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

ngs 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.