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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Oldenbourg 2018

The line as force

Henry van de Velde’s scientific approach to artistic problems

From the book SpatioTemporalities on the Line

  • Barbara von Orelli-Messerli


The artistic and art historical discourse concerning the line in design can be traced back to Renaissance and the antithetic positions of disegno vs. colorito. It is Robert William who pointed out that this idea, more dichotomy than antinomy, started in Early Renaissance and that drawing - in our context that means line - was the origin for all arts, be it painting, sculpture or architecture. In the beginning of the twentieth century, Henry van de Velde insisted on the necessity of a theory of the line, having Michel Eugene Chevreul’s theory of colours in the back of his mind and postulating in an axionomical way that the line is a force, certainly not forgetting the powerful designs of a Michelangelo Buonarotti in particular and the Florentine style in general. Whereas artists like Henry van de Velde were already at the beginning of the last century interested in this phenomenon of the line, art historians began their research work in the field only in the second half of the same century. Interestingly enough, Van de Velde postulated an influence of the line in nature on the artistic line, seeing these two phenomena some sort of interconnected. Only in recent times Tim Ingold brought a new component into the discourse of the line, asking for a clear separation of the line in nature and the line drawn by the artist.

© 2017 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Munich/Boston
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