Marlene L. Lopes, Editor and Oral History Committee, RIC
As part of the 2008 celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the opening of Rhode Island College's Mount Pleasant campus, the Oral History Committee collected oral histories on the years 1952 to 1960 in an effort to capture "the color behind the chronology." The Committee interviewed faculty members and administrators, alumni, and others. The final result appears here in a symposium format, as if all those interviewed were sitting around the same table.
John Kresten Jespersen
Owen Jones (1809-1874) was a Victorian architect, antiquarian and ornamentor of house-hold fame. He was Superintendant of the Works for the Royal Society of Arts sponsored Crystal Palace of 1851. He published his monumental chromolithographed The Grammar of Ornament in 1856, an encyclopediac compendium of nineteen styles of world ornament and a final twentieth chapter on nature. One of the great virtues of the Grammar is the theory of conventionalization of both ornament and color in the 37 propositions of the Preface. Taking this theory as a starting point, the book looks at Jones' original ornament collected in the Victoria and Albert Museum and analyzes the strategies of the field, or the mathematical distribution of ornament over diapered surfaces as conditioned by borders. The book also asserts Jones primary contribution as an ornamentor and theorist of ornament. His ornament is conditioned further by the spiritual notions of repose as the aesthetic end of ornament. The sciences of botany, mathematics, physics, and psychology are allied and melded into one of the most profound achievements in the history of ornament. Jones' original ornament as the art of architecture influences Art Nouveau, Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright in America, and Art Deco. Its implications reverberate in the creation of the Modern Movement which has purged the ancient tradition of ornament from its agenda and academic instruction. Conventionalization as theory has much to offer to the rebirth of ornament in contemporary culture and civilization.