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The Natural Axis
In varying degrees pictures express what may be termed a natural axis, on which their components arrange themselves in balanced composition. This axis is the visible or imaginary line which the eye accepts connecting the two most prominent measures or such a line which first arrests the attention.
Apparent Or Formal Balance
Raphael is a covenient point at which to commence a study of composition. His style was influenced by three considerations : warning by the pitfalls of composition into which his predecessors had fallen ; confidence that the absolutely formal balance was safe ; and lack of experience to know that anything else was as good.
Balance By Opposition Of Line
A series of oppositional lines has more variety and is therefore more picturesque than the tangent its equivalent. The simplest definition of picturesqueness is variety in unity. The lines of the long road in perspective offer easy conduct for the eye, but it finds a greater interest in threading its way over a track lost, then found, lost and found again.
Balance By Opposition Of Spots
Spots or accents are in the majority of cases equivalent to a line. The eye follows the line more easily, but the spot is a potent force of at-traction and we take the artist's hint in his use of it, often finding that its subtlety is worth more than the line's strength.
Transition Of Line
More effective than opposition, as the cross bar is more effective for strength than the bar supported on only one side, is Transition, or the same item carried across, or delivered to another item which shall cross a line or space.
Balance By Gradation
Gradation will be mentioned in another connection but as a force in balance it must be noticed here. It matters not whither the tone grades, from light to dark or the reverse, the eye will be drawn to it very powerfully because it suggests motion.
Balance Of Principality Or Isolation
These qualities are not synonymous but so nearly so that they are mentioned together. In discussing the principle of the steelyard it was stated that a small item could balance a very large one whose position in point of balance was closer to the fulcrum, but to this point must be added the increase of weight and importance which isolation gives.
Balance Of Cubical Space
Balance is not of necessity dependent upon objects of attraction. Its essence lies in the movement from one part of the picture to an-other, which the arrangement compels, and this may often be stimulated by the intention or suggestion of movement in a given direction.
Evolving The Picture
THE artist gets his picture from two sources. He either goes forth and finds it, or creates it. If he creates it the work is deliberate, and the artist assumes responsibility. If he goes to nature, he and nature form a partnership, she supplying the material and he the experience.
Entrance And Exit
One reason why so many pictures are passed by in exhibitions is that the public lacks an invitation to enter, while others, by contrast, greet you a long way off. One feels obliged to stop and acknowledge their cordiality.
Getting Out Of The Picture
This is important because necessary. It is much better to pass out than to back out. Pictures show many awkward methods of exit. In some there are too many chances to leave ; in others there are none. Pictures in which there is no opportunity for visual peripatetics require no such provision.
Circular Observation Of Pictures
A composition in an oval or circle is much more easily realized than one occupying a rectangular space, as the vexing item of the corners has been disposed of, and the reason why these shapes are not popularly used is that hanging committees cannot dispose of them with other pictures.
Circular Composition
Circular observation in pictures whose structure was apparently not circular leads to the consideration of circular composition, or that class of pictures where the evident intention is to compose under the influence of circular observation—where the circle expresses the first thought in the composition.
Reconstruction For Circular Observation
Circular composition traceable in what has been first conceived as pyramidal or rectangular, circular composition as the first intention, ex-pressed either on a vertical plane or in perspective, i. e., circular or elliptical—and composition made circular not by any arrangement of parts, but by sacrifice and elimination of edges and corners are the three forms of composition which produce circular observation.
Angular Composition, The Line Of Beauty And The Rectangle
IN angular composition the return of the eye over its course, as in circular observation, is practically eliminated. While the circle and ellipse offer a succession of items and events, one the sequence of the other, so that the vision concludes like a boomerang, angular composition sends a shaft direct, with no return.
The Vertical Line In Angular Composition
WHEN Giotto was asked for his conception of a perfect building, he produced a circle. When Michael Angelo was appealed to, he designated the cross. On both bases may good architecture and good pictures be founded.
Angular Composition Based On The Horizontal
As the vertical may be termed the figure painters' line so the horizontal becomes the line of the landscape painter. Given these as the necessary first things, the picture is made by building upon and around them.
The Line Of Beauty
The most elastic and variable of the fundamental forms of composition is the line of beauty, the letter S, or, conceived more angularly, the letter Z. This is one particularly adapted to upright arrangements and one largely used by the old masters.
The Rectangle
The last of the great forms of composition is the rectangle, but this always in connection with oppositional balance. Such a form attaches itself to two sides of the picture and the importance of a reacting measure is obvious.
Line
Structural line, or that which stands for the initial form of the picture and conjunctive line, or that which joins itself naturally to such form are the two phases of line which engage the scientific study of the artist. Line for line's sake is an opportunity offered him quite apart from structural considerations.
The Composition Of One, Two, Three And More Units
STARTING with a single idea represented by a single unit the coexistent thought must be the frame or canvas circumference. Supplying this we may then think of the unit as a matter of proportion. When the amount of space allowed the unit has been decided, the space between its circumference and the dimensions of the canvas, or what may be called the surplus or contributing area is the only thing that remains to engage us.
The Figure In Landscape
A writer on the use of the figure in out-of-door photography after leading the reader through many pages concludes by saying : after all you had better leave them out.
Groups
IN the statuesque group the outline is important because this is seen against the background of wall, or sky, and frequently in silhouette. Any fault in its contour as a mass is therefore emphasized. This consideration applies pictorially to groups which are complete in themselves and have no incorporation with backgrounds, such for instance as the photographic group of a number of people.
Light And Shade
The effort of the painter is ever in the direction of light. This is his thought. Shade is a necessity to the expression of it.
Principality By Emphasis, Sacrifice, And Contrast
Under the discussion of Balance it was shown that a small measure often became the equivalent of a larger measure by reason of its particular placement. The sacrifice of many measures to one, also is often the wisest disposition of forces.
Gradation
Light being the happy and positive side of art presentation, any form or modification of it partakes of its quality. The gradation bespeaks its tenderness, and, much as we may admire light's power, this, by its mere variety, is more attractive.
Equivalents
It is the experience of all picture makers that under the limitations which special subjects impose they are often obliged to search for an equivalent with which to comply with the requirements of composition.
The Place Of Photography In Fine Art
SINCE the time that photography laid its claim to be reckoned among the fine arts the attention of artists has been attracted first by the claim and thereafter, with acknowledgments, to the performance.
The Aesthetics Of Composition
Art lies somewhere between these starting points ; for art is a reflection of an idea and ideas may or may not have to do with detail.
Suggestiveness
Breadth, so often accountable for mystery, leads to suggestiveness. It is at this point that graphic art touches hands with the invisible,—where the thing merges into the idea.
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