ART AND THE HANDICRAFTSMAN
1. ART AND THE HANDICRAFTSMAN
PEOPLE often talk as if there was an opposition between what is
beautiful and what is useful. There is no opposition to beauty
except ugliness: all things are either beautiful or ugly, and
utility will be always on the side of the beautiful thing, because
beautiful decoration is always on the side of the beautiful thing,
because beautiful decoration is always an expression of the use you
put a thing to and the value placed on it. No workman will
beautifully decorate bad work, nor can you possibly get good
handicraftsmen or workmen without having beautiful designs. You
should be quite sure of that. If you have poor and worthless
designs in any craft or trade you will get poor and worthless
workmen only, but the minute you have noble and beautiful designs,
then you get men of power and intellect and feeling to work for
you. By having good designs you have workmen who work not merely
with their hands but with their hearts and heads too; otherwise you
will get merely the fool or the loafer to work for you.
That the beauty of life is a thing of no moment, I suppose few
people would venture to assert. And yet most civilised people act
as if it were of none, and in so doing are wronging both themselves
and those that are to come after them. For that beauty which is
meant by art is no mere accident of human life which people can
take or leave, but a positive necessity of life if we are to live
as nature meant us to, that is to say unless we are content to be
less than men.
Do not think that the commercial spirit which is the basis of your
life and cities here is opposed to art. Who built the beautiful
cities of the world but commercial men and commercial men only?
Genoa built by its traders, Florence by its bankers, and Venice,
most lovely of all, by its noble and honest merchants.
I do not wish you, remember, 'to build a new Pisa,' nor to bring
'the life or the decorations of the thirteenth century back again.'
'The circumstances with which you must surround your workmen are
those' of modern American life, 'because the designs you have now
to ask for from your workmen are such as will make modern' American
'life beautiful.' The art we want is the art based on all the
inventions of modern civilisation, and to suit all the needs of