Yet, even with very indifferent material, pleasing results may be achieved, if only we give attention to a few simple rules based upon decorative considerations.
It is not unusual to find a charming house, embodying features of the highest excellence architecturally, the Walls hung with the choicest examples of the art of the paper-hanger, and the furniture artistic above reproach, in which all is spoiled by a careless and ill-considered method of hanging the pictures.
Yet, of all the decorative accessories with which we seek to embellish our homes, pictures claim first notice, for they confront us directly at the level of the eye.
Whatever their merits as works of art, they gain immensely in decorative value by being well arranged in the hanging.
The "Art" of Picture Hanging
Let us first consider the subject from this standpoint. We may call it the "art" of picture-hanging, to distinguish it from more practical questions of how to hang pictures securely with a minimum of damage to the walls, which shall be treated later.
In the first place it is well to have more pictures than the room will carry without crowding, so as to give us a choice of sizes, because the best results are obtained when we can group the pictures in a manner that gives a well-balanced effect, and the construction of our groups can only be done satisfactorily when we have not only choice of size, but also choice of subject.
It is best to deal with one wall at a time, starting with that which has the largest surface. The centre of this wall is the position for the largest picture.
Before proceeding further, however, clear a space on the floor adjacent to the wall to be hung, and lay out flat on the carpet the other pictures you consider suitable for associating with the central one, which latter, of course, will be the dominating feature of the group.
Reference to Fig. I shows the kind of arrangement to be aimed at.
It will be noted that four smaller pictures are closely associated with the large central one, and the two other medium-sized pictures are separated from the central group by a much wider interval than separates the components of the latter.
This arrangement implies purpose, and achieves balance without undue crowding.
The same result would be obtained with two small groups in place of the two medium-sized pictures. And it is not a well-balanced effect. The largest picture should occupy the central position essential that the two groups should consist of components of the same size, so long as the groups are approximately equal in size and shape.
Fig. 1. A suggestion for grouping pictures of different sizes. The best result is obtained by hanging the pictures so as to produce
This principle of grouping removes the difficulty about associating very large with very small pictures.
In Fig. 2 is shown a very large picture flanked with groups of very small ones.
In placing the components of a group, spacing is an all-important consideration.
To secure the necessary cohesion between the components, the horizontal and vertical intervals should, as far as possible, be equal and not too wide. From 1 1/2 inches to 3 inches, according to the sizes of the pictures, is the maximum separation desirable.
In making the preliminary arrangement on the floor, the picture-hanger must be guided by measurement as to the height of each group. This will be determined by the space available between the ceiling (or picture-rail, if the latter exists) and the lowest point to which it is desirable that the pictures shall hang, and we may fix this limit at about 3 feet 9 inches from floor-level.
This height may be taken as a datum line, and when it comes to putting the pictures on the wall, a cord may be stretched along its surface at the 3 feet 9 inches level, as a guide for the lower edges of the picture groups.
This constitutes "the line" of the Royal Academy Exhibition; but as our rooms are not hung in academy fashion, with all pictures in contact, we may, and should, break the line in the manner shown in the illustrations, by dropping the central and dominant component of each group a short distance below it.
The result is to eliminate the hard, mechanical effect of a uniform level at the lower boundaries of our groups.
In putting these principles into practice, it should be remembered that, when all pictures are large, each picture may be treated as a group.
We have now to consider how far the subject of the picture affects the questions already dealt with.
On this point opinions will differ, but ordinarily it may be taken that subjects may be mixed - i.e., figure and landscape pictures will not suffer from being in juxtaposition, provided that their colour schemes are such as to harmonise with each other.
In securing balance of effect in a picture group, one has to study symmetry to a certain extent, and it would be a mistake to put low-tone pictures on one side of the group and bright, sunny subjects on the other side.
The central, or dominant, picture may with advantage differ from the other components. This is shown in Fig. I in which it Will be seen that the low tone of the large central portrait gives point to the whole group.