Gothic Architecture "Rediscovered". John Carter. Pugin. Rickman.
It is an argument in proof of the classical beauty of the Pointed style, that when the eyes of men were opened to the perfections of Greek architecture, they began to discover its merits also. Pointed architecture, under the opprobrious name Gothic, had long been a subject of discussion among antiquaries, -- that, it essays were written by them to prove how the pointed arch originated, but none appreciated its beauties.
Our Pointed cathedrals and churches were, after the example of Inigo Jones, ruthlessly barbarized in course of repairing and fitting them up. If an architect were employed to do anything about one of them, he appears to have thought it incumbent on him to convert it to the doctrines of his own faith -- to Italianise it. Deans and chapters for the most part entrusted their commissions to country masons and plasterers, who also operated according to the laws of the "five orders."
About the middle of the 18th century one Batty Langley endeavoured to draw the attention of the world to Pointed architecture, by reducing it to rules, and dividing it into orders. Fortunately he was only laughed at, and both he and the book he published on the subject were soon forgotten.
One of the first men in rank and influence of his time, in matters of taste particularly, Horace Walpole, patronized Pointed architecture, but ineffectually. He had himself neither taste nor feeling to appreciate its beauties, as his Strawberry Hill clearly shows.
Delineations were indeed put forth from time to time, but generally so rude and imperfect, that they did more harm than good. The Society of Antiquaries, however, at length took up the subject, engaged Mr John Carter, an ardent and judicious admirer of our national architecture, and commenced the publication of a series of splendid volumes, containing engravings of its best specimens from drawings and admeasurements by him. The Antiquities of Athens had already done much to disposses men of their prejudices, by showing that Greek architecture, though neither Vitruvian nor Palladian, was nevertheless beautiful; and the great work of the Society of Antiquaries did the same for Pointed architecture. Since the death of Mr Carter our national buildings have been studied, catalogued, drawn, and published by an infinity of admirers, who have done their work with zeal which has been thoroughly enthusiastic.
The works of the elder Pugin were the first to show how architecture ought to be drawn, whilst the work of Mr Rickman was the first to show how it ought to be studied.
From the time of these two pioneers in the work, it would be impossible to catalogue a hundredth of the works which have been devoted to the subject.
Nor have they been written by architects only. On the contrary, a large number of them are the work of amateurs, and it may be truly asserted that never since art has been written upon at all have so vast a number of publications, on every branch of it, been given to the world as within the last thirty years have been devoted to the illustration and history of our national Gothic architecture.
Germany and France have been equally prolific on the same subject, and the only difficulty now is, out of the mass of materials how to select that which is useful and to the point.
In Spain and Italy no such zeal has been shown, and the elucidation of their mediaeval antiquities has been left almost entirely to foreign hands.
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