The “S” Curve

by | May 13, 2011 | Blog | 4 comments

At a recent gallery show, exhibiting my new series of gold leaf paintings, I heard a comment about Hogarth’s S-Curve. I’ve heard of subtle compositional tools or structures such as angles, curves, symmetry, and geometry to create order and movement in a work, but had not heard of Hogarth before. I went on-line and found some interesting information, noticing I tend to use this “S” thing quite a lot in my work.

William Hogarth, a British painter from the 1700’s, wrote a book called The Analysis of Beauty, which I just ordered on-line and am looking forward to reading it.

A search on Hogarth’s S-Curve turned up the following definition:

“Notion in compositional theory that objects arranged on an S-shaped line suggest grace and beauty.” click here

I also found a nice description from Terry Grant on-line:

“Hogarth proposed that the essence of beauty of line in painting, drawing, nature and design is not the simple geometry of a straight line or circle, or more subtle shapes such as the ellipse, but of curves that modulate from one gradient to another. Such a curve, the “S” curve is such a structure and he called it “the line of beauty”. According to his theory, S-Shaped curved lines signify liveliness and activity and excite the attention of the viewer as contrasted with straight lines, parallel lines, or right-angled intersecting lines which signify stasis, death, or inanimate objects. He goes on to say that the S curve is the basis of all great art.” click here

For more information on Hogarth and examples of his work: click here

To see more of my work in this series (with very noticeable S curves) click here


  1. nab the great

    Yes nancy, i'm in that same thought. Our greatest ideas come at the least expected times. an awesome way to get the imagination running is to get involved in a recreational activity (procrastinate). so that our minds can re-create (duh) grandeur, beauty, magnifisance (winning). I have spoken.

  2. Mary Manning

    Nancy, Your work is inspiring me to ground a series of "leaf" (copper and gold) with Southwest colors called "Hidden Treasures." It is quite an adventure, and I am working on three pieces at this time.

  3. Art Epicurean

    Nancy – Beautiful work! Art is healing and this piece speaks to that!

  4. Marianne Hornbuckle

    Thanks for the thoughtful commentary and links – clarification of different compositional approaches are always great food for thought! Sorry to have missed talking with you last weekend…


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About Nancy

Nancy Reyner paints exotic versions of heaven, using gold leaf and other unusual materials. A contemporary abstract painter, she feels art is a rewarding pursuit that adds quality of life. Nancy shares this passion with her students & offers classes, articles, books & videos, encouraging the courageous use of materials and artistic expression.

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