Dictionarium polygraphicum. Colouring in painting.

Dictionarium Polygraphicum:
Or, The Whole Body of Arts Regularly Digested.
Vol I.
London: Printed for C. Hitch and C. Davis in Pater-noster Row, and S. Austen in St. Paul's Church Yard. MDCCXXXV.
The manner of applying and conducting the colours of a picture; or it is the picture of lights and shadows form'd by the various colours, employ'd in Painting.

The Colouring is one of the principal branches in Painting. M. Felibien divides the painter's art into three parts, the design, the composition and the Colouring.

The Colouring strikes the most, but among masters it always gives place to the design.

M. de Piles observes, that the word Colouring in its confin'd sense, is chiefly applicable to a history piece, scarce at all to a landscape. He adds, that the term Colouring relates more immediately to the carnations, than any thing else.

The Colouring in its general sense, takes in what relates to the nature and union of colours; their agreement or antipathy; how to use them to advantage in light and shadow, so as to shew a relievo in the figures, and a sinking of the ground. What relates to the aerial perspective, i. e. the diminution of colours, by means of the interposition of air; the various actions and circumstances of the luminary and the medium; the different lights both of the bodies illuminating, and illuminated; their reflections, shadows, different views, either with respect to the position of the eye or the object. What produces the strength, fierceness, sweetness, &c. in Paintings well colour'd is the various manners of Colouring both in figures, landscapes, &c.

The docirine of COLOURING is compriz'd under the following Rules.

Colours are considered either in 1espect of their use or their æconomy and disposition.

1. In respect to their use. They are us’d either in oil or water, those in oil again, are either considered with a view, either to their preparation or application.

In the preparation of oil colours, care must be taken that they be ground fine; that in putting them on the pallet, those which will not dry of themselves be mix’d with drying oil or other ingredients of a drying quality, and that the ting'd colours be mix’d in as small quantities as possible.

For their application, it is consider'd either in respect to the kinds of painting in works of various colours, or in those of one single colour.

For the first in the larger pieces, the colours are either laid on full, so as they may be impasted, or incorporated together, which makes them hold the more firmly.

Or else, the more agreeable ones are mixt, which dry too hard and too hastily, with a little colour, and the clearest of the oil; but in both cases the colours are to be laid on strong at first, it being easy to weaken those that are to be thrust back, and to heighten the others; the touches to be bold by the conduct of a free and steady pencil, that the work may appear the most finish'd at a proper distance, and the figures animated with life and spirit.

As to glaz'd colours, care is to be taken that the under colour be painted strong, and that it be a body colour and laid smooth.

In finish’d works which are to be view’d near at hand, they proceed, either by applying each colour in its place, preserving their purity without fretting or tormenting them, but sweetly softening all their extremities; or by filling up all the great parts with one single colour, and laying the other colours which are to form the little things upon it, which is the more expeditious way, but the more apt to decay.

For the second, the kinds of pictures in one colour are two, viz. camieux, where the degradations of colours of objects asar off, are usually manag’d by lights, as with crayons and bass, relievo; which is an imitation of sculpture of whatsoever matter and colour, in both these the colours are wrought dry. See CAMIEUX.

As for water colours, they are wrought various ways, viz. in distemper, where the colours are prepared in size, which me thod is us’d on all kinds of matter, in fresco or painting on fresh mortar; where the Colouring must be quick, that the matter dry not, and with much care and neatness, laying each colour in its place, and intermingling them by parcels.

In agouache, where the colours are mixt with gum, and the pencil dragg’d as in paintings and washings.

In miniature, for small and delicate works, where the colours are to be very fine and clean, mixt with gums and wrought in dots or points.

But in all the kinds of painting both in oil and distemper, espe cially the latter, care must be taken that the design be fix’d, and all the parts mark'd out, before any colours be apply'd.

But the second part of Colouring, or the œconomy and dispensing thereof in paintings, regard is had, either first to the quality of the colours, to appropriate them according to their value and agreement, or secondly, to their effect in the union and œconomy of the work.

As to the first, it must be observ'd, that white represents light, and gives the briskness and heightning; on the contrary, black like darkness obscures and effaces the objects; again, black sets off the light parts, and by that they serve each other to loosen the objects.

A proper choice is to be made of colours, and the too much charg'd manner is to be avoided, both in carnations, where red colours are not to be affected, as rather resembling the flesh when flead than the skin; and all brightglowing colours, the skin, how delicate soever, being of a down-colour.

In the drapery, where the painter has his whole stock of colours to chuse out of to procure a good effect, and in the landscape to dispose of those colours near one another, which mutually assist and raise each other's force and briskness; as red and green, yellow and blue.

To manage them so, as that they be accommodated to the effects of the great parts of light and colour, that the strong colours lead to the soft ones, and make them more look'd at; bringing them forwards or keeping them back according to the fituation and degree of force requir’d.

As to the effects of colours, they either have relation to the union or the œconomy; with respect to the first, care must be taken, that they be laid so as to be sweetly united under the briskness of some principal one; that they participate of the prevailing light of the piece, and that they partake of each other by the communication of light, and the help of reflection.

As for the œconomy in managing their degrees, regard is to be had to the contrast or opposition intervening in the union of the colours; that by a sweet interruption, the briskness which otherwise fades and palls, may be rais'd to the harmony which makes the variety of colours agree; supplying and sustaining the weakness of some, by the strength of others, neglecting some places to serve as a basis or repose to the sight, and to enhance those, which are to prevail through the piece.

As to the degradation, where the better to proportion the colours that fall behind, some of the same kind are to be preserv'd in their purity, as a standard for those carry'd asar off to be compar’d by, in order to justify the diminution; regard being always had to the quality of the air, which when loaded with vapours, weaken the colours more than when clear.

As to the situation of the colours, in this, care must be taken, that the purest and the strongest be plac'd before or in the front of the piece, and that the compound ones, which are to appear at a distance, be kept back by their force; the glaz'd colours particularly to be us'd in the first rank.

Lastly, as to the expression of the subject, and the nature of the matters or stuffs, whether shining or dull, opake or transparent, polish'd or rough.

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