TO those who have seen Van Dyck's portrait of William of Nassau in the Hermitage at St. Petersburg, reproduced in illustration 51, our rendering of the same subject in Fig. 50 must seem like a travesty. When a human being has lost his background, in other words, when from his memory vanish all traces of his past, his mind becomes, relatively speaking, a blank. Who will not say upon comparing Fig. 50 with Fig. 51 that the mental state of Fig. 50 is largely due to the "blank" background? There are portraits by the great masters in which the background is kept very simple, but it is not blank. On the contrary, the translucent medium — the oil mixed with the colors — is productive of depth and is suggestive. The photographic print does not in the least share those qualities. It presents a background hard, metallic, impenetrable, unassimilative. Art students whose study of the old masters is confined to "half tones" should take into consideration the quality in the printer's ink that falsifies the effect of the originals, sometimes reducing the simple oil background to the barrenness of a photographic print.
We must consider the resources of the medium at our command. Whereas oil painting gives us pulsating life, even in monotone backgrounds, photography forces us to create that quality through gradation, or we may cut the surface with form-margins called lines.
In Fig. 50 the tightness of texture suppresses life, the density is an impenetrable wall confronting our intellect. This dead flat background, however, is less offensive than the devices used by photographers in the past to "set off" the figure. We can all recall a ghastly array of scenic nonsense that occupied a corner of every photographic studio. See what significance is everywhere manifest in Fig. 51. The picture lives and our imagination is stimulated by it. In Fig. 50 the figure is like the grasses plucked from the field, it has become a specimen and has little relation to anything. Plainly, it is impossible in an unmanipu-lated photograph to make the figure seem other than central, isolated, "glued on," because of this nakedness in its surroundings.
In learning how to establish a relation of the three factors, figure, background and frame, we come to consideration of beauty gained through the placing of lines. In Fig. 52 we have the picture plane on which a line is to be placed. In Fig. 53 the line is drawn through the horizontal centre, thus giving us two surfaces of equal spacing instead of one, and thereby violating the law that demands of a picture that it should always impress us as a whole, should retain its entirety, its "oneness." Placing the second line in the hope of realizing this "oneness' by adding a vertical, we aggravate the trouble by making four picture surfaces, — Fig. 54. To illustrate by means of a landscape, if we were to imagine the central line of Fig. 53 the horizon, the upper part sky, the lower section the ocean, we would in its present state see neither sky nor water. If, however, we were to drop the line we should see the sky and be conscious of the ocean, - Fig. 55; or if we were to make the line higher we would see the water and feel the presence of the sky, - Fig. 56. In Figs. 55 and 56 we create by the use of the line not two pictures but one whole impression. We have accomplished this through irregularity of divisions.
The laws are the same when we make use of the figure. Its forms, each bounded and defined by lines that produce a pleasant variety, offer limitless opportunities for beautiful placing on the picture plane. As we work toward this end we combine a delightful exercise with excellent training and the development of our appreciative powers.
Figure 57 presents an extremely conventional pose. We should waste our time in trying to make the pictorial out of it. Its spot arrangement - face and hands — is on the plan of the drawing, Fig. 45, that was found to possess no pictorial qualities. If we study the drawing, Fig. 60, we shall see how far the photograph, Fig. 57, departs from the attainment of a pictorial ensemble. In Fig. 60 a line from A to B shows an equal division of the picture plane; the face and body of the sitter are also divided symmetrically. AEstheti-cally considered, monotony is made more prevalent by the exact horizontal repetition of the features, as the series of lines marked G shows. Observe the lower frame line. On it points C are each equally distant from the uprights, their distance to points D are the same, and the spaces between D and A do not vary.
The change effected in Fig. 58 will appeal to us all. Several pictorial concessions are made, the chief one being in the lines from the shoulders and the way they meet the frame. The conventional has vanished and one element of the pictorial has been secured. See Fig. 61. The frame line shows variety in the spacings. The distance from A to B is nowhere repeated on the four sides, nor is the space formed by B-C, duplicated. D-E stands the same test. A study of inverted photographs is to be recommended highly for the purpose of minimizing the personal element and emphasizing the abstract quality of lines and spaces. In Fig. 62 we find that each space on one side has its exact duplicate upon the other. The shapes of spaces in Fig. 63 offer a refreshing variety. The area of the space A is large and irregular, B is not like D, nor is C similar, while E differs from all the others. This test shows our picture plan to have undergone a great improvement.