest elements, in the trotting wagon and the yacht America, are nearer to Athens at this moment than they who would bend the Greek temple to every use. I contend for Greek principles, not Greek things. If a flat sail goes nearest the wind, a bellying sail, though picturesque, must be given up. The slender harness, and tall gaunt wheels, are not only effective, they are beautiful for they respect the beauty of a horse, and do not uselessly tax him.

Looking at the skeletons and skins of animals, birds, and fish, he found a variety and a beauty which led him to observe that there is "no arbitrary law of proportion, no unbending model of form in them. It is neither the presence nor the absence of this or that part or shape or color that wins our eye in natural objects; it is the consistency and harmony of the parts juxtaposed, the subordination of details to masses, and of masses to the whole." And from these direct, unborrowed observations of the world around him he deduced a theory which anticipates-even in its phrasing-the famous theory of which Louis Sullivan became the apostle a half century later: "If there be any principle of structure more plainly inculcated in the works of the Creator than all others, it is the principle of unflinching adaptation of forms to function."

In all structures which are by their nature purely scientific --such as fortifications, bridges, and ships--we bad, as Greenough saw it, been emancipated from the authority of tradition "by the stern organic requirements of the works." If an artist would compare American vehicles and ships with those of England, he maintained, he would see that "the mechanics of the United States had outstripped the artists." In the American trotting wagon he would see the old-fashioned and pompous coach dealt with "as the old-fashioned palatial display must yet be dealt with in this land. . . . The redundant must be pared down, the superfluous dropped, the necessary itself reduced to its simplest expression . . .

The quality which Greenough admired in the work American mechanics was quite the opposite of that which appeared in "art-manufacture"; he made it perfectly clear that it was not to be confused with the crude plagiarisms of "steam artisans." Nor was it the cheap product of mere naive materialism; for the style the mechanics had achieved was really the dearest of all styles. "It costs the thought of men," he wrote, "much, very much thought, untiring investigation, ceaseless experiment. Its simplicity is not the simplicity of emptiness or of poverty: its simplicity is that of justness, I had almost said, of justice."

The simplicity Greenough admired was the simplicity which resulted from knowledge and understanding, from
science. Embellishment of any kind was to him the product of ignorance or superstition, and was hence to be avoided even at the risk of nakedness; for in nakedness he recognized "the majesty of the essential, without the trappings of pretension."

Greenough never elaborated a theory of aesthetics to bolster his judgments, but he did state his position briefly, and far more cogently than be has been given credit for. In essence his idea was this: man is not gifted, as brutes are, with an instinctive sense of completeness. Being aware, through his senses, that there is a rhythm and harmony in the universe beyond any adaptation of means to ends which his reason can measure, man seeks to perfect his own approximation to the essential by crowning it with a wreath of measured and musical, yet non-rational (or as be put it, "non-demonstrable") additions of ornament. In other words man applies embellishment to the products of his rational and scientific designing, hoping thereby to make them more beautiful, more in keeping with the many-sided and full and rich harmony which be senses but does not understand in nature. But, says Greenough, this many-sided harmony in nature is in reality a manysided response to the call for many functions, not an aesthetical utterance of the Godhead. If we find an apparent embellishment in nature, we can assume that it appears to be such only because we do not yet know enough to understand the function to which it is adapted.

"I base my opinion of embellishment," be wrote, "upon the hypothesis that there is not one truth in religion, another in the mathematics, and a third in physics and in art; but that there is one truth even as one God, and that organization is his utterance." Here, then, was the basis for his admiration of the functional forms achieved by mechanics and engineers, and for his distrust of all those theories which asserted that this or that form or color was beautiful per se--theories which, be maintained, could be held only by those who arrogate to themselves godship; and to one with Greenough's faith in democracy it seemed clear that "once that false step is taken, human-godsbip or tyranny is inevitable." Here, too, was the first reasoned defense of the vernacular in the arts.

Few of Greenough's articulate contemporaries shared his interest in and enthusiasm for the aesthetic qualities of the forms of the emerging vernacular. There were, of course, striking analogies between his ideas about American art and those of some of the great writers of his time. Emerson, especially, was hospitable to his ideas; "when one has once got his thought," he wrote to William Emerson, "it will stick by you." And Greenoughs admiration for Emerson is indicated by the fact that he sought his opinion of the material to be included in The Travels, Observations, and Experience of a Yankee Stonecutter, saying that he would publish nothing till he had Emerson's advice. But the only mid-century art critic who came anywhere near Greenough's discovery of the new art forms was James Jackson Jarves, who in 1864 published The Art Idea: Sculpture, Painting, and Architecture in America. Jarves had traveled a great deal (he established the first newspaper in the Hawaiian Islands in 1840), and had studied and collected Italian art. Toward the close of his book, which surveys the history of art, he concludes that were the Americans annihilated tomorrow, "nothing could be learned of us, as a distinctive race" from our architecture, for example. But if "the mechanical features" of our civilization were left to tell the national story, our "oceanclippers, river-steamers, and industrial machines" would reveal "an enterprise, invention, and development of the practical arts" which would proclaim us to have been a remarkable people. In this respect his vision approached Greenough's (and may have been influenced by it). But Jarves's appreciation of vernacular forms was confined to those around which some aura of nostalgia had begun to collect. By 1.864 the ocean clippers and paddlewheel steamers were disappearing and being replaced by propeller-driven steamers and by railroad locomotives "about which," Jarves mournfully asserts, 'human affections scarce can cluster, and which art has yet to learn how to dignify and adorn." To Greenough in the forties, the clippers and machines were beautiful in themselves, here and now; to Jarves in the sixties they were beautiful because they bad begun to be bathed in a retrospective haze that blurred their functional meaning. He is back to art as adornment again.

For the most part, Jarves and his contemporaries who wrote about the arts inevitably thought in terms of the cultivated tradition. Art, in that tradition, was centuries old; its products were housed in the public and private museums and libraries of Europe and America; its history had been explored and recorded by devoted scholars; great writers from Vasari to Ruskin had interpreted it to the world; and schools and academies had codified and institutionalized its patterns and forms. The vernacular, on the other hand, was only beginning to take shape. Its characteristics were not established; its products were scattered and impromptu; it bad no textbooks or histories.

In the United States, as in Europe, those whose innate responsiveness to patterns of shape, sound, texture, color, or ideas developed into a literate, self-conscious interest quite naturally turned for education to the libraries, the museums, the galleries, and the schools of the cultivated tradition.

The consequence was that the more interested in art Americans became, the more firmly they (like their counterparts abroad) subjugated themselves to a tradition which not only was alien to the seminal forces in modem civilization but which also tended to discourage any appreciation of the emergent indigenous forms and patterns. They came to feel that American civilization and art were mutually incompatible. In fact their lack of firsthand contact with the heritage of Western art often seems to have made them even more humble in the face of its prestige and authority than were their European brethren, who could in effect take that heritage more or less for granted, as a natural right. They came to feel that American civilization, lacking as it did those survivals of an older culture which in Europe tempered and diluted the raw realities of democracy and technology, was incompatible with .1 art." Writing late in the seventies, George Parsons Lathrop (one of the Atlantic Monthly's editors, a son-in-law of Hawthorne, who helped Walter Damrosch convert The Scarlet Letter into an opera, of all things, and was himself converted to Catholicism), declared that America's "practical" civilization had "imperilled the higher development of the aesthetic," and that in the United States the museums of fine arts were defending art against what he scornfully called "an enlightened age" just as the monasteries had once protected it from the Dark Ages. And Henry T. Tuckerman, whose American Artist Life (1870) was an early and sympathetic study of our artistic progress, came to the conclusion that even if the adverse influences of our civilization did not altogether extinguish the love of art, or quell the talent for it, they did at least limit the development of both among us.

Yet even the most ardent apostles of the cultivated tradition recognized what Lathrop called the American's "inborn responsiveness to the artistic." Tuckerman, surveying the American scene at the beginning of the Gilded Age, noted that there were pianos in wilderness log cabins; daguerreotypes, photographs, engravings, and lithographs everywhere; stereoscopes in every parlor. Singers and instrumentalists drew a large box office in towns and cities throughout the land; vast quantities of sheet music were sold; art exhibits drew crowds; and art unions, picture raffles, art clubs, and art journals were ubiquitous. To play the piano with "superficial dexterity," to sketch from nature, to own "a tolerable landscape or engraving," and to read Ruskin, were all common social phenomena. The level of all this artistic activity was very mediocre, Tuckerman thought, but even so it represented "a somewhat remarkable interest in the subject."

This interest the custodians of the cultivated tradition tried (as they still do) in many ways to foster. To them, for instance, the Centennial Exhibition of 1876 offered no hint of that emerging vernacular whose characteristics appear in retrospect to have been so clearly illustrated in the Corliss engine; they saw it only as a chance for Americans to absorb-from the foreign exhibit of fine arts and art manufacture-the splendors and charms of the European tradition. Here at last was the opportunity demanded by Eugene Benson in Appleton's Journal six years earlier, to replace the "common, pretentious, and ugly objects of our everyday life" by those from abroad which would . soften manners and counteract the- now unmitigated exercise and influence of mere industrialism." There was, of course, industrialism to counteract in Europe too. But there, at least, it was not unmitigated.

Robert Underwood Johnson, writing in 1923, remembered that not only he and his wife but the whole country got their 'first bent toward the aesthetic" from the Centennial, and William H. Ellsworth in his recollections of A Golden Age of Authors (1919) recalled that the Centennial bad not only "implanted an appreciation of art which was new to the American people," but bad also stimulated a whole generation of new artists.

There is evidence enough to support these claims. E. A. Abbey acknowledged the debt be owed to the foreign contemporary paintings which he saw there-particularly those in the English section. Many of his young contemporaries were correspondingly impressed by the work of the Paris and Munich schools; in the fall of 3.876 Dwight William Tryon auctioned off all his unsold pictures and sketches, made two thousand dollars, and set out for Paris to study with a pupil of Ingres. A number of American painters had, of course, been deeply influenced by contemporary European styles long before the Centennial. William Merritt Chase and other American students had met regularly with Frank Duveneck in the smoke-filled rooms of the Max Emanuel Cafe' in Munich in the early seventies to discuss art over huge flagons of beer; both Inness and W. M. Hunt had long shown the influence of French painting, and SaintGaudens and Olin Warner had studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. But never before the Centennial had so many American artists been so overwhelmed by the work of their European contemporaries.

Three years later S. C. W. Benjamin was reporting that there was everywhere apparent "a deeper appreciation of the supreme importance of the ideal in art, and a gathering of forces for a new advance against the strongholds of the materialism that wars against the culture of the ideal." For one thing, a widespread interest in decorative art had been excited at Philadelphia by the exhibits of tiles, furniture, textiles, and decorative objects by William Morris, De Morgan, and Alma-Tadema, and by the work of the Kensington School of Design. A number of our ablest artistsincluding Abbey, Saint-Gaudens, Elihu Vedder, and Stanford White-founded the famous Tile Club the year after the exhibition (at which Minton tiles had been the rage), and in the following decade a number of schools of industrial art and normal schools for training art teachers were established throughout the country.

There was a great deal of talk about "applied art"; and "art" was applied, with a vengeance--to everything the culture collectors could get their hands on. Harper's Bazaar (in its leading article for the issue of July 1, 1876) urged its fair readers to clip poems out of periodicals, paste them in "a pretty scrap album for the library table," and then .stick on all sorts of little ornaments . . . monograms, little gilt devices cut from envelope bands, flowers-anything at all that is pretty." Bric-a-brac and fretwork, in George W. Curtis' phrase, became "a consolation and joy beyond music or poetry" to many people, and two years after the Centennial the sale of jig-saw blades had leaped from a few thousand a year to about five hundred thousand a month.

Even before the Centennial the progress of art manufacture in the United States had been encouraging to those whose hatred of the ugliness of early machine civilization led them, like Morris and Ruskin in England, to attempt to revive and perpetuate the forms and the spirit of handicraft. When foreign exhibitors at Philadelphia sent only their less ornate products, because they thought Americans would prefer the plainer things, some of our commentators were bitterly offended. "Even gorgeous articles of luxury," as Walter Smith smugly recorded, "such as only princes in Europe could purchase, were sold to wealthy persons here." And he was home out by the French critic Simonin, who warned his countrymen, in an article about the Centennial which appeared in the Revue des Deux Mondes, that the Americans were continually borrowing the methods and skilled processes of continental workmen and were already producing bijouterie, artistic bronzes, luxurious furniture, gold and silver ware, and artificial flowers which had "the veritable stamp of solidity and good taste." Nor was Simonin the last Frenchman to worry about these matters. In 1884 Monsieur Lourdelet, vice-president of the Society of Commercial Geography in Paris, excitedly urged his compatriots to abandon their inefficient craft techniques in making bronzes, furniture, and artificial flowers and adopt the system he had seen in America, where they used "elevators" to move materials from one floor to another in factories, and where "nearly everything is done by steam, even the carving." To be sure, be added, "the taste, perhaps, is not perfect . . . ; it is not, perhaps, the best expression of art"; but American manufacturers, he warned, were sending designers to Europe all the time in search of "purer" ideas, and their products were cutting heavily into the French market in South America as well as the United States.

As an example of this American work we may take a brass corona chandelier made by Mitchell, Vance and Company of New York. (See fig. 21) Here, according to Walter Smith's survey of the masterpieces of the Centennial, was an example of American industrial art workmanship which Europeans might look at with pleasure and profit. Smith never tired of repeating the Kensington doctrine that good design calls for "honesty in construction, fitness of ornament to material, and decorative subordination"; and it was these very qualities, he said, which made this chandelier thoroughly satisfactory. Similarly he declared that the beauty of musical instruments should always lie rather in their shape and adaptation to their purpose than in the richness of their ornamentation, and as an example of an instrument "free from all the abortions in the shape of ornament with which many pretentious instruments are disfigured" he selected the Mason & Hamlin organ which is illustrated in Fig. 22.

Nothing could show more vividly than these comments the difference between the Kensingtonian doctrine of "subordinating decoration to use" and Greenougli's doctrine of functionalism. Nowhere better than in such examples of art manufacture can we see the fruits of that tradition which had dedicated itself to persuading the Americans that they were a "raw and noisy and obtrusive people" who could be saved only by placing themselves under the influence of the past and reverently studying specimens of the arts of luxury from Europe. This is what happens when, as Howells said, "the mass of common men have been afraid to apply their own simplicity, naturalness, and honesty to the appreciation of the beautiful. They have cast about for the instruction of someone who professed to know better, and who browbeat wholesome commonsense into the self-distrust that ends in sophistication.


1 Some of his best essays were reprinted early in 1948 in a small collection entitled Form and Function, edited by Harold A. Small and published by the University of California Press. Return

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