Excerpt from ‘Taste and Temperament’ by Joan Evans II

Excerpt from ‘Taste and Temperament’ by Joan Evans. To see a modern and updated version of the same theme, go here.

In compositions in which a normal perspective and stability are followed the quick extravert’s dissatisfaction with the world as it is finds ‘expression in a peculiar confusion and urgency of line. Worringer writes of German Gothic art: ‘The unsatisfied impulse existing in this confusion of lines, clutching greedily at every new intensification, to lose itself finally in the infinite, is its impulse, its life. It is this exalted hysteria which is above all else the distinguishing mark of the Gothic phenomenon’. The quality is certainly evident in many of the late-medieval German paintings that Worringer illustrates: for instance, the Crucifixion in the Church of St. Stephen at Mainz, the Entombment of the Church of St. James at Gottingen and the Crown of Thorns in the Regler Kirche at Erfurt; and in such sculpture as Riemenschneider’s altarpiece in the Church of St. Peter and St. Paul at Heidelberg. The quality is much less often evident in the medieval art of France: an exceptional instance is the tympanum of the great door of Vezelay.

The quick extravert is apt to set colour above form- EI Greco declared that ‘el colorido es superior al dibujo’ – and is less shocked by his own drawing than men of other temperaments often are. His aim is

To bring the invisible full into play!
Let the visible go to the dogs – what matters?

Because of this emphasis on colour, and because his rejection of the laws of gravity is with difficulty reconcilable with plastic necessities, the quick extravert is less often a sculptor than a painter. When he is, he achieves in place of colour a sculptural morbidezza. This will be found in works as distant in time as the Hermes of Praxiteles, the head of Sainte Fortunade from the Correze and the work of Sir Alfred Gilbert. An extreme instance is the sculpture of Medardo Rosso.

The quick extravert is not naturally attracted to landscape, unless it be as the background of a Fete galante. I. On the rare occasions when he paints pure landscape, it would seem as if he strove to find in it the expression of a personal sentiment rather than the disinterested emotion which inspires the quick introvert. Van Gogh writes to his brother:

‘A row of pollarded willows sometimes resembles a procession of almshouse men. Young corn has some-thing inexpressibly pure and tender about it which awakens the same emotion as the expression of a sleeping baby … A few days ago, when it had been snowing, I saw a group of white cabbages standing frozen and benumbed, that reminded me of a group of women in their thin petticoats and old shawls which I had seen early in the morning standing near a coffee stall.’ Later, when it was a question not of seeing but of painting a picture, the same sentimental preoccupation continues to be evident:

‘I have a view of the Rhone – the iron bridge at Trinquetaille – in which sky and river are the colour of absinthe, the quays a shade of lilac, the figures leaning on the parapet blackish, the iron bridge an intense blue, with a note of vivid orange in the background and a note of intense malachite… I am trying to get some-thing utterly heart-broken.’ Not thus would Cotman or Turner have written. A certain instability of composition is evident even in the landscapes of the quick extraverts. Laurence Binyon has pointed out that Fire is Blake’s most constant subject: ‘the flames which rush up and leap and bend and flicker’ – and there is a flamelike quality about Van Gogh’s paintings of flowers and even of landscape – for example, Le Ravin and The Cypress Tree – that is another expression of this tendency.

In decoration, as in other art, the quick extravert loves to deny the sense of gravity; a remarkable instance is, that column from the Abbaye de Coulombs in which traditional architectural forms and ornament in stone are not only twisted as if they had been cast in clay and contorted in a plastic state, but are also broken by human figures that seem to swim and float on the violent stream of ornament.

As in his landscape, there is often a flamelike instability about a quick extravert’s schemes of decoration. Normally such ornament is confined to its native boudoir; occasionally it makes an appearance in other fields. Those who are not quick extraverts and know Gaudi’s Portal of the Nativity in the church of the Sagrada Familia at Barcelona, will have readily believed the rumour that it was one of the first ecclesiastical buildings to be attacked by the mob at the outbreak of the Civil War.

Architecture is, in the main, an art too strictly immobilized and too straitly conditioned by stability for the quick extravert; but certain styles, in their reduction of pure structure to a chassis for scenic effects, suggest the quick extravert mind. Such are those Italian churches that are all facade and interior, with barn-like exterior sides that are not meant to be seen. Such too are those rococo structures in which everything is made subservient to ornament and every line is curved in at least three directions; and such are the productions of the ‘art Nouveau’ of the 1900’s, with a fluidity and softness of line that recalls the quality that Verlaine demands for poetry:

De la musique avant toute chose;
Et pour cela prefere l’Impair
Plus vague et plus soluble dans l’air
Sans rien en lui qui pese ou qui pose.

A very curious example of such architecture was the Goetheanum built by the ‘anthroposophical’ followers of Steiner. Their gospel was a farrago of mysticism derived from many sources; and their temple was its perfect architectural expression.