Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 14.djvu/26

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16
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

bluish-gray, and faint tints of purple, which make it up, we never think of putting into envious competition with the rich, intense colors of the foreground, but enjoy each separately, and rejoice in the effects of atmosphere and distance which neither alone by itself could adequately render. That is to say, for the sake of light and atmosphere or distance, we gladly sacrifice a large portion of the powerful tints at our disposal and consider ourselves gainers. The same is also true in another direction: we are ready to make the same sacrifice for the sake of avoiding monotony and gaining variety, provided only we can justify the act by a good reason. Cases of this kind often occur in large masses of foliage, which, if of the same general color, are apt in a painting to look monotonous and dull, unless great labor is bestowed in rendering the light and shade and the small differences of tint which actually exist in Nature. Under such circumstances the observer feels a certain relief at the presence of a few groups of foliage, which are decidedly paler in color than the surrounding masses, provided only there is a good excuse for their introduction. Again, the mere contrast of dark or dull tints enhances the color and luminosity of those that are bright, and the observer receives the impression that he is gazing at a mass of gay and beautiful coloring, scarcely noticing the presence of the much larger quantity of tints that are darkened by being in deep shade. These darkened shade-tints are usually not variations of the same hue as the brighter ones, but are more bluish, so that technically these combinations would often present instances of harmful contrast, were it not for the fact that the bright and dull tints do not belong even to the same chromatic circle, but to circles situated in different planes, as explained in the previous chapter. Putting this into more ordinary language, we should say simply that the strong contrast of light and shade masked such effects of harmful color-contrast as were present. There is, however, another case where we are not so indifferent or so lenient: if two objects are placed near each other in a painting, and there is good reason why both should display the same color with equal intensity, if one is painted with rich color, the other with a pale or dark shade of the same color, then the latter will look either washed out or dirty, and a bad effect will be produced. As a familiar illustration of this kind of effect, we may allude to the use in dress of two widely differing shades of ribbon which have still the same general color.

There is a still more general reason upon which the pleasure that we experience from contrast depends: after gazing at large surfaces filled with many varieties of warm color, skillfully blended, we feel a peculiar delight in meeting a few mildly contrasting tints; they prevent us from being cloyed with all the wealth of rich coloring so lavishly displayed, and their faint contradiction makes us doubly enjoy the richer portions of the painting. So also when the picture is mainly made up of cool bluish tints; it is then extraordinarily strengthened and brightened by a few touches of warm color.