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BY HORATIO GREENOUGH.
We have heard the learned in matters the mammoth vase of the great reserrelating to art, express the opinion that voir, show how she works when she these United States are destined to feels at home, and is in earnest. form a new style of architecture. Re The mind of this country has never membering that a vast population, rich been seriously applied to the subject of in material and guided by the expe- building. Intently engaged in matters rience, the precepts, and the models of of more pressing importance, we have the old world, is about to erect durable been content to receive our notions of structures for every function of civilized , architecture as we have received the life, we also cherished the hope that fashion of our garments, and the form such a combination would speedily be of our entertainments, from Europe. formed.
In our eagerness to appropriate we We forgot that though the country have neglected to adapt, to distinwas young, yet the people were old, guish,—nay, to understand. We have that as Americans we have no child- built small Gothic temples of wood, and hood, no half fabulous, legendary have omitted all ornament for economy, wealth, no misty, cloud-enveloped back- unmindful that size, material, and ornaground. We forgot that we had not ment are the elements of effect in that unity of religious belief, nor unity of style of building. Captivated by the origin; that our territory, extending classic symmetry of the Athenian from the white bear to the alligator, models, we have sought to bring the made our occupations dissimilar, our Parthenon into our streets, to make the character and tastes various. We temple of Theseus work in our towns. forgot that the Republic had leaped full We have shorn them of their lateral grown and armed to the teeth from the colonnades, let them down from their brain of her parent, and that a hammer dignified platform, pierced their walls had been the instrument of delivery. for light, and, instead of the storied We forgot that reason had been the dry relief and the eloquent statue which nurse of the giant offspring, and had enriched the frieze, and graced the fed her from the beginning with the pediment, we have made our chimney stout bread and meat of fact; that every tops to peer over the broken profile, wry face the bantling ever made had aud tell by their rising smoke of the been daguerreotyped, and all her words traffic and desecration of the interior. and deeds printed and labelled away in Still the model may be recognized, the pigeon-holes of official bureaux. some of the architectural features are
Reason can dissect, but cannot origi- entire ; like the captive king stripped nate; she can adopt, but cannot create; alike of arms and purple, and drudging she can modify, but cannot find. Give amid the Helots of a capital, the Greek her but a cockboat, and she will elabo- temple as seen among us claims pity rate a line of battle ship; give her but for its degraded majesty, and attests a beam with its wooden tooth, and she the barbarian force which has abused soon turns out the patent plough. She its nature, and been blind to its qualiis not young, and when her friends in- ties. sist upon the phenomena of youth, then If we trace Architecture from its is she least attractive. She can imi- perfection, in the days of Pericles, to tate the flush of the young cheek, but its manifest decay in the reign of Conwhere is the flash of the young eye? stantine, we shall find that one of the She buys the teeth,-alas! she cannot surest symptoms of decline was the buy the breath of childhood. The puny adoption of admired forms and models cathedral of Broadway, like an elephant for purposes not contemplated in their dwindled to the size of a dog, measures invention. The forum became a temple, her yearning for Gothic sublimity, the tribunal became a temple, the while the roar of the Astor-house, and theatre was turned into a church; nay,
the column, that organized member, should feel for a fellow-citizen clothed that subordinate part, set up for itself, in the garb of Greece. It is a makeusurped unity, and was a monument! believe! It is not the real thing! We The great principles of Architecture see the inarble capitals; we trace the being once abandoned, correctness gave acanthus leaves of a celebrated modelway to novelty, economy and vain- incredulus odi! It is not a temple. glory associated produced meanness The number and variety of our exand pretension. Sculpture, too, had periments in building show the dissawaned. The degenerate workmen could tisfaction of the public taste with what no longer match the fragments they has been hitherto achieved; the exsought to mingle, nor copy the originals pense at which they have been made they only hoped to repeat. The mould- proves how strong is the yearning after ering remains of better days frowned excellence; the talents and acquirecontempt upon such impotent efforts, ments of the artists whose services till, in the gradual coming of darkness, have been engaged in them are such as ignorance became content, and insensi- to convince us that the fault lies in the bility ceased to compare.
system, not in the men.
Is it possible We say that the mind of this country that out of this chaos order can arise ? has never been seriously applied to that of these conflicting dialects and architecture. True it is, that the com- jargons a language can be born? When monwealth, with that desire of public shall we have done with experiments ? magnificence which has ever been a What refuge is there from the absurdileading feature of democracy, has ties that have successively usurped the called from the vasty deep of the past name and functions of architecture ? the spirits of the Greek, the Roman, Is it not better to go on with consistand the Gothic styles; but they would ency and uniformity in imitation of an not come when she did call to them! admired model than incur the disgrace The vast cathedral with its ever open of other failures? In answering these portals, towering high above the courts questions let us remember with humility of kings, inviting all men to its cool and that all salutary changes are the work fragrant twilight, where the voice of the of many and of time; but let us enorgan stirs the blood, and the dim-seen courage experiment at the risk of visions of saints and martyrs bleed and license, rather than submit to an iron die upon the canvass amid the echoes rule that begins by sacrificing reason, of hymning voices and the clouds of dignity and comfort. Let us consult frankincense, this architectural embody- nature, and in the assurance that she ing of the divine and blessed words will disclose a mine, richer than was “come to me, ye who labor and are heavy ever dreamed of by the Greeks, in art laden, and I will give you rest!" de- as well as in philosophy. Let us remands a sacrifice of what we hold gard as ingratitude to the author of dearest. Its corner-stone must be laid nature the despondent idleness that sits upon the right to judge the claims of down while one want is unprovided for, the church. The style of Greek archi- one worthy object unattained. tecture as seen in the Greek temple, If, as the first step in our search demands the aid of sculpture, insists after the great principles of construcupon every feature of its original or- tion, we but observe the skeletons and ganization, loses its harmony if a note skins of animals, through all the vabe dropped in the execution, and when rieties of beast and bird, of fish and so modified as to serve for a custom- insect, are we not as forcibly struck by house or a bank, departs from its origi- their variety as by their beauty! There nal beauty and propriety as widely as is no arbitrary law of proportion, no the crippled gelding of a hackney coach unbending model of forin. There is differs from the bounding and neighing scarce a part of the animal organization wild horse of the desert. Even where, which we do not find elongated or in the fervor of our faith in shapes, we shortened, increased, diminished or have sternly adhered to the dictum of suppressed, as the wants of the genus another age, and have actually suc or species dictate, as their exposure or ceeded in securing the entire exterior their work may require. The neck of which echoes the forms of Athens, the the swan and that of the eagle, howpile stands a stranger among us! and ever different in character and proporreceives a respect akin to what we tion, equally charm the eye and satisfy
the reason. We approve the length of we cannot withhold our admiration even the same member in grazing animals, from the organs of destruction. There its shortness in beasts of prey. The is majesty in the royal paw of the lion, horse's shanks are thin, and we admire music in the motion of the brinded them; the greyhound's chest is deep, and tiger, we accord our praise to the we cry, beautiful! It is neither the sword and the dagger, and shudder our presence nor the absence of this or that approval of the frightful aptitude of the part or shape or color that wins our ghastly guillotine. eye in natural objects; it is the consist Conceiving destruction to be a norency and harmony of the parts juxta- mal element of the system of nature posed, the subordination of details to equally with production, we have used masses, and of masses to the whole. the word beauty in connection with it.
The law of adaptation is the funda- We have no objection to exchange it mental law of nature in all structure. for the word character, as indicating So unflinchingly does she modify a type the mere adaptation of forms to funcin accordance with a new position, that tions, and would gladly substitute the some philosophers have declared a va- actual pretensions of our architecture riety of appearance to be the object to the former, could we hope to secure aimed at; so entirely does she limit the latter. the modification to the demands of ne Let us now turn to a structure of cessity, that adherence to one original our own, one which from its nature and plan seems, to limited intelligence, to be uses commands us to reject authority, carried to the very verge of caprice. and we shall find the result of the manly The domination of arbitrary rules of use of plain good sense so like that of taste has produced the very counter taste and genius too, as
to part of the wisdom thus displayed in require a distinctive title. Observe a every object around us; we tie up the ship at sea ! Mark the majestic form camel leopard to the rack; we shave of her hull as she rushes through the the lion, and call him a dog; we strive water, observe the graceful bend of her to bind the unicorn with his band in the body, the gentle transition from round furrow, and to make him harrow the to flat, the grasp of her keel, the leap valleys after us!
of her bows, the symmetry and rich When the savage of the South Sea tracery of her spars and rigging, and islands shapes his war club, his first those grand wind muscles, her sails ! thought is of its use. His first efforts Behold an organization second only to pare the long shaft, and mould the that of an animal, obedient as the horse, convenient handle; then the heavier swift as the stag, and bearing the burend takes gradually the edge that cuts, then of a thousand camels from pole to while it retains the weight that stuns. pole! What Academy of Design, what His idler hour divides its surface by research of connoisseurship, what imilines and curves, or embosses it with tation of the Greeks produced this figures that have pleased his eye, or marvel of construction?' Here the are linked with his superstition. We result of the study of man upon the admire its effective shape, its Etruscan- great deep, where Nature spake of the like quaintness, its graceful form and laws of building, not in the feather and subtle outline, yet we neglect the lesson in the flower, but in winds and waves, it might teach. If we compare the and he bent all his mind to hear and to form of a newly invented machine with obey. Could we carry into our civil the perfected type of the same in- architecture the responsibilities that strument, we observe, as we trace it weigh upon our ship-building, we should through the phases of improvement, ere long have edifices as superior to how weight is shaken off where the Parthenon for the purposes that we strength is less needed, how functions require, as the Constitution or the are made to approach without impeding Pennsylvania is to the galley of the each other, how the straight becomes Argonauts. Could our blunders on terracurved, and the curve is straightened, firma be put to the same dread test till the straggling and cumbersome ma- that those of ship-builders are, little chine becomes the compact, effective would be now left to say on this suband beautiful engine.
ject. So instinctive is the perception of Instead of forcing the functions of organic beauty in the human eye, that every sort of building into one general
form, adopting an outward shape for the that the Maison Carrée is but a fragsake of the eye or of association, with- ment, and that too of a Roman temple ? out reference to the inner distribution, He was. It is beautiful is the answer. let us begin from the heart as a nucleus An English society erected in Hyde and work outward. The most conve Park a cast in bronze of the colossal nient size and arrangement of the Achilles of the Quirinal, and changing rooms that are to constitute the build- the head, transformed it into a monuing being fixed, the access of the lightment to Wellington. But where is the that may, of the air that must, be wanted, distinction between the personal prowbeing provided for, we have the skele- ess, the invulnerable body, the heaventon of our building. Nay, we have all shielded safety of the hero of the Iliad, excepting the dress. The connexion and the complex of qualities which and order of parts, juxtaposed for con- makes the modern general? The statue venience, cannot fail to speak of their is beautiful !-is the answer. If such relation and uses. As a group of idlers reasoning is to hold, why not translate on the quay, if they grasp a rope to one of Pindar's odes in memory of haul a vessel to the pier, are united in Washington, or set up in Carolina a harmonious action by the cord they colossal Osiris in honor of General seize, as the slowly yielding mass forms Greene ? a thorough-bass to their livelier move The monuments of Egypt and of ment, so the unflinching adaptation of Greece are sublime as expressions of a building to its position and use gives, their power and their feeling. The as a sure product of that adaptation, modern nation that appropriates them character and expression.
displays only wealth in so doing. The What a field of study would be possession of means, not accompanied opened by the adoption in civil archi- by the sense of propriety or feeling for tecture of those laws of apportionment, the true, can do no more for a nation distribution and connexion, which we than it can do for an individual. The have thus hinted at? No longer could want of an illustrious ancestry may be the mere tyro huddle together a crowd compensated, fully compensated ; but of ill arranged, ill lighted and stifled the purloining of the coat of arms of a rooms, and masking the chaos with the defunct family is intolerable. That sneaking copy of a Greek façade, usurp such a monument as we have described the name of architect. If this ana- should have been erected in London tomic connexion and proportion has while Chantry flourished, when Flaxbeen attained in ships, in machines, and, man's fame was cherished by the few, in spite of false principles, in such and Bailey and Behnes were already buildings as make a departure from it known, is an instructive fact. That fatal, as in bridges and in scaffolding, the illustrator of the Greek poets, and why should we fear its immediate use of the Lord's Prayer, should in the in all construction ? As its first result, meanwhile have been preparing designs the bank would have the physiognomy for George the Fourth's silversmiths, of a bank, the church would be recog- is not less so. nized as such, nor would the billiard The edifices, in whose construction room and the chapel wear the same the principles of architecture are deuniform of columns and pediment. The veloped, may be classed as organic, African king standing in mock majesty formed to meet the wants of their ocwith his legs and feet bare, and his cupants, or monumental, addressed to body clothed in a cast coat of the the sympathies, the faith or the taste Prince Regent, is an object whose of a people. These two great classes ridiculous effect defies all power of face. of buildings, embracing almost every Is not the Greek temple jammed in be- variety of structure, though occasiontween the brick shops of Wall street or ally joined and mixed in the same ediCornhill, covered with lettered signs, fice, have their separate rules, as they and finished by groups of money have a distinct abstract nature. In the changers and apple women, a parallel former class, the laws of structure and even for his African majesty ?
apportionment, depending on definite We have before us a letter in which wants, obey a demonstrable rule. They Mr. Jefferson recommends the model may be called machines, each individual of the Maison Carrée for the State of which must be formed with reference House at Richmond. Was he aware to the abstract type of its species. The VOL. XIII.-NO. LXII.
individuals of the latter class, bound by philosophic investigation of ancient no other laws than those of the senti- art, will learn of the Greeks to be ment which inspires them, and, the American. sympathies to which they are address The system of building we have ed, occupy the positions and assume hinted at cannot be formed in a day. the forms best calculated to render It requires all the science of any countheir parent feeling. No limits can be try to ascertain and fix the proportions put to their variety; their size and rich- and arrangement of the members of a ness have always been proportioned to great building, to plant it safely on the the means of the people who have soil, to defend it from the elements, erected them.
to add the grace and poetry of ornaIf from what has been thus far said ment to its frame. Each of these reit shall have appeared that we regard quisites to a good building requires a the Greek masters as aught less than special study and a life-time. Whether the true apostles of correct taste in we are destined soon to see so noble a building, we have been misunderstood. fruit, may be doubted; but we can, at We believe firmly and fully that they least, break the ground and throw in can teach us; but let us learn princi- the seed. ples, not copy shapes; let us imitate We are fully aware that many regard them like men, and not ape them like all matters of taste as matters of pure monkeys. Remembering what a school caprice and fashion. We are aware of art it was that perfected their system that many think our architecture of ornament, let us rather adhere to already perfect; but we have chosen, that system in enriching what we in- during this sultry weather, to exercise vent than substitute novelty for pro- a truly American right—the right of priely. After observing the innovations talking. This privilege, thank God! of the ancient Romans, and of the mo- is unquestioned, -from Miller, who, dern Italian masters in this department, robbing Béranger, translates into fanawe cannot but recur to the Horatian tical prose, Finissons en ! le monde precept
est assez vieux !" to Brisbane, who “exemplaria Græca declares that the same world has yet Nocturnâ versate manu, versate diurna!" to begin, and waits a subscription of
two hundred thousand dollars in order To conclude. The fundamental laws to start. Each man is free to present of building found at the basis of every his notions on any subject. We have style of architecture, must be the basis also talked, firm in the belief that the of ours. The adaptation of the forms development of a nation's taste in art and magnitude of structures to the depends on a thousand deep-seated inclimate they are exposed to, and the fluences beyond the ken of the ignorant offices for which they are intended, present; firm in the belief that freedom teaches us to study our own varied and knowledge will bear the fruit of wants in these respects. The harinony refinement and beauty, we have yet of their ornaments with the nature that dared to utter a few words of disconthey embellished and the institutions tent, a few crude thoughts of what from which they sprang, calls on us to might be, and we feel the better for it. do the like justice to our country, our We promised ourselves nothing more government, and our faith. As a than that satisfaction which Major Christian preacher may give weight to Downing attributes to every man who truth, and add persuasion to proof, by has had his say, and then cleared out," studying the models of pagan writers, and we already perceive pleasingly so the American builder, by a truly what he felt, and what he meant by it.