Less is not more, more is more

Posted by ESC on August 02, 2004

In Reply to: Less is not more, more is more posted by Bookworm on August 02, 2004

: : Thanks for helping me with the word "Pan the Man".
: : Would someone help me again with the following phrase?
: : An actor says in an interview,
: : "This (=doing a voice for a funny and shrewd character in a animation film) is so fun for me, to be able to be larger than life. And in animation less is not more. More is more in animation"
: : What does "less is not more. More is more"?

: : I am also not so sure of the meaning of "be larger than life." Does it mean to be more bold and daring, or to overact in perfoming?

: There is a saying "Less is more" which means that when something is understated or done in a low-key manner, it's much more effective than if it were done with a lot of fanfare and exaggeration. When the speaker says "Less in not more", he is saying that in animation, one cannot afford to be understated and must exaggerate. Larger than life could indeed mean overact as you suggest, when referring to a perfomrer. Here is a M-W Online definition for larger that life:

: Main Entry: larger-than-life
: Function: adjective
: : of the sort legends are made of

Less is more. Sometimes keeping things simple, owning a few good things instead a lot of junk, is better.

From Phrase Finder: Less is more -- Origin -- Ludwig Mies Van Der Rohe (1886-1969).

LESS IS MORE - A reference indicated the use of the phrase in a poem by Robert Browning in 1855. (See below.) And a use in 1947: P. Johnson, "Mies van der Rohe." As in architecture, (Mies) has always been guided by his personal motto, 'less is more.'" From "Concise Oxford Dictionary of Proverbs" by John Simpson and Jennifer Speake (Oxford University Press, Oxford and New York, 1998).


Have you wondered who originally said "Less is more"?

Both Mies van der Rohe and Buckminster Fuller adopted it as a way of life--you can see it demonstrated in Mies' buildings and Bucky's geodesic domes--but they got it from a poem.

It's said by the painter Andrea del Sarto (who was a real person--1486-1531), in Robert Browning's 1855 poem by that name. You'll recognize another well-known line a little later in the same poem. Here's how Browning had Andrea del Sarto say "less is more." He's addressing his beautiful, but somewhat stupid and apparently unfaithful young wife, Lucrezia, for whom he abandoned an important painting commission and--some have said--his true calling.

...I could count twenty such ...
Who strive ...
To paint a little thing like that you smeared
Carelessly passing with your robes afloat--
Yet do much less ... --so much less!
Well, less is more, Lucrezia: I am judged.
There burns a truer light of God in them,
In their vexed beating stuffed and stopped-up brain,
Heart, or whate'er else, than goes on to prompt
This low-pulsed forthright craftsman's hand of mine.
Their works drop groundward, but themselves, I know,
Reach many a time a heaven that's shut to me,
Enter and take their place there sure enough,
Though they come back and cannot tell the world. ... Somebody remarks
Morello's outline there is wrongly traced,
His hue mistaken; what of that? or else,
Rightly traced and well ordered; what of that?
Speak as they please, what does the mountain care?
Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp,
Or what's a heaven for? ...
"More is more" would be a variation, the flipside, of the above philosophy.