The Need For Beauty

Rudolph Schaeffer created one of the most distinctive and successful schools of color and design, The Rudolph Schaeffer School of Design. Teachers remember the wonderful site and school as "The Gumps of Interior Design". Schaeffer’s impact was felt worldwide. He believed, "we have to delve into the secrets of color. The reason color study is so important is because color is differentiated light and we can’t live without light." Even his critics admitted, "he spent the better part of a century teaching San Franciscans to make their city, their homes, their gardens, and their lives more harmonious, more beautiful, and hence more human." Who could ask for anything more?

"Beauty in its widest and most profound sense is an expression of the total universe." These are the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, the great American philosopher-poet of the last century. This statement is in accord with a current belief that an intelligent cosmic consciousness of truth and beauty pervades the universe and there are three universal sources of Beauty: the vibrations of Sound, of Light and of Motion.

The beauty of sound is music,

The beauty of light is color,

The beauty of motion (vibration) is form.

It is believed also that the vibration of Thought is Form and that man’s consciousness is the microcosm of the cosmic macrocosm of the universal cosmic consciousness.

It follows then that there is also the beauty of thought as expressed in the oral and written word, poetry and poetic prose.

Then there is this mysterious ingredient in our consciousness for which I have never quite found a rational explanation. I could only intuitively verify it in heart and feeling as perhaps everyone else does. This mysterious and powerful ingredient is love.

Someone has said it is a kind of a most powerful glue that holds everything together in a oneness, a unity; without love everything falls apart. There is plenty of this evidence of love’s absence in our world today. We live in a most fragmented world. There is today a vital need for unity and beauty to relieve the aesthetic and spiritual malnutrition pervading the entire world. Man is a spiritual being. The heart and spirit is left unnourished. Spirit needs nourishment as well as the body needs nourishment. The inspiration of beauty serves as nourishment to the heart and spirit of man. Therein lies the need for beauty.

I find there are three great sources of inspiration of Beauty for spiritual nourishment.

First, the inspiration of nature. Of course nature isn’t always near at hand. If one cannot get to the woods there is perhaps a park or a tree - or a flower! A single beautiful flower affords inspiration if we have eyes to

see, not just to look.

Second, the inspiration of the Arts. From earliest times to the present day man has continually made the necessities of life: utensils, clothing, shelter, beautiful to the eye. Indeed Art is a source of inspiration.

In our San Francisco Public Library as one ascends the grand central stairs and looks up to where the wall meets the ceiling high up there carved in the travertine wall is this anonymous quote: "Art is Beauty passed through Thought and fixed in form." In itself a statement of inspiration.

And now third, the inspiration we find if we delve deep enough into the well-springs of our heart, our inner being. To listen to the still small voice there is need for a quiet moment in this noisy world. Let us appreciate the beauty of Silence as well as the beauty of sound. This inner source of Inspiration I believe is the most important of all to carry on in this turbulent world.

In the quest for beauty now let us retreat to the turn of the century and meet William Morris, distinguished printer and craftsman living in England at that time. He is believed and publicly proclaimed and in his workshops demonstrated, that all things made for use should also be beautiful. That is, good design!

The Western world at that time was still in the throes of the Industrial revolution, with all its positive advantages, was nevertheless producing the most awful "machine art" imaginable. Amazingly William Morris’s proclamation of Beauty rang a bell of alarm and sparked an aesthetic revolution throughout the Western world. The result: the Art Nouveau movement in France, Art Deco, arts and crafts workshops in Munich, and in Vienna the Wiener Werkstatte, and even in America the great arts and crafts movement -- all at the turn of the century. In all the schools of the United States manual arts, graphic arts and music were added to the curriculums. I now of all this because I was there. I happened to be one of the first teachers of manual arts in the public schools of Columbus, Ohio.

It was a glorious flowering of art and aesthetic values in American education. Germany had just perfected the new prismatic colors in dyes. The educational system seemed wonderfully balanced aesthetically and practically, but not for long. Gradually politicians began to complain of the arts as "frills of education." A few classes were retained for the backward child for therapy. Today, sadly there is in San Francisco public schools no art department.

There is today in our land this great imbalance in education. Some writers predict that in ten years we will be a nation of barbarians! Again let me repeat: the Arts and the Humanities educate the heart while science and technology educate the mind and both are necessary.

However, here and now, in spite of the clouds of gloom obscuring the dawn of the New Age, a better and more livable world will emerge. In San Francisco, we are on the Pacific Rim, where already there is action for the future, an era of great promise.

However through it all, the educational balance must be restored in our public and private schools of learning. There is much work to do for a more livable world and as we work together we must not forget that important adhesive ingredient, that love and devotion which unifies, harmonizes and strengthens all work and effort.

In the words of Kahlil Gibran, that great Lebanese poet:

Work is love made visible
If you cannot work with love but only with distaste
It is better to sit at the gates of the temple and
Ask alms of those who work with joy and love.

bauhaus art movement kadinsky laszlo moholy naggy 3:24

Bauhaus Movement 5:20


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Nicholas Roerich Museum: Some of the most beautiful and stirring art
of the modern era! Check it out!

® copyright Nicholas Roerich Museum, New York.
Reproduced with permission




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