Thursday, 2 August 2012

Hogarth’s Analysis of Beauty

Analysis of the title page of Hogarth’s Analysis of Beauty and a discussion of how the artist’s concept of “Variety’, is explained in his text, can be related to his design for the page.

Throughout Hogarth’s Analysis of Beauty, there is a recurrent theme throughout his chapters, namely of variety and its incorporation throughout nature. From his text we can see that he strongly regards the concept of “variety” and the “line of beauty” as the source of beauty, which is naturally around us in every aspect, not only in art but life also. I am going to be looking at his text including specific chapters and seeing how these ideas have influenced his design ideas for the title page “Analysis of Beauty”.
“Entertaining the eye with the pleasure of variety”1. Hogarth describes variety as being a necessity, such an element given to us by nature and therefore radiates such beauty. Throughout the analysis of beauty, different elements noted in various chapters of the book all combine together to define beauty, in Hogarth’s opinion. His title page for the book incorporates some of these elements and it is interesting to see the comparison from the text based theories to the actual design.  It is commonly known that the human eye and moreover, the brain prefers variety to such simplicity and Hogarth’s states that not just the eyes, but all the senses “delight in it”2. A further example of this is used with the idea of the ears reacting to sound. Music has many textures as well as the textures the eyes can see in a painting, and the various textures you can feel with your skin are countless, again brining more pleasure from variety. It is predominant that variety is the source of pleasure and the way in which Hogarth explores its ideas makes us believe it more so. This states the reason why Hogarth would incorporate the words variety into the design for the title page, amongst other important symbols of his ideas. The design itself is very carefully composed, relating to the fact that Hogarth mentions, “...and without design, is confusion and deformity”3.  From the justification and spacing of the text, to the pictorial design and decoration, the whole page is simply but uniformly designed.  There is in every line of the title page design an attribute which is of subject matter in the text, which in itself leads to variation. The title page also incorporates variation of perspective, which is evident in the pyramid shape that sits upon the variety plaque. Hogarth explains that “the pyramids diminishing from its basis to its point....gradually lessening to the centre, are beautiful forms”4. Again this image is incorporated into the title page design; of course the four pointed lines adjoining at the top create variation of perspective, adding beauty. Hogarth addresses this idea in the chapter of simplicity or distinctiveness, “There is no object composed of straight lines that has so much variety, with so few parts”5. The main point I think Hogarth is making here is that beauty doesn’t have to be complicated and that it is visible to everyone, but a number of attributes create such variety, in terms of light and shape and form and that simplicity is therefore more pleasing to the eye. This theory is very much used in his design for the title page, a variety of text and images all in different forms but hold the simplicity which in turn pleases the eye and therefore considers beauty, “Thus we see simplicity gives beauty even to variety, as it makes it more easily understood”6.
Another major implement of design for Hogarth’s title page is the use of lines. In chapter five he introduces the use of “wavering and serpent lines”7, which “that lead the eye a wanton kind of chase”8. This is not pictorially evident in the title page design, but is linked to the quote of Milton in the centre of the page. Milton is describing the scene in the Garden of Eden, when Eve is fighting temptation of the serpent. Of course, this very much relates to the imagery of “serpentine line”9, analysing its variation and becoming allured by its beauty. The “line of beauty”10 is also present in the design. It is situated inside the pyramid shape at the centre of the page. This is not surprising as Hogarth emphasised a considerable amount of importance of the line of beauty. It is interesting that he has positioned the line of beauty around straight lines, again adding variety as he explains in the text, “vast variety of changing circumstances keeps the eye and the mind in constant play”11. Here he is suggesting that straight lines have only the ability to vary in length but not in degrees, but still hold ornamental value. Whereas curved lines, such as the line of beauty, also obtain this feature as well as the ability to vary in “degrees of curvature”12 which is said to be even more ornamental and pleasing not only to the eye but to the hand whilst drawing it with a pencil, again referencing to the different variety of senses involved in the perception of beauty. But when a variety of different lines are put adjacent to one another, it creates beauty for the eye and mind, as Hogarth states, “varied contents; therefore all its variety cannot be expressed on paper by one continued line, without the assistance of imagination”13. This statement very much illustrates Hogarth’s reasoning for designing the lines the way he has, positioning the lines close together and explaining it to us visually by incorporating the word “variety” underneath them.
Another way in which Hogarth has used the concept of variety is through the use of composition and proportion.  It is obvious that the whole page is substantially varied in content, as it contains, text, again varied in different fonts and sizes, drawings, extracts from a poem, and use of straight lines. Hogarth suggests “In a word, it may be said, the art of composing well is the art of varying well”14. The design demonstrates this statement, through the use of space which is used and equally importantly, the space which has not. It is as if there is a heavy bold occupancy of space at the top of the title page, but as your eye is drawn down towards the bottom, there is a lighter, more delicate feel to the composition. The different proportions used in the design create much variety. Hogarth used bolder, bigger text to emphasise certain words on the title page and though it seems there is less body to the latter of the title page, it is brought into balance by the pyramid shape, creating an illusion of strong variety, whilst the mind is satisfied by a sense of symmetry. This point can be backed up by Hogarth, “...the nature of variety, and then its effects on the mind; with the manner how such impressions are made by means of the different feelings given to the eye, from its movements”15. In another chapter Hogarth mentions that “simplicity in the disposition of a great variety, is best accomplished by following nature’s constant rule, of dividing composition into five parts”16, this concept is evident in the title page design, by the use of lines. The four line separate varying pieces of the page, but brings a certain compositional variety, even if simple.
The movement of the eye from the top to the bottom of the page is also greatly affected by the use of light and shade, especially concerning the pyramid shape. There is a predominant contrast across the whole page; again with the bigger text being larger, darker tones have been applied. Then lighter areas of the page are created through smaller text and finer lines. Again this is another aspect of variety Hogarth included in his design and the text illustrates this, “All which again receives still more distinctness, as well as a greater degree of variety, when the sun shines bright, and casts broad shadows of one object upon another....fine opposition of shades, give life and spirit”17.
There is no doubt a certain emphasis on the way natures own variety is the source of such beauty. Hogarth seems to take a very humble approach to seeing beauty in most things. He explains the importance of nature being the foundation on which beauty can flourish. “How much the reverse are natures! The greater the variety her movements have, the more beautiful are the parts cause them”18. Here he is saying that nature is so diverse, which creates such variety in the world, thus creating beauty. This also relates to the idea that all of the various senses can delight in variety, as all of them were produced from nature herself.
In conclusion, “entertaining the eye with the pleasure of variety”19 as mentioned before is certainly what Hogarth set out to do whilst designing his title page for the Analysis of Beauty. Through his use of varying lines, the line of beauty, different positioning of straight lines etc, he creates variety on the page. It is the imagery that he uses in the pyramid object, gradually diminishing in shape, creating such variety of degrees of angles. The difference between degrees and angles in nature is so diminutive; therefore the extent of variety creates such beauty. Hogarth’s concept of variety is actually given to us in text form on the page which suggests to the reader that straight away, the analysis of beauty is in large part in accordance with variety and without it, beauty may not be so diverse.  The way in which the title page is designed with such simplicity yet also incorporates variety is very proficient. His views on composition, “dividing composition into five parts”20 is evident in the design, and creates different sections which are all of varying sizes, again emphasising the point of variety. But one of the main points I think Hogarth is trying to deliver is that to view beauty, is a natural instinct that can be attuned with a certain amount of artistic knowledge “Thus we see simplicity gives beauty even to variety, as it makes it more easily understood”21. Hogarth seems to use moral ideas as well as artistic ones, creating a sense of reality for the reader by using ideas in the form of human being and animals, which of course are primarily sculpted by nature. All of the chapters in the book do in accordance relate to the design for the title page , in one way or another, and as the reader it quite interesting to see how his ideas and knowledge become so apparent in the actual practical side of his work.

1-21, Hogarth. W, The Analysis of Beauty, Yale University press, New Haven & London, 1997. 

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