Alec Nevala-Lee

Thoughts on art, creativity, and the writing life.

The bounding line

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Ancient of Days by William Blake

The great and golden rule of art, as well as of life, is this: that the more distinct, sharp, and wiry the bounding line, the more perfect the work of art, and the less keen and sharp, the greater is the evidence of weak imitation, plagiarism, and bungling. Great inventors in all ages knew this: Protogenes and Apelles knew each other by this line, Raphael and Michelangelo and Albrecht Dürer are known by this and by this alone. The want of this determinate and bounding form evidences the want of idea in the artist’s mind, and the pretense of the plagiary in all its branches.

How do we distinguish the oak from the beech, the horse from the ox, but by the bounding outline? How do we distinguish one face or countenance from another, but by the bounding line and its infinite inflections and movements? What is it that builds a house and plants a garden but the definite and the determinate? What is it that distinguishes honesty from knavery but the hard and wiry outline of rectitude and certainty in the actions and intentions? Leave out this line and you leave out life itself; all is chaos again, and the line of the Almighty must be drawn out upon it before man or beast can exist.

William Blake

Written by nevalalee

July 9, 2015 at 9:00 am

Posted in Quote of the Day

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  1. Thank you William Blake !

    Aesthetic relativism is indeed quite perverse and wrong . Beauty is NOT a matter of mere opinion , no matter how many times the opinion-respecting relativists repeat the cliches of relativism .Beauty is NOT in the eye of the beholder if the beholder looks at the matter wrongly .

    Mere personal preference and popularity is NOT a valid criterion for evaluating what is beautiful / what is good art . There are indeed absolute rules of beauty too, as well as in ethics of course !

    Jason Leary

    October 21, 2022 at 8:07 pm

  2. In keeping with the notes above, it is indeed quite appalling that this far into history , people will put forth insipid defenses of kitsch (like the indistinct blurry lines and flaccid colours of Kinkaid) and /or even worse, the edgy raunch , shock art of people like Serrano , or any dreck and say,

    “but some people like it”

    AS IF the mere fact of some people liking it , or even many people liking it , somehow conferred merit upon some item …merely by them liking it .

    The “but-some-people-like-it” canard is one that people put forth with such nonchalance –and it is all the more jarring and infuriating that people make such a banal and insipid , trite remark with such nonchalance that it leaves one sputtering and speechless , for the very nonchalant aspect of the insipidness gives one the feeling that the most vehement adjectives all sound like an understatement , when faced with such *deliberate* insipidness .

    Jason Leary

    December 18, 2022 at 8:17 pm


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