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.
That Sir Joshua Reynolds felt unaffected upon a first inspection of the works of Raphael at Rome, was owing. doubtlessly, to the general unattractiveness of their colouring. Many he observed, experienced the same indifference toward the. He remarked also, "That those persons only who, from natural imbecility, appeared to be incapable of relishing those divine performances, made pretensions to instantaneous raptures on first beholding them." - Reynolds's Works by Farringham.
Gainsborough, with a candour parallel to that of Reynolds acknowledged to Edwards, upon viewing the Cartoons Hampton Court, that their beauty was of a class he could neither appreciate nor enjoy.
The present highly talented President of the Royal Academy demy has remarked, with just discrimination, that " They who have excelled in subjects of a grand and elevated character have rarely been able to combine with their other accomplish-ments the merits of colouring, chiaroscuro, and execution; but let us not, therefore, contract our ideas of excellence, in com-plimcnt to their deficiencies, nor endeavour to persuade ourselves that we see in the imperfection of their art a principle of their science." - Elements, Canto V., n. p. 284.
"How colouring and effect may and ought to be manual, to enliven, form, and invigorate sentiment and expression (re-marks Opie), I can readily comprehend, and, I hope, demonstrate-; but wherein these different classes of excellence are incompatible with each other, I could never conceive the barren coldness of David, the brickdust of the learned Pun-sin. nor even the dryness of Raffael himself, ever lead me to believe, that the flesh of heroes is less like flesh than that of other men; nor that the surest way to strike the imagination and interest the feelings, is to fatigue, perplex, and disgust the organs through which the impression is made on the mind." - Lect. I. p. 18.
Upon this subject, and upon colouring in general, there has been much ably and eloquently said by Opie, - himself an eminent colourrist, - in his fourth and last excellent lecture, which well merits the attention of even,colourist, fur just feeling and discrimination in this branch of painting.
It is evident, notwithstanding, that he was not well acquainted with the relations upon which harmony depends, since he confounds tone and warmth with harmony, according to a very common error, when he says. " Harmony is secured by keeping up the same tone through the whole, and not at all by any tort of arrangement." - P. 143.
And again, "Harmony easily slides into jaundice." - Ibid.
Now, harmony of colouring is infinite in its varieties, all depending upon arrangement, and tone is but the ruling colour pervading any arrangement or composition - the archeus of the piece; which in like ease the harmonist, in the sister art of music, calls the key; - and warmth is the suffusion of a particular tone, the natural key-note of the colouring. Colouring has as many artificial keys as there are hues; - as many tones, all applicable to legitimate arrangement, or harmonies in colouring; but not all equally eligible, for this must depend upon taste, nature, sentiment, and judgment. Opie is not, however, singular in confounding tone with harmony - the error is general, and Sir Joshua has fallen into it: but monotony of any kind must not be confounded with harmony.