Color in American Art and Dress.

Scribners monthly 2, 1880

Whatever the future of America - by "America" I mean the United States - whatever her future is to be in art, it is clear that she ought to be first among all nations in color. It only need that the painter shall arise who dares to use color as he sees it before him in the clear air and wonderful skies of our summers and winters - in our sunset clouds and our autumn woods. Say what you please of Turner's "Slave-ship," at least it is true that he has dared to paint a sunset - a thing no other artist has ever done. Is there an American who dares to paint our autumn, who dares to step out the ranks of the copyists of Old-World scenes and say on his canvas that America is the home of color, and warmth, and brilliancy, and paint her as she is? He will find full appreciation when he does it, for the quiet teachings of nature have had their effect upon us. We are freeing ourselves from our traditional English tastes and habits, for women are more sensitive to these subtle influences than men, and are making our homes bright with color and warm with sunshine, instead of making them dark and "cozy" like the English, who, a great part of their year, must depend for brightness upon firelight and candles. In dress, too, our women show their love of color. Justin McCarthy says that nowhere in the world is there to be seen so brilliant a street-scene as an American congregation coming it should be. In their embroideries and in their porcelain-painting, too, women show this, and it is beginning to be felt in some of the arts. Doubtless they are crude in their use of it oftentimes, for we are still new to this country, and not yet fully acclimated - we have not yet gained the full effect of the gorgeous nature about us, and learned, like the Eastern races in their long years of color-breathing, that one rich tint subdues another, and that if there is only depth enough in brilliant colors they must harmonize, while breadth of light will surely harmonize light tints.

But we are growing rapidly in these things, and it is time for some one to come forwards and say boldly: "Our skies and our lights are as brilliant as those of the tropics. We have a right to a school of color as rich, as glowing, as lavish, and profuse as any of the Orientals, though it must be as different as are our countries or our peoples."

H. W. H.

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