Common Ornament

WE Americans bear the reputation of thrift. We are proud of our industry and trade, and like to say of ourselves that we have an eye to the main chance. We are indeed utilitarians, and hold advanced notions of economy. Notwithstanding this, it would be a curious problem, to find out what proportion of our activity results in that which is, crudely speaking, not of the least use to us ; what amount of money we spend in mere decoration. The figures would be startling, and they would perhaps set us thinking how to make them less.

In all races love of decoration follows love of nature, and seems to be its inevitable outgrowth. The savage ornaments his club, or spear, or paddle, having little else, excepting his skin, which he prizes sufficiently. The new settler develops a taste sooner or later for some kind of bravery, in house, or church, or wagon, or furniture. With wealth the taste increases and everything is ornamented. It is true, there are individuals and sects professing abstinence from all beauty of art ; but they follow their precepts with difficulty, and as their notions are prohibitory their numbers are small. Practice is often much at variance with the ideal in these matters. One of our philosophers, hearing that a certain city had not yet its first public work of art, said the fact did the people credit; but his own house was full of pictures, casts from the antique, and all manner of knick-knacks. It is clear enough that the tendency to adorn cannot be ignored in any practical scheme of civilization. However much ornament may need pruning, it is a normal branch of human activity. The world divested of it would be an unpleasant spectacle and very much duller. Art makes so much variety, develops so much sympathy. Imagine Rome, Athens, Paris, representing only useful interests. Art individualizes and at the same time makes unity possible. It bridges the gulfs of time.

It is not needful to consider curiously the relative value of common ornament among the arts : it will be admitted that it exercises a considerable influence in general culture. If it has less dignity than portraiture or historic work, it is still equally legitimate. All the fine arts may be regarded as languages, or, at least, as means of communicating ideas ; and in this light the most commonplace ornament, as well as the noblest statue, may be estimated. Its lessons are not so clearly defined as those of so-called high or historic art; but they are not less useful in their own field, and they appeal to a much greater number. To consider the present excess of ornament, its character and influence, and to venture some suggestions toward reform, is the object of this paper.

At first thought it is surprising that in our rough new country, where everybody is supposed to be engaged in money-getting, there should be so much outlay for mere decoration. But perhaps we are not so fully given up to “ business ” as we ourselves fear. One likes to spend money as well as to acquire it ; the necessities of life are few and cheap, its capacity for ornamentation is unlimited. No moneyed man will live in a house wanting those niceties of form and color which make home pleasant ; and if he will, his wife’s pride will soon correct the fault. The demand for ornament would seem to be as reliable as that for food or clothing ; investment in it as likely to bring a handsome return as an operation in wheat, or land, or houses. Though the fine arts are scarcely returning from the lowest possible ebb-tide, the mass of the people being utterly ignorant of refinement in form or color, yet the production of finery seems greater than ever. It is an indulgence which all classes of people allow themselves in one form or another. Those whose means scarcely afford them good food and shelter, yet buy ornament, and, unable to own a single good picture, patch the wall with all sorts of substitutes. To such, chromo-lithography is a special boon. Each picture must be framed, often at an expense exceeding its own value; but great reliance is placed upon frames in the way of ornament. Any ordinary apartment of a dwelling, saving the very few furnished by those who have studied the subject, will furnish illustration of the abundance of decoration, such as it is. House furniture, even of the cheapest sort, is covered with corresponding cheap ornamentation. The manufacture is so uniform in this respect, that the buyer has no choice ; plain household goods are not to be had. It is hard to find any article made simply in the best manner to answer its use ; everything is painted, stamped, moulded, cast or woven with some kind of design. Plain carpets and plain wall-paper are almost unknown. If you would buy a lamp, you may choose from a hundred patterns loaded with ornament, but your choice, excluding it, will be very limited. So in gas-fixtures. Simplicity of design in these is a rare exception ; they are loaded with cheap patterns, and even their valves will hurt your fingers when they turn hard, by reason of their coarsely cast ornament. Observe also the “carved” leaves, etc., applied as handles to drawers. Stoves, clocks, mirrors, tables, chairs, bookcases, may not be the best of their kind for their uses, but they are all decorated, and for this one must pay, whether he likes it or not. The family Bible may be in worn type, second-quality ink, and cheap paper, but its cover will be stamped full of “design.”

The decorating genius is still more active beyond the privacy of the dwelling. Observe the interiors of hotels ; they are not always comfortable, but they are sure to be gay, such gilded gayety as it is. What you miss in careful attention you may make up in fresco. If in some of them food and lodging are of doubtful character, and the attendance elevated into a lofty patronage, there is no doubt whatever about the expense of gold-leaf. The travelling public would seem to be composed of princes in reduced circumstances. The street-cars are gayly painted ; one often has cause to wish that the expense had been invested in the propelling power. Complaint is made of cheap iron on the railways, but the palace-coaches are wonders of luxury and ornament. Even the engine and tender are subject to the love of decoration. The gleam of the polished brass and steel is very pleasant. Our river and coast steamers are famous as floating palaces, many of them being burdened with a profusion of carved and gilded ornament. The public is obviously pleased by it and willing to pay for it, even though the boilers may be overworn and unsafe.

A glance at any recently built street will show the power of this tendency in building. After a great fire in one of our Eastern cities, though the loss was crippling, when the sufferers came to rebuild the employment of ornament was remarkable. The new shops, banks, churches, were adorned with stucco, fresco, and wood-finishing, at an expense of which the owners had not before dreamed. Extravagance was less evident in the effort to build better than in the desire to decorate more. The wall is often a little thinner than it ought to be, the mortar not always first-rate, and the workmanship shows haste ; but the structure must be embellished at much cost, usually by loading it with gross window-caps all cast in the same mould, and vast cornices of zinc or sheet-iron. Some years ago the Greek portico and pediment were deemed indispensable in a building of taste, and in our public places arose huge Doric and Corinthian columns, often formed of pine boards or of stucco (materials as well fitted to the design as gingerbread), making vestibules of no conceivable use in the Northern climate, and supporting, or seeming to support, cumbrous pediments, — all for ornament. Though its character is changed, the amount of coarse building - ornament in all our towns is large and rapidly increasing. Observe the cornices in a modern business street, with their huge, coarse brackets. The builder is so pleased with these clumsy brackets, that he will put a hundred of them, all cast in the same mould, or sawed out by the same pattern, at the top of a wall. And the cornice of which they are members is usually a false cornice, of sheet metal or wood, having nothing whatever to do with the stone or brick of the wall, and tacked on only for ornament. This kind of decoration, so common among the builders, does not compare favorably with the wood-carving seen in our oldest buildings, but now fast yielding to the love of more obtrusive patterns. At the least, that had delicacy, while this has none. Ornament is of course even more abundant in religious than in domestic or commercial building. A spire is an exclusively ornamental feature; and being, so to speak, the flower of architecture, should rise only where there is a surplus of means, should follow only the entire fulfilment of all need and expectation below. But the prevalence of spires on churches, which are otherwise meagre and ill-fitted, is notable. Some church structures bear two of them, identical in pattern ; such is the craving for ornament and the paucity of design. There may be a suggestion of aspiration in these altitudes ; but it would be well first to have all that is desirable in the structure proper.

Excessive ornament in dress needs little illustration. Though in the last century an important change has taken place in men’s apparel, so that now obtrusive ornament stamps the wearer with indelible vulgarity, still the love of it will appear wherever excuse may be shown, as in the case of various secret societies, which employ it largely in their uniforms and paraphernalia. A visit to one of the great manufacturing establishments, as, for instance, that of Horstmann & Co., Philadelphia, shows the important investment in swords, belts, plumes, badges, buttons, and pretty gewgaws for such purposes. In women’s dress, decoration could hardly have been carried to a greater extreme in the most corrupt ages. We read, in journals of a certain class, accounts of toilets at balls with immense valuations attached. The extraordinary demands of fashion lead to grotesque deviations from the outlines of nature ; and health, comfort, and beauty are sacrificed to love of display. The reverse of the picture, where the mania for ornament is seen in the dress of the humbler classes, is even sadder; the poor finery of the working-woman carries a pathos which disarms criticism. The social scientist cannot ignore the love of ornament, when he considers what hunger, cold, or disgrace may be represented by the trimmings of a sewing-girl’s garments. If useless decoration here is only the result of proper pride, what is it in the lavish luxury of the wealthy ? They set the example. What indulgence of silly vanity is shown in the attire of servants, tricked out in ornamental liveries! How unblushingly the devices for “improving” and “developing ” the human figure are displayed in the fashionable shops ! Extravagant personal adornment will be among the latest barbarisms yielding to reform. Here, as in manners and religion, the healthful simplicity comes last of all.

Poor Mortality carries his bravery with him even to disintegration. He must have ornamented nails in his coffin. The “ undertaking ” cost of a “ first-class ” funeral in our large cities probably averages more than five hundred dollars, and of this, of course, a large part is expended for mere pomp and circumstance, for ornament. Confronting death, we assume only the appearance of simplicity. The only abstinence grief imposes is that of color: we are elaborately decked in suits of sables. The high cost of “ mourning ” is admitted ; but it is remarked that it is very becoming. The hearse is bescrolled and plumed. In our larger cemeteries ornament is employed lavishly. There is perhaps less adornment of the tomb than the dwelling, but wherever wealth buries, the graveyard teems with devices, Egyptian, Greek, Gothic. The change from former desolation and ghastliness is perhaps desirable; it is noted only as illustrating the continued force of the decorating tendency. Whatever may be the character of our surroundings from childhood onward, they are largely modified by decoration.

Comparison of the present with the past would doubtless show that ornament is now more generally distributed ; that as it was once in a considerable degree sacred, it is now common ; once enjoyed by the wealthy, now also by the poor; once the property of church or state, now also of the people. It is not probable that in the best times of antiquity the average citizen of Greece or Rome had anything like the quantity of decoration in his home or about him which one of the same class has now. Such comparison, however, would require much space; and it seems necessary to call attention only to the fact of the abundance of decoration here and now.

Recognizing this increasing love of adornment and the great tax we lay upon ourselves to gratify it, we may inquire concerning its character, and try to see how we get the worth of our money, or if we get it. The difficulties in the way of a clear answer to such questions are considerable. Questions of ornament are much vexed. One does not say, This is good, that is bad ; but affirms honestly, This I like, that I do not like. Here law is remote and little understood, individual opinion undisciplined. People of excellent general culture are often timid regarding matters of art. “I am no judge, I only know what I like,” is the everlasting phrase. But, on the other hand, the general ignorance and timidity gives opportunity for an immense dogmatism to the advocates of special system. All kinds of decoration assume to be beautiful, and each has its champions, doubting nothing, asserting all things. The doctors disagree. Mr. Ruskin insists upon the representation of organic forms. An eminent contemporary pronounces such a course fatal, and finds his grammar of ornament in “contrast, repetition, and series.” All is chaotic. Some of our new interiors are decorated in the crude, brilliant Egyptian style ; Greek forms still haunt our walls and fabrics ; the Alhambra repeats itself feebly in our colder land ; and the rococo of Louis XV. infests our chairs, tables, and mirrors. The popular whim might at any time represent as the acme of fancy the ornament of a Feejee war-club. We often find in the same apartment two or three of the leading systems of ornament, jumbled together with a sublime indifference. Persons of equal intelligence hold opposite opinions about the commonest decoration, and can give no sufficient reason for like or dislike. Observation discovers that there is no general standard of taste, and that law in ornament is not recognized by any considerable part of society. “It is a matter of taste,” is the formula with which discussion closes.

Now it may be indeed true that no one shall infallibly say what is beautiful. But we may point out some necessary conditions of true pleasure in any work intended to please. We may discern what is good and abiding in it, and sharply distinguish this from what is false and temporary. Any embellishment, Egyptian, Greek, Indian, or Yankee, will beget various ideas in various minds ; but with ordinary enlightenment there will be found much agreement as to some essential qualities ; as, whether it be of hand or machine, whether it have fitness, delicacy, variety, unity, and many details whereof the standard in things beyond ornament is already fixed and allowed. Primarily, the same tests applied to useful things should be applied to works of art. But common sense in these matters is scarcely thought available, and for lack of it the noble art of decoration is lost in a muddle of vain repetitions. And, indeed, it is not much better with any of the fine arts ; we may only grope for the hand of Nature, and begin over again in the child’s way.

When we are thus radically ready to begin, very little thought is necessary to produce immediate healthful change. Note how Rogers, the “ toysculptor,” as less successful artists have called him, has found the way to the popular heart by modelling things as he sees them, involving ideas familiar to the people, and not pausing to adapt and degrade the ideals of old. This spirit of dealing frankly with realities, interpreting nature directly, is the beginning, there is reason to hope, of a more glorious art-teaching than the world has yet seen. But the incoming wave is scarcely felt in our common decoration, where the great want is.

Some of the first objects at hand will illustrate this lack of thought in what are wrongly deemed minor matters. Here is a programme of dances, etc., at a children’s party, given by a family of wealth and considerable culture. It was certainly intended to be quite an ornamental achievement. The paper is highly glazed and stamped with an elaborate border in gilt. The language French. Some of the type is so ornamental as to be almost illegible. The paper is of very poor quality, and the impression so careless that in some places the ornament breaks quite through it. One could scarcely imagine a more vulgar little piece of work. The design is from the stereotypes of the printer, and is what he also uses for cheap valentines. This card is a complete cheat. It pretends to be fine and rich : it is really mean and poor. There is nothing good about it. No thought was expended in its design, and none in its selection, with reference to the true elements of beauty. Yet it was intended to please fifty children, and doubtless furnished many of them a standard of taste in such matters. It is idle to say that, though it has a character of falsity, it can do no harm. Much unconscious teaching goes with the amusement of children. That love ot sham finery which the child gathers from diversion, may be transferred to the problems and business of life.

In contrast to the paper “ programme,” here is a lamp-shade, also made of paper and highly ornamental. It has pleased us for months, and, worn out, is to be laid aside regretfully. The reason why it has pleased us so long is that it is the product of thought ; it is an invention, not a repetition. It is fitted to its use, of relieving the eye from the whiteness of porcelain. Then its ornament, a little checkerwork and a broad border of vine-leaves, was cut out from nature by hand so truly and delicately that it at once imparts an idea of nature’s truth and fineness to the mind. There was no heedless stamping of steam in this. Thought preceded the hand in each line of it. Its beauty is the beauty of thought, not of cost. So far as money goes, its only cost was the price of a sheet of tissuepaper. There was only this and a pair of scissors to work with, yet the character of grape-leaves is well rendered, with a good suggestion of their delicate ornamented edges. No violence is done to the material. This bit of ornament is exactly opposed in essentials to the gaudy dance-card. Such examples are little matters, but they show the differing tendency of decoration in common things. The pretentious, stamped, cast, or printed ornament is the rule, the modest design from nature the exception.

Indifference in “matters of taste” is sometimes assumed. Less gaudy styles would not suit the demands of fashion. The relationship of the good to the beautiful is so far ignored that a sham often stands for what is tasteful and desirable. And granting, with the indifferent, that false ornament has no direct evil effect, shall we admit that its indirect influence is harmless ? What Is neither good nor bad, being costly, should be condemned on the score of economy. Our friends’ parlors are generally filled with decoration. Is it well that so much money shall be employed in work to which all but the tradesman and upholsterer are comparatively indifferent ? Two minutes will suffice a person of ordinary culture to get all the pleasure or teaching possible in the general run of house decoration. One knows to a certainty that, apart from the higher works of art, paintings, statues, etc., there is here the product of no individual skilful hand, but the same coarse flowers in the carpet, the same gilt nonsense on the paper, the same senseless scrolls in the stucco, which he can find at all the shops. Harmony is scarcely expected. Carpetings are especially obnoxious, the colors being so glaring and the figures so large, that they “kill,” as the saying is, all that is temperate and refined in the room. Speaking with reference to fitness, the plainest drugget would be an improvement on the average carpet, as it would allow whatever there might be of good design in picture or carving to have its weight. Nine tenths of the carpets appear to be chosen for gaudy colors and huge forms. Nature furnishes no hint for this. She does not give us to walk on roses as large as cabbages. Such things unfit the eye for pictures or any good art. Where is the profit of such decoration ? We can say of it only that it cost so much. The combination of less money and more thought is worth trying.

Such remarks do not apply, of course, in homes where art is studied professionally or otherwise. It is consoling to find now and then a house embellished with some taste beyond that of the upholsterer, and where the repetitions of the shops are not allowed to banish original design. A bit of good art, though it be no more than a sketch of a handful of wild flowers, drawn from nature, will hold us longer and teach us more than all the vanities furnished by the “ trade.” In the one there is the individual representation of natural beauty, ever new and vital ; in the other, lavish expense without thought, always imbecile. One speaks clearly of love and life, the other is the gibbering of machinery ; and that which should be the rule is the exception.

The effect of constant association with vulgar ornament cannot be overrated. Its falsity will repeat itself somewhere in thought or action. Even the shabby devices of false columns, arches, pediments, are scarcely gone out of use. Paper and paint surfaces, simulating various woods and marbles, are still common. What true pleasure can be had from such shams ? Good art never cared to deceive. The best sculptors scarcely cared to hide their chisel-marks. It is said that these shams, being recognized, are powerless. If so, then they are powerless to please ; and the fact remains that the money spent for them would buy good art, bearing a worthy significance. It seems doubtful if the fashionable world has arrived at the notion of significance in art.

Unfortunately the evil spreads among better classes. What the merely wealthy and fashionable do is of little import, excepting as it affects the general habit. We could afford to laugh at Brown the whiskey-seller, with his coat-of-arms and monograms, if the matter ended with Brown. But Brown and his wife, by means of their money, make a standard for others. It is just in these “matters of taste” that their influence is greatest. They are first in the field. The poor man and the busy man have little time to consider laws of taste, but are fond of ornament and buy a great deal in imitation of the wealthy. They are forced to accept the standard of wealth, which is neither the best nor the best suited to their needs. So all taste is vulgarized. The gross patterns of luxury appear in the humblest fabrics, and inflict a heavy tax where it can ill be borne. The example of great wealth is almost invariably bad. It saddles us with villanous rococo, and such stuff. A fanciful fashion carries its victims to grotesque sacrifices. During the chinafever which Hogarth satirized, a single vase, the “ Portland,” was sold for eighteen hundred guineas, and the Marquis of Hertford bought a pair for ten thousand dollars. But these purchasers got good design for their money, and neither of the cases compare in extravagance with that of the American who pays five or ten thousand dollars for carpeting, without a thought of its ornament, so it be gaudy enough.

The reflex influence of ornament upon the artisan is, of course, a consideration extending much beyond our limits. Certain simple duties are, however, quite evident. Those who expend money for decoration are bound by their obligations to society to consider the condition and needs of the workman or artist. Mr. Ruskin develops this very strikingly. In his lecture on iron he says, in his peculiar way, that whoever buys goods for less than their worth is a thief, and whoever spends money luxuriously, without due reflection, is a murderer. Making allowance for the “ Ercles’ vein ” in Mr. Ruskin’s style, it should not be forgotten that this is the utterance of one who has made the relation of art to society a lifelong study, and in his prophetic dialect Imparts, often obscurely, truth of the gravest import. It is not doubted that money expended thoughtlessly often encourages injustice and fosters enslaved labor, and this should make and does make conscientious buyers cautious. But the connection between heedless expenditure and injustice has not been made so plain as it should be, especially referring to art. In this, as in other matters, we should be willing to recognize a standard beyond individual whim, and seek to know whatever wholesome laws may obtain in the manufacture and use of decoration. Contrary to this, ignorance and indifference, or aping of stupid wealth, is the rule. It is alike pernicious to the producer and the consumer.

Here, as elsewhere, reform must come by education. The one thing to do is to bring thought to bear upon present abuses. To begin at the very beginning, the Kindergarten system of Fröbel seems fitted to start the minor decorative arts upon a sound basis. It is unfortunate that our people are so slow in adopting a system which, resting upon nature, must ever be right while man needs teaching. In England the education of the artisan is gaining more and more attention, with gratifying results. But it is not only the workman who wants enlightenment. Bad taste will not buy good work, and wise artists do not grow among people ignorant of art. To encourage thought in the workman you must bestow thought when you buy. Purchasing a useful article we scan it nearly, that we may not be cheated. We should give just as much thought to the ornamental object, and whatever more is demanded by its subtler significance. An inferior article of use may serve its end, but a shoddy ornament is worse than none. Insist that ornament shall exhibit the qualities valuable in other things, with the added provision that it shall ever be pleasing.

Those who realize the extent of the evil will invent their own remedies and use them according to their opportunity and energy. As, in the existing practice, there is thoughtlessness, the reformer will be thoughtful ; as there is intemperance, he will be temperate. While common ornament is wanting in both science and feeling, while it so steadily ignores nature as a basis, total abstinence would seem a good way to begin. The following suggestions of law in the decorative arts are set down as suggestions, and with no disposition to dogmatize.

I. Ornament should be original. Be sure that in this respect you get what you pay for, and don’t waste your money on repetitions. Your friend or guest will not be greatly amazed or pleased with the chromo-lithograph which he has already seen at Brown’s or Green’s, be it ever so fine. Prints of this kind have a certain fixed value, when they honestly and boldly proclaim their printed character, but are worthless when by slavish imitation they assume to be first-hand work. When derived from works of true art they are valuable as records or memorandums. “Nothing is to be cast or stamped,” says Benvenuto Cellini ; “ all must be cut with the chisel.” There is an infinite and everlasting difference between the work of the hand and the work of the machine which the hand has made. In art the direct product of the inventor must always be first. This challenges the deepest sympathy. The endless repetitions of design in cotton, wool, and silk fabrics, in paper, cast-iron, zinc, etc., cannot be wholly avoided, but they should take their lower rank, and original, individual design should be encouraged.

2. Ornament should never interfere with the use of the thing ornamented. Use certainly precedes ornament, and the handsome adaptation of a thing to its office is in itself beauty. The constant violations of this law are evident to the most careless observer. What painful privations even civilized beings inflict upon themselves that their shoes may be becoming. Tattooing the skin could scarcely inflict more pain ; but as enlightenment scorns this mode of decoration, it may be hoped that we shall some time grow wise enough to trust nature’s hints concerning the shape and size of foot or torso. In the one item of house decoration the acknowledgment of this law of the supremacy of use would remove a costly load of monstrosities. Let a gas-pipe insist upon being beautiful as a gaspipe, discarding cumbrous ornament, and not striving to conceal its honorable office in porcelain lilies, or bronze elephants, or fierce cavaliers made of zinc and pretending to be bronze. Perhaps we may have better gas when we have less sham in the fittings. Use first; and then the ornament must recognize that use, and neither hide nor hinder it. Unfitness is ugliness. It would seem that the labor of selection might be much reduced by a little attention to this elementary principle.

3. Decoration should recognize its vehicle. The design which is good in stone or iron is not at all good in leather or silk. For example, in marble, the weight, hardness, brittleness, crystalline character, and other qualities should have their due consideration in the design. In the best periods of art this law was fully recognized. The decoration of the Parthenon partakes of crystalline symmetry and sharpness. It may be that the fluting of columns, which, round, would have presented too smooth and soft a surface, was the result of that keen sympathy with nature guiding the Greek hand, and here causing him to feel that soft, curved surfaces were out of keeping with the rough natural fracture of the material. In the Parthenon, with all its refinement, nature still held sway. Its materials were neither twisted nor pulverized, the dignity of their structure was fully recognized, and consequently the Parthenon was only less organic than a mountain or a tree. There is one beauty of marble, and another of bronze, and another of pigments ; but each material necessitates a different law of evolution. One may see the broad distinction of vehicles in art by imagining a landscape in marble. But in prevailing ornament these distinctions are little known. For instance, the old eggand-dart of the Greeks, a perfect piece of decoration in marble, follows us everywhere, — in wood, in iron, in zinc, in stucco, in putty (or picture-frames), and even in flat decoration. In the present condition of the arts of design, this law of materials requires careful consideration, and its recognition would much further reduce the labor of selection.

4. Ornament should bear a good and pleasant significance. This indeed sums up the whole matter. If a piece of art-work does not awaken cheerful, helpful ideas, it is worthless and probably worse. Its significance must be based upon outward nature, and get what development it may from man’s inner, finer being. Fulfilling this, the work of art, however humble, forever appeals to our sympathy. To human sympathy the designer should steadily appeal in his work, and having the same quality himself, with accurate knowledge of nature, he cannot fail. This is the fire in art that fuses our crude individual natures and welds the bands of society. Through this fine sympathy, requiring the higher language of art, the great Greek artists speak to us through the ages ; thus we know the Egyptian and the Etrurian. Very eloquent are these forms of marble and brass and clay, bringing us the spirit of antiquity. Were there no other immortality, that of art might still raise life’s siege of troubles.

The decorative artist who recognizes nature as his master cannot reject the essential principles here indicated, for they are based upon nature. He may be quite unconscious of any law, but he will fulfil them all. His work will not be Egyptian, nor Indian, nor Greek ; it will be his own and belong to the present time. He will also find his best development in doing it. No matter what is the material of his art; however poor, he will make it rich. “ The skill of the Samian potters made the very soil they walked upon more precious than gold.” Only work involving thought and invention is worthy as ornament. We need to guard against the flattery of mere finish, and accustom ourselves to look for the inner beauty which comes from the artist’s mind as well as his hand. In this dark age of art the merely external has gained prominent consideration. It seeks to produce a startling effect, without expense of thought. The great factories and the fine shops are crowded with this false ornament. We can never find our true designer there : he will be working with his own hands. And when we again recognize the value of art-culture, he will take his place among the teachers.

Charles Akers.