“people are too damned dumb” | Horizon July 1961

COVER: When Francesco Guardi painted the Piazza San Marco late in the eighteenth century (in a painting of which this is a detail), Venice had long since developed a way of life that was unique. “It resembled,” said the Italian historian Pompeo Molmenti, “the life of a great family that never left the house; the canals and calli were its cor­ridors, the little squares its anterooms. and the larger squares its salons.” The problem of today’s cities is to recover this intimate quality, as Lewis Mumford points out in his new book The City in History. A pictorial treatment of the theme of Mr. Mumford’s book, coupled with passages from it, begins on page 32. Guardi’s Piazza San Marco is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Bequest of Mary Stillman Harkness, 1950.

I have only skimmed this but there are echos of C.P. Snow (and others) floating about. The main focus seems to be the shifts–beginning with Bacon–between the big picture and little picture of the world.

This of course leads to the inevitable conclusion that “the haphazard scientific technology pursued without regard for its relevance to the meaning of human life could spell the end of civilization.”

And here we are 60 years on.

Unfortunately the scan missed some of the photo caption. That’s Edward Hopper. Lots of fun photos of then-famous artists in their studios.

Jefferson: “Why is it that the larger our diplomatic occasions have grown, the worse our architecture for housing them has become?”

Fine question, if you ask me.

We end with the City of the Future: “for the city should be an organ of love; and the best economy of the cities is the care and culture of men.”

Quotable quote:

The realistic truth is people are too damned dumb to know what’s good for them, or even what they want. … they are moved to-and-fro by demons of all descriptions, as the grass in the field is moved by the wind. Our problem is not to build a platform with popular appeal, but to build a platform of our own and attach to it whatever does appeal, pre-eminently a political leader who does’t sweat.

pg. 66

Lots of art.

Worth a read if I ever get around to it.

Included in the article are instructions on how to make a sand castle.

I chuckled. He nailed empiricism right on the head.

I think I like the new formatting for the series. Saves me a lot of typing. Again, if there’s an article you’d like to read, just let me know and I’ll scan the pdf and link to it.

Horizon A Magazine of the Arts Volume III, Number 6 May 1961. American Heritage Publishing Co., Inc. New York.

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