“that unfortunate tendency of our time to be content with copying…without attempting to ascertain…the peculiar circumstances which rendered an ornament beautiful”

WOW, some powerfull words when you think about it in relation to personal critique of work.


ya sure whatever.

mm confused

It’s about making original work, rather than looking at other art and trying to duplicate it or mix it with something else, which IMO, is just like copying, but with more than one piece.

When you copy, you often get results that are particularly less gratifying than the original work, because often there are elements at play that the copier may not quite grasp.

Well you can never be completely original. I believe its very important to imitate many different styles to hone your knowledge.

To make a completely original work is impossible. And I use the term “Completely” very strictly.


It’s not about being entirely original, it’s more about retaining the message of a piece, or the aspect that makes it interesting.

“that unfortunate tendency of our time to be content with copying…without attempting to ascertain…the peculiar circumstances which rendered an ornament beautiful”

Some people in our day and age will be happy simply copying aspects of other’s work, without focusing on keeping the parts of the art that made it interesting and pleasing to look at.

… At least that’s my interpretation. I think the original wording is more precise, just hard for some to grasp.

well the context that i read thw quote in was from a book about 19th century furniture. (victorian and edwardian furniture, gothic and such)

so at the time my interpretation/example of the meaning was in relation to gothic furniture.

gothic furniture was built, and designed by architects, and was made as if it were mini buildings, it was also made in a gothic style.

now if a new artist were to try to come back to “gothic” influences again, and jsut copied old gothic pieces then it may be losing many of its meanings.

since gothic stuff hasa clear style, then you migh use elements from the style of it to create a new piece. however the imporant fact to me personally is that the pieces are suposed to be “mini buildings” or at least reflect architecture.

so in present times it would be somewhat missing the point if you used “wood” and “carving” to create your furniture. rather you should be looking at modern materials and modern architecture to keep the essence of the beauty of the style.

basicly yes, its saying “don’t copy an element”, but rather understand the “intention of the element” and the “reason for the elemnet” and “why it iis beautiful” then if you wish to use that element it becomes somewhat an influence of your own design.

for me personally at least that si one of the most important quotes i have heard in my life, and is a deep way of thinking that about 99% of the world does not understand.


Unless you copy an artwork down to the smallst detail, its always original, what can be un-original is the idea.


What if what you liket about the gothic wasn’t what they meant it to be but jut that it were mad out of wood?
I think that no idea is purely unique. It’s always influenced by the sourroundings wether you like it or not.
And I also think that it doesn’t matter. If you make a copy that is better than the orginal then it isn’t anything wrong with that. Just make sure that if you have one special influence that you mention it.
I don’t know why people always have to care so much of the background of a piece of art. For me the interesting part is the art, not how unique it is, or if it copies the right parts. If I like it then it’s fine to me.

But ymmw :smiley:

thats a good point sebastian.

i think what the quote is getting at (from my experience as an industrial design student) is that if you don’t understand why you are doing somthing, then it is more likely to fail.

if you copy an element of a design because you “like it” then thats fine, but if you don’t understand that the other piece you are just about to add, is going to destroy what was likable in the original. then you are likely to have nice elements which come together in a destructive way.

i don’t know how much background knowledge is needed to appreciate the quote. i am not saying i know more than you, jsut that my education effects how i view the quote and what meaning i actually see in it.

long gone are my days of liking somthing without analysing it LOL.

i find myself looking at posters thinking. "this poster used three colours, which are the same colours as the product (red blue and yellow) so why did they put large blue text on a blue background??’

and then i go to answer the question myself. since it was a chewing gum advert red, and yellow don’t give the feeling of cleanliness, although they do come forward in 2d space giving more empahsis to them. but blue as a cold colour makes the best background, as it drops backward. so the combination of needing depth as well as the need for a clean image lead to a blue on blue, text on background.

Bah, you don’t really care, but these stupid thoughts have become second nature to me :’(


I wrote two answers that I did not post.
So I just say that I don’t like analyzing good things, it takes some of the goodness out of it.

Yeah, i think the point of that quote is not “copying” as in directly copying a peice of art… but instead, its is warning against the attitude of “oh, this looks good, lets use it again.” It is saying that we should ask WHY something looks good “ascertain the peculiar circumstances which rendered and ornament beautiful…” When we are content to “copy” (in sense this quote, i believe, intends), style becomes stagnant, and beauty does not develop. Its not so much about “original” thought or “unique” peices of art, but about the value of aesthetics, and something beyond “this looks good.”

When we can understand the beauty-making aspects of an object, we can duplicate THOSE, and not the object. We then retain the beauty of the original, but still leave plenty of room to create a new and (hopefully) more beautiful peice.

I think its artists (whether furniture or otherwise) who can do this that will be the most successful.

…anyway, dont know if you understood that… i think alltaken was getting at that anyway. but, thats my two cents (but its canadian… so about 1.5 cents USD) :stuck_out_tongue:

This is the best summary I’ve heard I think. A lot can be obtained from just those couple of lines. Too bad it’s worth less than my American 2 cents.

well mines only worth 1 c.

damnit i am getting ripped.


If you copies something that looks good. It make sense to copy what looks good and not something else. So I don’t get what that quote says that isn’t common sense…
If I see a peice of art that has ricely shaped objectsin blue and red. And I think oh what nice shape those objects are, I’ll copy the colors and then my art will probably be as good!?
But I’m not an artist so I’m probably missing something…