what class it belonged; what impression it was capable of making; what passion it was calculated to arouse. The sedate, the solemn, the severe, the awful, the terrible, the pleasing, the solitary, the gay, are stamped by it. Sometimes it should be negative, entirely subordinate, receding or shrinking into itself. Sometimes its forms, sometimes its colors, ought to command. A subject in itself, bordering on the usual or common, may become sublime or pathetic by the background alone, and a sublime or pathetic one may become trivial and uninteresting by it." The student will readily perceive that no definite rules can be given to guide him in this department. In some subjects it is required that the principal figure should be distinctly seen, and again that it should be partially lost in the background. Success depends as much upon an eye for effect as upon artistic skill. - M. A. Dwight.
The effects produced by obtrusive backgrounds are sometimes very ludicrous. Here is the full-length "carte" of an old gentleman who is standing against a background of panel scroll - work. It happens that he is so placed with reference to this scroll, that a short, sturdy piece of it, with a heavy turn at the end, seems to issue from his coat - skirts, and he stands furnished with a stiff, curly, and powerful tail! A still more funny example is that of a youth who stands half turned towards a screen representing a waterfall and rocks. The fall consists of many little streams, one tiny rill of which seems to spring most conspicuously from about the centre of the youth's anatomical structure. In another picture a fountain in a garden issues, apparently, out of the head of a child, whose vacant look and helpless attitude, as she stands in that highly horticultural region, is strongly suggestive of water on the brain. - James Mudd..
224. Backgrounds, as a rule, and as they are generally painted, convey to the eye alone a very pleasing effect artistically, and we admire them for it; but when they become a part of a finished picture by combination, they lose that effect and become mere indistinct misses of light and shade, conveying no apparent meaning,at least not that which we fondly hoped to see as the result of our thought, desire, and brains; neither does it to the sitter. And the remark the photographer constantly hears is, "Why must those ugly markings always be on such nicely (otherwise) executed photographs? That was a beautiful scene," etc. Very encouraging, truly Well, the fact seems plain to me, and it is only on account of the artist making a background a picture in itself, instead of having any reference to the combination it takes part in. As it is always out of focus, it is always indistinct, or, as we call it, not sharp. Now, the remedy is to have a background painted as sharp and harsh as it is possible to make it, seeing always that the drawing is thoroughly correct, taking as much care with that part as though it was to be a finished drawing alone, and that every detail is thoroughly and carefully correct and clearly worked out. Mere suggestions of shape, light, and shade will not do, as is proved by our daily practice. Then, as the background is behind the sitter some ten to twenty inches, it is necessarily out of focus if the sitter is in, and the sharpest background that can be made will not be too distinct to make or form a harmonious whole in connection with the subject, provided it is intelligently chosen. - C. Alfred Garrett.
225. "Plain" backgrounds are such as are painted in one color all over, sometimes being gradated from light to dark, horizontally or diagonally, in order to produce greater relief. More latitude is allowed in their use if one depends for this gradation upon the management of the light and shade which is caused to fall upon them. The background used for the vignette picture should be lighter in color than that used for such as are not to be vignetted, and should not be gradated. It may be circular in shape, square, or oblong.
225. The law of massing is by no means confined to the head. The background should present a mass by itself, sustaining those of the head, and by sustaining being in unity with them, and also enforcing the other idea of breadth, continuing or commencing the discoverable direction of the light, thus carrying the sweep of light through the whole picture.
To do this the background should be graded. A few years ago we prided ourselves on being able to produce a perfectly even, flat, monotonous background. If it was darker on one 6ide than on the other, something was amiss; and if one of the pictures, now so common, with an elegantly graded ground, had been shown us, nine out of ten photographers would have pronounced it wrong, the other would have looked doubtingly at it, hesitating to confess the pleasure he might have felt, to such extent had precedent, and pride in mechanical dexterity blinded us, so far removed were we from the sympathy with nature which comes only by long study and converse with her. The background, while in general tone considerably below the face, and in one mass, should have its variety, and the idea of contrast would lead it to place its dark side opposite the light side of the face. - W. J. Baker.
I have an idea with reference to a background which I am sure will work well. Instead of a gradated tint painted on the background, I propose to have the light itself throw a shadow over it, which will blend from dark to light much better than any artist with his brush can possibly do it. This the reader can illustrate for himself by means of a common saucer for a background and by placing in front of it a little doll's head. You will at once see what a great number of different effects you have at your command, by turning the saucer to the right or left, and by tipping it forwards and backwards; the blending is wonderfully soft, and you can have the shadow stop very suddenly also, without being harsh. If you put thedoll under a top-light, the top - light will make a shadow on the background just where it should, and if you have your light on one side, the weight of the shadow on the saucer will also come where it should; and again, if you light up with both combined, you will also find the little saucer to do its duty nicely. - Wm. Kurtz.