By Clinton G. Gilroy, practical weaver and manufacturer.
General subjects of this work.
Illustrated by appropriate engravings
New York: George D. Baldwin, 35 Spruce Street.
SECTION FIFTH. Figured Weaving:
Design and Colouring — Ornamental Drawing — Harmonious Colouring — Design Paper — Designing Patterns — Comb Draw Loom
Design and Colouring
"Learn hence to paint the parts that meet the view
In spheroid forms, of light and equal hue:
While from the light receding or the eye,
The working outlines take a fainter dye,
Lost and confused progressively they fade,
Not fall precipitate from light to shade;
This nature dictates, and this taste pursues,
Studious in gradual gloom her lights to lose,
The various whole with softening tints to fill,
As if one single head employed her skill."
- Du Fresnoy.
Mr. Smith, one of the principal silk merchants in London, stated in his evidence before a committee of the House of Commons, that in fancy silks the superiority of the patterns in French fabrics, occasioned the sales to be in the proportion of one half or more over the English; that in fancy ribbands, three-fourths of those sold were of French manufacture, and obtained public favour solely on account of superior design.
James Skene, Esq., of Rubislaw, secretary to the Board of Trustees for the encouragement of manufactures in Scotland, says, "It appears to me that one thing in which the British manufacturer is most deficient is, a knowledge of colours. At present, as far as my acquaintance with manufactures goes, I believe they copy their patterns entirely from France; in doing which, if they introduce any alteration, they often spoil them; and we know quite well that any deviation from the regular established and fixed rules to harmonize colours, produces the same effect to the eye, as any deviation in music from the harmony of notes: and, in placing our manufactures or fancy goods, along with French fancy articles of the same nature, it has often struck me as a remarkable circumstance, to see how very little those rules, which are exceedingly simple, are attended to in the English copies."
Mr. Crabb, a designer of paper hangings in London, states, that the designs of the French room papers are superior in accuracy of drawing to those of the English: and that the colours are arranged upon some fixed principle by the French artisan: while in Great Britain, the workmen, not being sufficiently instructed, labours more at random until he obtains the effect he wishes, and this may be as often wrong as right.
Charles Tophs, Esq., a vice president of the London Mechanics' Institute, and one of the directors of the Museum of National Manufactures, says, 'Many important branches of manufacture call for careful cultivation of the eye, for the purpose of arranging, assorting, and contrasting colours; which as an affair of taste, calls for some portion of a painter's education." And he adds, "whatever partakes of the nature of ornament, will only be appreciated in a refined eye, as it is characterised by grace and elegance of design; and by delicacy and precision of execution."
It is no doubt true, that the cultivation of the fine arts will, in course of tune, improve the perception and taste of a nation, from the highest to the lowest grades of society; this is, however, the work of ages: but the present state of our American manufacturers demands an immediate improvement in this particular.
We believe this want of ornamental designers to arise as much from the nature of the instruction given, as from the want of opportunities afforded for study. It is seldom that the young men who are admitted to our drawing academies, consider their studies as merely intended to unprove them in the useful arts to which they may be bred. They almost always imbibe the idea of rising into a higher sphere, and seem to have no other ulterior object in their studies, than to leave their humble calling, at the conclusion of their apprenticeship, and become artists.
We speak from particular facts which have come under our observation.
Many an industrious young man, of ordinary talent, but possessing sufficient to have raised him to the head of ornamental painting, we have known to sacrifice himself to a life of penury and neglect, from this vain idea.
Various reasons may be assigned for the prevalence of this mania among young men who have had opportunities of studying the art of drawing: the flattery of their friends; injudicious patronage; the desire to become, by the quickest and easiest means, a gentleman; and many others, over which no national institution can have any control.
The most prominent cause, however, seems to be, that nothing is reckoned a work of art unless it be a picture. No matter how superior an ornamental design may be, or how much study or knowledge may have been required to produce it, still the production of such, although it may increase the wealth of the individual, cannot raise him one step in the scale of society; he is only a mechanic in the eyes of the public.
On the other hand, no sooner does the youth lay aside his useful implements, and dash off upon canvass something like a landscape, often with no eye to nature, but in servile imitation to some popular painter, than he seems to be by common consent raised to the dignity of artist. In short, those branches of the fine arts that are applicable to manufacture and other departments of useful industry, do not obtain in the United States that relative situation to the more intellectual and higher branches, to which they are fairly entitled. The case is different in Italy, for in the Academy of the Fine Arts at "Venice there are distinct professors in the following departments of art: Architecture, Painting, Sculpture, Engraving, Perspective, and Ornament, and that in this latter branch the pupils are so numerous that the professor requires an assistant. Their examples are not only the best ornamental models of antiquity, but fruit, flowers and foliage. Every fifteen days they are required each to make an original design within a given number of hours, precautions being taken to prevent deception; and, according to its merits, advancement and preference are bestowed.
A learned writer states that "the town of Lyons is so conscious of the value of such studies that it contributes 20.000 francs per annum to the government establishment of the school of arts, which takes charge of every youth who shows an aptitude for drawing or imitative design, of any kind applicable to manufactures. Hence, all the eminent painters, sculptors, even botanists and florists of Lyons, become eventually associated with the staple trade, and devote to it their happiest conceptions."
The Chinese seem to surpass all others in directing the studies of their youth distinctly to their ulterior object.
A writer on painting, in "Arnold's Library of the Fine Arts," mentions having seen, in the city of Pekin[g], a drawing book with progressive examples, where the separate character of land and water, rock and foliage, are given in perfect detail; and to these were added implements of various kinds, with figures, separate and in groups, all highly picturesque; and adds, that the objects of all these preparatory studies of the pupil was to enable him to paint a fan, which was the last example given.
We feel quite assured that were a similar course followed in our American Academies, a sufficient portion of that genius which at present seems to be all flowing into one channel, would, like a mill race taken from a river, be directed from that which is merely ornamental to that which is essentially useful and beneficial to the country. Art would not suffer from this, on the contrary, where real genius was discovered the facilities for encouraging it would be much greater: and we should have less of that misapplied and often selfish sort of patronage which fosters ordinary talent until it is fictitiously raised to where it cannot stand, and is then by the desertion of such injudicious patrons allowed to fall far below its own natural level.
We have attributed selfishness to some of these pretended patrons of art, for we know that they are often actuated by that feeling.
They cannot bring their minds to encourage those who have really proved themselves to possess the qualities which constitute the real artist; the works of such are too expensive, because their real value is known. Their proteges are the undeveloped, and they procure the early attempts of such for a mere pittance. They calculate that these embryo artists are all to be Rubenses in their day, and that their early productions will, like those of such great men, consequently become highly valuable. In many cases too injudicious patronage is the means of fostering mediocrity, which, assisted by other circumstances, is sustained in a situation injurious to true art. This is well known and much lamented among artists themselves, we mean such as really deserve the name; hence the necessity of national institutions, where merit alone will receive patronage, and be honoured by the approbation of those who are most capable to be its judges.
But, to return to our subject,— notwithstanding the superabundance of mediocre artists, it must be admitted, that there is a want of proper instruction in the art of drawing where it would be of most service; namely, in the populous manufacturing districts; and as this book, being adapted to the improvement of manufactures, may probably find its way into these quarters, we shall add a few hints for the assistance of such as wish to commence this pleasing and useful study, and who may not have had any previous instructions. The best kind of study to begin with, for those who intend to direct their attention merely to ornamental designs for manufactures, is that of flowers and foliage. When they are perfect in that branch, they may then soar higher if they please. It is the fault of most students of drawing to begin at the wrong end of their studies, by attempting difficult subjects before they are capable of drawing a single correct line, (it is for a similar reason that we have given in this work so thorough an analysis of plain weaving) and this want of knowledge of the first elements generally sticks to them trough life; for, in very few instances do those who neglect the attainment of such knowledge at the outset ever descend to the drudgery of doing so afterwards.
Harmonious arrangements of colours are such combinations as by certain principles of our nature produce an effect on the eye similar to that which is produced by harmonious music on the ear; and a remarkable conformity exists between the science of colour and that of sound in their fundamental principles, as well as in their effects.
It is well known to all who have studied music, that there are three fundamental notes, viz. C, E, and G, which compose the common chord or harmonic triad; and that they are the foundation of all harmony. So there are, also, three fundamental colours, the lowest number capable of uniting in variety, harmony or system.
By the combination of any two of these primary colours a secondary colour of a distinct kind is produced; and as only one absolutely distinct denomination of colour can arise from a combination of the three primaries, the full number of really distinct colours is seven, corresponding to the seven notes in the complete scale of the musician. Each of these colours is capable of forming an archus or key for an arrangement to which all the other colours introduced must refer subordinately. This reference and subordination to one particular colour, as is the case m regard to the key note in musical composition, gives a character to the whole.
This characteristic of an arrangement of colour is generally called its tone; but, this tone is more applicable to individual hues, as it is in music to voices and instruments alone. The colourist, like the musician, notwithstanding the extreme simplicity of the fundamental principles upon which his art is founded, has ample scope for the production of originality and beauty, in the various combinations and arrangements of his materials.
The three homogeneous colours, yellow, red, and blue, have been proved by Field in the most satisfactory manner to be in numerical proportional power as follows: yellow three, red five, and blue eight.
When these three colours are reflected from any opaque body in these proportions, white is produced. They are then in an active state, but each neutralized by the relative effect that the others have upon it. When they are absorbed in the same proportions they are in a passive state, and black is the result. When transmitted through any transparent body the effect is the same, but in the first case they are material or inherent, and in the second impalpable or transient.
From the combination of the primary colours the secondary arise, and are orange, which is composed of yellow and red in the proportion of three and five; purple, which is composed of red and blue in the proportion of five and eight; and green, composed of yellow and blue in the proportion of three and eight. These are called the accidental or contrasting colours to the primaries with which they produce harmony in opposition, in the same manner in which it is effected in music by accompaniment, the orange with the blue, the purple with the yellow, and the green with the red. They are therefore concords in the musical relation of fourths, neutralizing each other at sixteen. From the combination of these secondaries arise the tertiaries, which are also three in number, as follows: olive, from the mixture of the purple and green; citron from the mixture of orange and purple; and russet from the mixture of green and orange. These three colours, however, like the compounds produced by their admixture, may be reckoned under the general denomination of neutral hues, as they are all formed by a mixture of the same ingredients, the three primaries, which always less or more neutralize each other in triunity; the most neutral of them all being grey, the mean between black and white, as any of the secondaries are between two primaries, it may appropriately be termed the seventh colour. These tertiaries, however, stand in the same relation to the secondaries that the secondaries do to the primaries, olive to orange, citron to purple, and russet to green: and their proportion will be found to be in the same accordance, and neutralizing each other integrally as 32.
Out of the tertiaries arise a series of other colours, such as brown, marone, slate, &.c. in an incalculable gradation, until they arrive in a perfect neutrality in black. To all of these the same rules of contrast are equally applicable.
Besides this relation of contrast in opposition, colours have a relation in series, which is their melody. This melody or harmony of succession is found in all the natural phenomena of colour. Each colour on the prismatic spectrum and in the rainbow is melodized by the two compounds which it forms with the other two primaries. For instance, the yellow is melodized by the orange on the one side and the green on the other, the blue by the green and purple, and the red by the purple and orange. Field, in his excellent essay on the "Analogy and Harmony of Colours," has shown these coincidences by a diagram, in which he has accommodated the chromatic scale of the colourist to the diatonic scale of the musician; showing that the concords and discords are also singularly coincident.
An eminent writer on the fine arts observes, that colouring, like sound in music or poetry, should be an echo to the sense; and according to the general sentiment the subject should inspire, it will be gay, lively, sombre or solemn.
By keeping these observations in view, the pattern drawer will have an extensive field for the display of his judgment and taste, in the selection and arrangement of the harmonizing and contrasting colours, especially if he examines attentively, the order in which nature commonly disposes them. Thus, for example, in the centre of a red rose he will find a yellow tint blended with the orange hue of the stamens, while the petals or leaves of the flower are red. These tints, agreeably to the principles of which we have been treating, are harmonizing colours; while the calyx or cup, which comes in contact with the petals, as well as the other parts of the shrub are green, the natural contrasting colour of red. Examples of the contrasting colours on flowers will be found in some species of the violet, the wall flower, and many other productions of the flower garden.
In the finest specimens of Persian and Turkish carpets, the deep tones of indigo and brown predominate, while the bright hues and tints only appear in detail, and heighten the effect of the pattern.
* The Laws of Harmonious Colouring. By D. R. Hay: W. S. Orr. 1838. For the majority of the foregoing observations on design and colouring, we are indebted to Mr. Hay's work on colour* the best and cheapest practical work on the subject, and one which to the professional man and to the student is indispensable.