ontemplating a wide field of vision. With the ordinary habit of looking only at individual parts of nature, the general impression being but dimly felt, they are not observed. The artist has to acquire the habit of generalising his visual attention over a wide field if he would perceive the true relation of the parts to this scale of values. Half closing the eyes, which is the usual method of doing this, destroys the perception of a great deal of colour. Another method of throwing the eyes out of focus and enabling one to judge of large relationships, is to dilate them widely. This rather increases than diminishes the colour, but is not so safe a method of judging subtle tone relationships.
It is easier in approaching this study out of doors to begin with quiet effects of light. Some of those soft grey days in this country are very beautiful in tone, and change so little that careful studies can be made. And with indoor work, place your subject rather away from the direct light and avoid much light and shade; let the light come from behind you.
If very strong light effects, such as sunlight, or a dark interior lit by one brilliant window, are attempted, the values will be found to be much simpler and more harsh, often resolving themselves into two 206masses, a brilliant light contrasted with a dark shadow. This tone arrangement of strong light in contrast with dark shadow was a favourite formula with many schools of the past, since Leonardo da Vinci first used it. Great breadth and splendour is given by it to design, and it is one of the most impressive of tone arrangements. Leonardo da Vinci's "Our Lady of the Rocks," in the National Gallery, is an early example of this treatment. And Correggio's "Venus, Mercury, and Cupid," here reproduced, is another particularly fine example. Reynolds and many of the eighteenth-century men used this scheme in their work almost entirely. This strong light and shade, by eliminating to a large extent the half tones, helps to preserve in highly complete work a simplicity and directness of statement that is very powerful. For certain impressions it probably will never be bettered, but it is a very well-worn convention. Manet among the moderns has given new life to this formula, although he did not derive his inspiration directly from Correggio but through the Spanish school. By working in a strong, rather glaring, direct light, he eliminated still further the half tones, and got rid to a great extent of light and shade. Coming at a time when the realistic and plain air movements were destroying simple directness, his work was of great value, bringing back, as it did with its insistence on large, simple masses, a sense of frank design. His influence has been very great in recent years, as artists have felt that it offered a new formula for design and colour. Light and shade and half tone are the great enemies of colour, sullying, as they do, its purity; and to some extent to design also, destroying, as they do, the flatness of the picture. But with the strong direct 207light, the masses are cut out as simply as possible, and their colour is little sullied by light and shade. The picture of Manet's reproduced is a typical example of his manner. The aggressive shape of the pattern made by the light mass against the dark background is typical of his revolutionary attitude towards all accepted canons of beauty. But even here it is interesting to note that many principles of composition are conformed to. The design is united to its boundaries by the horizontal line of the couch and the vertical line of the screen at the back, while the whole swing hangs on the diagonal from top left-hand corner to right; lower corner, to which the strongly marked edge of the bed-clothes and pillow at the bottom of the picture is parallel.
Plate XLV. CORREGGIO. VENUS. MERCURY, AND CUPID (NATIONAL GALLERY) A fine example of one of the most effective tone arrangements; a brilliantly-lit, richly-modelled light mass on a dark background. Photo Hanfstaengl
CORREGGIO. VENUS. MERCURY, AND CUPID (NATIONAL GALLERY)
A fine example of one of the most effective tone arrangements; a brilliantly-lit, richly-modelled light mass on a dark background.
Large flat tones give a power and simplicity to a design, and a largeness and breadth of expression that are very valuable, besides showing up every little variety in the values used for your modelling; and thus enabling you to model with the least expenditure of tones. Whatever richness of variation you may ultimately desire to add to your values, see to it that in planning your picture you get a good basic structure of simply designed, and as far as possible flat, tones.
In speaking of variety in mass we saw how the nearer these tones are in the scale of values, the more reserved and quiet the impression created, and the further apart or greater the contrast, the more dramatic and intense the effect. And the sentiment of tone in a picture, like the sentiment of line and colour, should be in harmony with the nature of your subject.
Generally speaking more variety of tone and shape 208in the masses of your composition is permissible when a smaller range of values is used than when your subject demands strong contrasts. When strong contrasts of tone or what are called black and white effects are desired, the masses must be very simply designed. Were this not so, and were the composition patterned all over with smaller masses in strong contrast, the breadth and unity of the effect would be lost. While when the difference of relative values between one tone and another is slight, the oneness of effect is not so much interfered with by there being a large number of them. Effects of strong contrasts are therefore far the most difficult to manage, as it is not easy to reduce a composition of any complexity to a simple expressive pattern of large masses.
This principle applies also in the matter of colour. Greater contrasts and variety of colour may be indulged in where the middle range only of tones is used, and where there is little tone contrast, than where there is great contrast. In other words, you cannot with much hope of success have strong contrasts of colour and strong contrasts of tone in the same picture: it is too violent.
If you have strong contrasts of colour, the contrasts of tone between them must be small. The Japanese and Chinese often make the most successful use of violent contrasts of colour by being careful that they shall be of the same tone value.
And again, where you have strong contrasts of tone, such as Rembrandt was fond of, you cannot successfully have strong contrasts of colour as well. Reynolds, who was fond both of colour and strong tone contrast, had to compromise, as he tells us in 209his lectures, by making the shadows all the same brown colour, to keep a harmony in his work.
Plate XLVI. OLYMPIA. MANET (Louvre) A further development of the composition formula illustrated by Correggio's "Venus". Added force is given by lighting with low direct light elimination half-tones. Photo Neurdein
OLYMPIA. MANET (Louvre)
A further development of the composition formula illustrated by Correggio's "Venus". Added force is given by lighting with low direct light elimination half-tones.
There is some analogy between straight lines and flat tones, and curved lines and gradated tones. And a great deal that was said about the rhythmic significance of these lines will apply equally well here. What was said about long vertical and horizontal lines conveying a look of repose and touching the serious emotional notes, can be said of large flat tones. The feeling of infinity suggested by a wide blue sky without a cloud, seen above a wide bare plain, is an obvious instance of this. And for the same harmonic cause, a calm evening has so peaceful and infinite an expression. The waning light darkens the land and increases the contrast between it and the sky, with the result that all the landscape towards the west is reduced to practically one dark tone, cutting sharply against the wide light of the sky.
And the graceful charm of curved lines swinging in harmonious rhythm through a composition has its analogy in gradated tones. Watteau and Gainsborough, those masters of charm, knew this, and in their most alluring compositions the tone-music is founded on a principle of tone-gradations, swinging and interlacing with each other in harmonious rhythm throughout the composition. Large, flat tones, with their more thoughtful associations are out of place here, and are seldom if ever used. In their work we see a world where the saddening influences of profound thought and its expression are far away. No deeper notes are allowed to mar the gaiety of this holiday world. Watteau created a dream country of his own, in which a tired humanity has delighted ever since, in which all serious thoughts are far away and the mind takes 211refreshment in the contemplation of delightful things. And a great deal of this charm is due to the pretty play from a crescendo to a diminuendo in the tone values on which his compositions are based—so far removed from the simple structure of flat masses to which more primitive and austere art owes its power.
Diagram XXIV. SHOWING THE PRINCIPLE ON WHICH THE MASS OR TONE RHYTHM OF THE COMPOSITION REPRODUCED ON THE OPPOSITE PAGE IS ARRANGED
SHOWING THE PRINCIPLE ON WHICH THE MASS OR TONE RHYTHM OF THE COMPOSITION REPRODUCED ON THE OPPOSITE PAGE IS ARRANGED
Plate XLVII. L'EMBARQUEMENT POUR CYTHÈRE. WATTEAU (LOUVRE) A typical example of composition founded on gradated tones. (See analysis on opposite page.) Photo Hanfstaengl
L'EMBARQUEMENT POUR CYTHÈRE. WATTEAU (LOUVRE)
A typical example of composition founded on gradated tones. (See analysis on opposite page.)
But Watteau's gr