Line and Form (1900)

Line and Form (1900)

Walter Crane
Walter Crane

Author: Crane, Walter, 1845-1915
Decoration and ornament
Line and Form (1900)




First published, medium 8vo, 1900.
Reprinted, crown 8vo, 1902, 1904, 1908, 1912, 1914.


In the original of this work, most pages are headed by a topic phrase, so that a topic can be located quickly by riffling the pages of the book. In this etext, the same topic phrases appear in right-aligned boxes near the text that begins that topic. Thus a topic can be found by scrolling the text and scanning the right margin.
The many images of the original are inline here as grayscale graphics in PNG format, scaled to 480 or 512 pixels width. When an image has a pale-gray border, the reader can click on the image to open a higher-resolution version.
In the original, the requirements of book design often caused the editors to place images some distance from the text that discussed them. In this etext some images are placed closer to the point where they are mentioned and thus not at their original page number. Each image has a number, for example f016. In the List of Illustrations and the Index, references to images by page number have been replaced by these figure numbers, which are linked to the images. Within the body text, references to a figure by its page number are linked to the image, not the specified page.
Two minor typos were corrected: thing to think on page 10 and intregal to integral on page 197.


As in the case of “The Bases of Design,” to which this is intended to form a companion volume, the substance of the following chapters on Line and Form originally formed a series of lectures delivered to the students of the Manchester Municipal School of Art.
There is no pretension to an exhaustive treatment of a subject it would be difficult enough to exhaust, and it is dealt with in a way intended to bear rather upon the practical work of an art school, and to be suggestive and helpful to those face to face with the current problems of drawing and design.
These have been approached from a personal point of view, as the results of conclusions arrived at in the course of a busy working life which has left but few intervals for the elaboration of theories apart from practice, and such as they are, these papers are now offered to the wider circle of students and workers in the arts of design as from one of themselves.
They were illustrated largely by means of rough sketching in line before my student audience, as well as by photographs and drawings. The rough diagrams have been re-drawn, and the other illustrations reproduced, so that both line and tone blocks are used, uniformity being sacrificed to fidelity.
Kensington, July, 1900.


  • Origin and Function of Outline—Silhouette—Definition of Boundaries by—Power of Characterization by—Formation of Letters—Methods of Drawing in Line—The Progressive Method—The Calligraphic Method—The Tentative Method—The Japanese Direct Brush Method—The Oval Method—The Rectangular Method—Quality of Line—Linear Expression of Movement—Textures—Emotion—Scale of Linear Expression
  • The Language of Line—Dialects—Comparison of the Style of Various Artists in Line—Scale of Degrees in Line—Picture Writing—Relation of Line to Form—Two Paths—The Graphic Purpose—Aspect—The Ornamental Purpose—Typical Treatment or Convention—Rhythm—Linear Plans in Pattern Designing—Wall-paper Design—Controlling Forms—Memory—Evolution in Design—Variety in Unity—Counterbalance—Linear Logic—Recurring Line and Form—Principle of Radiation—Range and Use of Line
  • Of the Choice and Use of Line—Degree and Emphasis—Influence of the Photograph—The Value of Emphasis—The Technical Influence—The Artistic Purpose—Influence of Material and Tools—Brushwork—Charcoal— Pencil—Pen
  • Of the Choice of Form—Elementary Forms—Space-filling—Grouping— Analogies of Form—Typical Forms of Ornament—Ornamental Units— Equivalents in Form—Quantities in Design—Contrast—Value of Variations of Similar or Allied Forms—Use of the Human Figure and Animal Forms in Ornamental Design
  • Of the Influence of Controlling Lines, Boundaries Spaces, and Plans in Designing—Origin of Geometric Decorative Spaces and Panels in Architecture—Value of Recurring Line—Tradition—Extension— Adaptability—Geometric Structural Plans—Frieze and Field—Ceiling Decoration—Co-operative Relation
  • Of the Fundamental Essentials of Design: Line, Form, Space—Principles of Structural and Ornamental Line in Organic Forms—Form and Mass in Foliage—Roofs—The Mediæval City—Organic and Accidental Beauty— Composition: Formal and Informal—Power of Linear Expression—Relation of Masses and Lines—Principles of Harmonious Composition
  • Of the Relief of Form—Three Methods—Contrast—Light and Shade, and Modelling—The Use of Contrast and Planes in Pattern Designing— Decorative Relief—Simple Linear Contrast—Relief by Linear Shading— Different Emphasis in relieving Form by Shading Lines—Relief by means of Light and Shade alone without Outline—Photographic Projection—Relief by different Planes and Contrasts of Concave and Convex Surfaces in Architectural Mouldings—Modelled Relief— Decorative Use of Light and Shade, and different Planes in Modelling and Carving—Egyptian System of Relief Sculpture—Greek and Gothic Architectural Sculpture, influenced by Structural and Ornamental Feeling—Sculptural Tombs, Medals, Coins, Gems—Florentine Fifteenth-century Reliefs—Desiderio di Settignano
  • Of the Expression of Relief in Line-drawing—Graphic Aim and Ornamental Aim—Superficial Appearance and Constructive Reality— Accidents and Essentials—Representation and Suggestion of Natural Form in Design—The Outward Vision and the Inner Vision
  • Of the Adaptation of Line and Form in Design, in various materials and methods—Mural Decoration—Fresco-work of the Italian Painters—Modern Mural Work—Mural Spacing and Pattern Plans— Scale—The Skirting—The Dado—Field of the Wall—The Frieze— Panelling—Tapestry—Textile Design—Persian Carpets—Effect of Texture on Colour—Prints—Wall-paper—Stained Glass
  • Of the Expression and Relief of Line and Form by Colour—Effect of same Colour upon different Grounds—Radiation of Colour—White Outline to clear Colours—Quality of Tints relieved upon other Tints—Complementaries—Harmony—The Colour Sense—Colour Proportions—Importance of Pure Tints—Tones and Planes—The Tone of Time—Pattern and Picture—A Pattern not necessarily a Picture, but a Picture in principle a Pattern—Chiaroscuro—Examples of Pattern-work and Picture-work—Picture-patterns and Pattern-pictures


The Origin of Outline f002
Silhouettes f003
Coast and Mountain Lines—Gulf of Nauplia f004
Proportions of Roman Capital Letters and of lower-case German text. From Dürer’s “Geometrica f005a
The Progressive Method of Drawing in Line f006a
The Calligraphic Method f007a
The Tentative Method f007b
The Oval and Rectangular Methods f008
Lines of Characterization in the Form and Feature of Flowers: Lily and Poppy f009
Silhouette of Beech Leaves and Line Rendering of the same f010a
Lines of Movement f010b
Effect of Wind upon Trees f011
Line Arrangement in ribbed Sea-sand f012
Lines of different Textures, Structures, and Services f013
Lines of Exaltation and Rejoicing in Unison. The Morning Stars, after William Blake f014
Lines of Grief and Dejection: Designs from Flaxman’s Homer f015
Landscape f016
Scale of various Degrees of Linear Weight and Emphasis f017
Curvilinear Scale of Direction f018
Rectangular Scale of Direction f018
Picture Writing f019
Olive Branch, from Nature f020
Olive Branch, simplified in Decorative Treatment f021
Study of Horned Poppy f022
Adaptation of Horned Poppy in Design: Vertical Panel for Needlework f023
Question and Answer in Line f024, f025
Diagram showing the Use of a Geometric Basis in Designing a Repeating Pattern f026
Use of Controlling Boundaries in Designing Sprays f027
Method of Testing a Repeating Pattern f028
Sketch to show how a Pattern of Diverse Elements may be harmonized by Unity of Inclosing and Intermediary Lines f029
The Principle of Counterbalance in different Systems of Design f030
Border Units and Border Motive f031
Recurring Line and Form in Border Motives f032
Radiating Principle of Line in Natural Form f033
Radiating Lines of the Pectoral Muscles and Ribs f034
Vaulting of Chapter House, Westminster f035
Lines of Characterization of Feathers and Shells f036
Pen Drawing of Fruit f037
Effect of different Emphasis in Treatment of the same Designs f038, f039
Effect of different Emphasis in the Drawing of Landscape f040
Example of Page Treatment to show Ornamental Relation between Text and Pictures f041a
Suggestion for a Carpet Pattern and Abstract Treatment of the same on Point Paper as detail of Brussels Carpet f041b
Brush Forms f042
Direct Brush Expression of Animal Form f043
Japanese Drawing of a Bird. From “The Hundred Birds of Bari” f044
Elementary Geometrical Forms f045a
Use of the same Forms in Architecture f045b
Poppy-heads f046
Apple cut to show Position of Seeds f047
Cube and Sphere in Architectural Ornament f048a
Filling of Square Space f049a
Filling of Circular Space f049b
Inlay Design: Pattern Units and Motives f050
Grouping of Allied Forms: Composition of Curves f051a
Grouping of Allied Forms: Composition of Angles f051b
Still-life Group illustrative of Wood-engraving f052
Japanese Diagonal Pattern f053
Treatment of Fruit and Leaf Forms: Corresponding Curvature f054
Correspondence in General Contour between Leaf and Tree f055a
Some Analogies in Form f055b
Tree of Typical Pattern Forms, Units and Systems f056
Sketches to show Use of Counterbalance, Quantity, and Equivalents in Designing f057
Quantities and Counterchange of Border and Field in Carpet Motives f058
Sketches to illustrate Value of different Quantities in Persian Rugs f058-f061
Recurrence and Contrast in Border Motives f062
Use of inclosing Boundaries in Designing Animal Forms in Decorative Pattern f063a
Decorative Spacing of Figures within Geometric Boundaries f063b
Simple Linear Motives and Pattern Bases f064
Use of Intervals in Repeating the same Ornamental Units f065
Designs of Floral, Human, and Animal Forms, governed by Shape of inclosing Boundary f066
The Parthenon: Sketch to show Spaces used for Decorative Sculpture in Greek Architecture f067
The Tower of the Winds, Athens f068
Sketch of part of the Arch of Constantine to show spaces for Decorative Sculpture in Roman Architecture f069
Byzantine (Mosaic) Treatment of Architectural Structural Features: Apse, S. Vitale, Ravenna f070
Detail of Canopy of Tomb of Gervaise-Alard, Winchelsea f071
Walberswick Church: West Door f072
Miserere in St. David’s Cathedral f073
Recessed Panel from the Tomb of Bishop John Morgan, St. David’s Cathedral f074
Corbel from Bishop Vaughan’s Chapel, St. David’s Cathedral f075
Gothic Tile Pattern, St. David’s Cathedral f076
Surface Pattern Motives derived from Lines of Structure f077a
Repeating Patterns built upon Square and Circular Bases f077b
Plan of a Drop Repeat f078
Sketch Designs to show Relation between Frieze and Field in Wall-paper f079
Principles of Structural and Ornamental Line in Natural Forms f080
Radiating, Recurring and Counterbalancing Lines in the Structure of the Skeleton and the Muscles f081a
General Principles of Line and Form in the Branching and Foliage Masses of Trees f081b
Principles of Structure in Foliage Masses f082
Albert Dürer: Detail from “The Prodigal Son” f083
Albert Dürer: St. Anthony f084
Roof-lines: Rothenburg f085
St. Margaret Street, Canterbury f086
Figure Designs controlled by Geometric Boundaries f087, f088
Expression of Storm and Calm in Landscape f089
Expression of Repose and Action f090
Controlling Lines of Movement: Movement in a Procession f091a
Lines left by a Watercourse—Lines governing fallen Débris from a Quarry f091b
Relief of Form, (1) by Outline, (2) by Contrast, (3) by Light and Shade f092
Relief of Form and Line in Pattern Design by means of Contrast and the Use of Planes f093
Treatment of Mantling (14th-16th centuries) f094a, f094b
Brass of Martin de Visch, Bruges, 1452 f095
Relief in Pattern Design by means of Simple Linear Contrasts f096a
Relief by adding Shading Lines to Outline f097a
Relief by Diagonal Shading f097b
Different Method and different Emphasis in Relieving Form by Shading Lines f098
Albert Dürer’s Principle in the Treatment of Drapery: From the Woodcut in the “Life of the Virgin” Series f099
Albert Dürer: Pen-drawing f100
Filippino Lippi: Study of Drapery f101
Raphael: Studies of Drapery f102
Relief by means of Light and Shade alone, in Pen-drawing without Outline f103a
Relief by means of White Line on a Dark Ground and vice versâ f103b
Relief in Architectural Mouldings f104
Roman Treatment of Corinthian Order, Forum of Nerva, Rome f105
Egyptian Relief Sculpture: Thebes f106
Greek Relief: Eleusis f107
Egyptian Relief: Denderah f107
Chartres Cathedral: Carving on West Front f108
Chartres Cathedral: Tympanum of Central Door of West Front f109
Medals of the Lords of Mantua, Cesena, and Ferrara, by Vittore Pisano f110
Treatment of Draped Figure in Black on White Ground and vice versâ f111a
Treatment of the same Fig

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