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