Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 14.djvu/25

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15
THE CONTRAST OF COLORS.

appear still paler. A slip of paper painted with a somewhat pale red, when placed on a vermilion ground, appears still paler, and may actually be made to look white. If a still paler slip be used, it may even become tinged greenish-blue, its color being in this case actually reversed by the effect of contrast. When the colors differ in luminosity, analogous effects are observed: a dull-red slip was placed on a vermilion ground; the effect was as though a quantity of gray had been added to the slip; it looked more dingy and somewhat blackish. Another slip, still darker and containing less red, when placed on the same ground looked as if it were tinged with olive-green; a still darker slip, with still less red color, when treated in the same way looked black, with a tinge of blue. When, however, this last slip was placed on a white ground, or compared with true black, it was seen that its color was far from black. The general result of contrasting colors which differ much in strength then is, that the feebler one appears either more whitish or grayish, or assumes the complementary tint; the stronger one, on the other hand, appears still more intense.

If the strong and weak colors are complementary to each other, then each of them gains in intensity and appears purer, this gain seeming to be greater in the case of the pale tint. From this it follows that while the juxtaposition of strong with feeble colors usually injures or greatly alters the latter, colors that are complementary furnish an exception, the reason of which is evident at the first glance.

When the pale or dark colors are not complementary to their more intense or brilliant rivals, they undergo the same changes indicated in the table on page 7, the changes in the case of the dull or pale colors being considerably greater. In proportion as the colors are distant from each other in the chromatic circle, do they gain in saturation and beauty; while, as they approach, their character is altered and they are apt to look very pale, or, in the case of the dark colors, blackish or dirty. This is particularly so when the brilliant color is large in surface and surrounds the darker one; with the reversed conditions the effect is not so much felt. Thus, a somewhat dull red near vermilion no longer looks red but brown; a dull orange tint under the same conditions looks like a yellowish-brown.

It might be supposed, from what has preceded, that colors would enrich each other only when separated by a large interval in the chromatic circle, and from a purely physiological point of view this is indeed true; still there are other influences of a more spiritual character at work which modify, and sometimes even reverse, this lower law. Thus the presence of a pale color in a painting near that which is richer often passes unperceived, simply making the impression of a higher degree of illumination. We recognize the representation of a flood of light, and delight in it without finding fault with the pale tints, if only they are laid with decision and knowledge; again, pale color we delight in as representing the distance of a landscape; the pale greenish-gray,