Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 83.djvu/454

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450
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY

THE APPLICATION OF THE PHYSIOLOGY OF COLOR VISION IN MODERN ART
By HENRY G. KELLER
CLEVELAND SCHOOL OF ART
AND
Professor J. J. R. MACLEOD
WESTERN RESERVE MEDICAL SCHOOL
 
Introduction

LEONARDO in his treatise on painting says;

Those who become enamored of the practise of the art without having previously applied themselves to the diligent study of the scientific part of it, may be compared to mariners, who put to sea in a ship without rudder or compass and, therefore, can not be certain of arriving at the wished-for port. Practise must always be founded on good theory.

Instead of serving as an incentive to more extensive study of the use of colors in art, these words seem to have marked the advent of an epoch extending over several centuries, during which colors came to be less and less successfully employed. The ideals of art came to be dictated by the academic painter and they were much more mythological and allegorical than founded on the beauty of color patterns. Much of art became black painting, little attempt being made to use pure colors even in landscape painting, and no consideration being given to the effects which could be produced by the influence of juxtaposed colors on one another. With the exception of some masters the ideal of artists was merely to reproduce as closely as possible the color tones and values as seen in nature—to produce a colored photograph without adding to it that mysterious something for which is responsible the peculiar charm and strength of the paintings of the early Italian masters and of the Chinese and Japanese, and which includes some subtle influence of the picture itself quite apart from what it represents; something that endows it with a charm that is all its own, and which no colored photograph can ever contain.

It is true that from time to time in the history of modern art masters have arisen who have, intuitively as it were, produced pictures the color schemes of which have contained this "something." But it is the individual rather than the system that has been responsible, and no attempts have been made until comparatively, recently to evolve new principles for the use of colors which would serve as a guide to all; nor indeed was such an evolution possible until some progress had been made in the scientific interpretation of color. This progress is itself only of comparatively recent date.