Part 1: Aesthetic Beauty

 

It makes no sense to start a discussion about beauty, because there are as many forms of beauty as there are ideas of happiness. Nevertheless, I wanted to know if there are ‘guidelines’ to achieve aesthetic beauty. "The Analysis of Beauty" is a book written by William Hogarth (18th century English painter, satirist, and writer) and published in 1753, which describes Hogarth's theories of visual beauty and grace in a manner accessible to the common man of his day. In The Analysis of Beauty Hogarth uses two templates - picturing architecture, the human body and nature- to devellop a number of principles which independently affect beauty. 

William Hogarth, The Analysis of Beauty - plate 1 1753

William Hogarth, The Analysis of Beauty - plate 2 1753

But.. men and society have changed in the past 261 years, and as a result of that I am influenced through my life on earth and by this society. Therefore I have manipulated the principles, and added a few more to the "rule-book". It does seem that these ‘rules of beauty’ can still be applied today…

The first principle of beauty is fitness. We see beauty in a human creation, perfectly suited to comply the fuction it is designed for.

 

Features: balance, endurance, overpowering natural forces, dimensions, efficiency...

 

The second major principle of beauty is variety. It is the source of beauty, and is contrary to the notion of "sameness": "sameness", a lack of variety, offends the senses. "The ear is as much offended with one even continued note, as the eye is with being fix'd to a point. We need multiple emotional experience within one observation.

Features: Perspectif, Relief in a certain amount of sameness in a variatal experience, detail...

The third notion is regularity, which is understood as a form of "composed variety": it only pleases us when it is suggestive to fitness.

Nature strives to chaos, but we need order and structure. Humanity rules nature. For example the street.

Features: Partly symmetrical, Perspective, order combined with complexity...

Similar to this regularity in effect is simplicity, the power of enyoing it with ease. The variety which causes a beautiful experience should, so to speak, be tempered by simplicity. On the other hand: simplicity without variety is whole insipid.

 

Intricacy is a strange principle in that it does not directly follow from the formal behaviour of a beautiful object. Intricacy arises from the love of pursuit. Bit by bit discovering the beauty of that object.  Every difficulty/complexity in understanding or grasping the object enhances the pleasure of overcoming it, to continue the pursuit. There is a direct connection here to the Line of Beauty Hogarth dictates. 

Features: Ornaments, movement, the seeming simplicity...

Quantity, finally, is associated with the notion of the sublime, which, when Hogarth's book appeared, was not yet entirely distinguished from the apprehension of beauty. We thus do not speak of sublimity, but of greatness. A great quantity can be recognised to have an aesthetic and hypnotising effect on the beholder without the necessity of a varietal or fitting form. This should not be exaggerated, as that might lead to absurdities.

Elegance, A movement in which we overcome nature in a seemingly effortless way. Despite its sleek appearance, we have the presumption of a high complexity.

Features: The line of beauty, the serpentine line, proportions...

Buildings and objects do say something about values and issues representing a culture and a particular location. Different cultures have different histories, and the design should be consistent with its surroundings. 

Features: atmosphere, ambience...

Ideological shifts are a direct result of the social state (law and order) in a society. Art and architecture are a response to a lack in society and an outlet for the contradictions of life. For example the variety of realistic and abstract art will have an influence on the ideal beauty.

Features: Presence of phisical danger, dullnes, moral and spiritual confusion...

The art of composing well is no more then the art of varying well. The quest for a harmonious composition.

Features: Proportion, symmetry, light and shade, proud and impressive, CHARACTER...

W. Hogarth proves that the presence of nature in our environment is of capital importance to our perception of beauty. Overcoming a natural force by creating order in this chaotic world gives us an exalted feeling we call happiness. This is why many human creations that are in some way creating a path through nature −for example a road− are experienced as beautiful. In his writings the serpentine line is the Leitmotiv.  The serpentine line, “the line of grace”, is a line that possesses a constant variation in its own form. Pleasing to the eye because of “the Love of Pursuit” and coincidentally, the most common line in nature.