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THE progress of the Art of Painting under the happy auspices of this favoured country, the refinement of taste which it has so universally diffused, and the predilection which prevails for its study and practice as a necessary branch of polite education, render acceptable whatever can facilitate the acquisition, or advance the ends, of this useful, elegant, and enlightening accomplishment. Nor are the concerns of this art uninteresting in a still higher view, since whatever refines the taste, enhances the powers and improves the disposition and morals of a people,-and whatever improves the morals, promotes the happiness of man, individual and social. Hence the high moral and political value of this art, to say nothing of its commercial and religious uses, upon which so much stress has been justly laid.
Among the means essential to proficiency in Painting, none is more important than a just knowledge of Colours and Pigments-their qualities, powers, and effects; and there is none to which the press has hitherto afforded fewer helps. There have appeared, it is true, at different times, several works professing this object, and most of our encyclopædias and
books of painting treat cursorily on this branch of the art; but not only are these for the most part transcripts of the same obsolete originals, unsuited to the present state of the art, but they are inadequate, irrelevant, and often erroneous or untrue, as every one acquainted with the subject is aware. Hence have arisen several inducements of the author to attempt a guide to the knowledge of colours and pigments generally, and with reference to the Art of Painting in particular.
Most technical readers are fond of recipes and devices communicated as secrets of art, which are accordingly liberally supplied by the caterers to this taste, who compile them in general upon very vague authority; hence the author anticipates some dissatisfaction from those who are in search of royal roads to knowledge, or stratagems and secrets of art: but one principle is worth a hundred processes,-nor was it by prescription, but by the spirit of philosophy, that the Greeks carried the arts to sublime perfection. Hence it is not a detail of the processes for producing pigments that is here intended, which belongs to another extensive art not to be learnt from brief recipes, and upon which the author has a distinct work in hand; * and it is a pursuit accidental and subordinate to painting, in which the pictorial artist can never attain the skill of the chemical colourist without a proportionate sacrifice of his own art, if not, unhappily, of his fortune also,—as was the case with Parmegiano, and has been with others in our own day, who
Their time in curious search of colours lose,
However imperative such sacrifice might have been to the earlier pain
* Which will complete his original intention, expressed in his "Chromatics," of treating on the relations, the nature, and the preparation of colours, &c.
ters, there is no want in the present day of furniture for the palette,since pigments, and fine ones too, so abound, that nearly as much experience is requisite to a judicious selection of them as was formerly required for their acquisition or production; to which also there is little temptation, since the expence of the palette, which was immense to the antient masters, is comparatively trifling to our contemporaries. The principal object of the present Treatise is, therefore, by pointing out the true character and powers of colours and pigments, to enable the student to choose and employ judiciously those which are best adapted to his purpose, and thereby to prevent the too frequent disappointment of his hopes and endeavours by a failure at the very foundation of his work. Such failures are often attributed to bad materials; but whatever practices may have formerly prevailed for imposing false and adulterate articles upon the artist, either through ignorance or fraud, it is due to the respectable colourmen of the present day to bear testimony to the laudable anxiety and emulation with which they purvey, regardless of necessary expence, the choicest and most perfect materials for the painter's use; so that the odium of employing bad articles attaches to the artist, if he resort to vicious sources or employ his means improperly. As, however, perfection in all art is a vanishing point, there will be always something to desire in colours, vehicles, and in all the materials of painting; and since the necessity for, and the practice of, the artist in preparing his own materials has ceased, it is the more essential that he should be enabled by precept to select, appreciate, and understand the pigments and colours he employs.
As colours or pigments * refer to the various modes in which painting is practised, and as these modes differ most essentially in the mechanical
The term colour being used synonymously for pigment, is the cause of much ambiguity, particularly when speaking of colours as sensible or in the abstract; it would be well therefore if the term pigment were alone used to denote the material colours of the palette.
application of colours, in their chemical combinations, and in the purposes to which they are applied, the chemical and mechanical properties of pigments have been indicated herein, and the appropriate application of each pointed out, so far as to enable the student in each mode to make his own selection; and, with a view to the same end, Lists or Tables of Reference are subjoined, in which pigments are classed according to their uses, properties, and propensities.
A due selection and employment of colours materially is not alone sufficient, an adequate knowledge of their reciprocal, sensible, and moral influences in painting, is essential to the production of their full effects on the eye and the mind; and, notwithstanding these effects and influences, belong to the higher aims of the colourist, and are of a theoretical bearing, the subject is so connected with the primary object of the work, that it forms also a feature thereof, in subordination nevertheless to practice ;--for colouring, like every other art that has its foundation in nature, refers to a whole, and cannot be rightly comprehended, nor perfectly practised, without some attention to all its parts;-hence also the physical causes, relations, and expression of colours have been briefly investigated therein.
To those who choose to study colours philosophically, or to amuse themselves in the ample field of the colourist, even independently of the art of painting, some details of the author's experience have been appended, interesting for their own sake, and not without reference to the cultivated mind of the painter, who exercises his art with an intelligence beyond mere instinct and imitation. Nor is this department of his work devoted to mere rational amusement or mental satisfaction, but aims at fixing some of the principles of colouring upon the ground of science, at establishing a metral standard of colours, which may be of general practical utility; and contributing toward a new and improved theory of vision, light, and colours. So much for the design of this performance, which might have been
augmented with much additional matter, had the limits of the work permitted some few things not included in the above, but in useful connexion therewith, have, however, been touched on, for which the reader is referred to the Index. As to the peculiar form this attempt has taken, it is to be attributed to the request of an eminent publisher of works of art, that the author should render a subject, which might be dry to many readers, more popular than scientific: he may, nevertheless, have failed in this particular, since he is unconscious of any talent for popularity. Whether or not the author will, upon the whole, have succeeded in the accomplishment of a useful purpose, he professes his intention to have done so, and the foundation of his attempt throughout upon truth, actual observation, and experiment,-principally in the view of the artist,-partly in that of the chemist and natural philosopher, and divested, as much as might well be, of the technicalities which keep these arts asunder.
Should the artist, as he will, find herein matters of his previous knowledge and observation, he will reflect that every reader has not the skill and experience of an artist; and if he meet with things erroneous, the author courts correction and improvement; while in return he tenders his own experience to the inquirer in any way connected with the art. With respect to the application of colours in painting, recourse must be had to practice under the direction of an able master, several of whom have published valuable works of instruction in the various branches of the art *-for of this the student may be assured, that, however useful recipes may be in cookery and pharmacy, the skill of colouring is not
Such are Dagley's Compendium of the Theory and Practice of Painting, in which the elements of the art are treated with classical simplicity and method;-Mr. Harding's ingenious and admirable Treatise on the Use of the Black Lead Pencil, &c. ; Mr. Burnett's elegant performances on Composition, Chiaroscuro, and Colouring; and various others on different departments of the art.