Oswald Spengler. The Decline of the West. An abridged edition by Helmut Werner. English abridged edition prepared by Arthur Helps from the translation by Charles Francis Atkinson. New York: oxford University Press c199 [1926, 1928, 1932]. xxxx,415, xvix


We are now able to see a great style sequence as an organism. here, as in so many other matters, Goethe was the first to whom vision came In his Winckelmann he says of Velleius Paterculus; "With his standpoint, it was not given to him to see all art as a living thing that must have an inconspicuous beginning a slow growth, a brilliant moment of fulfillment and a gradual declines like very other organic being, though it is presented in a set of individuals." This sentence contains the entire morphology of art-history. Styles do not follow one another like waves or pulse-beats. It is not the personality or will or brian of the artist that makes the style, but the style that makes the type of the artist. The style, like the Culture, is a prime phenomenon in the strict Goethian sense, be it the style of art or religion or thought, or the style of life itself. it is, as "Nature" is, an ever-new experience of waking man, his alter ego and mirror-image in the world-around. And therefore in the general historical picture of a Culture there can be but one style, the style of the Culture. The error has lain in treating mere style-phases-- Romanesque, Gothic, Baroque, Rococo, Empire--as if they were styles on the same level as units of quite another order such as the Egyptian, the Chinese (or even a "prehistoric") style. Gothic and Baroque are simply the youth and age of one and the same vessel of forms, the style of the West as ripening and ripened. Hence Ionic columns can be as completely combined with Doric building forms as late Gothic is with early Baroque in St. Lorenz at Nürnberg, or late Romanesque with the late Baroque in the beautiful upper part of the West choir at Mainz.

The test before art-history is to write the comparative biographies of the great styles, all of which as organisms of the same genus possess structurally cognate life-histories.