The Line of Beauty
In The Analysis of Beauty, William Hogarth placed as the focal-point what he termed ‘the line of beauty’. Otherwise known as a ‘serpentine’.
These S-shaped curved lines were said to be agreeable with even the ‘eye of the beholder’ as they naturally stimulated our faculties with ‘activity and liveliness’ especially when compared to straight lines which signified stasis or death.
Chiswick contemporary and fellow-arcadian Capability Brown, whose tercentenary is celebrated in 2016, in true Augustan spirit made use of these ‘lines of beauty’ in his world-renown landscapes including serpentine paths, earthworks and lakes.
Clearly Hogarth had rediscovered a secret of design that was intuitively used since ancient times in the creation of musical instruments such as the harp and lyre
But is also found in the most beautiful forms in nature
Including the human form
as well as furniture design from the Louis XV period.
25 years prior to publication of Hogarth’s masterpiece on aesthetics and just up the road from Hogarth’s House, fellow arcadian William Kent introduced vitruvian proportions into architecture at Chiswick Park with the aptly named Chiswick House.
The golden ratio is about self-similar patterns arranged in such a way so as to provide balance of mass in space. this is what allows trees and flowers to remain upright and not completely compelled by gravity to topple by their own weight and the heavy fruits they bear. It is also what allows a more even distribution of light for leaves of all branches thus balancing overall growth.
The golden ratio spirals, the line of beauty is a waveform.
The golden ratio self-replicates in its infinite variety, the line of beauty is a singular flow that has a clear beginning and end that shouldn’t be repeated as it should remain unique. The golden ratio is found everywhere in nature and is a thing of outstanding beauty, the line of beauty is also found in nature and is more rare and seems to only be found in the most elegant things such as the curve of a well-formed ladies hips, the arch in a swan’s neck and the bend in a river.
The line of beauty appears to be related to graceful movement through space something paintings and photographs can’t do justice to. Perhaps this is what fellow arcadian Lord Byron was alluding to in his poem ‘She walks in beauty’..
As fellow arcadian Sir Francis Bacon pointed out in his essay Of Beauty
In beauty, that of favor, is more than that of color; and that of decent and gracious motion, more than that of favor. That is the best part of beauty, which a picture cannot express; no, nor the first sight of the life. There is no excellent beauty, that hath not some strangeness in the proportion.
The reality of the golden ratio and the line of beauty raises important questions on the nature of the universe.
We will be exploring this strange connection in subsequent posts leading up to the release of ‘Arcadia’ (working title) next year – a call to action to revive the arcadian spirit and lifestyle along this stretch of the thames back to its halcyon days.
You can follow updates to ‘Arcadia’ on twitter.