Natural philosophy. New System of Oil-Painting.

The Year-Book of Facts in Science and Art
Exhibiting the Most Important discoveries and Improvements of the past year,
in mechanics and the useful arts; natural philosophy; electricity; chemistry; zoology and biology; geology and geography; meteorology and astronomy.
By John Timbs,
editor of "the Arcana of Science and Art."
David Bogue, Fleet Street,
M. Libertat Hundertpfund, the historical painter at Augsberg, has published a work, entitled "The Art of Painting brought back to its Simplest and Surest Principles," (Die Malerie, &c.), in which a very valuable discovery has been applied to the practice of oil-painting, so as to render it comparatively easy, and to ground it on an intelligible theory. While he was busied with experiments to find out a better mode of imitating the transparency of the natural shadow, a glass prism fell into his hands. This was a source of great delight to him. The colours produced by it, and their operation on each other, became an engrossing subject of his thoughts; and on one occasion his fancy led him to imagine the three primitive colours, — red, blue, and yellow — springing like rays from the centre of a circle to three equidistant points in its circumference, and affecting the intermediate spaces there by producing their three derivative colours, — purple, orange, and green. This was a mere play of imagination; for at the moment of its occurrence he had not any idea of the discovery up to which he was subsequently led.

*A circular arrangement of colours somewhat similar to that which oc curred to M. Hundertpfund is proposed by Goethe in his "Farbenlehre," but without deducing from it the consequences on which the present theory is founded.Shortly after this arrangement had occurred to M. Hundertpfund, his attention was accidentally drawn to an unfinished picture by Titian; and the state of it enabled him to remark that the shades of a red object there had been produced by under-painting them with green, — that is to say, Titian had first painted all the shadows with a green colour, and had afterwards painted them over with red. This mode of under-painting was not quite new to M. Hundertpfund; for he had observed that landscape painters often produced the shadows of a green object by preparing them with burnt sienna, — and this tint appeared to his eye to partake more of red than of any other colour. These two facts, as they travelled about in his mind, came there into company with his previously imagined circle of colours, and caused him to remark that if the radius (which indicates the ray of red colour), were produced in a straight line to the opposite extremity of the circle, it would reach just that point at which the green would be predominant: and this observation induced him to establish in his own thoughts a particular axiom, namely, that green is the opposite — the antipodes of red. Following up this train of speculation, he began to believe that the success which attended Titian's practice of preparing red shadows with green colour might be referable to a natural cause; and that such a cause might be equally operative with regard to colour, so as to justify the establishment of a general rule, that all shadows ought to be prepared with the opposite to which they relate. Proof was already before him that the shadow on red could be most effectively prepared with its opposite green; and it remained to be proved whether the shadows on green could not be prepared with its opposite red — and also, whether the shadows on the other primitive colours could not be prepared with their respective opposites. M. Hundertpfund found this theory justified not only with regard to the primitive colours and their derivatives, but also with regard to those tints which occupy the intermediate spaces in the circle between the primitive and derivative colours*.

The different tints produced according to this system of oil painting are divided by M. Hundertpfund into colours, whole-tones, and half-tones:
The colours are, Primitive or Generic (Stammfarben), i.e. red, blue, and yellow, and — Derivative or Secondary (Nebenfarben), i.e. violet, orange, and green.
The whole-tones are produced by a mixture of any two primitive colours in unequal proportions, e.g. red and yellow, so as to form a red-orange or an orange-red-or by a mixture of derivatives when any of the primitive colours become thereby predominant.
The half-tones are produced by an equally proportioned mixture of two derivative colours, e. g. green and orange.

*"The Art of Painting Restored to its simplest and surest Principles." Published by D. Bogue, Fleet Street.The reader will find this new system more fully detailed in the Athenæum, No. 1084: and a translation of M. Hundertpfund’s work has appeared in London.*

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