As a key figure in an art world fractured and subdivided into ultra-specific genres like cubism, vorticism, and Dadaism, Graves reaffirms the “common ideals and criteria” of visual aesthetic order, and understanding these principles is critical to cultivating a broad, inclusive perspective. The language of art becomes a crucial factor in the distillation of these principles, and Graves’ efforts to clarify and elevate the muddled terminology of art discourse are testament to their importance. The exercises at the end of each section make this an especially useful tool for students and instructors.

Table of Contents

The plan of design study, elements of design, principles of design, forms of elemental relationships. Harmony, gradation, contrast, unity. Analysis of the design elements. Line, direction, texture, proportion, value, and color.

Advice From Masters

If arithmetic, mensuration and weighing be taken out of any art, that which remains will not be much.” – Plato, in Philebus. “Those who are enamored of practice without science are like a pilot who goes into a ship without rudder or compass and never has any certainty where he is going.” – Leonardo da Vinci. “It is ordained that never shall any man be able out of his own thoughts to make a beautiful figure unless by many studies he hath stored his mind.” – Albrecht Diirer.

“One ought never to forget that by actually perfecting one piece one learns more than beginning or half finishing ten. Let it rest, let it rest, and keep going back to it and working at it over and over again until there is not a note too much or too little, not a bar you could improve upon. Whether it is beautiful also is an entirely different matter, but perfect it must be… perfected, unassailable.” – Johannes Brahms.

“The artist is born to pick, and choose, and group with science, these elements, that the result may be beautiful—as the musician gathers his notes, and forms his chords, until he brings forth from chaos glorious harmony.” – James A. McNeill Whistler. “The imagination voyaging through the chaos and reducing it to clarity and order is the symbol of all the quests which lend glory to our dust.” – John Livingston Lowes, in The Road to Xanadu.

“The determination of the form principles in a specific example of design means, in a sense, the elimination of the personal element. With this element removed, the residue represents merely the planning knowledge possessed by the artist… Invariably the higher or more perfect the art, the richer is the remainder when the personal element is removed.” – Jay Hambidge, in The Elements of Dynamic Symmetry.

Art of Color and Design by Maitland Graves. Paperback: 456 pages. Publisher: Echo Point Books and Media (August 12, 2019).

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