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Semi-neutral Gray Is Distinguished From The Neutral Grey Which

springs in an infinite series from the mixture of the neutral black and
white. Between gray and grey, however, there is no intermediate, since
where colour ends in the one, neutrality commences in the other, and
vice versa. Hence the natural alliance of the semi-neutral
gray--definable as a cool coloured grey--with black or shade; an
alliance which is strengthened by the latent predominance of blue in the
synthesis of black, so that in the tints resulting from the mixture of
black and white, so much of that hue is developed as to give apparent
colour to the tints. This explains why the tints of black and dark
pigments are colder than their originals, so much so as in some
instances to answer the purposes of positive colours. It accounts in
some measure for the natural blueness of the sky, yet not wholly, for
this is in part dependent, by contrast, upon the warm colour of sunshine
to which it is opposed; for, if by any accident the light of nature
should be rendered red, the colour of the sky would not appear purple,
in consequence, but green. Again, if the sun shone green, the sky would
not be green, but red inclined to purple; and so would it be with all
colours, not according to the laws of composition, but of contrast;
since, if it were otherwise, the golden rays of the sun would render a
blue sky green.

The grays are the natural cold correlatives, or contrasts, of the warm
semi-neutral browns, as well as degradations of blue and its allies.
Hence blue added to brown throws it into or toward the class of grays,
and hence grays are equally abundant in nature and necessary in art: in
both they comprehend a widely diffused and beautiful play of retiring
colours in skies, distances, carnations, and the shadowings and
reflections of pure light, &c. Gray is, indeed, the colour of space, and
has therefore the property of diffusing breadth in a picture, while it
furnishes at the same time good connecting tints, or media, for
harmonizing the general colouring. Consequently the grays are among the
most essential hues of the art, though they must not be suffered to
predominate where the subject or sentiment does not require it, lest
they cast over the painting that gloom or leaden dulness reprobated by
Sir Joshua Reynolds; yet in solemn works they are wonderfully effective,
and proper ruling colours. Nature supplies these hues from the sky
abundantly and effectively throughout landscape, and Rubens has employed
them as generally to correct and give value to his colouring, with fine
natural perception in this branch of his art: witness his works in the
National Gallery, and in that of the Luxembourg.

According to the foregoing relations, grays favour the effects and force
of warm colours, which in their turn also give value to grays. It is
hence that the tender gray distances of a landscape are assisted,
enlivened, and kept in place by warm and forcible colouring in the
foreground, gradually connected through intermediate objects and middle
distances by demi-tints declining into gray; a union which secures full
value to the colours and objects, and by reconciling opposites gives
repose to the eye. As a general rule, it may be inferred that half of a
picture should be of a neutral hue, to ensure the harmony of the
colouring; or at least that a balance of colour and neutrality is quite
as essential to the best effect of a painting as a like balance of light
and shade.


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