Louis Sullivan: Kindergarten Chats: The Art of Expression 4: Towards an Universal Art of Expression

Thus is it necessary in a Human Civilization that men in all walks of life (especially those who assume to be leaders in thought) qualify, each in his way, in the all-inclusive art of expression. For Human Civilization has real things to express, it insists on their expression, it will make sure that they are expressed. The steady gaze of Human Civilization pierces all feudal screens, all veils, all pretense, all subterfuge, all hypocrisies, all cant. It sees through them and beyond them to the feudal realities of our day. With ever accumulating power it seeks and will surely find expression in social function and form. It is seeking and will find a consistent, highly diversified, highly organized expression springing with superb logic from the contained power of its germinal idea: the sole social idea that stands for complete Sanity, the sole spiritual idea that is worthy of man and his powers. Therefore the art of developing Human Civilization into a complete, complex yet simple, working civilization is the one great art of expression confronting man today. It is the one art including all arts, all activities, individual and social. It is in the development of the technique of such art that modern man is to concentrate his thought, bend his faculties, and exercise his superb powers as creator.

Inasmuch as you will have problems to meet and solve, let me give you this pointer: Every problem contains and suggests its own solution. Don’t waste time looking anywhere else for it. In this mental attitude, in this mood of understanding, lies the technical beginning of the universal art of expression.

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2 Responses to Louis Sullivan: Kindergarten Chats: The Art of Expression 4: Towards an Universal Art of Expression

  1. Shrikant Rangnekar says:


    You are right, the statement is too telegrammatic–in fact the student to whom he is presenting this discourse has exactly the same complaint as yours:

    “You have the singular habit of assuming, when you suddenly make a compact statement, novel in character, that I am capable of digesting it at once. I am puzzling over your statement–I can’t see that a problem contains its solution; still less that it suggests it… It is not self-evident to me. My training tended the other way. And yet the suggestion excites my vivid curiosity. It sounds neat if nothing more.”

    Sullivan presents his idea of “A problem contains and suggests its own solution.” in the following section, which I will cover in my next post.

  2. Jack Gardner says:

    Sorry, I admire Sullivan, but if there is anthing meaningful to be derived from this post, I am unable to work it out. Some examples might have helped, assuming he has any? True, if a car won’t start, your best bet is to work on the car, investigating its functioning, rather than prayer and seeking inspiration from the stars. But this doesn’t seem to be all he wants to say?

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