Figure 106 is also deficient in stability. The figure is not held in the frame nor made to rest upon the surface. We have the feeling that the woman is swaying in the effort to balance herself upon the lower edge, as suggested in Figures 107 and 108. Useless space on either side adds to the instability. By cutting off this unnecessary width we receive a greater sense of firmness, as we should feel safer in looking from an upper window if we knew it was narrow enough to enable us quickly to make use of the jambs in case we began to fall. Too much empty space would be a source of discomfort to us; the same is true of the picture.
In this sense Fig. 50 is without stability. The drawing 98 shows how the background lines in the original painting 51 attach themselves to the figure and the frame at many points, and prove their value in securing the quality under discussion.
Applying this principle to our photographs, we readily perceive that the figure in 65 suffers from too much space or from want of background lines to connect it with its geometric enclosure. In Fig. 66 the lost feeling and the insecurity of Fig. 65 have given way to stability. The woman seems to belong where she stands. The steps by which this is accomplished are shown in the following pen drawings. In Fig. 109 a vertical from the shoulder to the upper frame line brings about some feeling of firmness; in Fig. 110 a low, oblique line adds to the security. The picture plan is realized in Fig. 111, where the oblique line is extended to the opposite frame, effecting the necessary stability in the picture.
A more complex problem confronts us in Fig. 112 where in spite of the empty wall space we feel that the girl has not room enough in which to make her courtesy; there is danger that she may fall face forward out of the frame. In solving this problem a composer's best ability is called into play. (See frontispiece, Fig. 113.) That the figure might "keep its place" foreground was added and the space increased on either side and above. Into this area a line was thrust playing from the feet back into the picture and to the upper frame. On the same side of the figure a line giving the effect of a curtain connects the shoulder with the upper frame. Less distinct lines emerge in the background from the skirt and play upward and outward to the right. The combined effect is to hold the figure in its place satisfactorily.
Figures 90 and 91 are examples of stability attained without the slightest aid of background accessories. The originals are both oil paintings. The background so black in Fig. 91 and so incapable of atmospheric diffusion, has in the original a soft, transparent quality. The women in both paintings appear with a largeness of impression attained in the masterpieces of space-filling. In Fig. 90 we notice that the drapery touches the frame line only at the bottom, but that the lines of the figure invade and fill each vital section of the picture area, creating in the mass of light a dominating note that perfectly balances and rules the background. When we study the frame closely we perceive subtle influences extending to it from the figure. The elbow of the arm resting on the hip approaches the frame with a soft contour; the gentle effect upon the interrelation of these lines is like the instant drop of well-sustained orchestral music to a piano softness. The upper frame is rendered enjoyable by that other influence waving through the lines of the figure, forming the sleeves, shoulders, and differently accented lines of the head. Played between them is the face, made radiant in light and tender in expression by the music of the varied cadences of line. The firmest accent in the picture, the face, has between it and the geometric horizontal above it the softness of modulated tone. The left frame with its cutting downward movement is opposed by an impetuous accent, a culmination, vitalizing the whole composition. It matters not what the lines are made to define, — whether sleeve, dress, folds, hair, face, it is rather what they sing, what light they kindle within us.
In Fig. 91 the frame is touched at three points and approached with studied purpose at others. A lesson may be derived from a simple experiment that all can make who desire to know upon what stability depends. By taking a piece of black paper and covering a section of either arm in Fig. 90, or obliterating the fan in Fig. 91, we discover an absence of stability. Both figures sway, the perfection of their arrangement has been disturbed and they become irresponsible.
The application of the principle of stability has produced in Fig. 96 a quality not attained in plain photography, where the human figure seems as unsubstantial as the paper upon which it is printed. Arrangement has brought this result, — that the figure in print 96 seems to have the weight possessed by the living being. It is healthy and all the more beautiful and true for that quality. The figure in the pictorially treated photograph 83 also appears pleasingly substantial, though that quality is not identified with Fig. 1. Notice how lines have been used in Fig. 83 to create an impression of space, a suggestion of a world outside. The woman is not caged in as in Fig. 1, or jostled by a wall, is not self-conscious or "making her last stand."
The logical study of the principle of stability forces from us again the conclusion that a background is a creation, not a procurable commodity.