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Transparent Is Meant Tingeing Power White Besides Its Uses As A








colour, is the instrument of light in painting, and compounds when pure
with all colours, without changing their class. Yet it dilutes and cools
all colours except blue, which is specifically cold; and, though it does
not change nor defile any colour, it is changed and defiled by all
colours. This pureness of white, if it be not in some degree broken or
tinged, will cast down or degrade every other colour in a picture, and
itself become harsh and crude. Hence the lowness of tone which has been
thought a necessity in painting, but is such only because our other
colours do not approach to the purity of white. Had we all necessary
colours thus relatively pure as white, colouring in painting might be
carried up to the full brilliancy of nature; and, in fact, more progress
has already been made in that respect, than the prejudice for dulness is
disposed to tolerate.

Locally, white is the most advancing of all colours in a picture, and
produces the effect of throwing others back in different degrees,
according to their specific retiring and advancing powers. These latter,
however, are not absolute qualities of colours, but depend on the
relations of light and shade, which are variously appropriate to all
colours. Hence it is that a white object rightly adapted, appears to
detach, distribute, and put in keeping; as well as to give relief,
decision, distinctness, and distance to every thing around it: hence,
too, the use and requirement of a white or light object, in each
separate group of a composition. White itself is advanced or brought
forward, unless indeed white surround a dark object, in which case they
retire together. In mixture, white communicates these properties to its
tints, and harmonizes in conjunction with, or in opposition to all
colours; but lies nearest in series to yellow, and remotest from blue,
of which, next to black, it is the most thorough contrast. It is
correlative with black, which is the opposite extreme of neutrality.

Perfect white is opaque, and perfect black transparent; hence when added
to black in minute proportion, white gives it solidity; and from a like
small proportion of black combined with white, the latter acquires
locality as a colour, and better preserves its hue in painting. Both
white and black communicate these properties to other colours, in
proportion to their lightness or depth; while they cool each other in
mixture, and equally contrast each other when opposed. These extremes of
the chromatic scale are each in its way most easily denied, as green,
the mean of the scale, is the greatest defiler of all colours. Rubens
regarded white as the nourishment of light, and the poison of shadow.

In a picture, white should not be merely glittering or brilliant, but
tender as well as bright. The eye should seek it for rest, brilliant
though it may be; and feel it as a space of strange heavenly paleness in
the midst of the flushing of the colours. This effect can only be
reached by general depth of middle tint, by the perfect absence of any
white, save where it is needed, and by keeping the white itself subdued
by grey, except at a few points of chief lustre.

White, as a pigment, is of more extensive use than any other colour in
oil painting and fresco, owing to its local quality, its representing
light, and its entering into composition with all colours in the
formation of tints. The old masters have been supposed by some to
possess whites superior to our own, but this may be questioned. The
pureness of whites in some celebrated old pictures is rather to be
attributed to a proper method of using, careful preservation of the
work, and in many instances to the introduction of ultramarine or a
permanent cold colour into the white--such as plumbago--helped also by
judicious contrast.

Notwithstanding white pigments are tolerably numerous, a thoroughly
unexceptionable white is still a desideratum--one combining the perfect
opacity or body of white lead with the perfect permanency of zinc white.
The nearest approach to it that has yet been made, is Chinese white,
which possesses in a great measure the property of the former, and,
being a preparation of zinc, has wholly that of the latter.
Unfortunately Chinese white is a water-colour pigment only, not
retaining its several advantages, stability excepted, when employed in
oil.

TTITLE CONSTANT WHITE,





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