The Art Journal illustrated catalogue: The industry of all nations 1851 — London, 1851

Page: e_I
DOI Page: Citation link: 
https://digi.ub.uni-heidelberg.de/diglit/weltausstellung1851c/0397
License: Public Domain Mark Use / Order
0.5
1 cm
facsimile


THE EXHIBITION AS A LESSON IN TASTE.

\ /c

AN ESSAY ON ORNAMENTAL ART AS DISPLAYED IN THE INDUSTRIAL

EXHIBITION IN HYDE PARK, IN WHICH THE DIFFERENT STYLES

ARE COMPARED WITH A VIEW TO THE IMPROVEMENT OF

TASTE IN HOME MANUFACTURES.*

BY EALPH NICHOLSON WOBNUM.

"It is known that the Taste is improved exactly as we improve our judgment; by
extending our knowledge, by a steady attention to our object, and by frequent exercise.
They who have not taken these methods, if their taste decides quickly, it is always
uncertainly ; and their quickness is owing to their presumption and rashness, and n< i

to any sudden irradiation."

Burke.

' Conamur tenues Grandia."

I.—Introduction.

HERE is perhaps no province of

industry, in which the advantages

of an intercommunication of ideas

are more direct, than in that of

Art-manufacture ; and this must

be more especially the case when

the means of production of the

various parties are pretty nearly

mechanically equal. The differences of results

arise purely from differences of degrees of artistic

skill, depending on the greater or less cultivation

of those faculties of the mind which conduce to

that species of judgment termed Taste.

It is evident that Taste must be the paramount
agent in all competitions involving ornamental
design, where the means or methods of production
are equally advanced ; but where this is not the
case, the chances are still very greatly in the favour
of Taste over mere mechanical facility, provided low price be not the
primary object.

Thus, the Great Exhibition in Hyde Park is of all things the
best calculated to advance our National Taste, by bringing in close
contiguity the various productions of nearly all the nations of the
earth in any way distinguished for ornamental manufactures. The

Propers of tYe'rBT-JouS^t^6.^^ °f «»***** gUinCaS; °ffered ^ the
Exhibition of the Works of ?nilus?rv of^AllPnJ? °D *° ^ ?T^ °/ re»tlei'in8 ^

v^ticMj^mtoaes^^^^^A^ held ln Loudon inl851>

distinctive characteristics of each are so many elements of novelty
of arrangements which every nation may appropriate according to
its own views and practice.

Our present subject of consideration is how far British manu-
facturers may derive advantage from this congress of national
pecriliarities of design.

Ornament is essentially of the province of the eye; it is beau-
tiful appearances that we require, not recondite ideas, in works ot
Ornamental Art: these may be associated with ornament, but they
must be kept perfectly subject to the mere principles of beauty
of arrangement of the material forms. Dramatic, allegoric, and
ornamental art are totally distinct in their development; they may
be combined, but one can never be the substitute of another. If
dramatic or allegorical compositions are introduced as portions of
an ornamental scheme, they must be treated upon the symmetrical
or ornamental principle. Whatever other principle we may asso-
ciate with the ornamental, must be kept secondary to effect, if we
are desirous of making a good design : introduce what symbols we
will, they must be made subject to the ruling principles of ornament
itself, or, however good the symbolism, our design is a mere crudity
in Art.

Some general examination of ornament in its characteristic
developments of various times and nations, or what are technically
called styles, must necessarily precede our examination of the
modern expressions of ornamental art as now displayed in the
Great Industrial Exhibition.

We shall find that the elements of form are constant in all cases;
they are but variously treated : this, in fact, must be so, if a Style
be founded upon any principles at all; and all those styles which
have carried with them the feelings of ages, could not be otherwise
than based upon some fixed natural laws. How certain varia-
tions of form and colour happen to be so universal a desire, that
the varieties of their arrangements have occupied all people from
the remotest times, is a question of both material and psychological
interest.

Universal efforts show a universal want, and beauty of effect and
decoration are no more a luxury in a civilised state of society than
warmth or clothing are a luxury to any state : the mind, as the
body, makes everything necessary that it is capable of permanently
enjoying. Ornament is one of the mind's necessities, which it
gratifies by means of the eye. So it has been discovered to be
again an essential element in commercial prosperity. This was not
so at first, because in a less cultivated state we are quite satisfied
with the gratification of our merely physical wants ; but in an
advanced state, the more extensive wants of the mind demand still
more pressingly to be satisfied. Hence ornament is now as material
an interest in a commercial community as the raw materials of
manufacture themselves.

In early stages of manufactures, it is mechanical fitness that is
the object of competition: as society advances, it is necessary to
combine elegance with fitness ; and those who cannot see this must
send their wares to the ruder markets of the world, and resign the
great marts of commerce to those of superior taste who deserve a
higher reward.

This is no new idea : let us take a lesson from the experience of
past ages,—the various coloured glass of Egypt, the figured cups
of Sidon, the shawls of Miletus, the terra-cottas of Samos, the
bronzes of Corinth—did not command the markets of the ancient
world, either for their materials or for their mechanical qualities ;
not because they were wrell blown—cleverly chased—finely woven
—ingeniously turned—or perfectly cast:—these qualities they had
only in common with the similar wares of other nations ; but in
the gratification of one of the most urgent necessities of the mind
in an advanced social state, they were pre-eminent—they were
objects of a cultivated refined taste. And it is by this character
alone that manufactures will ever establish that renown which will
ensure a lasting market in the civilised world. The great object
of attainment is Taste, which is not a mere impulse of the fancy,
but dependent upon the operations of reason as completely as
any other conclusion respecting good or bad, or right or wrong, to
which we attain by the mind's experience. To demonstrate this
truth is the chief aim of the following Essay, in which the various
species of ornamental art exhibited will be examined with respect

I***
loading ...