Open main menu

Page:History of Architecture in All Countries Vol 1.djvu/69

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
Sect. XIII.

Notwithstanding this, an architect should never neglect to select the color of his materials with reference to the situation in which his building is to stand. A red brick building may look remarkably well if nestling among green trees, Avhile the same building would be hideous if situated on a sandy plain, and relieved only by the warm glow of a setting sun. A building of white stone or white brick is as inappropriate among the trees, and may look bright and cheerful in the other situation.

In towns colors might be used of very great brilliancy, and if done constructively, there could be no greater improvement to our architecture; but its application is so difficult that no satisfactory result has yet been attained, and it may be questioned whether it will be ever successfully accomplished.

With regard to interiors there can be no doubt. All architects in all countries of the world resorted to this expedient to harmonize and give brilliancy to their compositions, and have depended on it for their most important effects.

The Gothic architects carried this a step further by the introduction of painted glass, which was a mode of coloring more brilliant than had been ever before attempted. This went beyond all previous efforts, inasmuch as it colored not only the objects themselves, but also the light in which they were seen. So enamored were they of its beauties, that they sacrificed much of the constructive propriety of their buildings to admit of its display, and paid more attention to it than to any other part of their designs. Perhaps they carried this predilection a little beyond the limits of good taste; but color is in itself so exquisite a thing, and so admirable a vehicle for the expression of architectural as well as of aesthetic beauty, that it is difficult to find fault even with the abuse of what is in its essence so legitimate and so beautiful.


Carved ornament and decorative color come within the especial province of the architect. In some styles, such as the Saracenic, and in many buildings, they form the Alpha and the Omega of the decoration. But, as mentioned above, one of the great merits of architecture as an art is that it affords room for the display of the works of the sculptor and the painter, not only in such a manner as not to interfere with its own decorative construction, but so as to add meaning and value to the whole. ISTo Greek temple and no Gothic cathedral can indeed be said to be perfect or complete without these adjuncts; and one of the principal objects of the architects in Greece or in the Middle Ages was to design places and devise means by which these could be displayed