the very foundation of the
modern picture. For you cannot accept the ordinary
or actual condition of light, as governing the
light and shade of your picture, without extending
the same scheme of relations over the whole
canvas. Every most insignificant spot of light and
shade and color, as well as the most significant,
must keep its place, must hold its true relation to
every other spot and to all the rest. Each value
must keep its place according to the laws of fact,
or it is out of touch with the whole. The whole
picture must be either on a scheme of general
fact, or a scheme of general arbitrary arrangement.
Any one piece of arbitrary arrangement
in this connection must be backed up by other
pieces of arbitrary arrangement, or else there
must be no arbitrary arrangement at all. The
modern painter accepts the former ; and the importance
of "values" is the result.
Absolute and Relative Values. — We may speak of
values as absolute or relative. This relates to the
key or pitch of a painting. It is the contribution
to the art of painting which was made by the
French painter, Manet. You may paint a picture
in the same pitch as nature, or you may transpose
it to a higher or a lower pitch.
The relations of the different values of the picture
will hold the same relation to each other as
the values of nature do to each other. But the
actual pitch of each, the relation of each to an
absolute light or an absolute dark, will be higher
or lower than in nature. This would be relative
Or the pitch, relation to absolute light and dark,
of each value may be the same, value for value, as
in nature. This would be absolute values.
The attempt at- absolute values was not made
at all before Manet's time. A landscape was
frankly painted down, or darker, from the pitch
of nature, and an interor as frankly painted up,
or lighter. In both cases the values had to be
condensed, —telescoped, so to speak,— because 1
pigment would not express the highest light nor
the lowest dark in nature ; and to have the same
number of gradations between the highest and lowest
notes in the picture, the amount of difference
between each value had to be diminished — but
relatively they were the same. The degree of variation
from the actual was the same all through.
With absolute values the painter aims at giving
tine, just note, —the exact equivalent in value that
he finds in nature. He tries to paint up to outdoor
light or paint down to in-door light.
142 THE PAINTER IN OIL
Close Values. — This naturally calls for a fine distinction
of tones — the utmost subtlety of perception
of values. To paint a picture in which the
highest light may not be white nor the lowest
dark black, and yet give a great range and
variety to the values all through the picture, the
values must be close ; must be studied so closely
as to take cognizance of the slightest possible
distinction, and to justly express it. This sort
of thing was not thought of by the older painters.
It is the distinguishing characteristic of modern
painting. It is a substitution of the study of relation
for the study of contrast.
Study of Values.—You see at once how important,
how vital, the study of values is to painting.
Even if you paint with arbitrary lighting, as is still
done by many painters, especially in portraits, you
have to consider and study them as they apply to
parts of your picture. You will find no good
painter of old time who did not study relations.
If you look at a Velasquez, you will find that he
knew values, even though he did not use the word.
But if you are in touch with your century, if
you would paint to express the suggestion you receive
from the nature you study, or if you would
convey the idea of truth to the world around vou,
as that world exists, frankly accepting the conditions
of it, you will have to make the study of
values fundamental to your work.
VALUES 1 43
" The Fourth Dimension."—You study values with
your eyes only, but you cannot measure values.
Length, breadth, and thickness you can measure
but values constitute what might be called a
"Fourth Dimension" and you must measure it
by your eye, and without any mechanical aid.
Your eye must be trained to distinguish and
judge differences of value.
Helps. — There are, however, several things
which you can use to help you in training your
eye to distinguish values. When you look for
values you do not wish to see details nor things,
you wish to see only masses and relations. You
must unfoctis your eye. The focussed eye sees
the fact, and not the relation. Anything which
will help you to see outlines and details less distinctly
will help you to see the values more distinctly.
Half-closed Eyes.—The most common way is to
half close the eyes, which shuts out details, but
permits you to see the values. Some painters
think this falsifies pitch, and prefer to keep the
eyes wide open, but to focus them on some point
beyond the values they are studying. This is not
so easy to do as to half close the eyes, but becomes
lesp difficult with practice.
The Blur Glass.—An ordinary magnifying-glass
of about 15-inch focus, which you can get at an
optician's for fifteen or twenty cents, will bliir the
144 7"//£' PAINTER IN OIL
details, and help you to see the values, because
it makes everything vague except the masses.
You can frame it for use by putting it between
two pieces of cardboard with a hole in them, or
you can do the same with two pieces of leather
sewed around the edge. Of course the glass itself
is all you need, but it will be easily broken if
Do not try to look through the glass at your
subject, but at the glass and the image on it.
The Claude Loraine Mirror. — This is a curved mirror
with a black reflecting surface. The object
is reflected on it, reduced both in size and pitch.
It concentrates the masses and the color, and so
helps to distinguish the relative values.
You can make a mirror of this sort for yourself
by painting the back of a piece of plate glass
black. The real Claude Loraine mirror is expensive.
The Common Mirror is also very helpful in distinguishing
values. It reduces the size of things,
and reverses the drawing so that you see your
subject under different conditions, and a fresh eye
is the result. Place the group and your painting
side by side, if you are painting still life, and look
at both at the same time in the mirror. Do the
same with a portrait and the sitter.
Diminishing Glass.— Much the same effect can be
had by using a double concave lens. The picture
is not reversed, but it is reduced, and the details
In using any of these means you must remember
that it is always the relations and not the things
you are studying ; and the most useful of these
aids is the blur glass, because you cannot possibly
see anything in it but the values and color masses,
everything else being blurred.
146 THE PAINTER IN OIL
There are two kinds of perspective, linear and
aerial. The former has to do with the manner in
which horizontal lines appear to converge as they
recede from the foreground, and so produce the
effect of distance. The latter has to do with the
effect of distance, which is due to the successive
gradations of gray in color noticeable in objects
farther and farther away from the observer.
Aerial Perspective. — To the student, aerial is color
perspective, because of the modifications which
colors undergo when removed to a distance. Modifications
of tone are largely due to varying distance,
and so aerial perspective is largely a matter
of values. That they are due to the greater or
less thickness of the atmosphere is only a matter
of interest, not of importance, to the artist ; the
important thing to him is that the careful study
of values is necessary to relief, perspective, and
particularly, atmosphere and envelopment in a
To the student, aerial perspective should be
only a matter of observation and of the study of
PERSPECTIVE 1 47
relations of color and value. There are no rules.
The effect depends on greater or less density of
atmosphere. Near objects are seen through a
thin stratum of air, and farther objects through
a thicker one. All you have to do to express it
is to recognize the relative tones of color. Paint
the colors as they are, as you see them in nature,
and you need have no trouble with aerial
But though I say "this is all you have to do,"
don't imagine that I mean that it is always easy,
or that it can be done without thought and^'study.
You will have to use all your powers of perception
if you wish to do good work in this direction.
Especially on clear days, or in those climates
where the air is so rare that objects at great distances
seem near, you will find that atmospheric
perspective is simply another name for close values.
And close values, you remember, are the
most subtle of relations of light and shade and
The only rule for aerial perspective is to use
your eyes, and do nothing without a previous
careful study of nature.
Linear Perspective. — For most kinds of painting,
a technical knowledge of linear perspective is not
necessary, although every painter should understand
the general principles of it. In most cases
all the exactness needed can be obtained by com148
THE PAINTER IN OIL
paring all lines carefully with the pencil or brush
handle held horizontally or vertically, and studying
the angle any line makes with it. Appy to all
objects in perspective the same observation that
you do in any other kind of drawing, and you will
have little trouble, as long as you are drawing
from an object before you. But if you go into
perspective at all, go into it thoroughly. A little
perspective is a dangerous thing, and more likely
to mix you up by suggesting