IN order to understand more fully power and force in lines when placed on a picture plane, we will analyze the "nature of lines."
When we have a dot, we have a perfectly stationary effect.
When the dot is extended into line, we have "movement."
Movement is an element having both direction and a degree of rapidity.
Its direction explains itself.
Its rapidity will increase in direct ratio to its length from the dot forming the starting-point.
This long line conveys the sense of rapidity. If we wish to make it slower we can make it shorter, because the momentum gained is not so great.
A second method of making it slower is to place another line parallel to it.
The effort of the mind to read two lines at once causes slower reading than when the eye deals with only one line. If the distance between the two is increased, the mind has greater difficulty in reading them simultaneously, — resulting in their greater slowness.
If we make one broad line of the two, the effect is a similar degree of slowness.
A fast line can be made slow by placing an opposition on it.
This opposing line at I checks the impetus gained from the starting-point Y. The mind's reading is arrested at X, — the junction of the long line with line I. From here it must start anew, and the impetus therefore is not so great as if it had been unchecked from the point Y.*
* For fuller exposition of this principle, see article by Endell, in Dekorative Kunst, Vol. II, pages 119 to 125.
By placing more oppositions on a fast line, we may make it as slow as we desire.
By placing a line at a slant, not at right angles we retard the long line more gently, as there is no direct opposition. Instead there is a yielding quality, a slight diversion, having the effect of kindliness.
Its variations will produce the sense of quiet, stillness, hush. As employed by the Egyptians, it suggests the soul leaving the body.
Another method of controlling the "fastness" of the line is to threaten a check, thus:
The mind while reading line I is diverted by line II, — a vertical striving from below toward the horizontal and threatening opposition.
A circular line is always slower than a straight one, because it is constantly changing its direction and is therefore more difficult to read. Difficult reading is also slow reading. The complete circle does not gain momentum.
If we apply these observations to the shapes of frames, the square, made of four equal lines, all having the same "swiftness" and checking one another alike, gives the effect of something stationary, fixed.
The four lines have neutralized one another, have created a certain monotony for themselves, and are of no interest to us except that they are useful in forming a space, and because of their neutral quality they direct all attention into the space they form. A picture in such a frame has the advantage of effecting a complete concentration upon itself.
The upright rectangle has verticals that are faster, that have more impetus and are more powerful than its horizontals. The character of this frame is such that it strives upward, — at least has an upward intention.
When we compare the square with the upright rectangle, we notice that the square suggests nothing high, vast, or extended, but is stolid and self-contained.
The upright rectangle, by the nature of its shape, will lend itself to the expression of pride, and in some of its forms it assumes religious significance. When combined with certain curves it becomes expressive of the spiritual — in the Gothic window, for example.
In the horizontal rectangle the greater rapidity is in the horizontal lines. The frame therefore has a running character, something tending toward continuance. It is "spreading," and suitable for landscape where the horizon is to be much used, also where the flat foreground is of special interest, because the frame-shape suggests width and expanding powers. In figure work it would suggest a story-telling picture.
E. A. Abbey employed several of these long horizontal frame-shapes in his rendering of the story of Sir Galahad, in the Boston Library.
Of the circle it may be said as of the square, that it is not capable of expansion. It is well adapted to concentrate interest on whatever is placed within its limit.