The artist did not think of his art as a “self-expression,” nor was the patron interested in his personality or biography. The artist was usually, and unless by accident, anonymous, signing his work, if at all, only by way of guarantee: it was not who, but what was said, that mattered. A copyright could not have been conceived where it was well understood that there can be no property in ideas, which are his who entertains them: whoever thus makes an idea his own is working originally, bringing forth from an immediate source within himself, regardless of how many times the same idea may have been expressed by others before or around him.
— Ananda Coomaraswamy, “The Nature of Medieval Art”
DRAW ME A LEAF
Drawing a leaf offers a simple yet powerful way to talk about principles that apply equally to graphic design, sculpture, architecture, or urban planning. To draw a leaf, you have to identify all the parts: stem, veins, top and bottom surfaces, and edges. The parts vary in quality from species to species. I’m unlikely to mistake a nettle leaf for a fern. Neither, however, would I confuse either of them for bark, branches, or roots. As leaves, they share essential properties.
LINES & LETTERS / LITERACY & Participation
Reading, for a man devoid of prior understanding, is like a blind man’s looking in a mirror.
— Aristotle, Metaphysics, VI: 2, 4 & XI: 8, 12;
quoted by Ananda Coomaraswamy, in “The Bugbear of Literacy.”
La mano che ubbidisce al’intelleto ("the hand that obeys the intellect")
KINDS OF ART
The basic error in what we have called the illusion of culture is the assumption that art is something to be done by a special kind of man, and particularly that kind of man whom we call a genius. In direct opposition to this is the normal and humane view that art is simply the right way of making things, whether symphonies or airplanes. [emphasis added]