Celtic Art is the only indigenous British art form of world significance and this book is a graphically eloquent plea for the establishment of this great national art to its rightful place in schools and colleges where the history of ornament is being taught.
Until recently, the classical orientated art-world has regarded the abstract, iconographic and symbolic style of the Celtic artist as something of an enigma, a mysterious archaic survival largely ignored in histories of art. The modern trends away from realism and the interest of the younger generation in psychedelic and art nouveau styles provides favourable ground for the Celtic art revival which the widespread interest in this new edition seems to indicate is possible.
When this book first appeared it was hailed as a “veritable grammar of ornament”. It is certainly an indispensable reference book and practical textbook for the art student and craftsman seeking simple constructional methods for laying out complex ornamental schemes.
The entire chronology of symbols is embraced from spirals through chevrons, step patterns and keys to knotwork interlacings which are unique to this particular Celtic School. There are also sections dealing with zoomorphics, plant and human forms, authentic Celtic knitwear, carpets, ceramics and other areas in which the author pioneered in his day.
This book deals with the Pictish School of artist-craftsman who cut pagan symbols like the Burghead Bull and in the early Christian era designed such superb examples of monumental sculpture as the Aberlemno Cross and the counterparts in the Books of Kells and Lindisfarne, the amazing jewellery conceptions of the Tara and Hunterston Brooches, the Ardagh Chalice and other masterpieces.
Knotwork Interlacings, owing much of their perfection and beauty to the use of mathematical formulae, are unique to Pictish Art and are found nowhere else than the areas occupied by the Picts. The outstanding achievement of their art was the subtle manner in which they combined artistic, geometric and mathematical methods, (often in the manuscript art, to standards of minuteness and intricacy beyond the skills of moderns) with magic, imagination and logic, the function being both to teach and adorn.
Although incidental to the main educational purpose of this book, there is also an implicit challenge to the art historian and archaeologist. The author frankly admits that the evidence such researches into the art have revealed of a hitherto unsuspected culture of much sophistication in pre-Roman Britain, pose as many questions as are answered.
Who were the Picts? Whence the Asiatic origins of the Celtic Art? How does a La Tenè cloisonné enamel effect glow on Lindisfarne vellum a thousand years later? Why can a 20,000 BC key pattern survive the drift of migrating tribes through the millennia of archaic craft traditions to appear in the Book of Kells and a Maya temple?
The instinct to ornament is one of the most basic human impulses that seems to have atavistic roots in the primeval creative and imaginative characteristics that separates man from beast. George Bain clearly demonstrated in his classrooms, to judge from pupils' work here illustrated, that through practice and application in his methods of constructing decoration, anyone with the initial interest can release this innate interest to beautify and mark out the impress of their individuality that has been a quality in man since the neolithic times of the cave artist and still finds expression through the subconscious outlines of the phone-pad doodler.
This new edition includes eight pages of colour illustrations (between pages 80 and 81)
23rd Impression 2001, Pb, 164pp, packed with examples and illustrations, 22.5 x 28.5 cm