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Even Now It Is Urged By Some To The Disparagement Of The British

school, that it excels in colouring; as if this were incompatible with
any other excellence, or as if nature, the great prototype of art, ever
dispensed with it. The graphic branches of painting, owe everything to
colour, which, if it does not constitute a picture, is its flesh and
blood. Without it, the finest performances remain lifeless skeletons,
and yield no pleasure. Painting is the art of representing visible
things by light, shade, form, and colour; but of these, colour--and
colour alone--is the immediate object which attracts the eye. Colouring
is, therefore, the first requisite--the one thing imparting warmth and
life--the chief quality engaging attention; in short, the best
introduction to a picture, and that which continues to give it value so
long as it is regarded. It is a power, too, which is with the most
difficulty retained, being the first to leave the artist himself, and
the first to quit a school on its decline. Graphic art without
colouring, is as food without flavour; and it was the deficiency of
colouring in the great works of the Roman and Florentine schools that
caused Sir Joshua Reynolds to confess a certain want of attraction in
them. To relish and estimate truly their greatness, required, he said, a
forced and often-repeated attention, and "it was only those persons
incapable of appreciating such divine performances, who made pretensions
to instantaneous raptures on first beholding them." Gainsborough also,
with a candour similar to that of Reynolds, upon viewing the cartoons at
Hampton Court, acknowledged that their beauty was of a class he could
neither appreciate nor enjoy.

Colouring, then, is a necessity; but there is in it a vicious extreme;
that in which it is rendered so principal as, by want of subordination,
to overlay the subject. There is also a negative excellence which
consists in not always employing pleasing tints, but of sometimes taking
advantage of the effects to be derived from impure hues, as Poussin did
in his "Deluge." In this work, neither black nor white, blue, red, nor
yellow appears; the whole mass being, with little variation, of a sombre
grey, the true resemblance of a dark and humid atmosphere, by which
every object is rendered indistinct and almost colourless. This absence
of colour, however, is a merit, and not a fault. Vandyke employed such
means with admirable effect in the background of a Crucifixion, and in
his Pieta; and the Phaeton of Giulio Romano is celebrated for a
suffusion of smothered red, which powerfully excites the idea of a world
on fire.

Of the rank and value of this department of painting, there will be, as
there has been, difference of judgment and opinion, as there is variety
in the powers of the eye and understanding. But take from Rubens,
Rembrandt, Titian, and other distinguished masters, the estimation of
their colouring, and we fear all that is left to them would hardly
preserve their names from oblivion. Art cannot, indeed, attain its
appropriate end, that of pleasing, without excellence in colouring. It
is colour which the true artist most loves, and it is colouring in all
its complex and high relations, that he ever seeks to attain. Looking
above, and around, and beneath him, with the intelligent eye of the
colourist, he finds a boundless source of never-ceasing enjoyment. With
harmonies and accordances lost to the untutored gaze, colour meets him
in every stone he treads on--in the mineral, vegetable, and animal
creation--in the heavens, sea, and earth. For him, in truth, colour is
as equally diffused as light, spreading itself over the entire face of
nature, and clothing the whole world with beauty.


Assured as we must be of the importance of colouring as a branch of art,
colours in all their bearings become interesting to the artist, and on
their use and arrangement his reputation as a colourist must depend.

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