A building corresponds better with the laws of gravity if it narrows towards the top and the walls press together inwards rather than pulling apart outwards.|
This is also a matter of construction, for walls are built thinner as they get higher, as they have less weight to bear at the top, and also thus reducing the weight on the lower walls.
This is seen clearly on towers and other high buildings. Another way of reducing the weight is to make larger or more windows on upper stories. On Gothic towers the roof-like spires become exquisite pierced filigree.
Much of the pleasure we derive from the best drawings and paintings of architecture is due to the workmanlike knowledge of the artists, who have not considered it beneath them to study the craft as well as the aesthetics of building.
The views of towns by Bernardo Belotto (1720-1780), nephew and pupil of Canaletto and court painter to the King of Poland, are fully satisfying artistically. Furthermore, they were technically adequate to be used alone for the rebuilding of some of the historic buildings of Warsaw, the plans having disappeared.
Of course the representation of a building as a picture has a purpose different from an architect's drawing. The picture need only create the illusion of the complete building, whereas an architect's scale drawing sacrifices illusion for exact detail and precise indication of forms.
A picture will reproduce exactly only here and there, being concerned with an over-all impression; just as when we look at a building, even with great concentration, we do not see every detail with the same precision.
The volute of a capital or the profile of a moulding or a gateway can merge into vagueness while the effect of precision remains. If the study were rendered in every detail, the general effect would be lessened, for the beholder can work out details in his imagination far more harmoniously than it could be done in fact.
Generally, old buildings are chosen for pictures which are primarily architectural in subject, but the picturesque appeal of modern buildings, cubist blocks of apartments with their bright colors and clean lines, should not be rejected out of hand. Surely the spirit of our time is fully expressed in these buildings.
There is no dreamy atmosphere of contemplation, no coziness, but a challenging background to a life of restlessness, change, and activity. Yet modern forms have a charm of their own: driving through a town in a car as dusk falls on a wet November evening, the streets lie in a blue haze, the first bright lights are reflected in the wet asphalt, sulphurous clouds dissolve into the pink and gray haze of the horizon, and the car is nothing but an atom in all the bustle of the town. Here, surely, is an experience which can inspire the artist.
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