A History of Art for Beginners and Students
ARCHITECTURE seems to me to be the most wonderful of all the arts. We may not love it as much as others, when we are young perhaps we cannot do so, because it is so great and so grand; but at any time of life one can see that in Architecture some of the most marvellous achievements of men are displayed. The principal reason for saying this is that Architecture is not an imitative art, like Painting and Sculpture. The first picture that was ever painted was a portrait or an imitation of something that the painter had seen. So in Sculpture, the first statue or bas-relief was an attempt to reproduce some being or object that the sculptor had seen, or to make a work which combined portions of several things that he had observed; but in Architecture this was not true. No temples or tombs or palaces existed until they had first taken form in the mind and imagination of the builders, and were created out of space and nothingness, so to speak. Thus Painting and Sculpture are imitative arts, but Architecture is a constructive art; and while one may love pictures or statues more than the work of the architect, it seems to me that one must wonder most at the last.
We do not know how long the earth has existed, and in studying the most ancient times of which we have any accurate knowledge, we come upon facts which prove that men must have lived and died long before the dates of which we can speak exactly. The earliest nations of whose Architecture we can give an account are called heathen nations, and their art is called Ancient or Heathen Art, and this comes down to the time when the Roman Emperor Constantine was converted to Christianity, and changed the Roman Capitol from Rome to Constantinople in the year of our Lord 328.
The buildings and the ruins which still remain from these ancient times are in Egypt, Assyria, Persia, Judea, Asia Minor, Greece, Etruria, and Rome. Many of these have been excavated or uncovered, as, during the ages that have passed since their erection, they had been buried away from sight by the accumulation of earth about them. These excavations are always going on in various countries, and men are ever striving to learn more about the wonders of ancient days; and we may hope that in the future as marvellous things may be revealed to us as have been shown in the past.
As we consider the Architecture of Egypt, the Great Pyramid first attracts attention on account of its antiquity and its importance. This was built by Cheops, who is also called Suphis, about 3000 years before Christ. At that distant day the Egyptians seem to have been a nation of pyramid-builders, for even now, after all the years that have rolled between them and us, we know of more than sixty of these mysterious monuments which have been opened and explored.
Of all these the three pyramids at Ghizeh are best known, and that of Cheops is the most remarkable among them. Those of you who have studied the history of the wars of Napoleon I. will remember that it was near this spot that he fought the so-called Battle of the Pyramids, and that in addressing his soldiers he reminded them that here the ages looked down upon them, thus referring to the many years during which this great pyramid had stood on the border of the desert, as if watching the flight of Time and calmly waiting to see what would happen on the final day of all earthly things.
There have been much speculation and many opinions as to the use for which these pyramids were made, but the most general belief is that they were intended for the tombs of the powerful kings who reigned in Egypt and caused them to be built.
The pyramid of Cheops was four hundred and eighty feet and nine inches high, and its base was seven hundred and sixty-four feet square. It is so difficult to understand.
CLARA ERSKINE CLEMENT
AUTHOR OF "HANDBOOK OF LEGENDARY AND MYTHOLOGICAL ART," "PAINTERS, SCULPTORS, ENGRAVERS, ARCHITECTS AND THEIR WORKS," "ARTISTS OF THE NINETEENTH CENTURY"