Work Title: Art from the Sacred to the Profane: East and West
Work Author(s): Frithjof Schuon, author; Catherine Schuon, editor
271 b/w and color illustrations, 160 pages, Softcover $24.95
Reviewer: Beth Hemke Shapiro
"Traditional art derives from a creativity which combines heavenly inspiration with ethnic genius, and which does so in the manner of a science endowed with rules and not by way of individual improvisation." So pronounces Swiss-born Frithjof Schuon (1907-1998), who authored more than twenty-five books about religion during his lifetime and was a painter and poet as well. In this collection of writings, he discusses sacred and profane art in traditional civilizations.
Schuon's writings on art are so extensive that here his wife/editor Catherine Schuon organizes his work into logical chapters, such as "On Beauty and the Sense of the Sacred," "Hindu Art," and even "The Art of Dress and Ambience." Apparently this was no easy task: she admits that since Schuon often wrote in the same paragraph about different arts, she sometimes extracted specific passages from several works. The editor is to be commended for picking relevant illustrations to bolster her husband's ideas; in fact, much of the book's appeal lies in her interesting selections. For example, one page is filled with a single primordial symbol that is found on such varying objects as a fifth-century Swedish picture stone, a fifteenth-century Nigerian wooden seat, an undated Ethiopian processional cross, and a seventh-century Irish book page.
What people need in order to find meaning in their lives, to discover earthly happiness, according to Schuon, are religion and the crafts. The...