This section is from the book "Chromatography; Or, A Treatise On Colours And Pigments, And Of Their Powers In Painting", by George Field. Also available from Amazon: Chromatography, or A Treatise on Colours and Pigments, and of Their Powers in Painting.
It is highly important In the student that the question concerning the true rank and esteem of the various styles and departments of painting, and of the of colouring in particular, should be rightly understood, that he may not waste his time and talents in vain and unprofitable endeavours; and, to comprehend this question correctly, it is necessary to consider these styles and departments in their Int. natural, and philosophical relations individually, as well as a reference to art and society generally. In the first respect, by are either material and mechanical - sensible and sentimental - or they are moral and intellectual; yet it is impossible to sepa-rate these entirely from either branch, or to assign either In either otherwise than by predominance, in which way hand, ex-ecution, drawing, and whatever concerns the manage ment of the materials of a picture, belong to the material and manual; - colour, light, shade, and effect, belong to sense, - and to the intellectual, belong invention, composition, and expression. Admitting, then, that intellect is above sense, and sense above matter and mechanism, we must accord the highest rant to invention and expression in themselves, and assign the like middle station to colouring; but if the art as a whole have, as it truly has, essentially more of the sensible than it has of either the material or intellectual, then is the sensible principal in the art, and colouring and its allies are principal in painting, although out of the art itself they have not the highest reference.
Modern art, as founded upon the intellectual school of the antient Greeks, became grand, scientific, and severe in the practice of Michael Angelo and Leonardo Da Vinci; graceful, beautiful, and expressive, in Raphael, Correggio, Dnmimchino, and Guido; and, aiming at sensible perfection, it attained harmony of colouring and effect in the works of Titian and Tin-toret; but it sunk into grossness and sensuality while perfecting itself materially in the Flemish and Dutch schools. As, however, the genuine faculty of the art belongs to sense or passive intellect, it will best accomplish its purpose by a middle course, in which there is a concurrence of both its extremes, rather than a predominance of either.
Styles in art have ever varied with their age and nation, according as the people among whom they have been practised have been more or less mechanical, sensible, or intellectual, - without this, art would have terminated in rules, models, and sinensian sameness; without this, there had been neither Dutch, Flemish, nor Venetian schools; and without this, there can be no English school. Had the critics and professors of Holland and Flanders inflated the Dutch and Flemish painters with the ambition of rivalling the schools of Michael Angelo, Raphael, and the Caracci, their works would have been rejected by their country, and their attempt to lead their age, instead of leaving art to the impulse of genius and (he calls of society, would have had the effects it has had in England, of neutralizing patronage or demand, and of depriving the world of a new developcmcnt of art. and of the rich produce of a school low in grade, but admirable in effect. Hence, left to its natural course in a free, great, and enlightened country like this, (be art cannot fail of that just medium, and those new and Iran-cendant attainments, which have ever sprung from power and riches, accompanied by freedom and intelligence, as witnessed in antient Greece: but the spirit of art in this country has been constantly depressed by false criticism, foreign revilements of its genins. and the domestic outcry of want of patronage for works of magnitude; as if magnitude were synonymous with merit. The Greeks knew how to concentrate more of the perfections of art on a gem than all the gigantic figures of Egypt, together supply; - why. then, shall not the British artist exalt himself and his school by the free exercise of his talents on wort of a character and magnitude suited to the customs, climate. and calls of his country?