Wednesday, February 9, 2011

CLASSIC DIFFERENCE

Heinrich Wölfflin's wonderful text Renaissance and Baroque is always worth reading and re-reading. Sir Herbert Read said of  Wölfflin that he found art criticism a subjective chaos and left it a science. This old copy of his book was published by The Fontana Library (Wm. Collins Sons & Co.Ltd.)  in 1964, second edition, May 1966 - $1.30.
One part of the text that, throughout, is illustrated with some beautiful drawings, describes the differences in the facade of one project, Il Gesù, that was originally designed by Vignola and was later revised by Della Porta. These schemes are illustrated on pages 104 and 105 of the book (see below) with the text detailing the differences being printed on pages 103 and 106. The comparison is intriguing and surprising, as is the book itself, of which this comparison is so tiny an example. As raised in 'REVIVE BEAUX ARTS?', the matter of classicism needs far more attention than we seem prepared to give it. It appears to be just too easy (and fashionable) to dismiss it without any real understanding of what is being put aside. There is a wisdom and subtlety in this work that needs to be explored in detail, not so that the work can be copied, but that some understanding of the minds that assembled these parts and why, might be gained. The study could highlight a framework for action and thinking for us today, and stimulate a tolerance that seems to be missing in our time.
There is another matter than requires comment: one cannot but notice how these illustrations in this book look so 'naive' to our eye. They are beautiful in a special way only if we put aside our expectation that everything should be computer perfect. Even the way the photographs have been handled in the text - collected classically into three packages of gloss paper located at the quarter points within the bundle of the yellowing pages. We get so used to everything being perfectly where it needs to be that we should think more about other times that required other efforts with other technologies to gauge how our technologies are having an impact on us.

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