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Title: The Practice and Science Of Drawing

Author: Harold Speed

Release Date: December 6, 2004 [EBook #14264]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1


Produced by Jonathan Ingram and the Online Distributed Proofreading
Team at







Associé de la Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts, Paris; Member of the
Royal Society of Portrait Painters, &c.

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With 93 Illustrations & Diagrams

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       *       *       *       *       *

[Illustration: Plate I.


       *       *       *       *       *


Permit me in the first place to anticipate the disappointment of any
student who opens this book with the idea of finding "wrinkles" on how
to draw faces, trees, clouds, or what not, short cuts to excellence in
drawing, or any of the tricks so popular with the drawing masters of our
grandmothers and still dearly loved by a large number of people. No good
can come of such methods, for there are no short cuts to excellence. But
help of a very practical kind it is the aim of the following pages to
give; although it may be necessary to make a greater call upon the
intelligence of the student than these Victorian methods attempted.

It was not until some time after having passed through the course of
training in two of our chief schools of art that the author got any idea
of what drawing really meant. What was taught was the faithful copying
of a series of objects, beginning with the simplest forms, such as
cubes, cones, cylinders, &c. (an excellent system to begin with at
present in danger of some neglect), after which more complicated objects
in plaster of Paris were attempted, and finally copies of the human head
and figure posed in suspended animation and supported by blocks, &c. In
so far as this was accurately done, all this mechanical training of eye
and hand was excellent; but it was not enough. And when with an eye
trained to the closest mechanical accuracy the author visited the
galleries of the Continent and studied the drawings of the old masters,
it soon became apparent that either his or their ideas of drawing were
all wrong. Very few drawings could be found sufficiently "like the
model" to obtain the prize at either of the great schools he had
attended. Luckily there was just enough modesty left for him to realise
that possibly they were in some mysterious way right and his own
training in some way lacking. And so he set to work to try and climb the
long uphill road that separates mechanically accurate drawing from
artistically accurate drawing.

Now this journey should have been commenced much earlier, and perhaps it
was due to his own stupidity that it was not; but it was with a vague
idea of saving some students from such wrong-headedness, and possibly
straightening out some of the path, that he accepted the invitation to
write this book.

In writing upon any matter of experience, such as art, the possibilities
of misunderstanding are enormous, and one shudders to think of the
things that may be put down to one's credit, owing to such
misunderstandings. It is like writing about the taste of sugar, you are
only likely to be understood by those who have already experienced the
flavour; by those who have not, the wildest interpretation will be put
upon your words. The written word is necessarily confined to the things
of the understanding because only the understanding has written
language; whereas art deals with ideas of a different mental texture,
which words can only vaguely suggest. However, there are a large number
of people who, although they cannot be said to have experienced in a
full sense any works of art, have undoubtedly the impelling desire which
a little direction may lead on to a fuller appreciation. And it is to
such that books on art are useful. So that although this book is
primarily addressed to working students, it is hoped that it may be of
interest to that increasing number of people who, tired with the rush
and struggle of modern existence, seek refreshment in artistic things.
To many such in this country modern art is still a closed book; its
point of view is so different from that of the art they have been
brought up with, that they refuse to have anything to do with it.
Whereas, if they only took the trouble to find out something of the
point of view of the modern artist, they would discover new beauties
they little suspected.

If anybody looks at a picture by Claude Monet from the point of view of
a Raphael, he will see nothing but a meaningless jargon of wild
paint-strokes. And if anybody looks at a Raphael from the point of view
of a Claude Monet, he will, no doubt, only see hard, tinny figures in a
setting devoid of any of the lovely atmosphere that always envelops form
seen in nature. So wide apart are some of the points of view in
painting. In the treatment of form these differences in point of view
make for enormous variety in the work. So that no apology need be made
for the large amount of space occupied in the following pages by what is
usually dismissed as mere theory; but what is in reality the first
essential of any good practice in drawing. To have a clear idea of what
it is you wish to do, is the first necessity of any successful
performance. But our exhibitions are full of works that show how seldom
this is the case in art. Works showing much ingenuity and ability, but
no artistic brains; pictures that are little more than school studies,
exercises in the representation of carefully or carelessly arranged
objects, but cold to any artistic intention.

At this time particularly some principles, and a clear intellectual
understanding of what it is you are trying to do, are needed. We have no
set traditions to guide us. The times when the student accepted the
style and traditions of his master and blindly followed them until he
found himself, are gone. Such conditions belonged to an age when
intercommunication was difficult, and when the artistic horizon was
restricted to a single town or province. Science has altered all that,
and we may regret the loss of local colour and singleness of aim this
growth of art in separate compartments produced; but it is unlikely that
such conditions will occur again. Quick means of transit and cheap
methods of reproduction have brought the art of the whole world to our
doors. Where formerly the artistic food at the disposal of the student
was restricted to the few pictures in his vicinity and some prints of
others, now there is scarcely a picture of note in the world that is not
known to the average student, either from personal inspection at our
museums and loan exhibitions, or from excellent photographic
reproductions. Not only European art, but the art of the East, China and
Japan, is part of the formative influence by which he is surrounded; not
to mention the modern science of light and colour that has had such an
influence on technique. It is no wonder that a period of artistic
indigestion is upon us. Hence the student has need of sound principles
and a clear understanding of the science of his art, if he would select
from this mass of material those things which answer to his own inner
need for artistic expression.

The position of art to-day is like that of a river where many
tributaries meeting at one point, suddenly turn the steady flow to
turbulence, the many streams jostling each other and the different
currents pulling hither and thither. After a time these newly-met forces
will adjust themselves to the altered condition, and a larger, finer
stream be the result. Something analogous to this would seem to be
happening in art at the present time, when all nations and all schools
are acting and reacting upon each other, and art is losing its national
characteristics. The hope of the future is that a larger and deeper art,
answering to the altered conditions of humanity, will result.

There are those who would leave this scene of struggling influences and
away up on some bare primitive mountain-top start a new stream, begin
all over again. But however necessary it may be to give the primitive
mountain waters that were the start of all the streams a more prominent
place in the new flow onwards, it is unlikely that much can come of any
attempt to leave the turbulent waters, go backwards, and start again;
they can only flow onwards. To speak more plainly, the complexity of
modern art influences may make it necessary to call attention to the
primitive principles of expression that should never be lost sight of in
any work, but hardly justifies the attitude of those anarchists in art
who would flout the heritage of culture we possess and attempt a new
start. Such attempts however when sincere are interesting and may be
productive of some new vitality, adding to the weight of the main
stream. But it must be along the main stream, along lines in harmony
with tradition that the chief advance must be looked for.

Although it has been felt necessary to devote much space to an attempt
to find principles that may be said to be at the basis of the art of all
nations, the executive side of the question has not been neglected. And
it is hoped that the logical method for the study of drawing from the
two opposite points of view of line and mass here advocated may be
useful, and help students to avoid some of the confusion that results
from attempting simultaneously the study of these different qualities of
form expression.

       *       *       *       *       *


X.        RHYTHM






              FLAT SUBJECT

       *       *       *       *       *




The best things in an artist's work are so much a matter of intuition,
that there is much to be said for the point of view that would
altogether discourage intellectual inquiry into artistic phenomena on
the part of the artist. Intuitions are shy things and apt to disappear
if looked into too closely. And there is undoubtedly a danger that too
much knowledge and training may supplant the natural intuitive feeling
of a student, leaving only a cold knowledge of the means of expression
in its place. For the artist, if he has the right stuff in him, has a
consciousness, in doing his best work, of something, as Ruskin has said,
"not in him but through him." He has been, as it were, but the agent
through which it has found expression.

Talent can be described as "that which we have," and Genius as "that
which has us." Now, although we may have little control over this power
that "has us," and although it may be as well to abandon oneself
unreservedly to its influence, there can be little doubt as to its being
the business of the artist to see to it that his talent be so developed,
that he may prove a fit instrument for the expression of whatever it
may be given him to express; while it must be left to his individual
temperament to decide how far it is advisable to pursue any intellectual
analysis of the elusive things that are the true matter of art.

Provided the student realises this, and that art training can only deal
with the perfecting of a means of expression and that the real matter of
art lies above this and is beyond the scope of teaching, he cannot have
too much of it. For although he must ever be a child before the
influence that moves him, if it is not with the knowledge of the grown
man that he takes off his coat and approaches the craft of painting or
drawing, he will be poorly equipped to make them a means of conveying to
others in adequate form the things he may wish to express. Great things
are only done in art when the creative instinct of the artist has a
well-organised executive faculty at its disposal.

       *       *       *       *       *

Of the two divisions into which the technical study of painting can be
divided, namely Form and Colour, we are concerned in this book with Form
alone. But before proceeding to our immediate subject something should
be said as to the nature of art generally, not with the ambition of
arriving at any final result in a short chapter, but merely in order to
give an idea of the point of view from which the following pages are
written, so that misunderstandings may be avoided.

The variety of definitions that exist justifies some inquiry. The
following are a few that come to mind:

     "Art is nature expressed through a personality."

But what of architecture? Or music? Then there is Morris's

     "Art is the expression of pleasure in work."

But this does not apply to music and poetry. Andrew Lang's

     "Everything which we distinguish from nature"

seems too broad to catch hold of, while Tolstoy's

     "An action by means of which one man, having experienced a feeling,
     intentionally transmits it to others"

is nearer the truth, and covers all the arts, but seems, from its
omitting any mention of #rhythm#, very inadequate.

       *       *       *       *       *

Now the facts of life are conveyed by our senses to the consciousness
within us, and stimulate the world of thought and feeling that
constitutes our real life. Thought and feeling are very intimately
connected, few of our mental perceptions, particularly when they first
dawn upon us, being unaccompanied by some feeling. But there is this
general division to be made, on one extreme of which is what we call
pure intellect, and on the other pure feeling or emotion. The arts, I
take it, are a means of giving expression to the emotional side of this
mental activity, intimately related as it often is to the more purely
intellectual side. The more sensual side of this feeling is perhaps its
lowest, while the feelings associated with the intelligence, the little
sensitivenesses of perception that escape pure intellect, are possibly
its noblest experiences.

Pure intellect seeks to construct from the facts brought to our
consciousness by the senses, an accurately measured world of phenomena,
uncoloured by the human equation in each of us. It seeks to create a
point of view outside the human standpoint, one more stable and
accurate, unaffected by the ever-changing current of human life. It
therefore invents mechanical instruments to do the measuring of our
sense perceptions, as their records are more accurate than human
observation unaided.

But while in science observation is made much more effective by the use
of mechanical instruments in registering facts, the facts with which art
deals, being those of feeling, can only be recorded by the feeling
instrument--man, and are entirely missed by any mechanically devised

The artistic intelligence is not interested in things from this
standpoint of mechanical accuracy, but in the effect of observation on
the living consciousness--the sentient individual in each of us. The
same fact accurately portrayed by a number of artistic intelligences
should be different in each case, whereas the same fact accurately
expressed by a number of scientific intelligences should be the same.

But besides the feelings connected with a wide range of experience, each
art has certain emotions belonging to the particular sense perceptions
connected with it. That is to say, there are some that only music can
convey: those connected with sound; others that only painting,
sculpture, or architecture can convey: those connected with the form and
colour that they severally deal with.

In abstract form and colour--that is, form and colour unconnected with
natural appearances--there is an emotional power, such as there is in
music, the sounds of which have no direct connection with anything in
nature, but only with that mysterious sense we have, the sense of
Harmony, Beauty, or Rhythm (all three but different aspects of the same

This inner sense is a very remarkable fact, and will be found to some
extent in all, certainly all civilised, races. And when the art of a
remote people like the Chinese and Japanese is understood, our senses of
harmony are found to be wonderfully in agreement. Despite the fact that
their art has developed on lines widely different from our own, none the
less, when the surprise at its newness has worn off and we begin to
understand it, we find it conforms to very much the same sense of

But apart from the feelings connected directly with the means of
expression, there appears to be much in common between all the arts in
their most profound expression; there seems to be a common centre in our
inner life that they all appeal to. Possibly at this centre are the
great primitive emotions common to all men. The religious group, the
deep awe and reverence men feel when contemplating the great mystery of
the Universe and their own littleness in the face of its vastness--the
desire to correspond and develop relationship with the something outside
themselves that is felt to be behind and through all things. Then there
are those connected with the joy of life, the throbbing of the great
life spirit, the gladness of being, the desire of the sexes; and also
those connected with the sadness and mystery of death and decay, &c.

The technical side of an art is, however, not concerned with these
deeper motives but with the things of sense through which they find
expression; in the case of painting, the visible universe.

The artist is capable of being stimulated to artistic expression by all
things seen, no matter what; to him nothing comes amiss. Great pictures
have been made of beautiful people in beautiful clothes and of squalid
people in ugly clothes, of beautiful architectural buildings and the
ugly hovels of the poor. And the same painter who painted the Alps
painted the Great Western Railway.

The visible world is to the artist, as it were, a wonderful garment, at
times revealing to him the Beyond, the Inner Truth there is in all
things. He has a consciousness of some correspondence with something the
other side of visible things and dimly felt through them, a "still,
small voice" which he is impelled to interpret to man. It is the
expression of this all-pervading inner significance that I think we
recognise as beauty, and that prompted Keats to say:

     "Beauty is truth, truth beauty."

And hence it is that the love of truth and the love of beauty can exist
together in the work of the artist. The search for this inner truth is
the search for beauty. People whose vision does not penetrate beyond the
narrow limits of the commonplace, and to whom a cabbage is but a vulgar
vegetable, are surprised if they see a beautiful picture painted of one,
and say that the artist has idealised it, meaning that he has
consciously altered its appearance on some idealistic formula; whereas
he has probably only honestly given expression to a truer, deeper vision
than they had been aware of. The commonplace is not the true, but only
the shallow, view of things.

[Illustration: Plate II.


_Copyright photo, Braun & Co._]


     "Art is the expression of the invisible by means of the visible"

expresses the same idea, and it is this that gives to art its high place
among the works of man.

Beautiful things seem to put us in correspondence with a world the
harmonies of which are more perfect, and bring a deeper peace than this
imperfect life seems capable of yielding of itself. Our moments of peace
are, I think, always associated with some form of beauty, of this spark
of harmony within corresponding with some infinite source without. Like
a mariner's compass, we are restless until we find repose in this one
direction. In moments of beauty (for beauty is, strictly speaking, a
state of mind rather than an attribute of certain objects, although
certain things have the power of inducing it more than others) we seem
to get a glimpse of this deeper truth behind the things of sense. And
who can say but that this sense, dull enough in most of us, is not an
echo of a greater harmony existing somewhere the other side of things,
that we dimly feel through them, evasive though it is.

But we must tread lightly in these rarefied regions and get on to more
practical concerns. By finding and emphasising in his work those
elements in visual appearances that express these profounder things, the
painter is enabled to stimulate the perception of them in others.

In the representation of a fine mountain, for instance, there are,
besides all its rhythmic beauty of form and colour, associations
touching deeper chords in our natures--associations connected with its
size, age, and permanence, &c.; at any rate we have more feelings than
form and colour of themselves are capable of arousing. And these things
must be felt by the painter, and his picture painted under the influence
of these feelings, if he is instinctively to select those elements of
form and colour that convey them. Such deeper feelings are far too
intimately associated even with the finer beauties of mere form and
colour for the painter to be able to neglect them; no amount of
technical knowledge will take the place of feeling, or direct the
painter so surely in his selection of what is fine.

There are those who would say, "This is all very well, but the painter's
concern is with form and colour and paint, and nothing else. If he
paints the mountain faithfully from that point of view, it will suggest
all these other associations to those who want them." And others who
would say that the form and colour of appearances are only to be used as
a language to give expression to the feelings common to all men. "Art
for art's sake" and "Art for subject's sake." There are these two
extreme positions to consider, and it will depend on the individual on
which side his work lies. His interest will be more on the aesthetic
side, in the feelings directly concerned with form and colour; or on the
side of the mental associations connected with appearances, according to
his temperament. But neither position can neglect the other without
fatal loss. The picture of form and colour will never be able to escape
the associations connected with visual things, neither will the picture
all for subject be able to get away from its form and colour. And it is
wrong to say "If he paints the mountain faithfully from the form and
colour point of view it will suggest all those other associations to
those who want them," unless, as is possible with a simple-minded
painter, he be unconsciously moved by deeper feelings, and impelled to
select the significant things while only conscious of his paint. But the
chances are that his picture will convey the things he was thinking
about, and, in consequence, instead of impressing us with the grandeur
of the mountain, will say something very like "See what a clever painter
I am!" Unless the artist has painted his picture under the influence of
the deeper feelings the scene was capable of producing, it is not likely
anybody will be so impressed when they look at his work.

And the painter deeply moved with high ideals as to subject matter, who
neglects the form and colour through which he is expressing them, will
find that his work has failed to be convincing. The immaterial can only
be expressed through the material in art, and the painted symbols of the
picture must be very perfect if subtle and elusive meanings are to be
conveyed. If he cannot paint the commonplace aspect of our mountain, how
can he expect to paint any expression of the deeper things in it? The
fact is, both positions are incomplete. In all good art the matter
expressed and the manner of its expression are so intimate as to have
become one. The deeper associations connected with the mountain are only
matters for art in so far as they affect its appearance and take shape
as form and colour in the mind of the artist, informing the whole
process of the painting, even to the brush strokes. As in a good poem,
it is impossible to consider the poetic idea apart from the words that
express it: they are fired together at its creation.

Now an expression by means of one of our different sense perceptions
does not constitute art, or the boy shouting at the top of his voice,
giving expression to his delight in life but making a horrible noise,
would be an artist. If his expression is to be adequate to convey his
feeling to others, there must be some arrangement. The expression must
be ordered, rhythmic, or whatever word most fitly conveys the idea of
those powers, conscious or unconscious, that select and arrange the
sensuous material of art, so as to make the most telling impression, by
bringing it into relation with our innate sense of harmony. If we can
find a rough definition that will include all the arts, it will help us
to see in what direction lie those things in painting that make it an
art. The not uncommon idea, that painting is "the production by means of
colours of more or less perfect representations of natural objects" will
not do. And it is devoutly to be hoped that science will perfect a
method of colour photography finally to dispel this illusion.

What, then, will serve as a working definition? There must be something
about feeling, the expression of that individuality the secret of which
everyone carries in himself; the expression of that ego that perceives
and is moved by the phenomena of life around us. And, on the other hand,
something about the ordering of its expression.

But who knows of words that can convey a just idea of such subtle
matter? If one says "Art is the rhythmic expression of Life, or
emotional consciousness, or feeling," all are inadequate. Perhaps the
"rhythmic expression of life" would be the more perfect definition. But
the word "life" is so much more associated with eating and drinking in
the popular mind, than with the spirit or force or whatever you care to
call it, that exists behind consciousness and is the animating factor
of our whole being, that it will hardly serve a useful purpose. So that,
perhaps, for a rough, practical definition that will at least point away
from the mechanical performances that so often pass for art, "#the
Rhythmic expression of Feeling#" will do: for by Rhythm is meant that
ordering of the materials of art (form and colour, in the case of
painting) so as to bring them into relationship with our innate sense of
harmony which gives them their expressive power. Without this
relationship we have no direct means of making the sensuous material of
art awaken an answering echo in others. The boy shouting at the top of
his voice, making a horrible noise, was not an artist because his
expression was inadequate--was not related to the underlying sense of
harmony that would have given it expressive power.

[Illustration: Plate III.


In red chalk on toned paper.]

Let us test this definition with some simple cases. Here is a savage,
shouting and flinging his arms and legs about in wild delight; he is not
an artist, although he may be moved by life and feeling. But let this
shouting be done on some ordered plan, to a rhythm expressive of joy and
delight, and his leg and arm movements governed by it also, and he has
become an artist, and singing and dancing (possibly the oldest of the
arts) will result.

Or take the case of one who has been deeply moved by something he has
seen, say a man killed by a wild beast, which he wishes to tell his
friends. If he just explains the facts as he saw them, making no effort
to order his words so as to make the most telling impression upon his
hearers and convey to them something of the feelings that are stirring
in him, if he merely does this, he is not an artist, although the
recital of such a terrible incident may be moving. But the moment he
arranges his words so as to convey in a telling manner not only the
plain facts, but the horrible feelings he experienced at the sight, he
has become an artist. And if he further orders his words to a rhythmic
beat, a beat in sympathy with his subject, he has become still more
artistic, and a primitive form of poetry will result.

Or in building a hut, so long as a man is interested solely in the
utilitarian side of the matter, as are so many builders to-day, and just
puts up walls as he needs protection from wild beasts, and a roof to
keep out the rain, he is not yet an artist. But the moment he begins to
consider his work with some feeling, and arranges the relative sizes of
his walls and roof so that they answer to some sense he has for
beautiful proportion, he has become an artist, and his hut has some
architectural pretensions. Now if his hut is of wood, and he paints it
to protect it from the elements, nothing necessarily artistic has been
done. But if he selects colours that give him pleasure in their
arrangement, and if the forms his colour masses assume are designed with
some personal feeling, he has invented a primitive form of decoration.

And likewise the savage who, wishing to illustrate his description of a
strange animal he has seen, takes a piece of burnt wood and draws on the
wall his idea of what it looked like, a sort of catalogue of its
appearance in its details, he is not necessarily an artist. It is only
when he draws under the influence of some feeling, of some pleasure he
felt in the appearance of the animal, that he becomes an artist.

Of course in each case it is assumed that the men have the power to be
moved by these things, and whether they are good or poor artists will
depend on the quality of their feeling and the fitness of its

[Illustration: Plate IV.


The purest form of this "rhythmic expression of feeling" is music. And
as Walter Pater shows us in his essay on "The School of Giorgione,"
"music is the type of art." The others are more artistic as they
approach its conditions. Poetry, the most musical form of literature, is
its most artistic form. And in the greatest pictures form, colour, and
idea are united to thrill us with harmonies analogous to music.

The painter expresses his feelings through the representation of the
visible world of Nature, and through the representation of those
combinations of form and colour inspired in his imagination, that were
all originally derived from visible nature. If he fails from lack of
skill to make his representation convincing to reasonable people, no
matter how sublime has been his artistic intention, he will probably
have landed in the ridiculous. And yet, #so great is the power of
direction exercised by the emotions on the artist that it is seldom his
work fails to convey something, when genuine feeling has been the
motive#. On the other hand, the painter with no artistic impulse who
makes a laboriously commonplace picture of some ordinary or pretentious
subject, has equally failed as an artist, however much the skilfulness
of his representations may gain him reputation with the unthinking.

The study, therefore, of the #representation of visible nature# and of
#the powers of expression possessed by form and colour# is the object of
the painter's training.

And a command over this power of representation and expression is
absolutely necessary if he is to be capable of doing anything worthy of
his art.

This is all in art that one can attempt to teach. The emotional side is
beyond the scope of teaching. You cannot teach people how to feel. All
you can do is to surround them with the conditions calculated to
stimulate any natural feeling they may possess. And this is done by
familiarising students with the best works of art and nature.

       *       *       *       *       *

It is surprising how few art students have any idea of what it is that
constitutes art. They are impelled, it is to be assumed, by a natural
desire to express themselves by painting, and, if their intuitive
ability is strong enough, it perhaps matters little whether they know or
not. But to the larger number who are not so violently impelled, it is
highly essential that they have some better idea of art than that it
consists in setting down your canvas before nature and copying it.

Inadequate as this imperfect treatment of a profoundly interesting
subject is, it may serve to give some idea of the point of view from
which the following pages are written, and if it also serves to disturb
the "copying theory" in the minds of any students and encourages them to
make further inquiry, it will have served a useful purpose.



By drawing is here meant #the expression of form upon a plane surface#.

Art probably owes more to form for its range of expression than to
colour. Many of the noblest things it is capable of conveying are
expressed by form more directly than by anything else. And it is
interesting to notice how some of the world's greatest artists have been
very restricted in their use of colour, preferring to depend on form for
their chief appeal. It is reported that Apelles only used three colours,
black, red, and yellow, and Rembrandt used little else. Drawing,
although the first, is also the last, thing the painter usually studies.
There is more in it that can be taught and that repays constant
application and effort. Colour would seem to depend much more on a
natural sense and to be less amenable to teaching. A well-trained eye
for the appreciation of form is what every student should set himself to
acquire with all the might of which he is capable.

It is not enough in artistic drawing to portray accurately and in cold
blood the appearance of objects. To express form one must first be moved
by it. There is in the appearance of all objects, animate and inanimate,
what has been called an #emotional significance#, a hidden rhythm that
is not caught by the accurate, painstaking, but cold artist. The form
significance of which we speak is never found in a mechanical
reproduction like a photograph. You are never moved to say when looking
at one, "What fine form."

It is difficult to say in what this quality consists. The emphasis and
selection that is unconsciously given in a drawing done directly under
the guidance of strong feeling, are too subtle to be tabulated; they
escape analysis. But it is this selection of the significant and
suppression of the non-essential that often gives to a few lines drawn
quickly, and having a somewhat remote relation to the complex appearance
of the real object, more vitality and truth than are to be found in a
highly-wrought and painstaking drawing, during the process of which the
essential and vital things have been lost sight of in the labour of the
work; and the non-essential, which is usually more obvious, is allowed
to creep in and obscure the original impression. Of course, had the
finished drawing been done with the mind centred upon the particular
form significance aimed at, and every touch and detail added in tune to
this idea, the comparison might have been different. But it is rarely
that good drawings are done this way. Fine things seem only to be seen
in flashes, and the nature that can carry over the impression of one of
these moments during the labour of a highly-wrought drawing is very
rare, and belongs to the few great ones of the craft alone.

It is difficult to know why one should be moved by the expression of
form; but it appears to have some physical influence over us. In looking
at a fine drawing, say of a strong man, we seem to identify ourselves
with it and feel a thrill of its strength in our own bodies, prompting
us to set our teeth, stiffen our frame, and exclaim "That's fine." Or,
when looking at the drawing of a beautiful woman, we are softened by its
charm and feel in ourselves something of its sweetness as we exclaim,
"How beautiful." The measure of the feeling in either case will be the
extent to which the artist has identified himself with the subject when
making the drawing, and has been impelled to select the expressive
elements in the forms.

Art thus enables us to experience life at second hand. The small man may
enjoy somewhat of the wider experience of the bigger man, and be
educated to appreciate in time a wider experience for himself. This is
the true justification for public picture galleries. Not so much for the
moral influence they exert, of which we have heard so much, but that
people may be led through the vision of the artist to enlarge their
experience of life. This enlarging of the experience is true education,
and a very different thing from the memorising of facts that so often
passes as such. In a way this may be said to be a moral influence, as a
larger mind is less likely to harbour small meannesses. But this is not
the kind of moral influence usually looked for by the many, who rather
demand a moral story told by the picture; a thing not always suitable to
artistic expression.

One is always profoundly impressed by the expression of a sense of bulk,
vastness, or mass in form. There is a feeling of being lifted out of
one's puny self to something bigger and more stable. It is this splendid
feeling of bigness in Michael Angelo's figures that is so satisfying.
One cannot come away from the contemplation of that wonderful ceiling of
his in the Vatican without the sense of having experienced something of
a larger life than one had known before. Never has the dignity of man
reached so high an expression in paint, a height that has been the
despair of all who have since tried to follow that lonely master. In
landscape also this expression of largeness is fine: one likes to feel
the weight and mass of the ground, the vastness of the sky and sea, the
bulk of a mountain.

On the other hand one is charmed also by the expression of lightness.
This may be noted in much of the work of Botticelli and the Italians of
the fifteenth century. Botticelli's figures seldom have any weight; they
drift about as if walking on air, giving a delightful feeling of
otherworldliness. The hands of the Madonna that hold the Child might be
holding flowers for any sense of support they express. It is, I think,
on this sense of lightness that a great deal of the exquisite charm of
Botticelli's drawing depends.

The feathery lightness of clouds and of draperies blown by the wind is
always pleasing, and Botticelli nearly always has a light wind passing
through his draperies to give them this sense.

As will be explained later, in connection with academic drawing, it is
eminently necessary for the student to train his eye accurately to
observe the forms of things by the most painstaking of drawings. In
these school studies feeling need not be considered, but only a cold
accuracy. In the same way a singer trains himself to sing scales, giving
every note exactly the same weight and preserving a most mechanical time
throughout, so that every note of his voice may be accurately under his
control and be equal to the subtlest variations he may afterwards
want to infuse into it at the dictates of feeling. For how can the
draughtsman, who does not know how to draw accurately the cold,
commonplace view of an object, hope to give expression to the subtle
differences presented by the same thing seen under the excitement of
strong feeling?

[Illustration: Plate V.


In the Print Room at the British Museum.]

These academic drawings, too, should be as highly finished as hard
application can make them, so that the habit of minute visual expression
may be acquired. It will be needed later, when drawing of a finer kind
is attempted, and when in the heat of an emotional stimulus the artist
has no time to consider the smaller subtleties of drawing, which by then
should have become almost instinctive with him, leaving his mind free to
dwell on the bigger qualities.

Drawing, then, to be worthy of the name, must be more than what is
called accurate. It must present the form of things in a more vivid
manner than we ordinarily see them in nature. Every new draughtsman in
the history of art has discovered a new significance in the form of
common things, and given the world a new experience. He has represented
these qualities under the stimulus of the feeling they inspired in him,
hot and underlined, as it were, adding to the great book of sight the
world possesses in its art, a book by no means completed yet.

So that to say of a drawing, as is so often said, that it is not true
because it does not present the commonplace appearance of an object
accurately, may be foolish. Its accuracy depends on the completeness
with which it conveys the particular emotional significance that is the
object of the drawing. What this significance is will vary enormously
with the individual artist, but it is only by this standard that the
accuracy of the drawing can be judged.

It is this difference between scientific accuracy and artistic accuracy
that puzzles so many people. Science demands that phenomena be observed
with the unemotional accuracy of a weighing machine, while artistic
accuracy demands that things be observed by a sentient individual
recording the sensations produced in him by the phenomena of life. And
people with the scientific habit that is now so common among us, seeing
a picture or drawing in which what are called facts have been expressed
emotionally, are puzzled, if they are modest, or laugh at what they
consider a glaring mistake in drawing if they are not, when all the time
it may be their mistaken point of view that is at fault.

But while there is no absolute artistic standard by which accuracy of
drawing can be judged, as such standard must necessarily vary with the
artistic intention of each individual artist, this fact must not be
taken as an excuse for any obviously faulty drawing that incompetence
may produce, as is often done by students who when corrected say that
they "saw it so." For there undoubtedly exists a rough physical standard
of rightness in drawing, any violent deviations from which, even at the
dictates of emotional expression, is productive of the grotesque. This
physical standard of accuracy in his work it is the business of the
student to acquire in his academic training; and every aid that science
can give by such studies as Perspective, Anatomy, and, in the case of
Landscape, even Geology and Botany, should be used to increase the
accuracy of his representations. For the strength of appeal in
artistic work will depend much on the power the artist possesses of
expressing himself through representations that arrest everyone by their
truth and naturalness. And although, when truth and naturalness exist
without any artistic expression, the result is of little account as art,
on the other hand, when truly artistic expression is clothed in
representations that offend our ideas of physical truth, it is only the
few who can forgive the offence for the sake of the genuine feeling they
perceive behind it.

[Illustration: Plate VI.


From the collection of Charles Ricketts and Charles Shannon]

How far the necessities of expression may be allowed to override the
dictates of truth to physical structure in the appearance of objects
will always be a much debated point. In the best drawing the departures
from mechanical accuracy are so subtle that I have no doubt many will
deny the existence of such a thing altogether. Good artists of strong
natural inspiration and simple minds are often quite unconscious of
doing anything when painting, but are all the same as mechanically
accurate as possible.

Yet however much it may be advisable to let yourself go in artistic
work, during your academic training let your aim be #a searching



It is necessary to say something about Vision in the first place, if we
are to have any grasp of the idea of form.

An act of vision is not so simple a matter as the student who asked her
master if she should "paint nature as she saw nature" would seem to have
thought. And his answer, "Yes, madam, provided you don't see nature as
you paint nature," expressed the first difficulty the student of
painting has to face: the difficulty of learning to see.

Let us roughly examine what we know of vision. Science tells us that all
objects are made visible to us by means of light; and that white light,
by which we see things in what may be called their normal aspect, is
composed of all the colours of the solar spectrum, as may be seen in a
rainbow; a phenomenon caused, as everybody knows, by the sun's rays
being split up into their component parts.

This light travels in straight lines and, striking objects before us, is
reflected in all directions. Some of these rays passing through a point
situated behind the lenses of the eye, strike the retina. The
multiplication of these rays on the retina produces a picture of
whatever is before the eye, such as can be seen on the ground glass at
the back of a photographer's camera, or on the table of a camera
obscura, both of which instruments are constructed roughly on the same
principle as the human eye.

These rays of light when reflected from an object, and again when
passing through the atmosphere, undergo certain modifications. Should
the object be a red one, the yellow, green, and blue rays, all, in fact,
except the red rays, are absorbed by the object, while the red is
allowed to escape. These red rays striking the retina produce certain
effects which convey to our consciousness the sensation of red, and we
say "That is a red object." But there may be particles of moisture or
dust in the air that will modify the red rays so that by the time they
reach the eye they may be somewhat different. This modification is
naturally most effective when a large amount of atmosphere has to be
passed through, and in things very distant the colour of the natural
object is often entirely lost, to be replaced by atmospheric colours, as
we see in distant mountains when the air is not perfectly clear. But we
must not stray into the fascinating province of colour.

What chiefly concerns us here is the fact that the pictures on our
retinas are flat, of two dimensions, the same as the canvas on which we
paint. If you examine these visual pictures without any prejudice, as
one may with a camera obscura, you will see that they are composed of
masses of colour in infinite variety and complexity, of different shapes
and gradations, and with many varieties of edges; giving to the eye the
illusion of nature with actual depths and distances, although one knows
all the time that it is a flat table on which one is looking.

Seeing then that our eyes have only flat pictures containing
two-dimension information about the objective world, from whence is
this knowledge of distance and the solidity of things? How do we _see_
the third dimension, the depth and thickness, by means of flat pictures
of two dimensions?

The power to judge distance is due principally to our possessing two
eyes situated in slightly different positions, from which we get two
views of objects, and also to the power possessed by the eyes of
focussing at different distances, others being out of focus for the time
being. In a picture the eyes can only focus at one distance (the
distance the eye is from the plane of the picture when you are looking
at it), and this is one of the chief causes of the perennial difficulty
in painting backgrounds. In nature they are out of focus when one is
looking at an object, but in a painting the background is necessarily on
the same focal plane as the object. Numerous are the devices resorted to
by painters to overcome this difficulty, but they do not concern us

The fact that we have two flat pictures on our two retinas to help us,
and that we can focus at different planes, would not suffice to account
for our knowledge of the solidity and shape of the objective world, were
these senses not associated with another sense all important in ideas of
form, #the sense of touch#.

This sense is very highly developed in us, and the earlier period of our
existence is largely given over to feeling for the objective world
outside ourselves. Who has not watched the little baby hands feeling for
everything within reach, and without its reach, for the matter of that;
for the infant has no knowledge yet of what is and what is not within
its reach. Who has not offered some bright object to a young child and
watched its clumsy attempts to feel for it, almost as clumsy at first as
if it were blind, as it has not yet learned to focus distances. And when
he has at last got hold of it, how eagerly he feels it all over, looking
intently at it all the time; thus learning early to associate the "feel
of an object" with its appearance. In this way by degrees he acquires
those ideas of roughness and smoothness, hardness and softness,
solidity, &c., which later on he will be able to distinguish by vision
alone, and without touching the object.

Our survival depends so much on this sense of touch, that it is of the
first importance to us. We must know whether the ground is hard enough
for us to walk on, or whether there is a hole in front of us; and masses
of colour rays striking the retina, which is what vision amounts to,
will not of themselves tell us. But associated with the knowledge
accumulated in our early years, by connecting touch with sight, we do
know when certain combinations of colour rays strike the eye that there
is a road for us to walk on, and that when certain other combinations
occur there is a hole in front of us, or the edge of a precipice.

And likewise with hardness and softness, the child who strikes his head
against the bed-post is forcibly reminded by nature that such things are
to be avoided, and feeling that it is hard and that hardness has a
certain look, it avoids that kind of thing in the future. And when it
strikes its head against the pillow, it learns the nature of softness,
and associating this sensation with the appearance of the pillow, knows
in future that when softness is observed it need not be avoided as
hardness must be.

Sight is therefore not a matter of the eye alone. A whole train of
associations connected with the objective world is set going in the mind
when rays of light strike the retina refracted from objects. And these
associations vary enormously in quantity and value with different
individuals; but the one we are here chiefly concerned with is this
universal one of touch. Everybody "sees" the shape of an object, and
"sees" whether it "looks" hard or soft, &c. Sees, in other words, the
"feel" of it.

If you are asked to think of an object, say a cone, it will not, I
think, be the visual aspect that will occur to most people. They will
think of a circular base from which a continuous side slopes up to a
point situated above its centre, as one would feel it. The fact that in
almost every visual aspect the base line is that of an ellipse, not a
circle, comes as a surprise to people unaccustomed to drawing.

But above these cruder instances, what a wealth of associations crowd in
upon the mind, when a sight that moves one is observed. Put two men
before a scene, one an ordinary person and the other a great poet, and
ask them to describe what they see. Assuming them both to be possessed
of a reasonable power honestly to express themselves, what a difference
would there be in the value of their descriptions. Or take two painters
both equally gifted in the power of expressing their visual perceptions,
and put them before the scene to paint it. And assuming one to be a
commonplace man and the other a great artist, what a difference will
there be in their work. The commonplace painter will paint a commonplace
picture, while the form and colour will be the means of stirring deep
associations and feelings in the mind of the other, and will move him
to paint the scene so that the same splendour of associations may be
conveyed to the beholder.

[Illustration: Plate VII.


In natural red chalk rubbed with finger; the high lights are picked out
with rubber.]

But to return to our infant mind. While the development of the
perception of things has been going on, the purely visual side of the
question, the observation of the picture on the retina for what it is as
form and colour, has been neglected--neglected to such an extent that
when the child comes to attempt drawing, #sight is not the sense he
consults#. The mental idea of the objective world that has grown up in
his mind is now associated more directly with touch than with sight,
with the felt shape rather than the visual appearance. So that if he is
asked to draw a head, he thinks of it first as an object having a
continuous boundary in space. This his mind instinctively conceives as a
line. Then, hair he expresses by a row of little lines coming out from
the boundary, all round the top. He thinks of eyes as two points or
circles, or as points in circles, and the nose either as a triangle or
an L-shaped line. If you feel the nose you will see the reason of this.
Down the front you have the L line, and if you feel round it you will
find the two sides meeting at the top and a base joining them,
suggesting the triangle. The mouth similarly is an opening with a row of
teeth, which are generally shown although so seldom seen, but always
apparent if the mouth is felt (see diagram A). This is, I think, a fair
type of the first drawing the ordinary child makes--and judging by some
ancient scribbling of the same order I remember noticing scratched on a
wall at Pompeii, and by savage drawing generally, it appears to be a
fairly universal type. It is a very remarkable thing which, as far as I
know, has not yet been pointed out, that in these first attempts at
drawing the vision should not be consulted. A blind man would not draw
differently, could he but see to draw. Were vision the first sense
consulted, and were the simplest visual appearance sought after, one
might expect something like diagram B, the shadows under eyes, nose,
mouth, and chin, with the darker mass of the hair being the simplest
thing the visual appearance can be reduced to. But despite this being
quite as easy to do, it does not appeal to the ordinary child as the
other type does, because it does not satisfy the sense of touch that
forms so large a part of the idea of an object in the mind. All
architectural elevations and geometrical projections generally appeal to
this mental idea of form. They consist of views of a building or object
that could never possibly be seen by anybody, assuming as they do that
the eye of the spectator is exactly in front of every part of the
building at the same time, a physical impossibility. And yet so removed
from the actual visual appearance is our mental idea of objects that
such drawings do convey a very accurate idea of a building or object.
And of course they have great advantage as working drawings in that they
can be scaled.

[Illustration: Diagram I.



If so early the sense of vision is neglected and relegated to be the
handmaiden of other senses, it is no wonder that in the average adult it
is in such a shocking state of neglect. I feel convinced that with the
great majority of people vision is seldom if ever consulted for itself,
but only to minister to some other sense. They look at the sky to see if
it is going to be fine; at the fields to see if they are dry enough to
walk on, or whether there will be a good crop of hay; at the stream not
to observe the beauty of the reflections from the blue sky or green
fields dancing upon its surface or the rich colouring of its shadowed
depths, but to calculate how deep it is or how much power it would
supply to work a mill, how many fish it contains, or some other
association alien to its visual aspect. If one looks up at a fine mass
of cumulus clouds above a London street, the ordinary passer-by who
follows one's gaze expects to see a balloon or a flying-machine at
least, and when he sees it is only clouds he is apt to wonder what one
is gazing at. The beautiful form and colour of the cloud seem to be
unobserved. Clouds mean nothing to him but an accumulation of water dust
that may bring rain. This accounts in some way for the number of good
paintings that are incomprehensible to the majority of people. It is
only those pictures that pursue the visual aspect of objects to a
sufficient completion to contain the suggestion of these other
associations, that they understand at all. Other pictures, they say, are
not finished enough. And it is so seldom that a picture can have this
petty realisation and at the same time be an expression of those larger
emotional qualities that constitute good painting.

The early paintings of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood appear to be a
striking exception to this. But in their work the excessive realisation
of all details was part of the expression and gave emphasis to the
poetic idea at the basis of their pictures, and was therefore part of
the artistic intention. In these paintings the fiery intensity with
which every little detail was painted made their picture a ready medium
for the expression of poetic thought, a sort of "painted poetry," every
detail being selected on account of some symbolic meaning it had,
bearing on the poetic idea that was the object of the picture.

But to those painters who do not attempt "painted poetry," but seek in
painting a poetry of its own, a visual poetry, this excessive finish (as
it is called) is irksome, as it mars the expression of those qualities
in vision they wish to express. Finish in art has no connection with the
amount of detail in a picture, but has reference only to the
completeness with which the emotional idea the painter set out to
express has been realised.

[Illustration: Plate VIII.


In red conté chalk and white pastel rubbed on toned paper.]

The visual blindness of the majority of people is greatly to be
deplored, as nature is ever offering them on their retina, even in the
meanest slum, a music of colour and form that is a constant source of
pleasure to those who can see it. But so many are content to use this
wonderful faculty of vision for utilitarian purposes only. It is the
privilege of the artist to show how wonderful and beautiful is all this
music of colour and form, so that people, having been moved by it in his
work, may be encouraged to see the same beauty in the things around
them. This is the best argument in favour of making art a subject of
general education: that it should teach people to see. Everybody does
not need to draw and paint, but if everybody could get the faculty of
appreciating the form and colour on their retinas as form and colour,
what a wealth would always be at their disposal for enjoyment! The
Japanese habit of looking at a landscape upside down between their legs
is a way of seeing without the deadening influence of touch
associations. Thus looking, one is surprised into seeing for once the
colour and form of things with the association of touch for the moment
forgotten, and is puzzled at the beauty. The odd thing is that although
thus we see things upside down, the pictures on our retinas are for once
the right way up; for ordinarily the visual picture is inverted on the
retina, like that on the ground glass at the back of a photographic

To sum up this somewhat rambling chapter, I have endeavoured to show
that there are two aspects from which the objective world can be
apprehended. There is the purely mental perception founded chiefly on
knowledge derived from our sense of touch associated with vision, whose
primitive instinct is to put an outline round objects as representing
their boundaries in space. And secondly, there is the visual perception,
which is concerned with the visual aspects of objects as they appear on
the retina; an arrangement of colour shapes, a sort of mosaic of colour.
And these two aspects give us two different points of view from which
the representation of visible things can be approached.

When the representation from either point of view is carried far enough,
the result is very similar. Work built up on outline drawing to which
has been added light and shade, colour, aerial perspective, &c., may
eventually approximate to the perfect visual appearance. And inversely,
representations approached from the point of view of pure vision, the
mosaic of colour on the retina, if pushed far enough, may satisfy the
mental perception of form with its touch associations. And of course the
two points of view are intimately connected. You cannot put an accurate
outline round an object without observing the shape it occupies in the
field of vision. And it is difficult to consider the "mosaic of colour
forms" without being very conscious of the objective significance of the
colour masses portrayed. But they present two entirely different and
opposite points of view from which the representation of objects can be
approached. In considering the subject of drawing I think it necessary
to make this division of the subject, and both methods of form
expression should be studied by the student. Let us call the first
method Line Drawing and the second Mass Drawing. Most modern drawing is
a mixture of both these points of view, but they should be studied
separately if confusion is to be avoided. If the student neglects line
drawing, his work will lack the expressive significance of form that
only a feeling for lines seems to have the secret of conveying; while,
if he neglects mass drawing, he will be poorly equipped when he comes to
express form with a brush full of paint to work with.



Most of the earliest forms of drawing known to us in history, like those
of the child we were discussing in the last chapter, are largely in the
nature of outline drawings. This is a remarkable fact considering the
somewhat remote relation lines have to the complete phenomena of vision.
Outlines can only be said to exist in appearances as the boundaries of
masses. But even here a line seems a poor thing from the visual point of
view; as the boundaries are not always clearly defined, but are
continually merging into the surrounding mass and losing themselves to
be caught up again later on and defined once more. Its relationship with
visual appearances is not sufficient to justify the instinct for line
drawing. It comes, I think, as has already been said, from the sense of
touch. When an object is felt there is no merging in the surrounding
mass, but a firm definition of its boundary, which the mind
instinctively conceives as a line.

There is a more direct appeal to the imagination in line drawing than in
possibly anything else in pictorial art. The emotional stimulus given by
fine design is due largely to line work. The power a line possesses of
instinctively directing the eye along its course is of the utmost value
also, enabling the artist to concentrate the attention of the beholder
where he wishes. Then there is a harmonic sense in lines and their
relationships, a music of line that is found at the basis of all good
art. But this subject will be treated later on when talking of line

Most artists whose work makes a large appeal to the imagination are
strong on the value of line. Blake, whose visual knowledge was such a
negligible quantity, but whose mental perceptions were so magnificent,
was always insisting on its value. And his designs are splendid examples
of its powerful appeal to the imagination.

On this basis of line drawing the development of art proceeded. The
early Egyptian wall paintings were outlines tinted, and the earliest
wall sculpture was an incised outline. After these incised lines some
man of genius thought of cutting away the surface of the wall between
the outlines and modelling it in low relief. The appearance of this may
have suggested to the man painting his outline on the wall the idea of
shading between his outlines.

At any rate the next development was the introduction of a little
shading to relieve the flatness of the line-work and suggest modelling.
And this was as far as things had gone in the direction of the
representation of form, until well on in the Italian Renaissance.
Botticelli used nothing else than an outline lightly shaded to indicate
form. Light and shade were not seriously perceived until Leonardo da
Vinci. And a wonderful discovery it was thought to be, and was, indeed,
although it seems difficult to understand where men's eyes had been for
so long with the phenomena of light and shade before them all the time.
But this is only another proof of what cannot be too often insisted on,
namely that the eye only sees what it is on the look-out for, and it may
even be there are things just as wonderful yet to be discovered in

But it was still the touch association of an object that was the
dominant one; it was within the outline demanded by this sense that the
light and shade were to be introduced as something as it were put on the
object. It was the "solids in space" idea that art was still appealing

"The first object of a painter is to make a simple flat surface appear
like a relievo, and some of its parts detached from the ground; he who
excels all others in that part of the art deserves the greatest
praise,"[1] wrote Leonardo da Vinci, and the insistence on this
"standing out" quality, with its appeal to the touch sense as something
great in art, sounds very strange in these days. But it must be
remembered that the means of creating this illusion were new to all and
greatly wondered at.

[Footnote 1: Leonardo da Vinci, _Treatise on Painting_, paragraph 178.]

And again, in paragraph 176 of his treatise, Leonardo writes: "The
knowledge of the outline is of most consequence, and yet may be acquired
to great certainty by dint of study; as the outlines of the human
figure, particularly those which do not bend, are invariably the same.
But the knowledge of the situation, quality and quantity of shadows,
being infinite, requires the most extensive study."

The outlines of the human figure are "invariably the same"? What does
this mean? From the visual point of view we know that the space occupied
by figures in the field of our vision is by no means "invariably the
same," but of great variety. So it cannot be the visual appearance he is
speaking about. It can only refer to the mental idea of the shape of
the members of the human figure. The remark "particularly those that do
not bend" shows this also, for when the body is bent up even the mental
idea of its form must be altered. There is no hint yet of vision being
exploited for itself, but only in so far as it yielded material to
stimulate this mental idea of the exterior world.

[Illustration: Plate IX.


From an original drawing in the collection of Charles Ricketts and
Charles Shannon.]

All through the work of the men who used this light and shade (or
chiaroscuro, as it was called) the outline basis remained. Leonardo,
Raphael, Michael Angelo, Titian, and the Venetians were all faithful to
it as the means of holding their pictures together; although the
Venetians, by fusing the edges of their outline masses, got very near
the visual method to be introduced later by Velazquez.

In this way, little by little, starting from a basis of simple outline
forms, art grew up, each new detail of visual appearance discovered
adding, as it were, another instrument to the orchestra at the disposal
of the artist, enabling him to add to the somewhat crude directness and
simplicity of the early work the graces and refinements of the more
complex work, making the problem of composition more difficult but
increasing the range of its expression.

But these additions to the visual formula used by artists was not all
gain; the simplicity of the means at the disposal of a Botticelli gives
an innocence and imaginative appeal to his work that it is difficult to
think of preserving with the more complete visual realisation of later
schools. When the realisation of actual appearance is most complete, the
mind is liable to be led away by side issues connected with the things
represented, instead of seeing the emotional intentions of the artist
expressed through them. The mind is apt to leave the picture and
looking, as it were, not at it but through it, to pursue a train of
thought associated with the objects represented as real objects, but
alien to the artistic intention of the picture. There is nothing in
these early formulae to disturb the contemplation of the emotional
appeal of pure form and colour. To those who approach a picture with the
idea that the representation of nature, the "making it look like the
real thing," is the sole object of painting, how strange must be the
appearance of such pictures as Botticelli's.

The accumulation of the details of visual observation in art is liable
eventually to obscure the main idea and disturb the large sense of
design on which so much of the imaginative appeal of a work of art
depends. The large amount of new visual knowledge that the naturalistic
movements of the nineteenth century brought to light is particularly
liable at this time to obscure the simpler and more primitive qualities
on which all good art is built. At the height of that movement line
drawing went out of fashion, and charcoal, and an awful thing called a
stump, took the place of the point in the schools. Charcoal is a
beautiful medium in a dexterous hand, but is more adaptable to mass than
to line drawing. The less said about the stump the better, although I
believe it still lingers on in some schools.

Line drawing is happily reviving, and nothing is so calculated to put
new life and strength into the vagaries of naturalistic painting and get
back into art a fine sense of design.

This obscuring of the direct appeal of art by the accumulation of too
much naturalistic detail, and the loss of power it entails, is the cause
of artists having occasionally gone back to a more primitive
convention. There was the Archaistic movement in Greece, and men like
Rossetti and Burne-Jones found a better means of expressing the things
that moved them in the technique of the fourteenth century. And it was
no doubt a feeling of the weakening influence on art, as an expressive
force, of the elaborate realisations of the modern school, that prompted
Puvis de Chavannes to invent for himself his large primitive manner. It
will be noticed that in these instances it is chiefly the insistence
upon outline that distinguishes these artists from their contemporaries.

Art, like life, is apt to languish if it gets too far away from
primitive conditions. But, like life also, it is a poor thing and a very
uncouth affair if it has nothing but primitive conditions to recommend
it. Because there is a decadent art about, one need not make a hero of
the pavement artist. But without going to the extreme of flouting the
centuries of culture that art inherits, as it is now fashionable in many
places to do, students will do well to study at first the early rather
than the late work of the different schools, so as to get in touch with
the simple conditions of design on which good work is built. It is
easier to study these essential qualities when they are not overlaid by
so much knowledge of visual realisation. The skeleton of the picture is
more apparent in the earlier than the later work of any school.

The finest example of the union of the primitive with the most refined
and cultured art the world has ever seen is probably the Parthenon at
Athens, a building that has been the wonder of the artistic world for
over two thousand years. Not only are the fragments of its sculptures
in the British Museum amazing, but the beauty and proportions of its
architecture are of a refinement that is, I think, never even attempted
in these days. What architect now thinks of correcting the poorness of
hard, straight lines by very slightly curving them? Or of slightly
sloping inwards the columns of his facade to add to the strength of its
appearance? The amount of these variations is of the very slightest and
bears witness to the pitch of refinement attempted. And yet, with it
all, how simple! There is something of the primitive strength of
Stonehenge in that solemn row of columns rising firmly from the steps
#without any base#. With all its magnificence, it still retains the
simplicity of the hut from which it was evolved.

Something of the same combination of primitive grandeur and strength
with exquisite refinement of visualisation is seen in the art of Michael
Angelo. His followers adopted the big, muscular type of their master,
but lost the primitive strength he expressed; and when this primitive
force was lost sight of, what a decadence set in!

This is the point at which art reaches its highest mark: when to the
primitive strength and simplicity of early art are added the infinite
refinements and graces of culture without destroying or weakening the
sublimity of the expression.

In painting, the refinement and graces of culture take the form of an
increasing truth to natural appearances, added bit by bit to the
primitive baldness of early work; until the point is reached, as it was
in the nineteenth century, when apparently the whole facts of visual
nature are incorporated. From this wealth of visual material, to which
must be added the knowledge we now have of the arts of the East, of
China, Japan, and India, the modern artist has to select those things
that appeal to him; has to select those elements that answer to his
inmost need of expressing himself as an artist. No wonder a period of
artistic dyspepsia is upon us, no wonder our exhibitions, particularly
those on the Continent, are full of strange, weird things. The problem
before the artist was never so complex, but also never so interesting.
New forms, new combinations, new simplifications are to be found. But
the steadying influence and discipline of line work were never more
necessary to the student.

The primitive force we are in danger of losing depends much on line, and
no work that aims at a sublime impression can dispense with the basis of
a carefully wrought and simple line scheme.

The study, therefore, of pure line drawing is of great importance to the
painter, and the numerous drawings that exist by the great masters in
this method show how much they understood its value.

And the revival of line drawing, and the desire there is to find a
simpler convention founded on this basis, are among the most hopeful
signs in the art of the moment.



In the preceding chapter it has, I hope, been shown that outline drawing
is an instinct with Western artists and has been so from the earliest
times; that this instinct is due to the fact that the first mental idea
of an object is the sense of its form as a felt thing, not a thing seen;
and that an outline drawing satisfies and appeals directly to this
mental idea of objects.

But there is another basis of expression directly related to visual
appearances that in the fulness of time was evolved, and has had a very
great influence on modern art. This form of drawing is based on the
consideration of the flat appearances on the retina, with the knowledge
of the felt shapes of objects for the time being forgotten. In
opposition to line drawing, we may call this Mass Drawing.

The scientific truth of this point of view is obvious. If only the
accurate copying of the appearances of nature were the sole object of
art (an idea to be met with among students) the problem of painting
would be simpler than it is, and would be likely ere long to be solved
by the photographic camera.

This form of drawing is the natural means of expression when a brush
full of paint is in your hands. The reducing of a complicated appearance
to a few simple masses is the first necessity of the painter. But
this will be fully explained in a later chapter treating more
practically of the practice of mass drawing.

[Illustration: Plate X.


Showing how early Chinese masters had developed the mass-drawing point
of view.]

The art of China and Japan appears to have been more [influenced by this
view of natural appearances than that of the West has been, until quite
lately. The Eastern mind does not seem to be so obsessed by the
objectivity of things as is the Western mind. With us the practical
sense of touch is all powerful. "I know that is so, because I felt it
with my hands" would be a characteristic expression with us. Whereas I
do not think it would be an expression the Eastern mind would use. With
them the spiritual essence of the thing seen appears to be the more
real, judging from their art. And who is to say they may not be right?
This is certainly the impression one gets from their beautiful painting,
with its lightness of texture and avoidance of solidity. It is founded
on nature regarded as a flat vision, instead of a collection of solids
in space. Their use of line is also much more restrained than with us,
and it is seldom used to accentuate the solidity of things, but chiefly
to support the boundaries of masses and suggest detail. Light and shade,
which suggest solidity, are never used, a wide light where there is no
shadow pervades everything, their drawing being done with the brush in

When, as in the time of Titian, the art of the West had discovered light
and shade, linear perspective, aerial perspective, &c., and had begun by
fusing the edges of the masses to suspect the necessity of painting to a
widely diffused focus, they had got very near considering appearances
as a visual whole. But it was not until Velazquez that a picture was
painted that was founded entirely on visual appearances, in which a
basis of objective outlines was discarded and replaced by a structure of
tone masses.

When he took his own painting room with the little Infanta and her maids
as a subject, Velazquez seems to have considered it entirely as one flat
visual impression. The focal attention is centred on the Infanta, with
the figures on either side more or less out of focus, those on the
extreme right being quite blurred. The reproduction here given
unfortunately does not show these subtleties, and flattens the general
appearance very much. The focus is nowhere sharp, as this would disturb
the contemplation of the large visual impression. And there, I think,
for the first time, the whole gamut of natural vision, tone, colour,
form, light and shade, atmosphere, focus, &c., considered as one
impression, were put on canvas.

All sense of design is lost. The picture has no surface; it is all
atmosphere between the four edges of the frame, and the objects are
within. Placed as it is in the Prado, with the light coming from the
right as in the picture, there is no break between the real people
before it and the figures within, except the slight yellow veil due to

But wonderful as this picture is, as a "tour de force," like his Venus
of the same period in the National Gallery, it is a painter's picture,
and makes but a cold impression on those not interested in the technique
of painting. With the cutting away of the primitive support of fine
outline design and the absence of those accents conveying a fine form
stimulus to the mind, art has lost much of its emotional

[Illustration: Plate XI.


Probably the first picture ever painted entirely from the visual or
impressionist standpoint.

_Photo Anderson_]

[Sidenote: The Impressionist Point of View.]

But art has gained a new point of view. With this subjective way of
considering appearances--this "impressionist vision," as it has been
called--many things that were too ugly, either from shape or
association, to yield material for the painter, were yet found, when
viewed as part of a scheme of colour sensations on the retina which the
artist considers emotionally and rhythmically, to lend themselves to new
and beautiful harmonies and "ensembles," undreamt of by the earlier
formulae. And further, many effects of light that were too hopelessly
complicated for painting, considered on the old light and shade
principles (for instance, sunlight through trees in a wood), were found
to be quite paintable, considered as an impression of various colour
masses. The early formula could never free itself from the object as a
solid thing, and had consequently to confine its attention to beautiful
ones. But from the new point of view, form consists of the shape and
qualities of masses of colour on the retina; and what objects happen to
be the outside cause of these shapes matters little to the
impressionist. Nothing is ugly when seen in a beautiful aspect of light,
and aspect is with them everything. This consideration of the visual
appearance in the first place necessitated an increased dependence on
the model. As he does not now draw from his mental perceptions the
artist has nothing to select the material of his picture from until it
has existed as a seen thing before him: until he has a visual impression
of it in his mind. With the older point of view (the representation by a
pictorial description, as it were, based on the mental idea of an
object), the model was not so necessary. In the case of the
Impressionist the mental perception is arrived at from the visual
impression, and in the older point of view the visual impression is the
result of the mental perception. Thus it happens that the Impressionist
movement has produced chiefly pictures inspired by the actual world of
visual phenomena around us, the older point of view producing most of
the pictures deriving their inspiration from the glories of the
imagination, the mental world in the mind of the artist. And although
interesting attempts are being made to produce imaginative works founded
on the impressionist point of view of light and air, the loss of
imaginative appeal consequent upon the destruction of contours by
scintillation, atmosphere, &c., and the loss of line rhythm it entails,
have so far prevented the production of any very satisfactory results.
But undoubtedly there is much new material brought to light by this
movement waiting to be used imaginatively; and it offers a new field for
the selection of expressive qualities.

This point of view, although continuing to some extent in the Spanish
school, did not come into general recognition until the last century in
France. The most extreme exponents of it are the body of artists who
grouped themselves round Claude Monet. This impressionist movement, as
the critics have labelled it, was the result of a fierce determination
to consider nature solely from the visual point of view, making no
concessions to any other associations connected with sight. The result
was an entirely new vision of nature, startling and repulsive to eyes
unaccustomed to observation from a purely visual point of view and used
only to seeing the "feel of things," as it were. The first results were
naturally rather crude. But a great amount of new visual facts were
brought to light, particularly those connected with the painting of
sunlight and half light effects. Indeed the whole painting of strong
light has been permanently affected by the work of this group of
painters. Emancipated from the objective world, they no longer dissected
the object to see what was inside it, but studied rather the anatomy of
the light refracted from it to their eyes. Finding this to be composed
of all the colours of the rainbow as seen in the solar spectrum, and
that all the effects nature produced are done with different proportions
of these colours, they took them, or the nearest pigments they could get
to them, for their palette, eliminating the earth colours and black. And
further, finding that nature's colours (the rays of coloured light) when
mixed produced different results than their corresponding pigments mixed
together, they determined to use their paints as pure as possible,
placing them one against the other to be mixed as they came to the eye,
the mixture being one of pure colour rays, not pigments, by this means.

But we are here only concerned with the movement as it affected form,
and must avoid the fascinating province of colour.

Those who had been brought up in the old school of outline form said
there was no drawing in these impressionist pictures, and from the point
of view of the mental idea of form discussed in the last chapter, there
was indeed little, although, had the impression been realised to a
sufficiently definite focus, the sense of touch and solidity would
probably have been satisfied. But the particular field of this new
point of view, the beauty of tone and colour relations considered as an
impression apart from objectivity, did not tempt them to carry their
work so far as this, or the insistence on these particular qualities
would have been lost.

But interesting and alluring as is the new world of visual music opened
up by this point of view, it is beginning to be realised that it has
failed somehow to satisfy. In the first place, the implied assumption
that one sees with the eye alone is wrong:

     "In every object there is inexhaustible meaning; the eye sees in it
     what the eye brings means of seeing,"[2]

[Footnote 2: Goethe, quoted in Carlyle's _French Revolution_, chap. i.]

and it is the mind behind the eye that supplies this means of
perception: #one sees with the mind#. The ultimate effect of any
picture, be it impressionist, post, anti, or otherwise--is its power to
stimulate these mental perceptions within the mind.

But even from the point of view of the _true_ visual perception (if
there is such a thing) that modern art has heard so much talk of, the
copying of the retina picture is not so great a success. The impression
carried away from a scene that has moved us is not its complete visual
aspect. Only those things that are significant to the felt impression
have been retained by the mind; and if the picture is to be a true
representation of this, the significant facts must be sorted out from
the mass of irrelevant matter and presented in a lively manner. The
impressionist's habit of painting before nature entirely is not
calculated to do this. Going time after time to the same place, even if
similar weather conditions are waited for, although well enough for
studies, is against the production of a fine picture. Every time the
artist goes to the selected spot he receives a different impression, so
that he must either paint all over his picture each time, in which case
his work must be confined to a small scale and will be hurried in
execution, or he must paint a bit of today's impression alongside of
yesterday's, in which case his work will be dull and lacking in oneness
of conception.

And further, in decomposing the colour rays that come to the eye and
painting in pure colour, while great addition was made to the power of
expressing light, yet by destroying the definitions and enveloping
everything in a scintillating atmosphere, the power to design in a large
manner was lost with the wealth of significance that the music of line
can convey.

But impressionism has opened up a view from which much interesting
matter for art is to be gleaned. And everywhere painters are selecting
from this, and grafting it on to some of the more traditional schools of

Our concern here is with the influence this point of view has had upon
draughtsmanship. The influence has been considerable, particularly with
those draughtsmen whose work deals with the rendering of modern life. It
consists in drawing from the observation of the silhouette occupied by
objects in the field of vision, observing the flat appearance of things
as they are on the retina. This is, of course, the only accurate way in
which to observe visual shapes. The difference between this and the
older point of view is its insistence on the observation of the flat
visual impression to the exclusion of the tactile or touch sense that by
the association of ideas we have come to expect in things seen. An
increased truth to the character of appearances has been the result,
with a corresponding loss of plastic form expression.

On pages 66 and 67 a reproduction of a drawing in the British Museum,
attributed to Michael Angelo, is contrasted with one in the Louvre by
Degas. The one is drawn from the line point of view and the other from
the mass. They both contain lines, but in the one case the lines are the
contours of felt forms and in the other the boundaries of visual masses.
In the Michael Angelo the silhouette is only the result of the
overlapping of rich forms considered in the round. Every muscle and bone
has been mentally realised as a concrete thing and the drawing made as
an expression of this idea. Note the line rhythm also; the sense of
energy and movement conveyed by the swinging curves; and compare with
what is said later (page 162 [Transcribers Note: Sidenote "Curved
Lines"]) about the rhythmic significance of swinging curves.

Then compare it with the Degas and observe the totally different
attitude of mind in which this drawing has been approached. Instead of
the outlines being the result of forms felt as concrete things, the
silhouette is everywhere considered first, the plastic sense (nowhere so
great as in the other) being arrived at from the accurate consideration
of the mass shapes.

Notice also the increased attention to individual character in the
Degas, observe the pathos of those underfed little arms, and the hand
holding the tired ankle--how individual it all is. What a different tale
this little figure tells from that given before the footlights! See with
what sympathy the contours have been searched for those accents
expressive of all this.

[Illustration: Plate XII.


Note the desire to express form as a felt solid thing, the contours
resulting from the overlapping forms. The visual appearance is arrived
at as a result of giving expression to the mental idea of a solid

[Illustration: Plate XIII.


In contrast with Michael Angelo's drawing, note the preoccupation with
the silhouette the spaces occupied by the different masses in the field
of vision; how the appearance solid forms is the result of accurately
portraying this visual appearance.

_Photo Levi_]

How remote from individual character is the Michael Angelo in contrast
with this! Instead of an individual he gives us the expression of a
glowing mental conception of man as a type of physical strength and

The rhythm is different also, in the one case being a line rhythm, and
in the other a consideration of the flat pattern of shapes or masses
with a play of lost-and-foundness on the edges (see later, pages 192
[Transcribers Note: Sidenote "Variety of Edges."] _et seq._, variety of
edges). It is this feeling for rhythm and the sympathetic searching for
and emphasis of those points expressive of character, that keep this
drawing from being the mechanical performance which so much concern with
scientific visual accuracy might well have made it, and which has made
mechanical many of the drawings of Degas's followers who unintelligently
copy his method.



The terms Academic and Conventional are much used in criticism and
greatly feared by the criticised, often without either party appearing
to have much idea of what is meant. New so-called schools of painting
seem to arrive annually with the spring fashions, and sooner or later
the one of last year gets called out of date, if not conventional and
academic. And as students, for fear of having their work called by one
or other of these dread terms, are inclined to rush into any new
extravagance that comes along, some inquiry as to their meaning will not
be out of place before we pass into the chapters dealing with academic

It has been the cry for some time that Schools of Art turned out only
academic students. And one certainly associates a dead level of
respectable mediocrity with much school work. We can call to mind a lot
of dull, lifeless, highly-finished work, imperfectly perfect, that has
won the prize in many a school competition. Flaubert says "a form
deadens," and it does seem as if the necessary formality of a school
course had some deadening influence on students; and that there was some
important part of the artist's development which it has failed to
recognise and encourage.

The freer system of the French schools has been in many cases more
successful. But each school was presided over by an artist of
distinction, and this put the students in touch with real work and thus
introduced vitality. In England, until quite lately, artists were seldom
employed in teaching, which was left to men set aside for the purpose,
without any time to carry on original work of their own. The Royal
Academy Schools are an exception to this. There the students have the
advantage of teaching from some distinguished member or associate who
has charge of the upper school for a month at a time. But as the visitor
is constantly changed, the less experienced students are puzzled by the
different methods advocated, and flounder hopelessly for want of a
definite system to work on; although for a student already in possession
of a good grounding there is much to be said for the system, as contact
with the different masters widens their outlook.

But perhaps the chief mistake in Art Schools has been that they have too
largely confined themselves to training students mechanically to observe
and portray the thing set before them to copy, an antique figure, a
still-life group, a living model sitting as still and lifeless as he
can. Now this is all very well as far as it goes, but the real matter of
art is not necessarily in all this. And if the real matter of art is
neglected too long the student may find it difficult to get in touch
with it again.

These accurate, painstaking school studies are very necessary indeed as
a training for the eye in observing accurately, and the hand in
reproducing the appearances of things, because it is through the
reproduction of natural appearances and the knowledge of form and colour
derived from such study that the student will afterwards find the means
of giving expression to his feelings. But when valuable prizes and
scholarships are given for them, and _not_ for really artistic work,
they do tend to become the end instead of the means.

It is of course improbable that even school studies done with the sole
idea of accuracy by a young artist will in all cases be devoid of
artistic feeling; it will creep in, if he has the artistic instinct. But
it is not enough #encouraged#, and the prize is generally given to the
drawing that is most complete and like the model in a commonplace way.
If a student, moved by a strong feeling for form, lets himself go and
does a fine thing, probably only remotely like the model to the average
eye, the authorities are puzzled and don't usually know what to make of

There are schools where the most artistic qualities are encouraged, but
they generally neglect the academic side; and the student leaves them
poorly equipped for fine work. Surely it would be possible to make a
distinction, giving prizes for academic drawings which should be as
thoroughly accurate in a mechanical way as industry and application can
make them, and also for artistic drawings, in which the student should
be encouraged to follow his bent, striving for the expression of any
qualities that delight him, and troubling less about mechanical
accuracy. The use of drawing as an expression of something felt is so
often left until after the school training is done that many students
fail to achieve it altogether. And rows of lifeless pictures, made up of
models copied in different attitudes, with studio properties around
them, are the result, and pass for art in many quarters. Such pictures
often display considerable ability, for as Burne-Jones says in one of
his letters, "It is very difficult to paint even a bad picture." But had
the ability been differently directed, the pictures might have been

[Illustration: Plate XIV.


Example of unacademic drawing made in the author's class at the
Goldsmiths College School of Art.]

It is difficult to explain what is wrong with an academic drawing, and
what is the difference between it and fa fine drawing. But perhaps this
difference can be brought home a little more clearly if you will pardon
a rather fanciful simile. I am told that if you construct a perfectly
fitted engine--the piston fitting the cylinder with absolute accuracy
and the axles their sockets with no space between, &c.--it #will not
work#, but be a lifeless mass of iron. There must be enough play between
the vital parts to allow of some movement; "dither" is, I believe, the
Scotch word for it. The piston must be allowed some play in the opening
of the cylinder through which it passes, or it will not be able to move
and show any life. And the axles of the wheels in their sockets, and, in
fact, all parts of the machine where life and movement are to occur,
must have this play, this "dither." It has always seemed to me that the
accurately fitting engine was like a good academic drawing, in a way a
perfect piece of workmanship, but lifeless. Imperfectly perfect, because
there was no room left for the play of life. And to carry the simile
further, if you allow too great a play between the parts, so that they
fit one over the other too loosely, the engine will lose power and
become a poor rickety thing. There must be the smallest amount of play
that will allow of its working. And the more perfectly made the engine,
the less will the amount of this "dither" be.

The word "dither" will be a useful name to give that elusive quality,
that play on mechanical accuracy, existing in all vital art. #It is this
vital quality that has not yet received much attention in art training.#

It is here that the photograph fails, it can only at best give
mechanical accuracy, whereas art gives the impression of a live,
individual consciousness. Where the recording instrument is a live
individual, there is no mechanical standard of accuracy possible, as
every recording instrument is a different personality. And it is the
subtle differences in the individual renderings of nature that are the
life-blood of art. The photograph, on account of its being chained to
mechanical accuracy, has none of this play of life to give it charm. It
only approaches artistic conditions when it is blurred, vague, and
indefinite, as in so-called artistic photography, for then only can some
amount of this vitalising play, this "dither" be imagined to exist.

It is this perfect accuracy, this lack of play, of variety, that makes
the machine-made article so lifeless. Wherever there is life there is
variety, and the substitution of the machine-made for the hand-made
article has impoverished the world to a greater extent than we are
probably yet aware of. Whereas formerly, before the advent of machinery,
the commonest article you could pick up had a life and warmth which gave
it individual interest, now everything is turned out to such a
perfection of deadness that one is driven to pick up and collect, in
sheer desperation, the commonest rubbish still surviving from the
earlier period.

But to return to our drawings. If the variations from strict accuracy
made under the influence of feeling are too great, the result will be
a caricature. The variations in a beautiful drawing are so subtle as
often to defy detection. The studies of Ingres are an instance of what I
mean. How true and instinct with life are his lines, and how easily one
might assume that they were merely accurate. But no merely accurate work
would have the impelling quality these drawings possess. If the writer
may venture an opinion on so great an artist, the subtle difference we
are talking about was sometimes missed by even Ingres himself, when he
transferred his drawings to the canvas; and the pictures have in some
cases become academic and lifeless. Without the stimulus of nature
before him it was difficult to preserve the "dither" in the drawing, and
the life has escaped. This is the great difficulty of working from
studies; it is so easy to lose those little points in your drawing that
make for vitality of expression, in the process of copying in cold

[Illustration: Plate XV.


_Photo Bulloz_]

The fact is: it is only the academic that can be taught. And it is no
small thing if this is well done in a school. The qualities that give
vitality and distinction to drawing must be appreciated by the student
himself, and may often assert themselves in his drawing without his
being aware that he is doing aught but honestly copying. And if he has
trained himself thoroughly he will not find much difficulty when he is
moved to vital expression. All the master can do is to stand by and
encourage whenever he sees evidence of the real thing. But there is
undoubtedly this danger of the school studies becoming the end instead
of the means.

A drawing is not necessarily academic because it is thorough, but only
because it is dead. Neither is a drawing necessarily academic because
it is done in what is called a conventional style, any more than it is
good because it is done in an unconventional style. The test is whether
it has life and conveys genuine feeling.

       *       *       *       *       *

There is much foolish talk about conventional art, as if art could ever
get away from conventions, if it would. The convention will be more
natural or more abstract according to the nature of the thing to be
conveyed and the medium employed to express it. But naturalism is just
as much a convention as any of the other isms that art has lately been
so assailed with. For a really unconventional art there is Madame
Tussaud's Waxworks. There, even the convention of a frame and flat
surface are done away with, besides the painted symbols to represent
things. They have real natural chairs, tables, and floors, real clothes,
and even real hair. Realism everywhere, but no life. And we all know the
result. There is more expression of life in a few lines scribbled on
paper by a good artist than in all the reality of the popular show.

It would seem that, after a certain point, the nearer your picture
approaches the actual illusion of natural appearance, the further you
are from the expression of life. One can never hope to surpass the
illusionary appearance of a #tableau vivant#. There you have real,
living people. But what an awful deathlike stillness is felt when the
curtain is drawn aside. The nearer you approach the actual in all its
completeness, the more evident is the lack of that #movement# which
always accompanies life. You cannot express life by copying laboriously
natural appearances. Those things in the appearance that convey vital
expression and are capable of being translated into the medium he is
working with, have to be sought by the artist, and the painted symbols
of his picture made accordingly. This lack of the movement of life is
never noticed in a good picture, on the other hand the figures are often
felt to move.

Pictures are blamed for being conventional when it is lack of vitality
that is the trouble. If the convention adopted has not been vitalised by
the emotion that is the reason of the painting, it will, of course, be a
lifeless affair. But however abstract and unnaturalistic the manner
adopted, if it has been truly felt by the artist as the right means of
expressing his emotional idea, it will have life and should not be
called conventional in the commonly accepted offensive use of the term.

It is only when a painter consciously chooses a manner not his own,
which he does not comprehend and is incapable of firing with his own
personality, that his picture is ridiculous and conventional in the dead

But every age differs in its temperament, and the artistic conventions
of one age seldom fit another. The artist has to discover a convention
for himself, one that fits his particular individuality. But this is
done simply and naturally--not by starting out with the intention of
flouting all traditional conventions on principle; nor, on the other
hand, by accepting them all on principle, but by simply following his
own bent and selecting what appeals to him in anything and everything
that comes within the range of his vision. The result is likely to be
something very different from the violent exploits in peculiarity that
have been masquerading as originality lately. #Originality is more
concerned with sincerity than with peculiarity.#

The struggling and fretting after originality that one sees in modern
art is certainly an evidence of vitality, but one is inclined to doubt
whether anything really original was ever done in so forced a way. The
older masters, it seems, were content sincerely to try and do the best
they were capable of doing. And this continual striving to do better led
them almost unconsciously to new and original results. Originality is a
quality over which an artist has as little influence as over the shape
and distinction of his features. All he can do is to be sincere and try
and find out the things that really move him and that he really likes.
If he has a strong and original character, he will have no difficulty in
this, and his work will be original in the true sense. And if he has
not, it is a matter of opinion whether he is not better employed in
working along the lines of some well-tried manner that will at any rate
keep him from doing anything really bad, than in struggling to cloak his
own commonplaceness under violent essays in peculiarity and the
avoidance of the obvious at all costs.

But while speaking against fretting after eccentricity, don't let it be
assumed that any discouragement is being given to genuine new points of
view. In art, when a thing has once been well done and has found
embodiment in some complete work of art, it has been done once for all.
The circumstances that produced it are never likely to occur again. That
is why those painters who continue to reproduce a picture of theirs (we
do not mean literally) that had been a success in the first instance,
never afterwards obtain the success of the original performance. Every
beautiful work of art is a new creation, the result of particular
circumstances in the life of the artist and the time of its production,
that have never existed before and will never recur again. Were any of
the great masters of the past alive now, they would do very different
work from what they did then, the circumstances being so entirely
different. So that should anybody seek to paint like Titian now, by
trying to paint like Titian did in his time, he could not attempt
anything more unlike the spirit of that master; which in its day, like
the spirit of all masters, was most advanced. But it is only by a
scrupulously sincere and truthful attitude of mind that the new and
original circumstances in which we find ourselves can be taken advantage
of for the production of original work. And self-conscious seeking after
peculiarity only stops the natural evolution and produces abortions.

But do not be frightened by conventions, the different materials in
which the artist works impose their conventions. And as it is through
these materials that he has to find expression, what expressive
qualities they possess must be studied, and those facts in nature
selected that are in harmony with them. The treatment of hair by
sculptors is an extreme instance of this. What are those qualities of
hair that are amenable to expression in stone? Obviously they are few,
and confined chiefly to the mass forms in which the hair arranges
itself. The finest sculptors have never attempted more than this, have
never lost sight of the fact that it was stone they were working with,
and never made any attempt to create an illusion of real hair. And in
the same way, when working in bronze, the fine artist never loses sight
of the fact that it is bronze with which he is working. How sadly the
distinguished painter to whom a misguided administration entrusted the
work of modelling the British emblem overlooked this, may be seen any
day in Trafalgar Square, the lions there possessing none of the
splendour of bronze but looking as if they were modelled in dough, and
possessing in consequence none of the vital qualities of the lion. It is
interesting to compare them with the little lion Alfred Stevens modelled
for the railing of the British Museum, and to speculate on what a thrill
we might have received every time we passed Trafalgar Square, had he
been entrusted with the work, as he might have been.

And in painting, the great painters never lose sight of the fact that it
is paint with which they are expressing themselves. And although paint
is capable of approaching much nearer an actual illusory appearance of
nature than stone or bronze, they never push this to the point where you
forget that it is paint. This has been left for some of the smaller men.

And when it comes to drawing, the great artists have always confined
themselves to the qualities in nature that the tool they were drawing
with was capable of expressing, and no others. Whether working with pen,
pencil, chalk, or charcoal, they always created a convention within
which unlimited expression has been possible.

To sum up, academic drawing is all that can be really taught, and is as
necessary to the painter as the practising of exercises is to the
musician, that his powers of observation and execution may be trained.
But the vital matter of art is not in all this necessary training. And
this fact the student should always keep in mind, and be ever ready to
give rein to those natural enthusiasms which, if he is an artist, he
will find welling up within him. The danger is that the absorbing
interest in his academic studies may take up his whole attention, to the
neglect of the instinctive qualities that he should possess the
possession of which alone will entitle him to be an artist.



We have seen that there are two extreme points of view from which the
representation of form can be approached, that of outline directly
related to the mental idea of form with its touch association on the one
hand, and that of mass connected directly with the visual picture on the
retina on the other.

Now, between these two extreme points of view there are an infinite
variety of styles combining them both and leaning more to the one side
or the other, as the case may be. But it is advisable for the student to
study both separately, for there are different things to be learnt and
different expressive qualities in nature to be studied in both.

From the study of outline drawing the eye is trained to accurate
observation and learns the expressive value of a line. And the hand is
also trained to definite statement, the student being led on by degrees
from simple outlines to approach the full realisation of form in all the
complexity of light and shade.

But at the same time he should study mass drawing with paint from the
purely visual point of view, in order to be introduced to the important
study of tone values and the expression of form by means of planes. And
so by degrees he will learn accurately to observe and portray the tone
masses (their shapes and values) to which all visual appearances can be
reduced; and he will gradually arrive at the full realisation of form--a
realisation that will bring him to a point somewhat similar to that
arrived at from the opposite point of view of an outline to which has
been added light and shade, &c.

But unless both points of view are studied, the student's work will be
incomplete. If form be studied only from the outline point of view, and
what have been called sculptor's drawings alone attempted, the student
will lack knowledge of the tone and atmosphere that always envelop form
in nature. And also he will be poorly equipped when he comes to exchange
the pencil for a brush and endeavours to express himself in paint.

And if his studies be only from the mass point of view, the training of
his eye to the accurate observation of all the subtleties of contours
and the construction of form will be neglected. And he will not
understand the mental form stimulus that the direction and swing of a
brush stroke can give. These and many things connected with expression
can best be studied in line work.

Let the student therefore begin on the principles adopted in most
schools, with outline studies of simple casts or models, and gradually
add light and shade. When he has acquired more proficiency he may
approach drawing from the life. This is sufficiently well done in the
numerous schools of art that now exist all over the country. But, at the
same time (and this, as far as I know, is not done anywhere), the
student should begin some simple form of mass drawing in paint, simple
exercises, as is explained later in the chapter on Mass Drawing,
Practical, being at first attempted and criticised solely from the point
of view of tone values.

[Illustration: Diagram II.


[Illustration: Plate XVI.


A splendid example of Rubens' love of rich, full forms. Compare with the
diagram opposite, and note the flatnesses that give strength to the

From lack of this elementary tone study, the student, when he approaches
painting for the first time, with only his outline and light and shade
knowledge, is entirely at sea. With brushes and paint he is presented
with a problem of form expressions entirely new. And he usually begins
to flounder about, using his paint as much like chalk on paper as
possible. And timid of losing his outlines, he fears to put down a mass,
as he has no knowledge of reducing appearances to a structure of tone
masses or planes.

I would suggest, therefore, that the student should study simultaneously
from these two points of view, beginning with their most extreme
positions, that is, bare outline on the one side and on the other side
tone masses criticised for their accuracy of values only in the first
instance. As he advances, the one study will help the other. The line
work will help the accuracy with which he observes the shapes of masses,
and when he comes to light and shade his knowledge of tone values will
help him here. United at last, when complete light and shade has been
added to his outline drawings and to his mass drawing an intimate
knowledge of form, the results will approximate and the two paths will
meet. But if the qualities appertaining to either point of view are not
studied separately, the result is confusion and the "muddling through"
method so common in our schools of art.



Seeing that the first condition of your drawing is that it has to be
made on a flat surface, no matter whether it is to be in line or mass
you intend to draw, it is obvious that appearances must be reduced to
terms of a flat surface before they can be expressed on paper. And this
is the first difficulty that confronts the student in attempting to draw
a solid object. He has so acquired the habit of perceiving the solidity
of things, as was explained in an earlier chapter, that no little
difficulty will be experienced in accurately seeing them as a flat

[Sidenote: Observing Solids as a Flat copy.]

As it is only from one point of view that things can be drawn, and as we
have two eyes, therefore two points of view, the closing of one eye will
be helpful at first.

The simplest and most mechanical way of observing things as a flat
subject is to have a piece of cardboard with a rectangular hole cut out
of the middle, and also pieces of cotton threaded through it in such a
manner that they make a pattern of squares across the opening, as in the
accompanying sketch. To make such a frame, get a piece of stiff
cardboard, about 12 inches by 9 inches, and cut a rectangular hole in
the centre, 7 inches by 5 inches, as in Diagram III. Now mark off the
inches on all sides of the opening, and taking some black thread, pass
it through the point A with a needle (fixing the end at this point with
sealing-wax), and across the opening to the corresponding point on the
opposite side. Take it along to the next point, as shown by the dotted
line, and pass it through and across the opening again, and so on, until
B is reached, when the thread should be held by some sealing-wax quite
taut everywhere. Do the same for the other side. This frame should be
held between the eye and the object to be drawn (one eye being closed)
in a perfectly vertical position, and with the rectangular sides of the
opening vertical and horizontal. The object can then be observed as a
flat copy. The trellis of cotton will greatly help the student in seeing
the subject to be drawn in two dimensions, and this is the first
technical difficulty the young draughtsman has to overcome. It is useful
also in training the eye to see the proportions of different parts one
to another, the squares of equal size giving one a unit of measurement
by which all parts can be scaled.

[Illustration: Diagram III.


[Sidenote: Fixing Positions of Salient Points]

Vertical and horizontal lines are also of the utmost importance in that
first consideration for setting out a drawing, namely the fixing of
salient points, and getting their relative Positions. Fig. Z, on page
87 [Transcribers Note: Diagram IV], will illustrate what is meant. Let
A B C D E be assumed to be points of some importance in an object you
wish to draw. Unaided, the placing of these points would be a matter of
considerable difficulty. But if you assume a vertical line drawn from A,
the positions of B, C, D, and E can be observed in relation to it by
noting the height and length of horizontal lines drawn from them to this
vertical line. This vertical can be drawn by holding a plumb line at
arm's length (closing one eye, of course) and bringing it to a position
where it will cover the point A on your subject. The position of the
other points on either side of this vertical line can then be observed.
Or a knitting-needle can be held vertically before you at arm's length,
giving you a line passing through point A. The advantage of the needle
is that comparative measurements can be taken with it.

[Illustration: Diagram IV.


In measuring comparative distances the needle should always be held at
arm's length and the eye kept in one position during the operation; and,
whether held vertically or horizontally, always kept in a vertical
plane, that is, either straight up and down, or across at right angles
to the line of your vision. If these things are not carefully observed,
your comparisons will not be true. The method employed is to run the
thumb-nail up the needle until the distance from the point so reached to
the top exactly corresponds with the distance on the object you wish to
measure. Having this carefully noted on your needle, without moving the
position of your eye, you can move your outstretched arm and compare it
with other distances on the object. #It is never advisable to compare
other than vertical and horizontal measurements.# In our diagram the
points were drawn at random and do not come in any obvious mathematical
relationship, and this is the usual circumstance in nature. But point C
will be found to be a little above the half, and point D a little less
than a third of the way up the vertical line. How much above the half
and less than the third will have to be observed by eye and a
corresponding amount allowed in setting out your drawing. In the
horizontal distances, B will be found to be one-fourth the distance from
X to the height of C on the right of our vertical line, and C a little
more than this distance to the left, while the distance on the right of
D is a little less than one-fifth of the whole height. The height of B
is so near the top as to be best judged by eye, and its distance to the
right is the same as B. These measurements are never to be taken as
absolutely accurate, but are a great help to beginners in training
the eye, and are at times useful in every artist's work.

[Illustration: Plate XVII.


Illustrating how different directions of lines can help expression of

It is useful if one can establish a unit of measurement, some
conspicuous distance that does not vary in the object (if a living model
a great many distances will be constantly varying), and with which all
distances can be compared.

In setting out a drawing, this fixing of certain salient points is the
first thing for the student to do. The drawing reproduced on page 90
[Transcribers Note: Plate XVIII] has been made to illustrate the method
of procedure it is advisable to adopt in training the eye to accurate
observation. It was felt that a vertical line drawn through the pit of
the arm would be the most useful for taking measurements on, and this
was first drawn and its length decided upon. Train yourself to draw
between limits decided upon at the start. This power will be of great
use to you when you wish to place a figure in an exact position in a
picture. The next thing to do is to get the relative heights of
different points marked upon this line. The fold at the pit of the
stomach was found to be exactly in the centre. This was a useful start,
and it is generally advisable to note where the half comes first, and
very useful if it comes in some obvious place. Other measurements were
taken in the same way as our points A B C D E in the diagram on page 87
[Transcribers Note: Diagram IV], and horizontal lines drawn across, and
the transverse distances measured in relation to the heights. I have
left these lines on the drawing, and also different parts of it
unfinished, so as to show the different stages of the work. These guide
lines are done mentally later on, when the student is more advanced, and
with more accuracy than the clumsy knitting-needle. But before the
habit of having constantly in mind a vertical and horizontal line with
which to compare positions is acquired, they should be put in with as
much accuracy as measuring can give.

[Sidenote: Blocking in your Drawing.]

The next thing to do is to block out the spaces corresponding to those
occupied by the model in the field of your vision. The method employed
to do this is somewhat similar to that adopted by a surveyor in drawing
the plan of a field. Assuming he had an irregular shaped one, such as is
drawn in Fig. X, page 87 [Transcribers Note: Diagram IV], he would
proceed to invest it with straight lines, taking advantage of any
straightness in the boundary, noting the length and the angles at which
these straight lines cut each other, and then reproducing them to scale
on his plan. Once having got this scaffolding accurately placed, he can
draw the irregularities of the shape in relation to these lines with
some certainty of getting them right.

You should proceed in very much the same way to block out the spaces
that the forms of your drawing are to occupy. I have produced these
blocking-out lines beyond what was necessary in the accompanying drawing
(page 87 [Transcribers Note: Diagram IV]), in order to show them more

[Sidenote: How to observe the Shape of Curves.]

There is yet another method of construction useful in noting accurately
the shape of a curved line, which is illustrated in Fig. Y, page 87
[Transcribers Note: Diagram IV]. First of all, fix the positions of the
extremities of the line by means of the vertical and horizontal. And
also, as this is a double curve, the point at which the curvature
changes from one direction to the other: point C. By drawing lines CA,
CB and noting the distances your curves travel from these straight
lines, and particularly the relative position of the farthest points
reached, their curvature can be accurately observed and copied. In
noting the varying curvature of forms, this construction should always
be in your mind to enable you to observe them accurately. First note the
points at which the curvature begins and ends, and then the distances it
travels from a line joining these two points, holding up a pencil or
knitting-needle against the model if need be.

[Illustration: Plate XVIII.


Note the different stages. 1st. Centre line and transverse lines for
settling position of salient points. 2nd. Blocking in, as shown in
further leg. 3rd. Drawing in the forms and shading, as shown in front
leg. 4th. Rubbing with fingers (giving a faint middle tone over the
whole), and picking out high lights with bread, as shown on back and

[Sidenote: The Drawing proper.]

A drawing being blocked out in such a state as the further leg and foot
of our demonstration drawing (page 90 [Transcribers Note: Plate
XVIII]), it is time to begin the drawing proper. So far you have only
been pegging out the ground it is going to occupy. This initial
scaffolding, so necessary to train the eye, should be done as accurately
as possible, but don't let it interfere with your freedom in expressing
the forms afterwards. The work up to this point has been mechanical, but
it is time to consider the subject with some feeling for form. Here
knowledge of the structure of bones and muscles that underlie the skin
will help you to seize on those things that are significant and express
the form of the figure. And the student cannot do better than study the
excellent book by Sir Alfred D. Fripp on this subject, entitled Human
Anatomy for Art Students. Notice particularly the swing of the action,
such things as the pull occasioned by the arm resting on the farther
thigh, and the prominence given to the forms by the straining of the
skin at the shoulder. Also the firm lines of the bent back and the
crumpled forms of the front of the body. Notice the overlapping of the
contours, and where they are accentuated and where more lost, &c.,
drawing with as much feeling and conviction as you are capable of. You
will have for some time to work tentatively, feeling for the true shapes
that you do not yet rightly see, but as soon as you feel any confidence,
remember it should be your aim to express yourself freely and swiftly.

There is a tendency in some quarters to discourage this blocking in of
the forms in straight lines, and certainly it has been harmful to the
freedom of expression in the work of some students. They not only begin
the drawing with this mechanical blocking in, but continue it in the
same mechanical fashion, cutting up almost all their curves into
flatnesses, and never once breaking free from this scaffolding to
indulge in the enjoyment of free line expression. This, of course, is
bad, and yet the character of a curved line is hardly to be accurately
studied in any other way than by observing its relation to straight
lines. The inclination and length of straight lines can be observed with
certainty. But a curve has not this definiteness, and is a very unstable
thing to set about copying unaided. Who but the highly skilled
draughtsman could attempt to copy our random shape at Fig. X, page 87
[Transcribers Note: Diagram IV], without any guiding straight lines? And
even the highly skilled draughtsman would draw such straight lines
mentally. So that some blocking out of the curved forms, either done
practically or in imagination, must be adopted to rightly observe any
shapes. But do not forget that this is only a scaffolding, and should
always be regarded as such and kicked away as soon as real form
expression with any feeling begins.

But it will be some years before the beginner has got his eye trained
to such accuracy of observation that he can dispense with it.

[Sidenote: In Blocking-in observe Shape of the Background as much as the

In the case of foreshortenings, the eye, unaided by this blocking out,
is always apt to be led astray. And here the observation of the shape of
the background against the object will be of great assistance. The
appearance of the foreshortened object is so unlike what you know it to
be as a solid thing, that much as it is as well to concentrate the
attention on the background rather than on the form in this blocking-out
process. And in fact, in blocking out any object, whether foreshortened
or not, the shape of the background should be observed as carefully as
any other shape. But in making the drawing proper, the forms must be
observed in their inner relations. That is to say, the lines bounding
one side of a form must be observed in relation to the lines bounding
the other side; as the true expression of form, which is the object of
drawing, depends on the true relationship of these boundaries. The
drawing of the two sides should be carried on simultaneously, so that
one may constantly compare them.

[Sidenote: Boundaries a series of Overlappings.]

The boundaries of forms with any complexity, such as the human figure,
are not continuous lines. One form overlaps another, like the lines of a
range of hills. And this overlapping should be sought for and carefully
expressed, the outlines being made up of a series of overlappings.

[Sidenote: Shading.]

In Line Drawing shading should only be used to aid the expression of
form. It is not advisable to aim at representing the true tone values.

In direct light it will be observed that a solid object has some
portion of its surface in light, while other portions, those turned away
from the light, are in shadow. Shadows are also cast on the ground and
surrounding objects, called cast shadows. The parts of an object
reflecting the most direct light are called the high lights. If the
object have a shiny surface these lights are clear and distinct; if a
dull surface, soft and diffused. In the case of a very shiny surface,
such as a glazed pot, the light may be reflected so completely that a
picture of the source of light, usually a window, will be seen.

In the diagram on page 95 [Transcribers Note: Diagram V], let A
represent the plan of a cone, B C the opening of a window, and D the eye
of the spectator, and E F G the wall of a room. Light travels in
straight lines from the window, strikes the surface of the cone, and is
reflected to the eye, making the angle of incidence equal to the angle
of reflection, the angle of incidence being that made by the light
striking an object, and the angle of reflection that made by the light
in leaving the surface.

It will be seen that the lines B1D, C2D are the limits of the direct
rays of light that come to the eye from the cone, and that therefore
between points 1 and 2 will be seen the highest light. If the cone have
a perfect reflecting surface, such as a looking-glass has, this would be
all the direct light that would be reflected from the cone to the eye.
But assuming it to have what is called a dull surface, light would be
reflected from other parts also, although not in so great a quantity. If
what is called a dull surface is looked at under a microscope it will be
found to be quite rough, _i.e._ made up of many facets which catch
light at different angles.

[Illustration: Diagram V.


Lines B4, C3 represent the extreme limits of light that can be received
by the cone, and therefore at points 3 and 4 the shadow will commence.
The fact that light is reflected to the eye right up to the point 3 does
not upset the theory that it can only be reflected from points where the
angle of incidence can equal the angle of reflection, as it would seem
to do, because the surface being rough presents facets at different
angles, from some of which it can be reflected to the eye right up to
point 3. The number of these facets that can so reflect is naturally
greatest near the high lights, and gets gradually less as the surface
turns more away; until the point is reached where the shadows begin, at
which point the surface positively turns away from the light and the
reflection of direct light ceases altogether. After point 3 there would
be no light coming to the eye from the object, were it not that it
receives reflected light. Now, the greatest amount of reflected light
will come from the direction opposite to that of the direct light, as
all objects in this direction are strongly lit. The surface of the wall
between points E and H, being directly opposite the light, will give
most reflection. And between points 5 and 6 this light will be reflected
by the cone to the eye in its greatest intensity, since at these points
the angles of incidence equal the angles of reflection. The other parts
of the shadow will receive a certain amount of reflected light,
lessening in amount on either side of these points. We have now rays of
light coming to the eye from the cone between the extreme points 7 and
8. From 7 to 3 we have the light, including the half tones. Between 1
and 2 the high light. Between 3 and 8 the shadows, with the greatest
amount of reflected light between 5 and 6.

[Illustration: Plate XIX.


I should not have troubled the reader with this tedious diagram were it
not that certain facts about light and shade can be learned from it. The
first is that the high lights come much more within the edge of the
object than you would have expected. With the light directly opposite
point 7, one might have thought the highest light would have come there,
and that is where many students put it, until the loss of roundness in
the appearance of their work makes them look more carefully for its
position. So remember always to look out for high lights within the
contours of forms, not on the edges.

The next thing to notice is that #the darkest part of the shadow will
come nearest the lights between points 3 and 5#. This is the part turned
most away from the direction of the greatest amount of reflected light,
and therefore receiving least. The lightest part of the shadow will be
in the middle, rather towards the side away from the light, generally
speaking. The shadow cast on the ground will be dark, like the darkest
part of the shadow on the cone, as its surface is also turned away from
the chief source of reflected light.

Although the artist will very seldom be called upon to draw a cone, the
same principles of light and shade that are so clearly seen in such a
simple figure obtain throughout the whole of nature. This is why the
much abused drawing and shading from whitened blocks and pots is so
useful. Nothing so clearly impresses the general laws of light and shade
as this so-called dull study.

This lightening of shadows in the middle by reflected light and
darkening towards their edges is a very important thing to remember, the
heavy, smoky look students' early work is so prone to, being almost
entirely due to their neglect through ignorance of this principle.
Nothing is more awful than shadows darker in the middle and gradually
lighter towards their edges. Of course, where there is a deep hollow in
the shadow parts, as at the armpit and the fold at the navel in the
drawing on page 90 [Transcribers Note: Plate XVIII], you will get a
darker tone. But this does not contradict the principle that generally
shadows are lighter in the middle and darker towards the edges. Note the
luminous quality the observation of this principle gives the shadow on
the body of our demonstration drawing.

This is a crude statement of the general principles of light and shade
on a simple round object. In one with complex surfaces the varieties of
light and shade are infinite. But the same principles hold good. The
surfaces turned more to the source of light receive the greatest amount,
and are the lightest. And from these parts the amount of light lessens
through what are called the half tones as the surface turns more away,
until a point is reached where no more direct light is received, and the
shadows begin. And in the shadows the same law applies: those surfaces
turned most towards the source of reflected light will receive the most,
and the amount received will gradually lessen as the surface turns away,
until at the point immediately before where the half tones begin the
amount of reflected light will be very little, and in consequence the
darkest part of the shadows may be looked for. There may, of course, be
other sources of direct light on the shadow side that will entirely
alter and complicate the effect. Or one may draw in a wide, diffused
light, such as is found in the open air on a grey day; in which case
there will be little or no shadow, the modelling depending entirely on
degrees of light and half tone.

In studying the principles of simple light and shade it is advisable to
draw from objects of one local colour, such as white casts. In
parti-coloured objects the problem is complicated by the different tones
of the local colour. In line drawing it is as well to take as little
notice as possible of these variations which disturb the contemplation
of pure form and do not belong to the particular province of form
expression with which drawing is concerned.

Although one has selected a strong half light and half shade effect to
illustrate the general principles of light and shade, it is not
advisable in making line drawings to select such a position. A point of
view with a fairly wide light at your back is the best. In this position
little shadow will be seen, most of the forms being expressed by the
play of light and half tone. The contours, as they are turned away from
the light, will naturally be darker, and against a light background your
subject has an appearance with dark edges that is easily expressed by a
line drawing. Strong light and shade effects should be left for mass
drawing. You seldom see any shadows in Holbein's drawings; he seems to
have put his sitters near a wide window, close against which he worked.
Select also a background as near the tone of the highest light on the
object to be drawn as possible. This will show up clearly the contour.
In the case of a portrait drawing, a newspaper hung behind the head
answers very well and is always easily obtained. The tone of it can be
varied by the distance at which it is placed from the head, and by the
angle at which it is turned away from or towards the light.

Don't burden a line drawing with heavy half tones and shadows; keep them
light. The beauty that is the particular province of line drawing is the
beauty of contours, and this is marred by heavy light and shade. Great
draughtsmen use only just enough to express the form, but never to
attempt the expression of tone. Think of the half tones as part of the
lights and not as part of the shadows.

There are many different methods of drawing in line, and a student of
any originality will find one that suits his temperament. But I will try
and illustrate one that is at any rate logical, and that may serve as a
fair type of line drawing generally.

The appearance of an object is first considered as a series of contours,
some forming the boundaries of the form against the background, and
others the boundaries of the subordinate forms within these bounding
lines. The light and shade and differences of local colour (like the
lips, eyebrows, and eyes in a head) are considered together as tones of
varying degrees of lightness and darkness, and suggested by means of
lines drawn parallel across the drawing from left to right, and from
below upwards, or vice versa, darker and closer together when depth is
wanted, and fainter and further apart where delicacy is demanded, and
varying in thickness when gradation is needed. This rule of parallel
shading is broken only when strongly marked forms, such as the swing
lines of hair, a prominent bone or straining muscles, &c., demand it.
This parallel shading gives a great beauty of surface and fleshiness
to a drawing. The lines following, as it were, the direction of the
light across the object rather than the form, give a unity that has a
great charm. It is more suited to drawings where extreme delicacy of
form is desired, and is usually used in silver point work, a medium
capable of the utmost refinement.

[Illustration: Plate XX.


The lines of shading following a convenient parallel direction unless
prominent forms demand otherwise.]

In this method the lines of shading not being much varied in direction
or curved at all, a minimum amount of that "form stimulus" is conveyed.
The curving of the lines in shading adds considerably to the force of
the relief, and suggests much stronger modelling. In the case of
foreshortened effects, where the forms are seen at their fullest,
arching one over the other, some curvature in the lines of shading is of
considerable advantage in adding to the foreshortened look.

Lines drawn down the forms give an appearance of great strength and
toughness, a tense look. And this quality is very useful in suggesting
such things as joints and sinews, rocks, hard ground, or gnarled
tree-trunks, &c. In figure drawing it is an interesting quality to use
sparingly, with the shading done on the across-the-form principle; and
to suggest a difference of texture or a straining of the form. Lines of
shading drawn in every direction, crossing each other and resolving
themselves into tone effects, suggest atmosphere and the absence of
surface form. This is more often used in the backgrounds of pen and ink
work and is seldom necessary in pencil or chalk drawing, as they are
more concerned with form than atmosphere. Pen and ink is more often used
for elaborate pictorial effects in illustration work, owing to the ease
with which it can be reproduced and printed; and it is here that one
more often finds this muddled quality of line spots being used to fill
up interstices and make the tone even.

Speaking generally, #lines of shading drawn across the forms suggest
softness, lines drawn in curves fulness of form, lines drawn down the
forms hardness, and lines crossing in all directions so that only a
mystery of tone results, atmosphere#. And if these four qualities of
line be used judiciously, a great deal of expressive power is added to
your shading. And, as will be explained in the next chapter, somewhat
the same principle applies to the direction of the swing of the brush in

Shading lines should never be drawn backwards and forwards from left to
right (scribbled), except possibly where a mystery of shadow is wanted
and the lines are being crossed in every direction; but never when lines
are being used to express form. They are not sufficiently under control,
and also the little extra thickness that occurs at the turn is a

The crossing of lines in shading gives a more opaque look. This is
useful to suggest the opaque appearance of the darker passage that
occurs in that part of a shadow nearest the lights; and it is sometimes
used in the half tones also.

Draughtsmen vary very much in their treatment of hair, and different
qualities of hair require different treatment. The particular beauty of
it that belongs to point drawing is the swing and flow of its lines.
These are especially apparent in the lights. In the shadows the flow of
line often stops, to be replaced by a mystery of shadow. So that a play
of swinging lines alternating with shadow passages, drawn like all the
other shadows with parallel lines not following the form, is often
effective, and suggests the quality of hair in nature. The swinging
lines should vary in thickness along their course, getting darker as
they pass certain parts, and gradating into lighter lines at other parts
according to the effect desired. (See illustration, page 102
[Transcribers Note: Plate XXI].)

[Illustration: Plate XXI.


Illustrating a treatment of hair in line-work.]

To sum up, in the method of line drawing we are trying to explain (the
method employed for most of the drawings by the author in this book) the
lines of shading are made parallel in a direction that comes easy to the
hand, unless some quality in the form suggests their following other
directions. So that when you are in doubt as to what direction they
should follow, draw them on the parallel principle. This preserves a
unity in your work, and allows the lines drawn in other directions for
special reasons to tell expressively.

As has already been explained, it is not sufficient in drawing to
concentrate the attention on copying accurately the visual appearance of
anything, important as the faculty of accurate observation is. Form to
be expressed must first be appreciated. And here the science of teaching
fails. "You can take a horse to the fountain, but you cannot make him
drink," and in art you can take the student to the point of view from
which things are to be appreciated, but you cannot make him see. How,
then, is this appreciation of form to be developed? Simply by feeding.
Familiarise yourself with all the best examples of drawing you can find,
trying to see in nature the same qualities. Study the splendid drawing
by Puvis de Chavannes reproduced on page 104 [Transcribers Note: Plate
XXII]. Note the way the contours have been searched for expressive
qualities. Look how the expressive line of the back of the seated
figure has been "felt," the powerful expression of the upraised arm with
its right angle (see later page 155 [Transcribers Note: Diagram XII],
chapter on line rhythm). And then observe the different types of the two
standing figures; the practical vigour of the one and the soft grace of
the other, and how their contours have been studied to express this
feeling, &c. There is a mine of knowledge to be unearthed in this

There never was an age when such an amount of artistic food was at the
disposal of students. Cheap means of reproduction have brought the
treasures of the world's galleries and collections to our very doors in
convenient forms for a few pence. The danger is not from starvation, but
indigestion. Students are so surfeited with good things that they often
fail to digest any of them; but rush on from one example to another,
taking but snapshot views of what is offered, until their natural powers
of appreciation are in a perfect whirlwind of confused ideas. What then
is to be done? You cannot avoid the good things that are hurled at you
in these days, but when you come across anything that strikes you as
being a particularly fine thing, feed deeply on it. Hang it up where you
will see it constantly; in your bedroom, for instance, where it will
entertain your sleepless hours, if you are unfortunate enough to have
any. You will probably like very indifferent drawings at first, the
pretty, the picturesque and the tricky will possibly attract before the
sublimity of finer things. But be quite honest and feed on the best that
you genuinely like, and when you have thoroughly digested and
comprehended that, you will weary of it and long for something better,
and so, gradually, be led on to appreciate the best you are capable
of appreciating.

[Illustration: Plate XXII.


Note how the contours are searched for expressive forms, the power given
to the seated figure by the right angle of the raised arm, and the
contrast between the upright vigour of the right-hand figure with the
softer lines of the middle one.

_Photo Neurdein_]

Before closing this chapter there are one or two points connected with
the drawing of a head that might be mentioned, as students are not
always sufficiently on the look out for them.

In our diagram on page 107 [Transcribers Note: Diagram VI], let Fig. 1
represent a normal eye. At Fig. 2 we have removed the skin and muscles
and exposed the two main structural features in the form of the eye,
namely the bony ring of the socket and the globe containing the lenses
and retina. Examining this opening, we find from A to B that it runs
smoothly into the bony prominence at the top of the nose, and that the
rest of the edge is sharp, and from point C to E quite free. It is at
point A, starting from a little hole, that the sharp edge begins; and
near this point the corner of the eye is situated: A, Figs. 1, 2, 3.
From points A to F the bony edge of the opening is very near the surface
and should be looked for.

The next thing to note is the fact that the eyebrow at first follows the
upper edge of the bony opening from B to C, but that from point C it
crosses the free arch between C and D and soon ends. So that considering
the under side of the eyebrow, whereas from point C towards B there is
usually a cavernous hollow, from C towards D there is a prominence. The
character of eyes varies greatly, and this effect is often modified by
the fleshy fulness that fills in the space between the eyelid and the
brow, but some indication of a change is almost always to be observed at
a point somewhere about C, and should be looked out for. Any bony
prominence from this point towards D should be carefully constructed.
Look out for the bone, therefore, between the points CD and AF.

Never forget when painting an eye that what we call the white of the eye
is part of a sphere and will therefore have the light and shade of a
sphere. It will seldom be the same tone all over; if the light is coming
from the right, it will be in shade towards the left and vice versa.
Also the eyelids are bands of flesh placed on this spherical surface.
They will therefore partake of the modelling of the sphere and not be
the same tone all across. Note particularly the sudden change of plane
usually marked by a fold, where the under eyelid meets the surface
coming from the cheek bone. The neglect to construct these planes of the
under eyelid is a very common fault in poorly painted eyes. Note also
where the upper eyelid comes against the flesh under the eyebrow
(usually a strongly marked fold) and the differences of planes that
occur at this juncture. In some eyes, when there is little loose flesh
above the eyelid, there is a deep hollow here, the eyelid running up
under the bony prominence, C D. This is an important structural line,
marking as it does the limit of the spherical surface of the eyeball, on
which surface the eyelids are placed.

Fig. 4 is a rough diagram of the direction it is usual for the hairs
forming the eyebrow to take. From A a few scant hairs start radiating
above the nose and quite suddenly reach their thickest and strongest
growth between B and E. They continue, still following a slightly
radiating course until D. These hairs are now met by another lot,
starting from above downwards, and growing from. B to C. An eyebrow is
considered by the draughtsman as a tone of a certain shape and
qualities of edge. And what interests us here is to note the effect of
this order of growth upon its appearance as tone. The meeting of the
strong growth of hair upwards with the downward growth between points B
and E creates what is usually the darkest part of the eyebrow at this
point. And the coming together of the hairs towards D often makes
another dark part in this direction. The edge from C to B is nearly
always a soft one, the tone melting into the flesh, and this should be
looked out for, giving as it does a pretty variety to the run of the
line. Another thing that tends to make this edge soft is the fact that a
bony prominence is situated here and has usually a high light upon it
that crosses the eyebrow. From C to D you usually find a sharper edge,
the hairs running parallel to the line of the eyebrow, while from D to B
and A to B a softer boundary can be looked for. The chief accent will
generally be found at B, where a dark mass often comes sharply against
the tone of the forehead.

[Illustration: Diagram VI.


The eyelashes do not count for much in drawing a head, except in so far
as they affect the tone impression. In the first place they shade the
white of the eye when the light is above, as is usually the case. They
are much thicker on the outer than on the inner side of the eyelids, and
have a tendency to grow in an outward direction, so that when the light
comes from the left, as is shown by arrow, Fig. 5, the white of the eye
at A1 will not be much shaded, and the light tone will run nearly up to
the top. But at B4, which should be the light side of this eye, the
thick crop of eyelashes will shade it somewhat and the light will not
run far up in consequence, while B3, A2 will be in the shade from the
turning away from the direction of the light of the spherical surface of
the whites of the eyes.

These may seem small points to mention, but the observance of such small
points makes a great difference to the construction of a head.

Fig. 6 gives a series of blocks all exactly alike in outline, with lines
showing how the different actions of the head affect the guide lines on
which the features hang; and how these actions can be suggested even
when the contours are not varied. These archings over should be
carefully looked out for when the head is in any but a simple full face



This is the form of drawing with which painting in the oil medium is
properly concerned. The distinction between drawing and painting that is
sometimes made is a wrong one in so far as it conveys any idea of
painting being distinct from drawing. Painting is drawing (_i.e._ the
expression of form) with the added complication of colour and tone. And
with a brush full of paint as your tool, some form of mass drawing must
be adopted, so that at the same time that the student is progressing
with line drawing, he should begin to accustom, himself to this other
method of seeing, by attempting very simple exercises in drawing with
the brush.

Most objects can be reduced broadly into three tone masses, the lights
(including the high lights), the half tones, and the shadows. And the
habit of reducing things into a simple equation of three tones as a
foundation on which to build complex appearances should early be sought

[Sidenote: Exercise in Mass Drawing.]

Here is a simple exercise in mass drawing with the brush that is, as far
as I know, never offered to the young student. Select a simple object:
some of those casts of fruit hanging up that are common in art schools
will do. Place it in a strong light and shade, preferably by artificial
light, as it is not so subtle, and therefore easier; the light
coming from either the right or left hand, but not from in front. Try
and arrange it so that the tone of the ground of your cast comes about
equal to the half tones in the relief.

[Illustration: Plate XXIII.


No. 1. Blocking out the shape of spaces to be occupied by masses.

No. 2. A middle tone having been scumbled over the whole, the lights are
now painted. Their shapes and the play of lost-and-foundness on their
edges being observed. Gradations are got by thinner paint, which is
mixed with the wet middle tone of the ground, and is darkened.]

[Illustration: Plate XXIV.


No. 3. The same as the last, with the addition of the darks; variety
being got in the same way as in the case of the lights, only here the
thinner part is lighter, whereas in the case of the lights it was

No. 4. The finished work, refinements being added and mistakes

First draw in the outlines of the #masses# strongly in charcoal, noting
the shapes of the shadows carefully, taking great care that you get
their shapes blocked out in square lines in true proportion relative to
each other, and troubling about little else. Let this be a setting out
of the ground upon which you will afterwards express the form, rather
than a drawing--the same scaffolding, in fact, that you were advised to
do in the case of a line drawing, only, in that case, the drawing proper
was to be done with a point, and in this case the drawing proper is to
be done with a brush full of paint. Fix the charcoal #well# with a spray
diffuser and the usual solution of white shellac in spirits of wine.

Taking raw umber and white (oil paint), mix up a tone that you think
equal to the half tones of the cast before you. Extreme care should be
taken in matching this tone. Now scumble this with a big brush equally
over the whole canvas (or whatever you are making your study on). Don't
use much medium, but if it is too stiff to go on thinly enough, put a
little oil with it, but no turpentine. By scumbling is meant rubbing the
colour into the canvas, working the brush from side to side rapidly, and
laying just the #thinnest solid tone# that will cover the surface. If
this is properly done, and your drawing was well fixed, you will just be
able to see it through the paint. Now mix up a tone equal to the highest
lights on the cast, and map out simply the shapes of the light masses on
your study, leaving the scumbled tone for the half tones. Note
carefully where the light masses come sharply against the half tones and
where they merge softly into them.

You will find that the scumbled tone of your ground will mix with the
tone of the lights with which you are painting, and darken it somewhat.
This will enable you to get the amount of variety you want in the tone
of the lights. The thicker you paint the lighter will be the tone, while
the thinner paint will be more affected by the original half tone, and
will consequently be darker. When this is done, mix up a tone equal to
the darkest shadow, and proceed to map out the shadows in the same way
as you did the lights; noting carefully where they come sharply against
the half tone and where they are lost. In the case of the shadows the
thicker you paint the darker will be the tone; and the thinner, the

When the lights and shadows have been mapped out, if this has been done
with any accuracy, your work should be well advanced. And it now remains
to correct and refine it here and there, as you feel it wants it. Place
your work alongside the cast, and walk back to correct it. Faults that
are not apparent when close, are easily seen at a little distance.

I don't suggest that this is the right or only way of painting, but I do
suggest that exercises of this description will teach the student many
of the rudimentary essentials of painting, such elementary things as how
to lay a tone, how to manage a brush, how to resolve appearances into a
simple structure of tones, and how to manipulate your paint so as to
express the desired shape. This elementary paint drawing is, as far as I
know, never given as an exercise, the study of drawing at present being
confined to paper and charcoal or chalk mediums. Drawing in charcoal is
the nearest thing to this "paint drawing," it being a sort of mixed
method, half line and half mass drawing. But although allied to
painting, it is a very different thing from expressing form with paint,
and no substitute for some elementary exercise with the brush. The use
of charcoal to the neglect of line drawing often gets the student into a
sloppy manner of work, and is not so good a training to the eye and hand
in clear, definite statement. Its popularity is no doubt due to the fact
that you can get much effect with little knowledge. Although this
painting into a middle tone is not by any means the only method of
painting, I do feel that it is the best method for studying form
expression with the brush.

But, when you come to colour, the fact of the opaque middle tone (or
half tone) being first painted over the whole will spoil the clearness
and transparency of your shadows, and may also interfere with the
brilliancy of the colour in the lights. When colour comes to be
considered it may be necessary to adopt many expedients that it is as
well not to trouble too much about until a further stage is reached. But
there is no necessity for the half tone to be painted over the shadows.
In working in colour the half tone or middle tone of the lights can be
made, and a middle tone of the shadows, and these two first painted
separately, the edges where they come together being carefully studied
and finished. Afterwards the variety of tone in the lights and the
shadows can be added. By this means the difference in the quality of the
colour between lights and shadows is preserved. This is an important
consideration, as there is generally a strong contrast between them, the
shadows usually being warm if the lights are cool and vice versa; and
such contrasts greatly affect the vitality of colouring.

Try always to do as much as possible with one stroke of the brush; paint
has a vitality when the touches are deft, that much handling and
continual touching kills. Look carefully at the shape and variety of the
tone you wish to express, and try and manipulate the swing of your brush
in such a way as to get in one touch as near the quality of shape and
gradation you want. Remember that the lightest part of your touch will
be where the brush first touches the canvas when you are painting lights
into a middle tone; and that as the amount of paint in the brush gets
less, so the tone will be more affected by what you are painting into,
and get darker. And in painting the shadows, the darkest part of your
stroke will be where the brush first touches the canvas; and it will
gradually lighten as the paint in your brush gets less and therefore
more affected by the tone you are painting into. If your brush is very
full it will not be influenced nearly so much. And if one wants a touch
that shall be distinct, as would be the case in painting the shiny light
on a glazed pot, a very full brush would be used. But generally
speaking, get your effects with as little paint as possible. Thinner
paint is easier to refine and manipulate. There will be no fear of its
not being solid if you are painting into a solidly scumbled middle tone.

Many charming things are to be done with a mixture of solid and
transparent paint, but it is well at first not to complicate the
problem too much, and therefore to leave this until later on, when you
are competent to attack problems of colour. Keep your early work both in
monochrome and colour #quite solid#, but as thin as you can, reserving
thicker paint for those occasions when you wish to put a touch that
shall not be influenced by what you are painting into.

[Illustration: Plate XXV.


Class A, round; Class B, flat; Class C, full flat brush with rounded
corners; Class D, filbert shape.]

It will perhaps be as well to illustrate a few of the different brush
strokes, and say something about the different qualities of each. These
are only given as typical examples of the innumerable ways a brush may
be used as an aid to very elementary students; every artist will, of
course, develop ways of his own.

The touch will of necessity depend in the first instance upon the shape
of the brush, and these shapes are innumerable. But there are two
classes into which they can roughly be divided, flat and round. The
round brushes usually sold, which we will call Class A, have rather a
sharp point, and this, although helpful in certain circumstances, is
against their general usefulness. But a round brush with a round point
is also made, and this is much more convenient for mass drawing. Where
there is a sharp point the central hairs are much longer, and
consequently when the brush is drawn along and pressed so that all the
hairs are touching the canvas, the pressure in the centre, where the
long hairs are situated, is different from that at the sides. This has
the effect of giving a touch that is not equal in quality all across,
and the variety thus given is difficult to manipulate. I should
therefore advise the student to try the blunt-ended round brushes first,
as they give a much more even touch, and one much more suited to
painting in planes of tone.

The most extreme flat brushes (Class B) are thin and rather short, with
sharp square ends, and have been very popular with students. They can be
relied upon to give a perfectly flat, even tone, but with a rather hard
sharp edge at the sides, and also at the commencement of the touch. In
fact, they make touches like little square bricks. But as the variety
that can be got out of them is limited, and the amount of paint they can
carry so small that only short strokes can be made, they are not the
best brush for general use. They are at times, when great refinement and
delicacy are wanted, very useful, but are, on the whole, poor tools for
the draughtsman in paint. Some variety can be got by using one or other
of their sharp corners, by which means the smallest possible touch can
be made to begin with, which can be increased in size as more pressure
is brought to bear, until the whole surface of the brush is brought into
play. They are also often used to paint across the form, a manner
illustrated in the second touch, columns 1 and 2 of the illustration on
page 114 [Transcribers Note: Plate XXVI].

A more useful brush (Class C) partakes of the qualities of both flat and
round. It is made with much more hair than the last, is longer, and has
a square top with rounded corners. This brush carries plenty of paint,
will lay an even tone, and, from the fact that the corners are rounded
and the pressure consequently lessened at the sides, does not leave so
hard an edge on either side of your stroke.

Another brush that has recently come into fashion is called a filbert
shape (Class D) by the makers. It is a fine brush to draw with, as being
flat it paints in planes, and having a rounded top is capable of
getting in and out of a variety of contours. They vary in shape, some
being more pointed than others. The blunt-ended form is the best for
general use. Either this class of brush or Class C are perhaps the best
for the exercises in mass drawing we have been describing. But Class A
should also be tried, and even Class B, to find out which suits the
particular individuality of the student.

On page 114 [Transcribers Note: Plate XXVI] a variety of touches have
been made in turn by these different shaped brushes.

In all the strokes illustrated it is assumed that the brush is
moderately full of paint of a consistency a little thinner than that
usually put up by colourmen. To thin it, mix a little turpentine and
linseed oil in equal parts with it; and get it into easy working
consistency before beginning your work, so as not to need any medium.

In the first column (No. 1), a touch firmly painted with an equal
pressure all along its course is given. This gives you a plane of tone
with firm edges the width of your brush, getting gradually darker or
lighter as your brush empties, according to the length of the stroke and
to whether you are painting into a lighter or darker ground.

In column No. 2 a drag touch is illustrated. This is a very useful one.
The brush is placed firmly on the canvas and then dragged from the point
lightly away, leaving a gradated tone. A great deal of the modelling in
round objects is to be expressed by this variety of handling. The danger
is that its use is apt to lead to a too dexterous manner of painting; a
dexterity more concerned with the clever manner in which a thing is
painted than with the truth expressed.

Column No. 3. This is a stroke lightly and quickly painted, where the
brush just grazes the surface of the canvas. The paint is put on in a
manner that is very brilliant, and at the same time of a soft quality.
If the brush is only moderately full, such touches will not have any
hard edges, but be of a light, feathery nature. It is a most useful
manner of putting on paint when freshness of colour is wanted, as it
prevents one tone being churned up with another and losing its purity.
And in the painting of hair, where the tones need to be kept very
separate, and at the same time not hard, it is very useful. But in
monochrome painting from the cast it is of very little service.

Another method of using a brush is hatching, the drawing of rows of
parallel lines in either equal or varying thicknesses. This method will
lighten or darken a tone in varying degree, according to whether the
lines are thick, thin, or gradated--somewhat in the same way that lines
of shading are drawn in line work. In cases where the correction of
intricate modelling is desired and where it would be very difficult to
alter a part accurately by a deft stroke of the brush, this method is
useful to employ. A dry brush can be drawn across the lines to unite
them with the rest of the work afterwards. This method of painting has
lately been much used by those artists who have attempted painting in
separate, pure colours, after the so-called manner of Claude Monet,
although so mechanical a method is seldom used by that master.

As your power of drawing increases (from the line drawing you have been
doing), casts of hands and heads should be attempted in the same manner
as has been described. Illustrations are given of exercises of this
description on pages 110 and 122. Unfortunately the photographs, which
were taken from the same study at different stages during the painting,
are not all alike, the first painting of the lights being too darkly
printed in some cases. But they show how much can be expressed with the
one tone, when variety is got by using the middle tone to paint into.
The two tones used are noted in the right-hand lower corner.

Try to train yourself to do these studies at one sitting. But if you
find you cannot manage this, use slower drying colours, say bone brown
and zinc white, which will keep wet until the next day.

When you begin studying from the life, proceed in the same way with
monochrome studies painted into a middle tone.

And what are you to do if you find, when you have finished, that it is
all wrong? I should advise you to let it dry, and then scumble a middle
tone right over the whole thing, as you did at first, which will show
the old work through, and you can then correct your drawing and proceed
to paint the lights and shadows as before. And if only a part of it is
wrong, when it is quite dry rub a little, poppy oil thinned with
turpentine over the work, as little as will serve to cover the surface.
If it is found difficult to get it to cover, breathe on the canvas, the
slightest moisture will help it to bite. When this is done, wipe it off
with the palm of your hand or an old piece of clean linen. Now paint a
middle tone right over the part you wish to retouch, being careful about
joining it up to the surrounding work, and proceed as before, drawing in
the light and shadow masses.

This form of drawing you will probably find more difficult at first. For
the reason already explained it seems natural to observe objects as
made up of outlines, not masses. The frame with cottons across it should
be used to flatten the appearance, as in making outline drawings. And
besides this a black glass should be used. This can easily be made by
getting a small piece of glass--a photographic negative will do--and
sticking some black paper on the back; turning it over the front to keep
the raw edges of the glass from cutting the fingers. Or the glass can be
painted on the back with black paint. Standing with your back to the
object and your painting, hold this glass close in front of one of your
eyes (the other being closed), so that you can see both your painting
and the object. Seeing the tones thus reduced and simplified, you will
be enabled more easily to correct your work.

I should like to emphasise the importance of the setting-out work
necessary for brush-drawing. While it is not necessary to put expressive
work into this preparatory work, the utmost care should be taken to
ensure its accuracy as far as it goes. It is a great nuisance if, after
you have put up some of your fair structure, you find the foundations
are in the wrong place and the whole thing has to be torn down and
shifted. It is of the utmost necessity to have the proportions and the
main masses settled at this early stage, and every device of blocking
out with square lines and measuring with your knitting-needle, &c.,
should be adopted to ensure the accuracy of these large proportions. The
variations and emphases that feeling may dictate can be done in the
painting stage. This initial stage is not really a drawing at all, but a
species of mapping out, and as such it should be regarded. The only
excuse for making the elaborate preparatory drawings on canvas students
sometimes do, is that it enables them to learn the subject, so that when
they come to paint it, they already know something about it. But the
danger of making these preparatory drawings interesting is that the
student fears to cover them up and lose an outline so carefully and
lovingly wrought; and this always results in a poor painting. When you
take up a brush to express yourself, it must be with no fear of hurting
a careful drawing. Your drawing is going to be done with the brush, and
only the general setting out of the masses will be of any use to you in
the work of this initial stage. Never paint with the poor spirit of the
student who fears to lose his drawing, or you will never do any fine
things in painting. Drawing (expressing form) is the thing you should be
doing all the time. And in art, "he that would save his work must often
lose it," if you will excuse the paraphrase of a profound saying which,
like most profound sayings, is applicable to many things in life besides
what it originally referred to. It is often necessary when a painting is
#nearly# right to destroy the whole thing in order to accomplish the
apparently little that still divides it from what you conceive it should
be. It is like a man rushing a hill that is just beyond the power of his
motor-car to climb, he must take a long run at it. And if the first
attempt lands him nearly up at the top but not #quite#, he has to go
back and take the long run all over again, to give him the impetus that
shall carry him right through.

Another method of judging tone drawing is our old method of half closing
the eyes. This, by lowering the tone and widening the focus, enables you
to correct the work more easily.

In tone drawing there is not only the shape of the masses to be
considered, but their values--that is, their position in an imagined
scale from dark to light. The relation of the different tones in this
way--the values, as it is called--is an extremely important matter in
painting. But it more properly belongs to the other department of the
subject, namely Colour, and this needs a volume to itself. But something
more will be said on this subject when treating of Rhythm.

We saw, in speaking of line drawing, how the character of a line was
found by observing its flatnesses and its relation to straight lines. In
the same way #the character of modelling is found by observing its
planes#. So that in building up a complicated piece of form, like a head
or figure, the planes (or flat tones) should be sought for everywhere.
As a carver in stone blocks out his work in square surfaces, the
modelling of a figure or any complex surface that is being studied
should be set out in planes of tone, painting in the first instance the
larger ones, and then, to these, adding the smaller; when it will be
seen that the roundnesses have, with a little fusing of edges here and
there, been arrived at. Good modelling is full of these planes subtly
fused together. Nothing is so characteristic of bad modelling as "gross
roundnesses." The surface of a sphere is the surface with the least
character, like the curve of a circle, and the one most to be avoided in
good modelling.

In the search for form the knowledge of anatomy, and particularly the
bony structures, is of the utmost importance. During the rage for
realism and naturalism many hard things were said about the study of
anatomy. And certainly, were it to be used to overstep the modesty of
nature in these respects and to be paraded to the exclusion of the
charm and character of life, it would be as well left alone. But if we
are to make a drawing that shall express something concrete, we must
know something of its structure, whatever it is. In the case of the
human figure it is impossible properly to understand its action and draw
it in a way that shall give a powerful impression without a knowledge of
the mechanics of its construction. But I hardly think the case for
anatomy needs much stating at the present time. Never let anatomical
knowledge tempt you into exaggerated statements of internal structure,
unless such exaggeration helps the particular thing you wish to express.
In drawing a figure in violent action it might, for instance, be
essential to the drawing, whereas in drawing a figure at rest or a
portrait, it would certainly be out of place.

[Illustration: Plate XXVI.


No. 1. Blocking out the spaces occupied by different masses in

[Illustration: Plate XXVII.


No. 2. A middle tone having been scumbled over the whole, the lights are
painted into it; variety being got by varying the thickness of the
paint. The darks are due to the charcoal lines of initial drawing
showing through middle tone.]

[Illustration: Plate XXVIII.


No. 3. The same as the last, but with the shadows added; variety being
got by varying thickness of paint as before.]

[Illustration: Plate XXIX.


No. 4. The completed head.]

In the chapter on line work it was stated that: "Lines of shading drawn
across the forms suggest softness, lines drawn in curves fulness of
form, lines drawn down the forms hardness, and lines crossing in every
direction atmosphere," and these rules apply equally well to the
direction of the brush strokes (the brush work) in a painting.

#The brush swinging round the forms suggests fore-shortening, and
fulness of form generally, and across the forms softness, while the
brush following down the forms suggests toughness and hardness, and
crossing in every direction atmosphere#. A great deal of added force can
be given to form expression in this way. In the foreshortened figure on
the ground at the left of Tintoretto's "Finding of the Body of St.
Mark," the foreshortened effect helped by the brush work swinging round
can be seen (see illustration, page 236 [Transcribers Note: Plate
XLIX]). The work of Henner in France is an extreme instance of the
quality of softness and fleshiness got by painting across the form. The
look of toughness and hardness given by the brush work following down
the forms is well illustrated in much of the work of James Ward, the
animal painter. In his picture in the National Gallery, "Harlech
Castle," No. 1158, this can be seen in the painting of the tree-trunks,

The crossing of the brush work in every direction, giving a look of
atmosphere, is naturally often used in painting backgrounds and also
such things as the plane surfaces of sky and mist, &c.

It is often inconvenient to paint across the form when softness is
wanted. It is only possible to have one colour in your brush sweep, and
the colour changes across, much more than down the form as a rule. For
the shadows, half tones and lights, besides varying in tone, vary also
in colour; so that it is not always possible to sweep across them with
one colour. It is usually more convenient to paint down where the
colours can be laid in overlapping bands of shadow, half tone and light,
&c. Nevertheless, if this particular look of softness and fleshiness is
desired, either the painting must be so thin or the tones so fused
together that no brush strokes show, or a dry flat brush must afterwards
be drawn lightly across when the painting is done, to destroy the
downward brush strokes and substitute others going across, great care
being taken to drag only from light to dark, and to wipe the brush
carefully after each touch; and also never to go over the same place
twice, or the paint will lose vitality. This is a method much employed
by artists who delight in this particular quality.

But when a strong, tough look is desired, such as one sees when a
muscle is in violent action, or in the tendon above the wrist or above
the heel in the leg, or generally where a bone comes to the surface, in
all these cases the brush work should follow down the forms. It is not
necessary and is often inadvisable for the brush work to show at all, in
which case these principles will be of little account. But when in
vigorously painted work they do, I think it will generally be found to
create the effects named.

Drawing on toned paper with white chalk or Chinese white and black or
red chalk is another form of mass drawing. And for studies it is
intended to paint from, this is a quick and excellent manner. The
rapidity with which the facts of an appearance can be noted makes it
above all others the method for drapery studies. The lights are drawn
with white, the toned paper being allowed to show through where a darker
tone is needed, the white (either chalk or Chinese white) being put on
thickly when a bright light is wanted and thinly where a quieter light
is needed. So with the shadows, the chalk is put on heavily in the darks
and less heavily in the lighter shadows. Since the days of the early
Italians this has been a favourite method of drawing drapery studies
(see illustrations, page 260 [Transcribers Note: Plate LIV]).

Some artists have shaded their lights with gold and silver paint. The
late Sir Edward Burne-Jones was very fond of this, and drawings with
much decorative charm have been done this way. The principle is the same
as in drawing with white chalk, the half tone being given by the paper.

Keep the lights separate from the shadows, let the half tone paper
always come as a buffer state between them. Get as much information into
the drawing of your lights and shadows as possible; don't be satisfied
with a smudge effect. Use the side of your white chalk when you want a
mass, or work in parallel lines (hatching) on the principle described in
the chapter on line drawing.



The subject of Rhythm in what are called the Fine Arts is so vague, and
has received so little attention, that some courage, or perhaps
foolhardiness, is needed to attack it. And in offering the following
fragmentary ideas that have been stumbled on in my own limited practice,
I want them to be accepted only for what they are worth, as I do not
know of any proper authority for them. But they may serve as a stimulus,
and offer some lines on which the student can pursue the subject for

The word rhythm is here used to signify the power possessed by lines,
tones, and colours, by their ordering and arrangement, to affect us,
somewhat as different notes and combinations of sound do in music. And
just as in music, where sounds affect us without having any direct
relation with nature, but appeal directly to our own inner life; so in
painting, sculpture, and architecture #there is a music that appeals
directly to us apart from any significance that may be associated with
the representation of natural phenomena#. There is, as it were, an
abstract music of line, tone, and colour.

The danger of the naturalistic movement in painting in the nineteenth
century has been that it has turned our attention away from this
fundamental fact of art to the contemplation of interesting
realisations of appearances--realisations often full of poetic
suggestiveness due to associations connected with the objects painted as
concrete things, but not always made directly significant as artistic
expression; whereas #it is the business of the artist to relate the
form, colour, and tone of natural appearances to this abstract musical
quality, with which he should never lose touch even in the most highly
realised detail of his work#. For only thus, when related to rhythm, do
the form, tone, and colour of appearances obtain their full expressive
power and become a means of vitally conveying the feeling of the artist.

Inquiry as to the origin of this power and of rhythm generally is a
profoundly interesting subject; and now that recent advances in science
tend to show that sound, heat, light, and possibly electricity and even
nerve force are but different rhythmic forms of energy, and that matter
itself may possibly be resolved eventually into different rhythmic
motions, it does look as if rhythm may yet be found to contain even the
secret of life itself. At any rate it is very intimately associated with
life; and primitive man early began to give expression in some form of
architecture, sculpture, or painting to the deeper feelings that were
moving him; found some correspondence between the lines and colours of
architecture, sculpture, and painting and the emotional life that was
awakening within him. Thus, looking back at the remains of their work
that have come down to us, we are enabled to judge of the nature of the
people from the expression we find in hewn stone and on painted walls.

It is in primitive art generally that we see more clearly the direct
emotional significance of line and form. Art appears to have developed
from its most abstract position, to which bit by bit have been added the
truths and graces of natural appearance, until as much of this
naturalistic truth has been added as the abstract significance at the
base of the expression could stand without loss of power. At this point,
as has already been explained, a school is at the height of its
development. The work after this usually shows an increased concern with
naturalistic truth, which is always very popular, to the gradual
exclusion of the backbone of abstract line and form significance that
dominated the earlier work. And when these primitive conditions are lost
touch with, a decadence sets in. At least, this is roughly the theory to
which a study of the two great art developments of the past, in Greece
and Italy, would seem to point. And this theory is the excuse for all
the attempts at primitivism of which we have lately seen so much.

Art having lost touch with its primitive base owing to the over-doses of
naturalism it has had, we must, these new apostles say, find a new
primitive base on which to build the new structure of art. The theory
has its attractions, but there is this difference between the primitive
archaic Greek or early Italian and the modern primitive; the early men
reverently clothed the abstract idea they started with in the most
natural and beautiful form within their knowledge, ever seeking to
discover new truths and graces from nature to enrich their work; while
the modern artist, with the art treasures of all periods of the world
before him, can never be in the position of these simple-minded men. It
is therefore unlikely that the future development of art will be on
lines similar to that of the past. The same conditions of simple
ignorance are never likely to occur again. Means of communication and
prolific reproduction make it very unlikely that the art of the world
will again be lost for a season, as was Greek art in the Middle Ages.
Interesting intellectually as is the theory that the impressionist point
of view (the accepting of the flat retina picture as a pattern of colour
sensations) offers a new field from which to select material for a new
basis of artistic expression, so far the evidence of results has not
shown anything likely seriously to threaten the established principles
of traditional design. And anything more different in spirit from the
genuine primitive than the irreverent anarchy and flouting of all
refinement in the work of some of these new primitives, it would be
difficult to imagine. But much of the work of the movement has undoubted
artistic vitality, and in its insistence on design and selection should
do much to kill "realism" and the "copying nature" theory of a few years

Although it is perfectly true that the feelings and ideas that impel the
artist may sooner or later find their own expression, there are a great
many principles connected with the arranging of lines, tones, and
colours in his picture that it is difficult to transgress without
calamity. At any rate the knowledge of some of them will aid the artist
in gaining experience, and possibly save him some needless fumbling.

But don't for one moment think that anything in the nature of rules is
going to take the place of the initial artistic impulse which must come
from within. This is not a matter for teaching, art training being only
concerned with perfecting the means of its expression.

[Illustration: Plate XXX.


_Ros._ "He calls us back; my pride fell with my fortunes."]

It is proposed to treat the subject from the material side of line and
tone only, without any reference to subject matter, with the idea of
trying to find out something about the expressive qualities line and
tone are capable of yielding unassociated with visual things. What use
can be made of any such knowledge to give expression to the emotional
life of the artist is not our concern, and is obviously a matter for the
individual to decide for himself.

       *       *       *       *       *

There is at the basis of every picture a structure of lines and masses.
They may not be very obvious, and may be hidden under the most broken of
techniques, but they will always be found underlying the planning of any
painting. Some may say that the lines are only the boundaries of the
masses, and others that the masses are only the spaces between the
lines. But whichever way you care to look at it, there are particular
emotional qualities analogous to music that affect us in lines and line
arrangements and also in tone or mass arrangements. And any power a
picture may have to move us will be largely due to the rhythmic
significance of this original planning. These qualities, as has already
been stated, affect us quite apart from any association they may have
with natural things: arrangements of mere geometrical lines are
sufficient to suggest them. But of course other associations connected
with the objects represented will largely augment the impression, when
the line and tone arrangements and the sentiment of the object are in
sympathy. And if they are not, it may happen that associations connected
with the representation will cut in and obscure or entirely destroy this
line and tone music. That is to say, if the line and tone arrangement
in the abstract is expressive of the sublime, and the objects whose
representation they support something ridiculous, say a donkey braying,
the associations aroused by so ridiculous an appearance will override
those connected with the line and tone arrangement. But it is remarkable
how seldom this occurs in nature, the sentiment of the line and tone
arrangements things present being usually in harmony with the sentiment
of the object itself. As a matter of fact, the line effect of a donkey
in repose is much more sublime than when he is braying.

[Sidenote: Unity and Variety.]

There are two qualities that may be allowed to divide the consideration
of this subject, two points of view from which the subject can be
approached: #Unity# and #Variety#, qualities somewhat opposed to each
other, as are harmony and contrast in the realm of colour. Unity is
concerned with the relationship of all the parts to that oneness of
conception that should control every detail of a work of art. All the
more profound qualities, the deeper emotional notes, are on this side of
the subject. On the other hand, variety holds the secrets of charm,
vitality, and the picturesque, it is the "dither," the play between the
larger parts, that makes for life and character. #Without variety there
can be no life#.

In any conception of a perfect unity, like the perfected life of the
Buddhist, Nirvana or Nibbana (literally "dying out" or "extinction" as
of an expiring fire), there is no room for variety, for the play of
life; all such fretfulness ceases, to be replaced by an all-pervading
calm, beautiful, if you like, but lifeless. There is this deadness about
any conception of perfection that will always make it an unattainable
ideal in life. Those who, like the Indian fakir or the hermits of the
Middle Ages, have staked their all on this ideal of perfection, have
found it necessary to suppress life in every way possible, the fakirs
often remaining motionless for long periods at a time, and one of the
mediaeval saints going so far as to live on the top of a high column
where life and movement were well-nigh impossible.

And in art it is the same; all those who have aimed at an absolute
perfection have usually ended in a deadness. The Greeks knew better than
many of their imitators this vital necessity in art. In their most ideal
work there is always that variety that gives character and life. No
formula or canon of proportions or other mechanical device for the
attainment of perfection was allowed by this vital people entirely to
subdue their love of life and variety. And however near they might go
towards a perfect type in their ideal heads and figures, they never went
so far as to kill the individual in the type. It is the lack of this
subtle distinction that, I think, has been the cause of the failure of
so much art founded on so-called Greek ideals. Much Roman sculpture, if
you except their portrait busts, illustrates this. Compared with Greek
work it lacks that subtle variety in the modelling that gives vitality.
The difference can be felt instinctively in the merest fragment of a
broken figure. It is not difficult to tell Greek from Roman fragments,
they pulsate with a life that it is impossible to describe but that one
instinctively feels. And this vitality depends, I think it will be
found, on the greater amount of life-giving variety in the surfaces of
the modelling. In their architectural mouldings, the difference of which
we are speaking can be more easily traced. The vivacity and brilliancy
of a Greek moulding makes a Roman work look heavy and dull. And it will
generally be found that the Romans used the curve of the circle in the
sections of their mouldings, a curve possessing the least amount of
variety, as is explained later, where the Greeks used the lines of conic
sections, curves possessed of the greatest amount of variety.

But while unity must never exist without this life-giving variety,
variety must always be under the moral control of unity, or it will get
out of hand and become extravagant. In fact, the most perfect work, like
the most perfect engine of which we spoke in a former chapter, has the
least amount of variety, as the engine has the least amount of "dither,"
that is compatible with life. One does not hear so much talk in these
days about a perfect type as was the fashion at one time; and certainly
the pursuit of this ideal by a process of selecting the best features
from many models and constructing a figure out of them as an ideal type,
was productive of very dead and lifeless work. No account was taken of
the variety from a common type necessary in the most perfect work, if
life and individual interest are not to be lost, and the thing is not to
become a dead abstraction. But the danger is rather the other way at the
moment. Artists revel in the oddest of individual forms, and the type
idea is flouted on all hands. An anarchy of individualism is upon us,
and the vitality of disordered variety is more fashionable than the calm
beauty of an ordered unity.

Excess of variations from a common type is what I think we recognise as
ugliness in the objective world, whereas beauty is on the side of unity
and conformity to type. Beauty possesses both variety and unity, and is
never extreme, erring rather on the side of unity.

Burke in his essay on "The Sublime and the Beautiful" would seem to use
the word beautiful where we should use the word pretty, placing it at
the opposite pole from the sublime, whereas I think beauty always has
some elements of the sublime in it, while the merely pretty has not.
Mere prettiness is a little difficult to place, it does not come between
either of our extremes, possessing little character or type, variety or
unity. It is perhaps charm without either of these strengthening
associates, and in consequence is always feeble, and the favourite diet
of weak artistic digestions.

The sculpture of ancient Egypt is an instance of great unity in
conception, and the suppression of variety to a point at which life
scarcely exists. The lines of the Egyptian figures are simple and long,
the surfaces smooth and unvaried, no action is allowed to give variety
to the pose, the placing of one foot a little in front of the other
being alone permitted in the standing figures; the arms, when not
hanging straight down the sides, are flexed stiffly at the elbow at
right angles; the heads stare straight before them. The expression of
sublimity is complete, and this was, of course, what was aimed at. But
how cold and terrible is the lack of that play and variety that alone
show life. What a relief it is, at the British Museum, to go into the
Elgin Marble room and be warmed by the noble life pulsating in the Greek
work, after visiting the cold Egyptian rooms.

In what we call a perfect face it is not so much the perfect regularity
of shape and balance in the features that charms us, not the things that
belong to an ideal type, but rather the subtle variations from this
type that are individual to the particular head we are admiring. A
perfect type of head, if such could exist, might excite our wonder, but
would leave us cold. But it can never exist in life; the slightest
movement of the features, which must always accompany life and
expression, will mar it. And the influence of these habitual movements
on the form of the features themselves will invariably mould them into
individual shapes away from the so-called perfect type, whatever may
have been nature's intention in the first instance.

If we call these variations from a common type in the features
imperfections, as it is usual to do, it would seem to be the
imperfections of perfection that charm and stir us; and that perfection
without these so-called imperfections is a cold, dead abstraction,
devoid of life: that unity without variety is lifeless and incapable of
touching us.

On the other hand, variety without unity to govern it is a riotous
exuberance of life, lacking all power and restraint and wasting itself
in a madness of excess.

So that in art a balance has to be struck between these two opposing
qualities. In good work unity is the dominating quality, all the variety
being done in conformity to some large idea of the whole, which is never
lost sight of, even in the smallest detail of the work. Good style in
art has been defined as "variety in unity," and Hogarth's definition of
composition as the art of "varying well" is similar. And I am not sure
that "contrasts in harmony" would not be a suggestive definition of good

Let us consider first variety and unity as they are related to line
drawing, and afterwards to mass drawing.



Line rhythm or music depends on the shape of your lines, their relation
to each other and their relation to the boundaries of your panel. In all
good work this music of line is in harmony with the subject (the
artistic intention) of your picture or drawing.

The two lines with the least variation are a perfectly straight line and
a circle. A perfectly straight line has obviously no variety at all,
while a circle, by curving at exactly the same ratio all along, has no
variation of curvature, it is of all curves the one with the least
possible variety. These two lines are, therefore, two of the dullest,
and are seldom used in pictures except to enhance the beauty and variety
of others. And even then, subtle variations, some amount of play, is
introduced to relieve their baldness. But used in this way, vertical and
horizontal lines are of the utmost value in rectangular pictures,
uniting the composition to its bounding lines by their parallel
relationship with them. And further, as a contrast to the richness and
beauty of curves they are of great value, and are constantly used for
this purpose. The group of mouldings cutting against the head in a
portrait, or the lines of a column used to accentuate the curved forms
of a face or figure, are well-known instances; and the portrait painter
is always on the look out for an object in his background that will give
him such straight lines. You may notice, too, how the lines drawn across
a study in order to copy it (squaring it out, as it is called) improve
the look of a drawing, giving a greater beauty to the variety of the
curves by contrast with the variety lacking in straight lines.

The perfect curve of the circle should always be avoided in the drawing
of natural objects (even a full moon), and in vital drawings of any sort
some variety should always be looked for. Neither should the modelling
of the sphere ever occur in your work, the dullest of all curved

Although the curve of the perfect circle is dull from its lack of
variety, it is not without beauty, and this is due to its perfect unity.
It is of all curves the most perfect example of static unity. Without
the excitement of the slightest variation it goes on and on for ever.
This is, no doubt, the reason why it was early chosen as a symbol of
Eternity, and certainly no more perfect symbol could be found.

The circle seen in perspective assumes the more beautiful curve of the
ellipse, a curve having much variety; but as its four quarters are
alike, not so much as a symmetrical figure can have.

Perhaps the most beautiful symmetrically curved figure of all is the
so-called egg of the well-known moulding from such a temple as the
Erechtheum, called the egg and dart moulding. Here we have a perfect
balance between variety and unity. The curvature is varied to an
infinite degree, at no point is its curving at the same ratio as at any
other point; perhaps the maximum amount of variety that can be got in a
symmetrical figure, preserving, as it does, its almost perfect
continuity, for it approaches the circle in the even flow of its
curvature. This is, roughly, the line of the contour of a face, and you
may note how much painters who have excelled in grace have insisted on
it in their portraits. Gainsborough and Vandyke are striking, instances.

[Illustration: Diagram VII.


The line of a profile is often one of great beauty, only here the
variety is apt to overbalance the unity or run of the line. The most
beautiful profiles are usually those in which variety is subordinated
to the unity of the contour. I fancy the Greeks felt this when they did
away with the hollow above the nose, making the line of the forehead
run, with but little interruption, to the tip of the nose. The unity of
line is increased, and the variety made more interesting. The idea that
this was the common Greek type is, I should imagine, untrue, for their
portrait statues do not show it. It does occur in nature at rare
intervals, and in most Western nationalities, but I do not think there
is much evidence of its ever having been a common type anywhere.

[Illustration: Diagram VIII.


Note how the hollows marked A are opposed by fullnesses marked B.]

In drawing or painting a profile this run or unity of the line is the
thing to feel, if you would express its particular beauty. This is best
done in the case of a painting by finally drawing it with the brush from
the background side, after having painted all the variety there is of
tone and colour on the face side of the line. As the background usually
varies little, the swing of the brush is not hampered on this side as it
is on the other. I have seen students worried to distraction trying to
paint the profile line from the face side, fearing to lose the drawing
by going over the edge. With the edge blurred out from the face side, it
is easy to come with a brush full of the colour the background is
immediately against the face (a different colour usually from what it is
further away), and draw it with some decision and conviction, care being
taken to note all the variations on the edge, where the sharpnesses come
and where the edge is more lost, &c.

[Sidenote: Variety in Symmetry.]

The contours of the limbs illustrate another form of line variety--what
may be called "Variety in Symmetry." While roughly speaking the limbs
are symmetrical, each side not only has variety in itself, but there is
usually variety of opposition. Supposing there is a convex curve on the
one side, you will often have a concave form on the other. Always look
out for this in drawing limbs, and it will often improve a poorly drawn
part if more of this variation on symmetry is discovered.

The whole body, you may say, is symmetrical, but even here natural
conditions make for variety. The body is seldom, except in soldiering,
held in a symmetrical position. The slightest action produces the
variety we are speaking about. The accompanying sketches will indicate
what is meant.

[Illustration: Diagram IX.


Note how the hollows marked A are opposed by the fullnesses marked B.]

Of course the student, if he has any natural ability, instinctively
looks out for all these variations that give the play of life to his
drawing. It is not for him in the full vigour of inspiration that books
such as this are written. But there may come a time when things "won't
come," and it is then that it is useful to know where to look for
possible weak spots in your work.

[Sidenote: Variety of Thickness and Accent.]

A line of equal thickness is a very dead and inexpressive thing compared
with one varied and stressed at certain points. If you observe any of
the boundaries in nature we use a line to express, you will notice some
points are accentuated, attract the attention, more than others. The
only means you have to express this in a line drawing is by darkening
and sharpening the line. At other points, where the contour is almost
lost, the line can be soft and blurred.

It is impossible to write of the infinite qualities of variety that a
fine draughtsman will get into his line work; they must be studied first
hand. But on this play of thickness and quality of line much of the
vitality of your drawing will depend.



Unity of line is a bigger quality than variety, and as it requires a
larger mental grasp, is more rarely met with. The bigger things in
drawing and design come under its consideration, including, as it does,
the relation of the parts to the whole. Its proper consideration would
take us into the whole field of Composition, a subject needing far more
consideration than it can be given in this book.

In almost all compositions a rhythmic flow of lines can be traced. Not
necessarily a flow of actual lines (although these often exist); they
may be only imaginary lines linking up or massing certain parts, and
bringing them into conformity with the rhythmic conception of the whole.
Or again, only a certain stress and flow in the forms, suggesting line
movements. But these line movements flowing through your panel are of
the utmost importance; they are like the melodies and subjects of a
musical symphony, weaving through and linking up the whole composition.

Often, the line of a contour at one part of a picture is picked up again
by the contour of some object at another part of the composition, and
although no actual line connects them, a unity is thus set up between
them. (See diagrams, pages 166 and 168, illustrating line compositions
of pictures by Botticelli and Paolo Veronese). This imaginary following
through of contours across spaces in a composition should always be
looked out for and sought after, as nothing serves to unite a picture
like this relationship of remote parts. The flow of these lines will
depend on the nature of the subject: they will be more gracious and
easy, or more vigorous and powerful, according to the demands of your

This linking up of the contours applies equally well to the drawing of a
single figure or even a head or hand, and the student should always be
on the look out for this uniting quality. It is a quality of great
importance in giving unity to a composition.

[Sidenote: Parallelism]

When groups of lines in a picture occur parallel to each other they
produce an accentuation of the particular quality the line may contain,
a sort of sustained effect, like a sustained chord on an organ, the
effect of which is much bigger than that of the same chord struck
staccato. This sustained quality has a wonderful influence in steadying
and uniting your work.

This parallelism can only be used successfully with the simplest lines,
such as a straight line or a simple curve; it is never advisable except
in decorative patterns to be used with complicated shapes. Blake is very
fond of the sustained effect parallelism gives, and uses the repetition
of curved and straight lines very often in his compositions. Note in
Plate I of the Job series, page 146 [Transcribers Note: Plate XXXI],
the use made of this sustaining quality in the parallelism of the
sheep's backs in the background and the parallel upward flow of the
lines of the figures. In Plate II you see it used in the curved lines of
the figures on either side of the throne above, and in the two angels
with the scroll at the left-hand corner. Behind these two figures you
again have its use accentuating by repetition the peaceful line of the
hacks of the sheep. The same thing can be seen in Plate XXXI, B, where
the parallelism of the back lines of the sheep and the legs of the
seated figures gives a look of peace contrasting with the violence of
the messenger come to tell of the destruction of Job's sons. The
emphasis that parallelism gives to the music of particular lines is well
illustrated in all Blake's work. He is a mine of information on the
subject of line rhythm. Compare A with Plate XXXI, C; note how the
emotional quality is dependent in both cases on the parallelism of the
upward flow of the lines. How also in Plate I he has carried the
vertical feeling even into the sheep in the front, introducing little
bands of vertical shading to carry through the vertical lines made by
the kneeling figures. And in the last plate, "So the Lord blessed the
latter end of Job more than the beginning," note how the greater
completeness with which the parallelism has been carried out has given a
much greater emphasis to the effect, expressing a greater exaltation and
peace than in Plate XXXI, A. Notice in Plate XXXI, D, where "The just,
upright man is laughed to scorn," how this power of emphasis is used to
increase the look of scorn hurled at Job by the pointing fingers of his
three friends.

Of the use of this principle in curved forms, the repetition of the line
of the back in stooping figures is a favourite device with Blake. There
will be found instances of this in Plate XXXII, E and G. (Further
instances will be found on reference to Plates VII, VIII, XIII, and
XVII, in Blake's Job.) In the last instance it is interesting to note
how he has balanced the composition, which has three figures kneeling on
the right and only one on the left. By losing the outline of the third
figure on the right and getting a double line out of the single figure
on the left by means of the outline of the mass of hair, and also by
shading this single figure more strongly, he has contrived to keep a
perfect balance. The head of Job is also turned to the left, while he
stands slightly on that side, still further balancing the three figures
on the right. (This does not show so well in the illustration here
reproduced as in the original print.)

[Illustration: Plate XXXI.

Thus did Job continually. (_Plate I, Blake's Job_)

And I only am escaped alone to tell thee. (_Plate IV, Blake's Job_)

So the Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than the beginning.
(_Plate XXI, Blake's Job_)

The just upright man is laughed to scorn. (_Plate X, Blake's Job_)]

Some rude things were said above about the straight line and the circle,
on account of their lack of variety, and it is true that a
mathematically straight line, or a mathematically perfect circle, are
never found in good artistic drawing. For without variety is no charm or
life. But these lines possess other qualities, due to their maximum
amount of unity, that give them great power in a composition; and where
the expression of sublimity or any of the deeper and more profound
sentiments are in evidence, they are often to be found.

The rows of columns in a Greek temple, the clusters of vertical lines in
a Gothic cathedral interior, are instances of the sublimity and power
they possess. The necessary play that makes for vitality--the "dither"
as we called this quality in a former chapter--is given in the case of
the Greek temple by the subtle curving of the lines of columns and
steps, and by the rich variety of the sculpture, and in the case of the
Gothic cathedral by a rougher cutting of the stone blocks and the
variety in the colour of the stone. But generally speaking, in Gothic
architecture this particular quality of "dither" or the play of life in
all the parts is conspicuous, the balance being on the side of variety
rather than unity. The individual workman was given a large amount of
freedom and allowed to exercise his personal fancy. The capitals of
columns, the cusping of windows, and the ornaments were seldom repeated,
but varied according to the taste of the craftsman. Very high finish was
seldom attempted, the marks of the chisel often being left showing in
the stonework. All this gave a warmth and exuberance of life to a fine
Gothic building that makes a classical building look cold by comparison.
The freedom with which new parts were built on to a Gothic building is
another proof of the fact that it is not in the conception of the unity
of the whole that their chief charm consists.

On the other hand, a fine classic building is the result of one large
conception to which every part has rigorously to conform. Any addition
to this in after years is usually disastrous. A high finish is always
attempted, no tool marks nor any individuality of the craftsman is
allowed to mar the perfect symmetry of the whole. It may be colder, but
how perfect in sublimity! The balance here is on the side of unity
rather than variety.

The strength and sublimity of Norman architecture is due to the use of
circular curves in the arches, combined with straight lines and the use
of square forms in the ornaments--lines possessed of least variety.

All objects with which one associates the look of strength will be found
to have straight lines in their composition. The look of strength in a
strong man is due to the square lines of the contours, so different
from the rounded forms of a fat man. And everyone knows the look of
mental power a square forehead gives to a head and the look of physical
power expressed by a square jaw. The look of power in a rocky landscape
or range of hills is due to the same cause.

[Illustration: Plate XXXII.

When the Almighty was yet with me, when my children were about me.
(_Plate II, Blake's Job_)

With dreams upon my bed Thou scarest me, and affrightest me with
visions. (_Plate XI, Blake's Job_)

     Printed the wrong way up in order to show that the look of horror
     is not solely dependent on the things represented but belongs to
     the rhythm, the pattern of the composition.

And my servant Job shall pray for you. (_Plate XVIII, Blake's Job_)

When the morning-stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted
for joy. (_Plate XIV, Blake's Job_)]

[Sidenote: The Horizontal and the Vertical]

The horizontal and the vertical are two very important lines, the
horizontal being associated with calm and contemplation and the vertical
with a feeling of elevation. As was said above, their relation to the
sides of the composition to which they are parallel in rectangular
pictures is of great importance in uniting the subject to its bounding
lines and giving it a well-knit look, conveying a feeling of great
stability to a picture.

How impressive and suggestive of contemplation is the long line of the
horizon on a calm day at sea, or the long, horizontal line of a desert
plain! The lack of variety, with all the energy and vitality that
accompany it, gives one a sense of peace and rest, a touch of infinity
that no other lines can convey. The horizontal lines which the breeze
makes on still water, and which the sky often assumes at sunset, affect
us from the same harmonic cause.

The stone pine and the cypress are typical instances of the sublime
associated with the vertical in nature. Even a factory chimney rising
above a distant town, in spite of its unpleasant associations, is
impressive, not to speak of the beautiful spires of some of our Gothic
cathedrals, pointing upwards. How well Constable has used the vertical
sublimity of the spire of Salisbury Cathedral can be seen in his
picture, at the Victoria and Albert Museum, where he has contrasted it
with the gay tracery of an arch of elm trees. Gothic cathedrals
generally depend much on this vertical feeling of line for their

The Romans knew the expressive power of the vertical when they set up a
lonely column as a monument to some great deed or person. And a sense of
this sublimity may be an unconscious explanation of the craze for
putting towers and obelisks on high places that one comes across in
different parts of the country, usually called someone's "folly."

In the accompanying diagrams, A, B, C and D, E, F, pages 152
[Transcribers Note: Diagram X] and 153 [Transcribers Note: Diagram XI],
are examples of the influence to be associated with the horizontal and
vertical lines. A is nothing but six straight lines drawn across a
rectangular shape, and yet I think they convey something of the
contemplative and peaceful sense given by a sunset over the sea on a
calm evening. And this is entirely due to the expressive power straight
lines possess, and the feelings they have the power to call up in the
mind. In B a little more incident and variety has been introduced, and
although there is a certain loss of calm, it is not yet enough to
destroy the impression. The line suggesting a figure is vertical and so
plays up to the same calm feeling as the horizontal lines. The circular
disc of the sun has the same static quality, being the curve most devoid
of variety. It is the lines of the clouds that give some excitement, but
they are only enough to suggest the dying energy of departing day.

Now let us but bend the figure in a slight curve, as at C, and destroy
its vertical direction, partly cover the disc of the sun so as to
destroy the complete circle, and all this is immediately altered, our
calm evening has become a windy one, our lines now being expressive
of some energy.

[Illustration: PLATE XXXIII.


Note the straight line introduced in seated female figure with flute to
counteract rich forms.]

To take a similar instance with vertical lines. Let D represent a row of
pine trees in a wide plain. Such lines convey a sense of exaltation and
infinite calm. Now if some foliage is introduced, as at E, giving a
swinging line, and if this swinging line is carried on by a
corresponding one in the sky, we have introduced some life and variety.
If we entirely destroy the vertical feeling and bend our trees, as at F,
the expression of much energy will be the result, and a feeling of the
stress and struggle of the elements introduced where there was perfect

It is the aloofness of straight lines from all the fuss and flurry of
variety that gives them this calm, infinite expression. And their value
as a steadying influence among the more exuberant forms of a composition
is very great. The Venetians knew this and made great use of straight
lines among the richer forms they so delighted in.

It is interesting to note how Giorgione in his "Fête Champêtre" of the
Louvre (see illustration, page 151 [Transcribers Note: Plate XXXIII]),
went out of his way to get a straight line to steady his picture and
contrast with the curves. Not wanting it in the landscape, he has boldly
made the contour of the seated female conform to a rigid straight line,
accentuated still further by the flute in her hand. If it were not for
this and other straight lines in the picture, and a certain squareness
of drawing in the draperies, the richness of the trees in the
background, the full forms of the flesh and drapery would be too much,
and the effect become sickly, if not positively sweet. Van Dyck, also,
used to go out of his way to introduce a hard straight line near the
head in his portraits for the same reason, often ending abruptly,
without any apparent reason, a dark background in a hard line, and
showing a distant landscape beyond in order to get a light mass to
accentuate the straight line.

[Illustration: Diagram X.


[Illustration: Diagram XI.


The rich modelling and swinging lines of the "Bacchus and Ariadne" of
Titian in the National Gallery, here reproduced, page 154 [Transcribers
Note: Plate XXXIV], would be too gross, were it not for the steadying
influence of the horizontal lines in the sky and the vertical lines of
the tree-trunks.

While speaking of this picture, it might not be out of place to mention
an idea that occurred to me as to the reason for the somewhat aggressive
standing leg of the female figure with the cymbals leading the
procession of revellers. I will not attempt any analysis of this
composition, which is ably gone into in another book of this series. But
the standing leg of this figure, given such prominence in the
composition, has always rather puzzled me. I knew Titian would not have
given it that vigorous stand without a good reason. It certainly does
not help the run of the composition, although it may be useful in
steadying it, and it is not a particularly beautiful thing in itself, as
the position is one better suited to a man's leg than to a woman's. But
if you cover it over with your finger and look at the composition
without it, I think the reason of its prominence becomes plainer. Titian
evidently had some trouble, as well he might have, with the forward leg
of the Bacchus. He wished to give the look of his stepping from the car
lightly treading the air, as gods may be permitted to do. But the wheel
of the car that comes behind the foot made it difficult to evade the
idea that he was stepping on it, which would be the way an ordinary
mortal would alight. I think the duty of the aggressive standing leg
of the leading Bacchante, with its great look of weight, is to give a
look of lightness to this forward leg of Bacchus, by contrast--which it
certainly does. On examining the picture closely in a good light, you
will see that he has had the foot of Bacchus in several positions before
he got it right. Another foot can distinctly be seen about a couple of
inches or so above the present one. The general vertical direction of
this leg is also against its look of lightness and motion, tending
rather to give it a stationary, static look. I could not at first see
why he did not bring the foot further to the right, which would have
aided the lightness of the figure and increased its movement. But you
will observe that this would have hurled the whole weight of the mass of
figures on the right, forward on to the single figure of Ariadne, and
upset the balance; as you can see by covering this leg with your finger
and imagining it swinging to the right. So that Titian, having to retain
the vertical position for Bacchus' forward leg, used the aggressive
standing leg of the cymbal lady to accentuate its spring and lightness.

[Illustration: Plate XXXIV.


_Photo Hanfstaengl_]

A feeling of straight-up-ness in a figure or of the horizontal plane in
anything will produce the same effect as a vertical or horizontal line
without any actual line being visible. Blake's "Morning Stars Singing
Together" is an instance of the vertical chord, although there is no
actual upright line in the figures. But they all have a vigorous
straight-up-ness that gives them the feeling of peace and elevation
coupled with a flame-like line running through them that gives them
their joyous energy.

[Illustration: Diagram XII.

A, B, C]

[Sidenote: The Right Angle]

The combination of the vertical with the horizontal produces one of the
strongest and most arresting chords that you can make, and it will be
found to exist in most pictures and drawings where there is the
expression of dramatic power. The cross is the typical example of this.
It is a combination of lines that instantly rivets the attention, and
has probably a more powerful effect upon the mind--quite apart from
anything symbolised by it--than any other simple combinations that could
have been devised. How powerful is the effect of a vertical figure, or
even a post, seen cutting the long horizontal line of the horizon on the
sea-shore. Or a telegraph post by the side of the road, seen against the
long horizontal line of a hill at sunset. The look of power given by the
vertical lines of a contracted brow is due to the same cause. The
vertical furrows of the brow continuing the lines of the nose, make a
continuous vertical which the horizontal lines of the brow cross (see
Fig. A in the illustration). The same cause gives the profile a powerful
look when the eyebrows make a horizontal line contrasting with the
vertical line of the forehead (Fig. B). Everybody knows the look of
power associated with a square brow: it is not that the square forehead
gives the look of a larger brain capacity, for if the forehead protrudes
in a curved line, as at C, the look of power is lost, although there is
obviously more room for brains.

This power of the right angle is well exemplified in Watts' "Love and
Death," here reproduced, page 158 [Transcribers Note: Plate XXXV]. In
this noble composition, in the writer's opinion one of the most sublime
expressions produced by nineteenth-century art, the irresistible power
and majesty of the slowly advancing figure of Death is largely due to
the right angle felt through the pose. Not getting it in the contour,
Watts has boldly introduced it by means of shading the farther arm and
insisting on the light upper edge of the outstretched arm and hand,
while losing somewhat the, outline of the head beyond. Note also the
look of power the insistence on square forms in the drapery gives this
figure. The expression is still further emphasised by the hard square
forms of the steps, and particularly by the strong horizontal line of
the first step so insisted on, at right angles to the vertical stand of
the figure; and also the upright lines of the doorway above. In contrast
with the awful sublimity of this figure of Death, how touching is the
expression of the little figure of Love, trying vainly to stop the
inevitable advance. And this expression is due to the curved lines on
which the action of the figure is hung, and the soft undulating forms of
its modelling. Whereas the figure of Death is all square lines and flat
crisp planes, the whole hanging on a dramatic right angle; this figure
is all subtle fullness both of contour and modelling melting one into
the other, the whole hung upon a rich full curve starting at the
standing foot of the advancing figure. And whereas the expression of
Death is supported and emphasised by the hard, square forms and texture
of the stone steps, the expression of Love is supported and emphasised
by the rounded forms and soft texture of the clustering roses. On this
contrast of line and form, so in sympathy with the profound sentiment
to which this picture owes its origin, the expressive power of this
composition will be found to depend.

[Illustration: Diagram XIII.


[Illustration: Plate XXXV.


A noble composition, founded on the power of the right angle in the
figure of Death, in contrast with the curved lines in the figure of
Love. (See diagram opposite.)

_Photo Hollyer_]

In the diagram accompanying the reproduction of this picture I have
tried to indicate in diagrammatical form some of the chief lines of its

In these diagrams of the anatomy of compositions the lines selected are
not always very obvious in the originals and are justly much broken into
by truths of natural appearance. But an emotional significance depending
on some arrangement of abstract lines is to be found underlying the
expression in every good picture, carefully hidden as it is by all great
artists. And although some apology is perhaps necessary for the ugliness
of these diagrams, it is an ugliness that attends all anatomy drawings.
If the student will trace them and put his tracing over the
reproductions of the originals, they will help him to see on what things
in the arrangement the rhythmic force of the picture depends.

Other lines, as important as those selected, may have been overlooked,
but the ones chosen will suffice to show the general character of them

       *       *       *       *       *

There is one condition in a composition, that is laid down before you
begin, and that is the shape of your panel or canvas. This is usually a
rectangular form, and all the lines of your design will have to be
considered in relation to this shape. Vertical and horizontal lines
being parallel to the boundaries of rectangular pictures, are always
right and immediately set up a relationship, as we have seen.

The arresting power of the right angle exists at each corner of a
rectangular picture, where the vertical sides meet the horizontal base,
and this presents a difficulty, because you do not wish the spectator's
attention drawn to the corners, and this dramatic combination of lines
always attracts the eye. A favourite way of getting rid of this is to
fill them with some dark mass, or with lines swinging round and carrying
the eye past them, so that the attention is continually swung to the
centre of the picture. For lines have a power of directing the
attention, the eye instinctively running with them, and this power is of
the greatest service in directing the spectator to the principal

It is this trouble with the corners that makes the problem of filling a
square so exacting. In an ordinary rectangular panel you have a certain
amount of free space in the middle, and the difficulty of filling the
corners comfortably does not present itself until this space is arranged
for. But in a square, the moment you leave the centre you are in one or
other of the corners, and the filling of them governs the problem much
more than in the case of other shapes. It is a good exercise for
students to give themselves a square to fill, in order to understand
this difficulty and learn to overcome it.

Other lines that possess a direct relation to a rectangular shape are
the diagonals. Many compositions that do not hang on a vertical or
horizontal basis are built on this line, and are thus related to the
bounding shape.

[Illustration: Plate XXXVI.


_Photo Anderson_]

When vertical, horizontal, or diagonal lines are referred to, it must
not be assumed that one means in all cases naked lines. There is no pure
vertical line in a stone pine or cypress tree, nor pure horizontal
line in a stretch of country, but the whole swing of their lines is
vertical or horizontal. And in the same way, when one speaks of a
composition being hung upon a diagonal, it is seldom that a naked
diagonal line exists in the composition, but the general swing is across
the panel in harmony with one or other diagonal. And when this is so,
there is a unity set up between the design and its boundaries. A good
instance of vertical, horizontal, and diagonal lines to unite a picture
is Velazquez's "The Surrender of Breda," here reproduced. Note the
vertical chord in the spears on the left, continued in the leg of the
horse and front leg of the figure receiving the key, and the horizontal
line made by the dark mass of distant city, to be continued by the gun
carried over the shoulder of the figure with the slouch hat behind the
principal group. Velazquez has gone out of his way to get this line, as
it could hardly have been the fashion to carry a gun in this position,
pointing straight at the head of the man behind. Horizontal lines also
occur in the sky and distant landscape, one running right through the
group of spears. The use of the diagonal is another remarkable thing in
the lines of this picture. If you place a ruler on the slanting line of
the flag behind the horse's head to the right, you find it is exactly
parallel to a diagonal drawn from the top right-hand corner to the lower
left-hand corner. Another line practically parallel to this diagonal is
the line of the sword belonging to the figure offering the key, the
feeling of which is continued in the hand and key of this same figure.
It may be noted also that the back right leg of the horse in the front
is parallel to the other diagonal, the under side of it being actually
on the diagonal and thus brought into relation with the bounding lines
of the picture. And all these lines, without the artifice being too
apparent, give that well-knit, dignified look so in harmony with the
nature of the subject.

[Sidenote: Curved Lines]

Curved lines have not the moral integrity of straight lines. Theirs is
not so much to minister to the expression of the sublime as to woo us to
the beauteous joys of the senses. They hold the secrets of charm. But
without the steadying power of straight lines and flatnesses, curves get
out of hand and lose their power. In architecture the rococo style is an
example of this excess. While all expressions of exuberant life and
energy, of charm and grace depend on curved lines for their effect, yet
in their most refined and beautiful expression they err on the side of
the square forms rather than the circle. When the uncontrolled use of
curves approaching the circle and volute are indulged in, unrestrained
by the steadying influence of any straight lines, the effect is gross.
The finest curves are full of restraint, and excessive curvature is a
thing to be avoided in good drawing. We recognise this integrity of
straight lines when we say anybody is "an upright man" or is "quite
straight," wishing to convey the impression of moral worth.

Rubens was a painter who gloried in the unrestrained expression of the
zeal to live and drink deeply of life, and glorious as much of his work
is, and wonderful as it all is, the excessive use of curves and rounded
forms in his later work robs it of much of its power and offends us by
its grossness. His best work is full of squarer drawing and planes.

#Always be on the look out for straightnesses in curved forms and for
planes in your modelling.#

Let us take our simplest form of composition again, a stretch of sea and
sky, and apply curved lines where we formerly had straight lines. You
will see how the lines at A, page 164 [Transcribers Note: Diagram XIV],
although but slightly curved, express some energy, where the straight
lines of our former diagram expressed repose, and then how in B and C
the increasing curvature of the lines increases the energy expressed,
until in D, where the lines sweep round in one vigorous swirl, a perfect
hurricane is expressed. This last, is roughly the rhythmic basis of
Turner's "Hannibal Crossing the Alps" in the Turner Gallery.

One of the simplest and most graceful forms the tying lines of a
composition may take is a continuous flow, one line evolving out of
another in graceful sequence, thus leading the eye on from one part to
another and carrying the attention to the principal interests.

Two good instances of this arrangement are Botticelli's "Birth of Venus"
and the "Rape of Europa," by Paolo Veronese, reproduced on pages 166
[Transcribers Note: Diagram XV, Plate XXXVII] and 168 [Transcribers
Note: Diagram XVI, Plate XXXVIII]. The Venetian picture does not depend
so much on the clarity of its line basis as the Florentine. And it is
interesting to note how much nearer to the curves of the circle the
lines of Europa approach than do those of the Venus picture. Were the
same primitive treatment applied to the later work painted in the oil
medium as has been used by Botticelli in his tempera picture, the
robustness of the curves would have offended and been too gross for the
simple formula; whereas overlaid and hidden under such a rich abundance
of natural truth as it is in this gorgeous picture, we are too much
distracted and entertained by such wealth to have time to dwell on the
purity of the line arrangement at its base. And the rich fullness of
line arrangement, although rather excessive, seen detached, is in
keeping with the sumptuous luxuriance the Venetian loved so well to
express. But for pure line beauty the greater restraint of the curves in
Botticelli's picture is infinitely more satisfying, though here we have
not anything like the same wealth and richness of natural appearance to
engage our attention, and the innocent simplicity of the technique
leaves much more exposed the structure of lines, which in consequence
play a greater part in the effect of the picture.

[Illustration: Diagram XIV.


[Illustration: Diagram XV.


[Illustration: Plate XXXVII.


A beautiful example of Botticelli's refined line rhythm. (See diagram on
opposite page for analysis.)

_Photo Anderson_]

In both cases note the way the lines lead up to the principal subject,
and the steadying power introduced by means of horizontal, vertical, and
other straight lines. Veronese has contented himself with keeping a
certain horizontal feeling in the sky, culminating in the straight lines
of the horizon and of the sea edge. And he has also introduced two
pyramids, giving straight lines in among the trees, the most pronounced
of which leads the eye straight on to the principal head.

Botticelli has first the long line of the horizon echoed in the ground
at the right-hand lower corner. And then he has made a determined stand
against the flow of lines carrying you out of the picture on the right,
by putting straight, upright trees and insisting upon their

[Illustration: Diagram XVI.


[Illustration: Plate XXXVIII.


A composition of rich full forms and rich full colour. (See the diagram
on opposite page for analysis of line rhythm.)

_Photo Anderson_]

Another rhythmic form the lines at the basis of a composition may take
is a flame-like flow of lines; curved lines meeting and parting and
meeting again, or even crossing in one continual movement onwards. A
striking instance of the use of this quality is the work of the
remarkable Spanish painter usually called El Greco, two of whose works
are here shown (page 172 [Transcribers Note: Plate XL]). Whatever may
be said by the academically minded as to the incorrectness of his
drawing, there can be no two opinions as to the remarkable rhythmic
vitality of his work. The upward flow of his lines and the flame-like
flicker of his light masses thrills one in much the same way as watching
a flaring fire. There is something exalting and stimulating in it,
although, used to excess as he sometimes uses it, it is apt to suffer
from lack of repose. Two examples of his pictures are reproduced here,
and illustrate his use of this form of movement in the lines and masses
of his compositions. Nowhere does he let the eye rest, but keeps the
same flickering movement going throughout all his masses and edges. The
extraordinary thing about this remarkable painter is that while this
restless, unrestrained form of composition makes his work akin to the
rococo work of a later period, there is a fiery earnestness and
sincerity in all he does, only to be matched among the primitive
painters of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, and very different
from the false sentiment of the later school.

Blake was also fond of this flame line, but usually used it in
combination with more straight lines than the energetic Spaniard allowed
himself. Plates III and V in the Job series are good examples of his use
of this form. In both cases it will be seen that he uses it in
combination with the steadying influence of straight lines, which help
to keep the balance and repose necessary in the treatment of even the
most violent subjects in art.

A continual interruption in the flow of lines, and a harsh jarring
of one against another in an angular, jagged fashion, produces a feeling
of terror and horror. A streak of fork lightning is a natural example of
this. The plate of Blake's No. XI, p. 148 [Transcribers Note: Plate
XXXII], reproduced here, is also a good example. I have had it put
sideways on so that you may see that the look of horror is not only in
the subject but belongs to the particular music of line in the picture.
The effect of the harsh contrasts in the lines is further added to by
the harsh contrasts of tone: everywhere hard lights are brought up
against hard darks. Harsh contrasts of tone produce much the same look
of terror as harsh contrasts of line. Battle pictures are usually, when
good, full of these clashes of line and tone, and thrilling dramatic
effects in which a touch of horror enters are usually founded on the
same principle. In the picture by Paolo Uccello in the National Gallery,
reproduced on page 170 [Transcribers Note: Plate XXXIX], a milder
edition of this effect is seen. The artist has been more interested in
the pageantry of war and a desire to show off his newly-acquired
knowledge of perspective, than anything very terrible. The contrasts of
line are here but confined to the smaller parts, and there are no
contrasts of light and shade, chiaroscuro not being yet invented.
However, it will be seen by the accompanying diagram how consistently
the harsh contrasts of line were carried out in the planning of this
picture. Notice the unconscious humour of the foreshortened spears and
figure carefully arranged on the ground to vanish to the recently
discovered vanishing point.

[Illustration: Diagram XVII.


[Illustration: Plate XXXIX.


Illustrating the effect of jarring lines in composition. (See diagram on
opposite page.)

_Photo Morelli_]

       *       *       *       *       *

Lines radiating in smooth curves from a common centre are another form
employed to give unity in pictorial design. The point from which they
radiate need not necessarily be within the picture, and is often
considerably outside it. But the feeling that they would meet if
produced gives them a unity that brings them into harmonious

There is also another point about radiating lines, and that is their
power of setting up a relationship between lines otherwise unrelated.
Let us try and explain this. In Panel A, page 174 [Transcribers Note:
Diagram XVIII], are drawn some lines at random, with the idea of their
being as little related to each other as possible. In B, by the
introduction of radiating lines in sympathy with them, they have been
brought into some sort of relationship. The line 1-2 has been selected
as the dominating line, and an assortment of radiating ones drawn about
it. Now, by drawing 7-8, we have set up a relationship between lines
3-4, 5-6, and 1-2, for this line radiates with all of them. Line 9-10
accentuates this relationship with 1-2. The others echo the same thing.
It is this echoing of lines through a composition that unites the
different parts and gives unity to the whole.

The crossing of lines at angles approaching the right angle is always
harsh and somewhat discordant, useful when you want to draw attention
dramatically to a particular spot, but to be avoided or covered up at
other times. There is an ugly clash of crossing lines in our original
scribble, and at C we have introduced a mass to cover this up, and also
the angles made by line 3-4 as it crosses the radiating lines above 1-2.
With a small mass at 11 to make the balance right, you have a basis for
a composition, Diagram C, not at all unpleasing in arrangement, although
based on a group of discordant lines drawn at random, but brought into
harmony by means of sympathetic radiation.

[Illustration: Plate XL.


Note the flame-like form and flow of the light masses, and the exalted
feeling this conveys.

_Photo Anderson_]

[Illustration: Plate XLI.


Another example of his restless, flame-like composition.

_Photo Anderson_]

In Panel D the same group is taken, but this time line 3-4 is used as
the dominant one. Line 7-8 introduces 3-4 to 1-2, as it is related to
both. Lines 9-10 and 11-12 introduce 3-4 to 5-6, as they are related to
both, and the others follow on the same principle. By introducing some
masses covering up the crossings, a rhythmic basis for a composition
(Diagram E) entirely different from C is obtained, based on the same
random group.

In Panel F, 1-2 has been taken as the dominant line, and sympathetic
lines drawn on the same principle as before. By again covering the
crossings and introducing balancing masses we obtain yet another
arrangement from the same random scribble.

I would suggest this as a new game to students, one giving another two
or three lines drawn in a panel at random, the problem being to make
harmonious arrangements by the introduction of others radiating in

Often in a picture certain conditions are laid down to start with;
something as ugly as our original group of lines drawn at random has to
be treated pictorially, and it is by means such as here suggested that
its discordancy can be subdued and the whole brought into harmony with
the shape of your panel. The same principles apply in colour, discordant
notes can be brought into harmony by the introduction of others related
to both the original colours, thus leading the eye from one to the other
by easy stages and destroying the shock. Somewhat in the way a musician
will take you from one key into another very remote by means of a few
chords leading from the one to the other; whereas, had he taken you
straight there, the shock would have been terrible. As it is, these
transitions from one key into another please and surprise one, and are
very effective.

[Illustration: Diagram XVIII.









[Illustration: Diagram XIX.








In H, I have introduced a straight line into our initial scribble, and
this somewhat increases the difficulties of relating them. But by
drawing 7-8 and 9-10 radiating from 1-2, we have introduced this
straight line to 5-6. For although 5-6 and 9-10 do not radiate from the
same point, they are obviously in sympathy. It is only a short part of
the line at the end marked 5 that is out of sympathy, and had 5-6 taken
the course of the dotted line, it would have radiated from the same
point as 9-10. We still have line 3-4 to account for. But by drawing
11-12 we bring it into relationship with 5-6, and so by stages through
9-10 and 7-8 to the original straight line 1-2. Line 13-14, by being
related to 3-4, 11-12, and also 5-6, still further harmonises the group,
and the remainder echo 5-6 and increase the dominant swing. At L masses
have been introduced, covering crossing lines, and we have a basis for a

In Diagram I lines have been drawn as before, at random, but two of them
are straight and at right angles, the longer being across the-centre of
the panel. The first thing to do is to trick the eye out of knowing that
this line is in the centre by drawing others parallel to it, leading the
eye downwards to line 9-10, which is now much more important than 1-2
and in better proportion with the height of the panel. The vertical line
3-4 is rather stark and lonely, and so we' introduce two more verticals
at 11-12 and 13-14, which modify this, and with another two lines in
sympathy with 5-6 and leading the eye back to the horizontal top of the
panel, some sort of unity is set up, the introduction of some masses
completing the scheme at M.

There is a quality of sympathy set up by certain line relationships
about which it is important to say something. Ladies who have the
instinct for choosing a hat or doing their hair to suit their face
instinctively know something of this; know that certain things in their
face are emphasised by certain forms in their hats or hair, and the care
that has to be taken to see that the things thus drawn attention to are
their best and not their worst points.

The principle is more generally understood in relation to colour;
everybody knows how the blueness of blue eyes is emphasised by a
sympathetic blue dress or touch of blue on a hat, &c. But the same
principle applies to lines. The qualities of line in beautiful eyes and
eyebrows are emphasised by the long sympathetic curve of a picture hat,
and the becoming effect of a necklace is partly due to the same cause,
the lines being in sympathy with the eyes or the oval of the face,
according to how low or high they hang. The influence of long lines is
thus to "pick out" from among the lines of a face those with which they
are in sympathy, and thus to accentuate them.

To illustrate this, on page 178 [Transcribers Note: Plate XLII] is
reproduced "The Portrait of the Artist's Daughter," by Sir Edward

The two things that are brought out by the line arrangement in this
portrait are the beauty of the eyes and the shape of the face. Instead
of the picture hat you have the mirror, the widening circles of which
swing round in sympathy with the eyes and concentrate the attention on
them. That on the left (looking at the picture) being nearest the
centre, has the greatest attention concentrated upon it, the lines of
the mirror being more in sympathy with this than the other eye, as it is
nearer the centre. If you care to take the trouble, cut a hole in a
piece of opaque paper the size of the head and placing it over the
illustration look at the face without the influence of these outside
lines; and note how much more equally divided the attention is between
the two eyes without the emphasis given to the one by the mirror. This
helps the unity of impression, which with both eyes realised to so
intense a focus might have suffered. This mirror forms a sort of echo of
the pupil of the eye with its reflection of the window in the left-hand
corner corresponding to the high light, greatly helping the spell these
eyes hold.

[Illustration: Diagram XX.


[Illustration: Plate XLII.


An example of sympathetic rhythm. (See diagram on opposite page.)

_Photo Hollyer_]

The other form accentuated by the line arrangement is the oval of the
face. There is the necklace the lines of which lead on to those on the
right in the reflection. It is no mere accident that this chain is so in
sympathy with the line of the face: it would hardly have remained where
it is for long, and must have been put in this position by the artist
with the intention (conscious or instinctive) of accentuating the face
line. The line of the reflection on the left and the lines of the mirror
are also sympathetic. Others in the folds of the dress, and those
forming the mass of the hands and arms, echo still further this line of
the face and bring the whole canvas into intense sympathetic unity of

The influence that different ways of doing the hair may have on a face
is illustrated in the accompanying scribbles. The two profiles are
exactly alike--I took great trouble to make them so. It is quite
remarkable the difference the two ways of doing the hair make to the
look of the faces. The upward swing of the lines in A sympathise with
the line of the nose and the sharper projections of the face generally
(see dotted lines), while the full downward curves of B sympathise with
the fuller curves of the face and particularly emphasise the fullness
under the chin so dreaded by beauty past its first youth (see dotted
lines). It is only a very sharply-cut face that can stand this low knot
at the back of the head, in which case it is one of the simplest and
most beautiful ways of doing the hair. The hair dragged up high at the
back sharpens the lines of the profile as the low knot blunts them.

[Illustration: Diagram XXI.


[Illustration: Diagram XXII.


The illustrations to this chapter have been drawn in diagrammatical form
in order to try and show that the musical quality of lines and the
emotions they are capable of calling up are not dependent upon truth to
natural forms but are inherent in abstract arrangements themselves. That
is to say, whenever you get certain arrangements of lines, no matter
what the objects in nature may be that yield them, you will always get
the particular emotional stimulus belonging to such arrangements. For
instance, whenever you get long uninterrupted horizontal lines running
through a picture not opposed by any violent contrast, you will always
get an impression of intense quiet and repose; no matter whether the
natural objects yielding these lines are a wide stretch of country with
long horizontal clouds in the sky, a pool with a gentle breeze making
horizontal bars on its surface, or a pile of wood in a timber yard. And
whenever you get long vertical lines in a composition, no matter whether
it be a cathedral interior, a pine forest, or a row of scaffold poles,
you will always have the particular feeling associated with rows of
vertical lines in the abstract. And further, whenever you get the
swinging lines of the volute, an impression of energy will be conveyed,
no matter whether it be a breaking wave, rolling clouds, whirling dust,
or only a mass of tangled hoop iron in a wheelwright's yard. As was said
above, these effects may be greatly increased, modified, or even
destroyed by associations connected with the things represented. If in
painting the timber yard the artist is thinking more about making it
look like a stack of real wood with its commercial associations and
less about using the artistic material its appearance presents for the
making of a picture, he may miss the harmonic impression the long lines
of the stacks of wood present. If real wood is the first thing you are
led to think of in looking at his work, he will obviously have missed
the expression of any artistic feeling the subject was capable of
producing. And the same may be said of the scaffold poles or the hoop
iron in the wheelwright's yard.

This structure of abstract lines at the basis of a picture will be more
or less overlaid with the truths of nature, and all the rich variety of
natural forms, according to the requirements of the subject. Thus, in
large decorative work, where the painting has to take its place as part
of an architectural scheme, the severity of this skeleton will be
necessary to unite the work to the architectural forms around it, of
which it has to form a part; and very little indulgence in the
realisation of natural truth should be permitted to obscure it. But in
the painting of a small cabinet picture that exists for close
inspection, the supporting power of this line basis is not nearly so
essential, and a full indulgence in all the rich variety of natural
detail is permissible. And this is how it happens that painters who have
gloried in rich details have always painted small pictures, and painters
who have preferred larger truths pictures of bigger dimensions. It
sounds rather paradoxical to say the smaller the picture the more detail
it should contain, and the larger the less, but it is nevertheless true.
For although a large picture has not of necessity got to be part of an
architectural scheme, it has to be looked at from a distance at which
small detail could not be seen, and where such detail would greatly
weaken its expressive power. And further, the small picture easily
comes within the field of vision, and the whole impression can be
readily grasped without the main lines being, as it were, underlined.
But in a big picture one of the greatest difficulties is to get it to
read simply, to strike the eye as one impression. Its size making it
difficult for it to be got comfortably within the field of vision, every
artifice has to be used to give it "breadth of treatment," as it is
called, and nothing interferes with this like detail.



The masses that go to make up a picture have variety in their #shape#,
their #tone values#, their #edges#, in #texture# _or_ #quality#, and in
#gradation#. Quite a formidable list, but each of these particulars has
some rhythmic quality of its own about which it will be necessary to say
a word.

[Sidenote: Variety of Shape.]

As to variety of shape, many things that were said about lines apply
equally to the spaces enclosed by them. It is impossible to write of the
rhythmic possibilities that the infinite variety of shapes possessed by
natural objects contain, except to point out how necessary the study of
nature is for this. Variety of shape is one of the most difficult things
to invent, and one of the commonest things in nature. However
imaginative your conception, and no matter how far you may carry your
design, working from imagination, there will come a time when studies
from nature will be necessary if your work is to have the variety that
will give life and interest. Try and draw from imagination a row of elm
trees of about the same height and distance apart, and get the variety
of nature into them; and you will see how difficult it is to invent. On
examining your work you will probably discover two or three pet forms
repeated, or there may be only one. Or try and draw some cumulus clouds
from imagination, several groups of them across a sky, and you will
find how often again you have repeated unconsciously the same forms. How
tired one gets of the pet cloud or tree of a painter who does not often
consult nature in his pictures. Nature is the great storehouse of
variety; even a piece of coal will suggest more interesting rock-forms
than you can invent. And it is fascinating to watch the infinite variety
of graceful forms assumed by the curling smoke from a cigarette, full of
suggestions for beautiful line arrangements. If this variety of form in
your work is allowed to become excessive it will overpower the unity of
your conception. It is in the larger unity of your composition that the
imaginative faculty will be wanted, and variety in your forms should
always be subordinated to this idea.

Nature does not so readily suggest a scheme of unity, for the simple
reason that the first condition of your picture, the four bounding
lines, does not exist in nature. You may get infinite suggestions for
arrangements, and should always be on the look out for them, but your
imagination will have to relate them to the rigorous conditions of your
four bounding lines, and nature does not help you much here. But when
variety in the forms is wanted, she is pre-eminent, and it is never
advisable to waste inventive power where it is so unnecessary.

But although nature does not readily suggest a design fitting the
conditions of a panel her tendency is always towards unity of
arrangement. If you take a bunch of flowers or leaves and haphazard
stuff them into a vase of water, you will probably get a very chaotic
arrangement. But if you leave it for some time and let nature have a
chance you will find that the leaves and flowers have arranged
themselves much more harmoniously. And if you cut down one of a group of
trees, what a harsh discordant gap is usually left; but in time nature
will, by throwing a bough here and filling up a gap there, as far as
possible rectify matters and bring all into unity again. I am prepared
to be told this has nothing to do with beauty but is only the result of
nature's attempts to seek for light and air. But whatever be the
physical cause, the fact is the same, that nature's laws tend to
pictorial unity of arrangement.

[Sidenote: Variety of Tone Values]

It will be as well to try and explain what is meant by tone values. All
the masses or tones (for the terms are often used interchangeably) that
go to the making of a visual impression can be considered in relation to
an imagined scale from white, to represent the lightest, to black, to
represent the darkest tones. This scale of values does not refer to
light and shade only, but light and shade, colour, and the whole visual
impression are considered as one mosaic of masses of different degrees
of darkness or lightness. A dark object in strong light may be lighter
than a white object in shadow, or the reverse: it will depend on the
amount of reflected light. Colour only matters in so far as it affects
the position of the mass in this imagined scale of black and white. The
correct observation of these tone values is a most important matter, and
one of no little difficulty.

The word tone is used in two senses, in the first place when referring
to the individual masses as to their relations in the scale of "tone
values"; and secondly when referring to the musical relationship of
these values to a oneness of tone idea governing the whole impression.
In very much the same way you might refer to a single note in music as a
tone, and also to the tone of the whole orchestra. The word values
always refers to the relationship of the individual masses or tones in
our imagined scale from black to white. We say a picture is out of value
or out of tone when some of the values are darker or lighter than our
sense of harmony feels they should be, in the same way as we should say
an instrument in an orchestra was out of tone or tune when it was higher
or lower than our sense of harmony allowed. Tone is so intimately
associated with the colour of a picture that it is a little difficult to
treat of it apart, and it is often used in a sense to include colour in
speaking of the general tone. We say it has a warm tone or a cold tone.

There is a particular rhythmic beauty about a well-ordered arrangement
of tone values that is a very important part of pictorial design. This
music of tone has been present in art in a rudimentary way since the
earliest time, but has recently received a much greater amount of
attention, and much new light on the subject has been given by the
impressionist movement and the study of the art of China and Japan,
which is nearly always very beautiful in this respect.

#This quality of tone music is most dominant when the masses are large
and simple#, when the contemplation of them is not disturbed by much
variety, and they have little variation of texture and gradation. A
slight mist will often improve the tone of a landscape for this reason.
It simplifies the tones, masses them together, obliterating many smaller
varieties. I have even heard of the tone of a picture being improved
by such a mist scrambled or glazed over it.

[Illustration: Plate XLIII.


Study on brown paper in charcoal and white chalk.]

The powder on a lady's face, when not over-done, is an improvement for
the same reason. It simplifies the tones by destroying the distressing
shining lights that were cutting up the masses; and it also destroys a
large amount of half tone, broadening the lights almost up to the
commencement of the shadows.

#Tone relationships are most sympathetic when the middle values of your
scale only are used, that is to say, when the lights are low in tone and
the darks high.#

#They are most dramatic and intense when the contrasts are great and the
jumps from dark to light sudden.#

The sympathetic charm of half-light effects is due largely to the tones
being of this middle range only; whereas the striking dramatic effect of
a storm clearing, in which you may get a landscape brilliantly lit by
the sudden appearance of the sun, seen against the dark clouds of the
retreating storm, owes much of its dramatic quality to contrast. The
strong contrasts of tone values coupled with the strong colour contrast
between the warm sunlit land and the cold angry blue of the storm, gives
such a scene much dramatic effect and power.

The subject of values will be further treated in dealing with unity of

[Sidenote: Variety in Quality and Texture]

Variety in quality and nature is almost too subtle to write about with
any prospect of being understood. The play of different qualities and
textures in the masses that go to form a picture must be appreciated at
first hand, and little can be written about it. Oil paint is capable of
almost unlimited variety in this way. But it is better to leave the
study of such qualities until you have mastered the medium in its more
simple aspects.

The particular tone music of which we were speaking is not helped by any
great use of this variety. A oneness of quality throughout the work is
best suited to exhibit it. Masters of tone, like Whistler, preserve this
oneness of quality very carefully in their work, relying chiefly on the
grain of a rough canvas to give the necessary variety and prevent a
deadness in the quality of the tones.

But when more force and brilliancy are wanted, some use of your paint in
a crumbling, broken manner is necessary, as it catches more light, thus
increasing the force of the impression. Claude Monet and his followers
in their search for brilliancy used this quality throughout many of
their paintings, with new and striking results. But it is at the
sacrifice of many beautiful qualities of form, as this roughness of
surface does not lend itself readily to any finesse of modelling. In the
case of Claude Monet's work, however, this does not matter, as form with
all its subtleties is not a thing he made any attempt at exploiting.
Nature is sufficiently vast for beautiful work to be done in separate
departments of vision, although one cannot place such work on the same
plane with successful pictures of wider scope. And the particular visual
beauty of sparkling light and atmosphere, of which he was one of the
first to make a separate study, could hardly exist in a work that aimed
also at the significance of beautiful form, the appeal of form, as was
explained in an earlier chapter, not being entirely due to a visual but
to a mental perception, into which the sense of touch enters by
association. The scintillation and glitter of light destroys this touch
idea, which is better preserved in quieter lightings.

There is another point in connection with the use of thick paint, that I
don't think is sufficiently well known, and that is, its greater
readiness to be discoloured by the oil in its composition coming to the
surface. Fifteen years ago I did what it would be advisable for every
student to do as soon as possible, namely, make a chart of the colours
he is likely to use. Get a good white canvas, and set upon it in columns
the different colours, very much as you would do on your palette,
writing the names in ink beside them. Then take a palette-knife, an
ivory one by preference, and drag it from the individual masses of paint
so as to get a gradation of different thicknesses, from the thinnest
possible layer where your knife ends to the thick mass where it was
squeezed out of the tube. It is also advisable to have previously ruled
some pencil lines with a hard point down the canvas in such a manner
that the strips of paint will cross the lines. This chart will be of the
greatest value to you in noting the effect of time on paint. To make it
more complete, the colours of several makers should be put down, and at
any rate the whites of several different makes should be on it. As white
enters so largely into your painting it is highly necessary to use one
that does not change.

The two things that I have noticed are that the thin ends of the strips
of white have invariably kept whiter than the thick end, and that all
the paints have become a little more transparent with time. The pencil
lines here come in useful, as they can be seen through the thinner
portion, and show to what extent this transparency has occurred. But
the point I wish to emphasise is that at the thick end the larger body
of oil in the paint, which always comes to the surface as it dries, has
darkened and yellowed the surface greatly; while the small amount of oil
at the thin end has not darkened it to any extent.

Claude Monet evidently knew this, and got over the difficulty by
painting on an absorbent canvas, which sucks the surplus oil out from
below and thus prevents its coming to the surface and discolouring the
work in time. When this thick manner of painting is adopted, an
absorbent canvas should always be used. It also has the advantage of
giving a dull dry surface of more brilliancy than a shiny one.

Although not so much as with painting, varieties of texture enter into
drawings done with any of the mediums that lend themselves to mass
drawing; charcoal, conté crayon, lithographic chalk, and even red chalk
and lead pencil are capable of giving a variety of textures, governed
largely by the surface of the paper used. But this is more the province
of painting than of drawing proper, and charcoal, which is more painting
than drawing, is the only medium in which it can be used with much

[Sidenote: Variety of Edges.]

There is a very beautiful rhythmic quality in the play from softness to
sharpness on the edges of masses. A monotonous sharpness of edge is
hard, stern, and unsympathetic. This is a useful quality at times,
particularly in decorative work, where the more intimate sympathetic
qualities are not so much wanted, and where the harder forms go better
with the architectural surroundings of which your painted decoration
should form a part. On the other hand, a monotonous softness of edge is
very weak and feeble-looking, and too entirely lacking in power to be
desirable. If you find any successful work done with this quality of
edge unrelieved by any sharpnesses, it will depend on colour, and not
form, for any qualities it may possess.

Some amount of softness makes for charm, and is extremely popular: "#I
do# like that because it's so nice and soft" is a regular show-day
remark in the studio, and is always meant as a great compliment, but is
seldom taken as such by the suffering painter. But a balance of these
two qualities playing about your contours produces the most delightful
results, and the artist is always on the look out for such variations.
He seldom lets a sharpness of edge run far without losing it
occasionally. It may be necessary for the hang of the composition that
some leading edges should be much insisted on. But even here a
monotonous sharpness is too dead a thing, and although a firmness of run
will be allowed to be felt, subtle variations will be introduced to
prevent deadness. The Venetians from Giorgione's time were great masters
of this music of edges. The structure of lines surrounding the masses on
which their compositions are built were fused in the most mysterious and
delightful way. But although melting into the surrounding mass, they are
always firm and never soft and feeble. Study the edge in such a good
example of the Venetian manner as the "Bacchus and Ariadne" at the
National Gallery, and note where they are hard and where lost.

There is one rather remarkable fact to be observed in this picture and
many Venetian works, and this is that the #most accented edges are
reserved for unessential parts#, like the piece of white drapery on the
lower arm of the girl with the cymbals, and the little white flower on
the boy's head in front. The edges on the flesh are everywhere fused and
soft, the draperies being much sharper. You may notice the same thing in
many pictures of the later Venetian schools. The greatest accents on the
edges are rarely in the head, except it may be occasionally in the eyes.
But they love to get some strongly-accented feature, such as a
crisply-painted shirt coming against the soft modelling of the neck, to
balance the fused edges in the flesh. In the head of Philip IV in our
National Gallery the only place where Velazquez has allowed himself
anything like a sharp edge is in the high lights on the chain hanging
round the neck. The softer edges of the principal features in these
compositions lend a largeness and mystery to these parts, and to restore
the balance, sharpnesses are introduced in non-essential accessories.

In the figure with the white tunic from Velazquez's "Surrender of
Breda," here reproduced, note the wonderful variety on the edges of the
white masses of the coat and the horse's nose, and also that the
sharpest accents are reserved for such non-essentials as the bows on the
tunic and the loose hair on the horse's forehead. Velazquez's edges are
wonderful, and cannot be too carefully studied. He worked largely in
flat tones or planes; but this richness and variety of his edges keeps
his work from looking flat and dull, like that of some of his followers.
I am sorry to say this variety does not come out so well in the
reproduction on page 194 [Transcribers Note: Plate XLIV] as I could
have wished, the half-tone process having a tendency to sharpen edges
rather monotonously.

This quality is everywhere to be found in nature. If you regard any
scene pictorially, looking at it as a whole and not letting your eye
focus on individual objects wandering from one to another while being
but dimly conscious of the whole, but regarding it as a beautiful
ensemble; you will find that the boundaries of the masses are not hard
continuous edges but play continually along their course, here melting
imperceptibly into the surrounding mass, and there accentuated more
sharply. Even a long continuous line, like the horizon at sea, has some
amount of this play, which you should always be on the look out for. But
when the parts only of nature are regarded and each is separately
focussed, hard edges will be found to exist almost everywhere, unless
there is a positive mist enveloping the objects. And this is the usual
way of looking at things. But a picture that is a catalogue of many
little parts separately focussed will not hang together as one visual

[Illustration: Plate XLIV.


Note the varied quantity of the edge in white mass of tunic. (The
reproduction does not unfortunately show this as well as the original.)

_Photo Anderson_]

In naturalistic work the necessity for painting to one focal impression
is as great as the necessity of painting in true perspective. What
perspective has done for drawing, the impressionist system of painting
to one all-embracing focus has done for tone. Before perspective was
introduced, each individual object in a picture was drawn with a
separate centre of vision fixed on each object in turn. What perspective
did was to insist that all objects in a picture should be drawn in
relation to one fixed centre of vision. And whereas formerly each object
was painted to a hard focus, whether it was in the foreground or the
distance, impressionism teaches that you cannot have the focus in a
picture at the same time on the foreground and the distance.

Of course there are many manners of painting with more primitive
conventions in which the consideration of focus does not enter. But in
all painting that aims at reproducing the impressions directly produced
in us by natural appearances, this question of focus and its influence
on the quality of your edges is of great importance.

Something should be said about the serrated edges of masses, like those
of trees seen against the sky. These are very difficult to treat, and
almost every landscape painter has a different formula. The hard, fussy,
cut-out, photographic appearance of trees misses all their beauty and

There are three principal types of treatment that may serve as examples.
In the first place there are the trees of the early Italian painters,
three examples of which are illustrated on page 197 [Transcribers Note:
Diagram XXIII]. A thin tree is always selected, and a rhythmic pattern
of leaves against the sky painted. This treatment of a dark pattern on a
light ground is very useful as a contrast to the softer tones of flesh.
But the treatment is more often applied nowadays to a spray of foliage
in the foreground, the pattern of which gives a very rich effect. The
poplar trees in Millais' "Vale of Rest" are painted in much the same
manner as that employed by the Italians, and are exceptional among
modern tree paintings, the trees being treated as a pattern of leaves
against the sky. Millais has also got a raised quality of paint in his
darks very similar to that of Bellini and many early painters.

Giorgione added another tree to landscape art: the rich, full,
solidly-massed forms that occur in his "Concert Champêtre" of the
Louvre, reproduced on page 151 [Transcribers Note: Plate XXXIII]. In
this picture you may see both types of treatment. There are the
patterns of leaves variety on the left and the solidly-massed treatment
on the right.

[Illustration: Diagram XXIII.


A. From pictures in Oratorio di S. Ansano. "Il trionfo dell' Amore,"
attributed to Botticelli.

B. From "L'Annunziazione," by Botticelli, Uffizi, Florence.

C. From "La Vergine," by Giovanni Bellini in the Accademia, Venice.]

Corot in his later work developed a treatment that has been largely
followed since. Looking at trees with a very wide focus, he ignored
individual leaves, and resolved them into masses of tone, here lost and
here found more sharply against the sky. The subordinate masses of
foliage within these main boundaries are treated in the same way,
resolved into masses of infinitely varying edges. This play, this
lost-and-foundness at his edges is one of the great distinguishing
charms of Corot's trees. When they have been painted from this mass
point of view, a suggestion of a few leaves here and a bough there may
be indicated, coming sharply against the sky, but you will find this
basis of tone music, this crescendo and diminuendo throughout all his
later work (see illustration, page 215 [Transcribers Note: Diagram

These are three of the more extreme types of trees to be met with in
art, but the variations on these types are very numerous. Whatever
treatment you adopt, the tree must be considered as a whole, and some
rhythmic form related to this large impression selected. And this
applies to all forms with serrated edges: some large order must be found
to which the fussiness of the edges must conform.

The subject of edges generally is a very important one, and one much
more worried over by a master than by the average student. It is
interesting to note how all the great painters have begun with a hard
manner, with edges of little variety, from which they have gradually
developed a looser manner, learning to master the difficulties of design
that hard contours insist on your facing, and only when this is
thoroughly mastered letting themselves develop freely this play on the
edges, this looser handling.

For under the freest painting, if it be good, there will be found a
bed-rock structure of well-constructed masses and lines. They may never
be insisted on, but their steadying influence will always be felt. So
err in your student work on the side of hardness rather than looseness,
if you would discipline yourself to design your work well. Occasionally
only let yourself go at a looser handling.

[Sidenote: Variety of Gradiation.]

Variety of gradation will naturally be governed largely by the form and
light and shade of the objects in your composition. But while studying
the gradations of tone that express form and give the modelling, you
should never neglect to keep the mind fixed upon the relation the part
you are painting bears to the whole picture. And nothing should be done
that is out of harmony with this large conception. It is one of the most
difficult things to decide the amount of variety and emphasis allowable
for the smaller parts of a picture, so as to bring all in harmony with
that oneness of impression that should dominate the whole; how much of
your scale of values it is permissible to use for the modelling of each
individual part. In the best work the greatest economy is exercised in
this respect, so that as much power may be kept in reserve as possible.
You have only the one scale from black to white to work with, only one
octave within the limits of which to compose your tone symphonies. There
are no higher and lower octaves as in music to extend your effect. So be
very sparing with your tone values when modelling the different parts.



What has been said about unity of line applies obviously to the outlines
bounding the masses, so that we need not say anything further on that
subject. The particular quality of which something should be said, is
the unity that is given to a picture by means of a well-arranged and
rhythmically considered scheme of tone values.

The modifications in the relative tone values of objects seen under
different aspects of light and atmosphere are infinite and ever varying;
and this is quite a special study in itself. Nature is the great teacher
here, her tone arrangements always possessing unity. How kind to the eye
is her attempt to cover the ugliness of our great towns in an envelope
of atmosphere, giving the most wonderful tone symphonies; thus using
man's desecration of her air by smoke to cover up his other desecration
of her country-side, a manufacturing town. This study of values is a
distinguishing feature of modern art.

But schemes taken from nature are not the only harmonious ones. The
older masters were content with one or two well-tried arrangements of
tone in their pictures, which were often not at all true to natural
appearances but nevertheless harmonious. The chief instance of this is
the low-toned sky. The painting of flesh higher in tone than the sky was
almost universal at many periods of art, and in portraits is still
often seen. Yet it is only in strong sunlight that this is ever so in
nature, as you can easily see by holding your hand up against a sky
background. The possible exception to this rule is a dark storm-cloud,
in which case your hand would have to be strongly lit by some bright
light in another part of the sky to appear light against it.

This high tone of the sky is a considerable difficulty when one wishes
the interest centred on the figures. The eye instinctively goes to the
light masses in a picture, and if these masses are sky, the figures lose
some importance. The fashion of lowering its tone has much to be said
for it on the score of the added interest it gives to the figures. But
it is apt to bring a heavy stuffy look into the atmosphere, and is only
really admissible in frankly conventional treatment, in which one has
not been led to expect implicit truth to natural effect. If truth to
natural appearances is carried far in the figures, the same truth will
be expected in the background; but if only certain truths are selected
in the figures, and the treatment does not approach the naturalistic,
much more liberty can be taken with the background without loss of

But there is a unity about nature's tone arrangements that it is very
difficult to improve upon; and it is usually advisable, if you can, to
base the scheme of tone in your picture on a good study of values from

Such effects as twilight, moonlight, or even sunlight were seldom
attempted by the older painters, at any rate in their figure subjects.
All the lovely tone arrangements that nature presents in these more
unusual aspects are a new study, and offer unlimited new material to
the artist. Many artists are content to use this simply for itself, the
beauty of a rare tone effect being sufficient with the simplest
accessories to make a picture. But in figure composition, what new and
wonderful things can be imagined in which some rare aspect of nature's
tone-music is combined with a fine figure design.

These values are not easily perceived with accuracy, although their
influence may be felt by many. A true eye for the accurate perception of
subtle tone arrangements is a thing you should study very diligently to
acquire. How then is this to be done? It is very difficult, if not
impossible, to teach anybody to see. Little more can be said than has
already been written about this subject in the chapter on variety in
mass. Every mass has to be considered in relation to an imagined tone
scale, taking black for your darkest and white for your highest light as
we have seen. A black glass, by reducing the light, enables you to
observe these relationships more accurately; the dazzling quality of
strong light making it difficult to judge them. But this should only be
used to correct one's eye, and the comparison should be made between
nature seen in the glass and your work seen also in the glass. To look
in a black glass and then compare what you saw with your work looked at
direct is not a fair comparison, and will result in low-toned work with
little brilliancy.

Now, to represent this scale of tones in painting we have white paint as
our highest and black paint as our lowest notes. It is never advisable
to play either of these extremes, although you may go very near to them.
That is to say, there should never be pure white or pure black masses in
a picture. There is a kind of screaminess set up when one goes the
whole gamut of tone, that gives a look of unrestraint and weakness;
somewhat like the feeling experienced when a vocalist sings his or her
very highest or very lowest note. In a good singer one always feels he
could have gone still higher or still lower, as the case may be, and
this gives an added power to the impression of his singing. And in art,
likewise, it is always advisable to keep something of this reserve
power. Also, the highest lights in nature are never without colour, and
this will lower the tone; neither are the deepest darks colourless, and
this will raise their tone. But perhaps this is dogmatising, and it may
be that beautiful work is to be done with all the extremes you can "clap
on," though I think it very unlikely.

In all the quieter aspects of lighting this range from black to white
paint is sufficient. But where strong, brilliantly lit effects are
wanted, something has to be sacrificed, if this look of brilliancy is to
be made telling.

In order to increase the relationship between some of the tones others
must be sacrificed. There are two ways of doing this. The first, which
was the method earliest adopted, is to begin from the light end of the
scale, and, taking something very near pure white as your highest light,
to get the relationships between this and the next most brilliant tone,
and to proceed thus, tone by tone, from the lightest to the darkest. But
working in this way you will find that you arrive at the greatest dark
you can make in paint before you have completed the scale of
relationships as in nature, if the subject happens to be brilliantly
lit. Another method is to put down the highest light and the darkest
dark, and then work your scale of tone relatively between them. But it
will be found that working in this way, unless the subject in nature is
very quietly lit, you will not get anything like the forceful impression
of tone that nature gives.

The third way, and this is the more modern, is to begin from the dark
end of the scale, getting the true relationship felt between the
greatest dark and the next darkest tone to it, and so on, proceeding
towards the light. By this method you will arrive at your highest light
in paint before the highest light in nature has been reached. All
variety of tone at the light end of the scale will have to be modified
in this case, instead of at the dark end as in the other case. In the
painting of sunlight the latter method is much the more effective, a
look of great brilliancy and light being produced, whereas in the
earlier method, the scale being commenced from the light end, so much of
the picture was dark that the impression of light and air was lost and a
dark gloomy land took its place, a gloom accentuated rather than
dispelled by the streaks of lurid light where the sun struck.

Rembrandt is an example of beginning the tone relationships from the
light side of the scale, and a large part of his canvas is in
consequence always dark.

Bastien Lepage is an example of the second method, that of fixing upon
two extremes and working-relatively between them. And it will be noticed
that he confined himself chiefly to quiet grey day effects of lighting,
the rendering of which was well within the range of his palette. The
method of beginning from the dark side, getting the true relations of
tones on this side of the scale, and letting the lights take care of
themselves, was perhaps first used by Turner. But it is largely used now
whenever a strong impression of light is desired. The light masses
instead of the dark masses dominate the pictures, which have great

These tone values are only to be perceived in their true relationship by
the eye contemplating a wide field of vision. With the ordinary habit of
looking only at individual parts of nature, the general impression being
but dimly felt, they are not observed. The artist has to acquire the
habit of generalising his visual attention over a wide field if he would
perceive the true relation of the parts to this scale of values. Half
closing the eyes, which is the usual method of doing this, destroys the
perception of a great deal of colour. Another method of throwing the
eyes out of focus and enabling one to judge of large relationships, is
to dilate them widely. This rather increases than diminishes the colour,
but is not so safe a method of judging subtle tone relationships.

It is easier in approaching this study out of doors to begin with quiet
effects of light. Some of those soft grey days in this country are very
beautiful in tone, and change so little that careful studies can be
made. And with indoor work, place your subject rather away from the
direct light and avoid much light and shade; let the light come from
behind you.

If very strong light effects, such as sunlight, or a dark interior lit
by one brilliant window, are attempted, the values will be found to be
much simpler and more harsh, often resolving themselves into two
masses, a brilliant light contrasted with a dark shadow. This tone
arrangement of strong light in contrast with dark shadow was a favourite
formula with many schools of the past, since Leonardo da Vinci first
used it. Great breadth and splendour is given by it to design, and it is
one of the most impressive of tone arrangements. Leonardo da Vinci's
"Our Lady of the Rocks," in the National Gallery, is an early example of
this treatment. And Correggio's "Venus, Mercury, and Cupid," here
reproduced, is another particularly fine example. Reynolds and many of
the eighteenth-century men used this scheme in their work almost
entirely. This strong light and shade, by eliminating to a large extent
the half tones, helps to preserve in highly complete work a simplicity
and directness of statement that is very powerful. For certain
impressions it probably will never be bettered, but it is a very
well-worn convention. Manet among the moderns has given new life to this
formula, although he did not derive his inspiration directly from
Correggio but through the Spanish school. By working in a strong, rather
glaring, direct light, he eliminated still further the half tones, and
got rid to a great extent of light and shade. Coming at a time when the
realistic and plain air movements were destroying simple directness, his
work was of great value, bringing back, as it did with its insistence on
large, simple masses, a sense of frank design. His influence has been
very great in recent years, as artists have felt that it offered a new
formula for design and colour. Light and shade and half tone are the
great enemies of colour, sullying, as they do, its purity; and to some
extent to design also, destroying, as they do, the flatness of the
picture. But with the strong direct light, the masses are cut out as
simply as possible, and their colour is little sullied by light and
shade. The picture of Manet's reproduced is a typical example of his
manner. The aggressive shape of the pattern made by the light mass
against the dark background is typical of his revolutionary attitude
towards all accepted canons of beauty. But even here it is interesting
to note that many principles of composition are conformed to. The design
is united to its boundaries by the horizontal line of the couch and the
vertical line of the screen at the back, while the whole swing hangs on
the diagonal from top left-hand corner to right; lower corner, to which
the strongly marked edge of the bed-clothes and pillow at the bottom of
the picture is parallel.

[Illustration: Plate XLV.


A fine example of one of the most effective tone arrangements; a
brilliantly-lit, richly-modelled light mass on a dark background.

_Photo Hanfstaengl_]

Large flat tones give a power and simplicity to a design, and a
largeness and breadth of expression that are very valuable, besides
showing up every little variety in the values used for your modelling;
and thus enabling you to model with the least expenditure of tones.
Whatever richness of variation you may ultimately desire to add to your
values, see to it that in planning your picture you get a good basic
structure of simply designed, and as far as possible flat, tones.

In speaking of variety in mass we saw how the #nearer these tones are in
the scale of values, the more reserved and quiet the impression
created#, and the #further apart or greater the contrast, the more
dramatic and intense the effect#. And the sentiment of tone in a
picture, like the sentiment of line and colour, should be in harmony
with the nature of your subject.

Generally speaking #more variety of tone and shape in the masses of
your composition is permissible when a smaller range of values is used
than when your subject demands strong contrasts#. When strong contrasts
of tone or what are called black and white effects are desired, the
masses must be very simply designed. Were this not so, and were the
composition patterned all over with smaller masses in strong contrast,
the breadth and unity of the effect would be lost. While when the
difference of relative values between one tone and another is slight,
the oneness of effect is not so much interfered with by there being a
large number of them. Effects of strong contrasts are therefore far the
most difficult to manage, as it is not easy to reduce a composition of
any complexity to a simple expressive pattern of large masses.

This principle applies also in the matter of colour. Greater contrasts
and variety of colour may be indulged in where the middle range only of
tones is used, and where there is little tone contrast, than where there
is great contrast. In other words, you cannot with much hope of success
have strong contrasts of colour and strong contrasts of tone in the same
picture: it is too violent.

If you have strong contrasts of colour, the contrasts of tone between
them must be small. The Japanese and Chinese often make the most
successful use of violent contrasts of colour by being careful that they
shall be of the same tone value.

And again, where you have strong contrasts of tone, such as Rembrandt
was fond of, you cannot successfully have strong contrasts of colour as
well. Reynolds, who was fond both of colour and strong tone contrast,
had to compromise, as he tells us in his lectures, by making the
shadows all the same brown colour, to keep a harmony in his work.

[Illustration: Plate XLVI.


A further development of the composition formula illustrated by
Correggio's "Venus". Added force is given by lighting with low direct
light elimination half-tones.

_Photo Neurdein_]

There is some analogy between straight lines and flat tones, and curved
lines and gradated tones. And a great deal that was said about the
rhythmic significance of these lines will apply equally well here. What
was said about long vertical and horizontal lines conveying a look of
repose and touching the serious emotional notes, can be said of large
flat tones. The feeling of infinity suggested by a wide blue sky without
a cloud, seen above a wide bare plain, is an obvious instance of this.
And for the same harmonic cause, a calm evening has so peaceful and
infinite an expression. The waning light darkens the land and increases
the contrast between it and the sky, with the result that all the
landscape towards the west is reduced to practically one dark tone,
cutting sharply against the wide light of the sky.

And the graceful charm of curved lines swinging in harmonious rhythm
through a composition has its analogy in gradated tones. Watteau and
Gainsborough, those masters of charm, knew this, and in their most
alluring compositions the tone-music is founded on a principle of
tone-gradations, swinging and interlacing with each other in harmonious
rhythm throughout the composition. Large, flat tones, with their more
thoughtful associations are out of place here, and are seldom if ever
used. In their work we see a world where the saddening influences of
profound thought and its expression are far away. No deeper notes are
allowed to mar the gaiety of this holiday world. Watteau created a dream
country of his own, in which a tired humanity has delighted ever since,
in which all serious thoughts are far away and the mind takes
refreshment in the contemplation of delightful things. And a great
deal of this charm is due to the pretty play from a crescendo to a
diminuendo in the tone values on which his compositions are based--so
far removed from the simple structure of flat masses to which more
primitive and austere art owes its power.

[Illustration: Diagram XXIV.


[Illustration: Plate XLVII.


A typical example of composition founded on gradated tones. (See
analysis on opposite page.)

_Photo Hanfstaengl_]

But Watteau's great accomplishment was in doing this without
degenerating into feeble prettiness, and this he did by an insistence on
character in his figures, particularly his men. His draperies also are
always beautifully drawn and full of variety, never feeble and
characterless. The landscape backgrounds are much more lacking in this
respect, nothing ever happened there, no storms have ever bent his
graceful tree-trunks, and the incessant gradations might easily become
wearisome. But possibly the charm in which we delight would be lost, did
the landscape possess more character. At any rate there is enough in the
figures to prevent any sickly prettiness, although I think if you
removed the figures the landscape would not be tolerable.

But the followers of Watteau seized upon the prettiness and gradually
got out of touch with the character, and if you compare Boucher's heads,
particularly his men's heads, with Watteau's you may see how much has
been lost.

The following are three examples of this gradated tone composition (see
pages 210 [Transcribers Note: Diagram XXIV], 213 [Transcribers Note:
Diagram XXV], 215 [Transcribers Note: Diagram XXVI]):

Watteau: "Embarquement pour L'Île de Cythère."

This is a typical Watteau composition, founded on a rhythmic play of
gradated tones and gradated edges. Flat tones and hard edges are
avoided. Beginning at the centre of the top with a strongly accented
note of contrast, the dark tone of the mass of trees gradates into the
ground and on past the lower right-hand corner across the front of the
picture, until, when nearing the lower left-hand corner, it reverses the
process and from dark to light begins gradating light to dark, ending
somewhat sharply against the sky in the rock form to the left. The rich
play of tone that is introduced in the trees and ground, &c., blinds one
at first to the perception of this larger tone motive, but without it
the rich variety would not hold together. Roughly speaking the whole of
this dark frame of tones from the accented point of the trees at the top
to the mass of the rock on the left, may be said to gradate away into
the distance; cut into by the wedge-shaped middle tone of the hills
leading to the horizon.

Breaking across this is a graceful line of figures, beginning on the
left where the mass of rock is broken by the little flight of cupids,
and continuing across the picture until it is brought up sharply by the
light figure under the trees on the right. Note the pretty clatter of
spots this line of figures brings across the picture, introducing light
spots into the darker masses, ending up with the strongly accented light
spot of the figure on the right; and dark spots into the lighter masses,
ending up with the figures of the cupids dark against the sky.

Steadying influences in all this flux of tone are introduced by the
vertical accent of the tree-stem and statue in the dark mass on the
right, by the horizontal line of the distance on the left, the outline
of the ground in the front, and the straight staffs held by some of the

In the charcoal scribble illustrating this composition I have tried
carefully to avoid any drawing in the figures or trees to show how the
tone-music depends not so much on truth to natural appearances as on
the abstract arrangement of tone values and their rhythmic play.

[Illustration: Diagram XXV.


Of course nature contains every conceivable variety of tone-music, but
it is not to be found by unintelligent copying except in rare accidents.
Emerson says, "Although you search the whole world for the beautiful
you'll not find it unless you take it with you," and this is true to a
greater extent of rhythmic tone arrangements.

Turner: "Ulysses deriding Polyphemus."

Turner was very fond of these gradated tone compositions, and carried
them to a lyrical height to which they had never before attained. His
"Ulysses deriding Polyphemus," in the National Gallery of British Art,
is a splendid example of his use of this principle. A great unity of
expression is given by bringing the greatest dark and light together in
sharp contrast, as is done in this picture by the dark rocks and ships'
prows coming against the rising sun. From this point the dark and light
masses gradate in different directions until they merge above the ships'
sails. These sails cut sharply into the dark mass as the rocks and ship
on the extreme right cut sharply into the light mass. Note also the
edges where they are accented and come sharply against the neighbouring
mass, and where they are lost, and the pleasing quality this play of
edges gives.

Stability is given by the line of the horizon and waves in front, and
the masts of the ships, the oars, and, in the original picture, a
feeling of radiating lines from the rising sun. Without these steadying
influences these compositions of gradated masses would be sickly and

Corot: 2470 Collection Chauchard, Louvre.

This is a typical example of Corot's tone scheme, and little need be
added to the description already given. Infinite play is got with the
simplest means. A dark silhouetted mass is seen against a light
sky, the perfect balance of the shapes and the infinite play of
lost-and-foundness in the edges giving to this simple structure a
richness and beauty effect that is very satisfying. Note how Corot, like
Turner, brings his greatest light and dark together in sharp contrast
where the rock on the right cuts the sky.

[Illustration: Diagram XXVI.


Stability is given by the vertical feeling in the central group of trees
and the suggestion of horizontal distance behind the figure.

It is not only in the larger disposition of the masses in a composition
that this principle of gradated masses and lost and found edges can be
used. Wherever grace and charm are your motive they should be looked for
in the working out of the smallest details.

       *       *       *       *       *

In concluding this chapter I must again insist that knowledge of these
matters will not make you compose a good picture. A composition may be
perfect as far as any rules or principles of composition go, and yet be
of no account whatever. The life-giving quality in art always defies
analysis and refuses to be tabulated in any formula. This vital quality
in drawing and composition must come from the individual artist himself,
and nobody can help him much here. He must ever be on the look out for
those visions his imagination stirs within him, and endeavour, however
haltingly at first, to give them some sincere expression. Try always
when your mind is filled with some pictorial idea to get something put
down, a mere fumbled expression possibly, but it may contain the germ.
Later on the same idea may occur to you again, only it will be less
vague this time, and a process of development will have taken place. It
may be years before it takes sufficiently definite shape to justify a
picture; the process of germination in the mind is a slow one. But try
and acquire the habit of making some record of what pictorial ideas pass
in the mind, and don't wait until you can draw and paint well to begin.
Qualities of drawing and painting don't matter a bit here, it is the
sensation, the feeling for the picture, that is everything.

If knowledge of the rhythmic properties of lines and masses will not
enable you to compose a fine picture, you may well ask what is their
use? There may be those to whom they are of no use. Their artistic
instincts are sufficiently strong to need no direction. But such natures
are rare, and it is doubtful if they ever go far, while many a painter
might be saved a lot of worry over something in his picture that "won't
come" did he but know more of the principle of pictorial design his work
is transgressing. I feel certain that the old painters, like the
Venetians, were far more systematic and had far more hard and fast
principles of design than ourselves. They knew the science of their
craft so well that they did not so often have to call upon their
artistic instinct to get them out of difficulties. Their artistic
instinct was free to attend to higher things, their knowledge of the
science of picture-making keeping them from many petty mistakes that a
modern artist falls into. The desire of so many artists in these days to
cut loose from tradition and start all over again puts a very severe
strain upon their intuitive faculties, and keeps them occupied
correcting things that more knowledge of some of the fundamental
principles that don't really alter and that are the same in all schools
would have saved them. Knowledge in art is like a railway built behind
the pioneers who have gone before; it offers a point of departure for
those who come after, further on into the unknown country of nature's
secrets--a help not lightly to be discarded.

But all artifice in art must be concealed, #a picture obviously composed
is badly composed#. In a good composition it is as though the parts had
been carefully placed in rhythmic relation and then the picture jarred a
little, so that everything is slightly shifted out of place, thus
introducing our "dither" or play of life between the parts. Of course no
mechanical jogging will introduce the vital quality referred to, which
must come from the vitality of the artist's intuition; although I have
heard of photographers jogging the camera in an endeavour to introduce
some artistic "play" in its mechanical renderings. But one must say
something to show how in all good composition the mechanical principles
at the basis of the matter are subordinate to a vital principle on which
the life in the work depends.

This concealment of all artifice, this artlessness and spontaneity of
appearance, is one of the greatest qualities in a composition, any
analysis of which is futile. It is what occasionally gives to the work
of the unlettered genius so great a charm. But the artist in whom the
true spark has not been quenched by worldly success or other enervating
influence, keeps the secret of this freshness right on, the culture of
his student days being used only to give it splendour of expression, but
never to stifle or suppress its native charm.



There seems to be a strife between opposing forces at the basis of all
things, a strife in which a perfect balance is never attained, or life
would cease. The worlds are kept on their courses by such opposing
forces, the perfect equilibrium never being found, and so the vitalising
movement is kept up. States are held together on the same principle, no
State seeming able to preserve a balance for long; new forces arise, the
balance is upset, and the State totters until a new equilibrium has been
found. It would seem, however, to be the aim of life to strive after
balance, any violent deviation from which is accompanied by calamity.

And in art we have the same play of opposing factors, straight lines and
curves, light and dark, warm and cold colour oppose each other. Were the
balance between them perfect, the result would be dull and dead. But if
the balance is very much out, the eye is disturbed and the effect too
disquieting. It will naturally be in pictures that aim at repose that
this balance will be most perfect. In more exciting subjects less will
be necessary, but some amount should exist in every picture, no matter
how turbulent its motive; as in good tragedy the horror of the situation
is never allowed to overbalance the beauty of the treatment.

[Sidenote: Between Straight Lines and Curves]

Let us consider in the first place the balance between straight lines
and curves. The richer and fuller the curves, the more severe should be
the straight lines that balance them, if perfect repose is desired. But
if the subject demands excess of movement and life, of course there will
be less necessity for the balancing influence of straight lines. And on
the other hand, if the subject demands an excess of repose and
contemplation, the bias will be on the side of straight lines. But a
picture composed entirely of rich, rolling curves is too disquieting a
thing to contemplate, and would become very irritating. Of the two
extremes, one composed entirely of straight lines would be preferable to
one with no squareness to relieve the richness of the curves. For
straight lines are significant of the deeper and more permanent things
of life, of the powers that govern and restrain, and of infinity; while
the rich curves (that is, curves the farthest removed from the straight
line) seem to be expressive of uncontrolled energy and the more
exuberant joys of life. Vice may be excess in any direction, but
asceticism has generally been accepted as a nobler vice than
voluptuousness. The rococo art of the eighteenth century is an instance
of the excessive use of curved forms, and, like all excesses in the joys
of life, it is vicious and is the favourite style of decoration in
vulgar places of entertainment. The excessive use of straight lines and
square forms may be seen in some ancient Egyptian architecture, but this
severity was originally, no doubt, softened by the use of colour, and in
any case it is nobler and finer than the vicious cleverness of rococo

We have seen how the Greeks balanced the straight lines of their
architectural forms with the rich lines of the sculpture which they used
so lavishly on their temples. But the balance was always kept on the
side of the square forms and never on the side of undue roundness. And
it is on this side that the balance would seem to be in the finest art.
Even the finest curves are those that approach the straight line rather
than the circle, that err on the side of flatnesses rather than

[Sidenote: Between Flat and Gradated Tones]

What has been said about the balance of straight lines and curves
applies equally well to tones, if for straight lines you substitute flat
tones, and for curved lines gradated tones. The deeper, more permanent
things find expression in the wider, flatter tones, while an excess of
gradations makes for prettiness, if not for the gross roundnesses of
vicious modelling.

Often when a picture is hopelessly out of gear and "mucked up," as they
say in the studio, it can be got on the right road again by reducing it
to a basis of flat tones, going over it and painting out the gradations,
getting it back to a simpler equation from which the right road to
completion can be more readily seen. Overmuch concern with the
gradations of the smaller modelling is a very common reason of pictures
and drawings getting out of gear. The less expenditure of tone values
you can express your modelling with, the better, as a general rule. The
balance in the finest work is usually on the side of flat tones rather
than on the side of gradated tones. Work that errs on the side of
gradations, like that of Greuze, however popular its appeal, is much
poorer stuff than work that errs on the side of flatness in tone, like
Giotto and the Italian primitives, or Puvis de Chavannes among the

[Sidenote: Between Light and Dark Tones.]

There is a balance of tone set up also between light and dark, between
black and white in the scale of tone. Pictures that do not go far in the
direction of light, starting from a middle tone, should not go far in
the direction of dark either. In this respect note the pictures of
Whistler, a great master in matters of tone; his lights seldom approach
anywhere near white, and, on the other hand, his darks never approach
black in tone. When the highest lights are low in tone, the darkest
darks should be high in tone. Painters like Rembrandt, whose pictures
when fresh must have approached very near white in the high lights, also
approach black in the darks, and nearer our own time, Frank Holl forced
the whites of his pictures very high and correspondingly the darks were
very heavy. And when this balance is kept there is a rightness about it
that is instinctively felt. We do not mean that the #amount# of light
tones in a picture should be balanced by the #amount# of dark tones, but
that there should be some balance between the extremes of light and dark
used in the tone scheme of a picture. The old rule was, I believe, that
a picture should be two-thirds light and one-third dark. But I do not
think there is any rule to be observed here: there are too many
exceptions, and no mention is made of half tones.

Like all so-called laws in art, this rule is capable of many apparent
exceptions. There is the white picture in which all the tones are high.
But in some of the most successful of these you will generally find
spots of intensely dark pigment. Turner was fond of these light pictures
in his later manner, but he usually put in some dark spot, such as the
black gondolas in some of his Venetian pictures, that illustrate the law
of balance we are speaking of, and are usually put in excessively dark
in proportion as the rest of the picture is excessively light.

The successful one-tone pictures are generally painted in the middle
tones, and thus do not in any way contradict our principle of balance.

[Sidenote: Between Warm and Cold Colours.]

One is tempted at this point to wander a little into the province of
colour, where the principle of balance of which we are speaking is much
felt, the scale here being between warm and cold colours. If you divide
the solar spectrum roughly into half, you will have the reds, oranges,
and yellows on one side, and the purples, blues, and greens on the
other, the former being roughly the warm and the latter the cold
colours. The clever manipulation of the opposition between these warm
and cold colours is one of the chief means used in giving vitality to
colouring. But the point to notice here is that the further your
colouring goes in the direction of warmth, the further it will be
necessary to go in the opposite direction, to right the balance. That is
how it comes about that painters like Titian, who loved a warm, glowing,
golden colouring, so often had to put a mass of the coldest blue in
their pictures. Gainsborough's "Blue Boy," although done in defiance of
Reynolds' principle, is no contradiction of our rule, for although the
boy has a blue dress all the rest of the picture is warm brown and so
the balance is kept. It is the failure to observe this balance that
makes so many of the red-coated huntsmen and soldiers' portraits in our
exhibitions so objectionable. They are too often painted on a dark, hot,
burnt sienna and black background, with nothing but warm colours in the
flesh, &c., with the result that the screaming heat is intolerable. With
a hot mass of red like a huntsman's coat in your picture, the coolest
colour should be looked for everywhere else. Seen in a November
landscape, how well a huntsman's coat looks, but then, how cold and grey
is the colouring of the landscape. The right thing to do is to support
your red with as many cool and neutral tones as possible and avoid hot
shadows. With so strong a red, blue might be too much of a contrast,
unless your canvas was large enough to admit of its being introduced at
some distance from the red.

Most painters, of course, are content to keep to middle courses, never
going very far in the warm or cold directions. And, undoubtedly, much
more freedom of action is possible here, although the results may not be
so powerful. But when beauty and refinement of sentiment rather than
force are desired, the middle range of colouring (that is to say, all
colours partly neutralised by admixture with their opposites) is much

[Sidenote: Between Interest and Mass.]

There is another form of balance that must be although it is connected
more with the subject matter of art, as it concerns the mental
significance of objects rather than rhythmic qualities possessed by
lines and masses; I refer to the balance there is between interest and
mass. The all-absorbing interest of the human figure makes it often when
quite minute in scale balance the weight and interest of a great mass.
Diagram XXVII is a rough instance of what is meant. Without the little
figure the composition would be out of balance. But the weight of
interest centred upon that lonely little person is enough to right the
balance occasioned by the great mass of trees on the left. Figures are
largely used by landscape painters in this way, and are of great use in
restoring balance in a picture.

[Illustration: Diagram XXVII.


[Sidenote: Between Variety and Unity.]

And lastly, there must be a balance struck between variety and unity. A
great deal has already been said about this, and it will only be
necessary to recapitulate here that to variety is due all the expression
or the picturesque, of the joyous energy of life, and all that makes the
world such a delightful place, but that to unity belongs the relating of
this variety to the underlying bed-rock principles that support it in
nature and in all good art. It will depend on the nature of the artist
and on the nature of his theme how far this underlying unity will
dominate the expression in his work; and how far it will be overlaid and
hidden behind a rich garment of variety.

But both ideas must be considered in his work. If the unity of his
conception is allowed to exclude variety entirely, it will result in a
dead abstraction, and if the variety is to be allowed none of the
restraining influences of unity, it will develop into a riotous



Rules and canons of proportion designed to reduce to a mathematical
formula the things that move us in beautiful objects, have not been a
great success; the beautiful will always defy such clumsy analysis. But
however true it is that beauty of proportion must ever be the result of
the finer senses of the artist, it is possible that canons of
proportion, such as those of the human body, may be of service to the
artist by offering some standard from which he can depart at the
dictates of his artistic instinct. There appears to be no doubt that the
ancient sculptors used some such system. And many of the renaissance
painters were interested in the subject, Leonardo da Vinci having much
to say about it in his book.

Like all scientific knowledge in art, it fails to trap the elusive
something that is the vital essence of the whole matter, but such
scientific knowledge does help to bring one's work up to a high point of
mechanical perfection, from which one's artistic instinct can soar with
a better chance of success than if no scientific scaffolding had been
used in the initial building up. Yet, however perfect your system, don't
forget that the life, the "dither," will still have to be accounted for,
and no science will help you here.

The idea that certain mathematical proportions or relationships
underlie the phenomena we call beauty is very ancient, and too abstruse
to trouble us here. But undoubtedly proportion, the quantitative
relation of the parts to each other and to the whole, forms a very
important part in the impression works of art and objects give us, and
should be a subject of the greatest consideration in planning your work.
The mathematical relationship of these quantities is a subject that has
always fascinated scholars, who have measured the antique statues
accurately and painstakingly to find the secret of their charm. Science,
by showing that different sounds and different colours are produced by
waves of different lengths, and that therefore different colours and
sounds can be expressed in terms of numbers, has certainly opened the
door to a new consideration of this subject of beauty in relation to
mathematics. And the result of such an inquiry, if it is being or has
been carried on, will be of much interest.

But there is something chilling to the artist in an array of dead
figures, for he has a consciousness that the life of the whole matter
will never be captured by such mechanical means.

The question we are interested to ask here is: are there particular
sentiments connected with the different relations of quantities, their
proportions, as we found there were in connection with different
arrangements of lines and masses? Have abstract proportions any
significance in art, as we found abstract line and mass arrangements
had? It is a difficult thing to be definite about, and I can only give
my own feeling on the matter; but I think in some degree they have.

Proportion can be considered from our two points of view of unity and
variety. In so far as the proportions of any picture or object resolve
themselves into a simple, easily grasped unity of relationship, a sense
of repose and sublimity is produced. In so far as the variety of
proportion in the different parts is assertive and prevents the eye
grasping the arrangement as a simple whole, a sense of the lively
restlessness of life and activity is produced. In other words, as we
found in line arrangements, unity makes for sublimity, while variety
makes for the expression of life. Of course the scale of the object will
have something to do with this. That is to say, the most sublimely
proportioned dog-kennel could never give us the impression of sublimity
produced by a great temple. In pictures the scale of the work is not of
so great importance, a painting or drawing having the power of giving
the impression of great size on a small scale.

The proportion that is most easily grasped is the half--two equal parts.
This is the most devoid of variety, and therefore of life, and is only
used when an effect of great repose and aloofness from life is wanted;
and even then, never without some variety in the minor parts to give
vitality. The third and the quarter, and in fact any equal proportions,
are others that are easily grasped and partake in a lesser degree of the
same qualities as the half. So that equality of proportion should be
avoided except on those rare occasions when effects remote from nature
and life are desired. Nature seems to abhor equalities, never making two
things alike or the same proportion if she can help it. All systems
founded on equalities, as are so many modern systems of social reform,
are man's work, the products of a machine-made age. For this is the
difference between nature and the machine: nature never produces two
things alike, the machine never produces two things different. Man could
solve the social problem to-morrow if you could produce him equal units.
But if all men were alike and equal, where would be the life and fun of
existence? it would depart with the variety. And in proportion, as in
life, variety is the secret of vitality, only to be suppressed where a
static effect is wanted. In architecture equality of proportion is more
often met with, as the static qualities of repose are of more importance
here than in painting. One meets it on all fine buildings in such things
as rows of columns and windows of equal size and distances apart, or the
continual repetition of the same forms in mouldings, &c. But even here,
in the best work, some variety is allowed to keep the effect from being
quite dead, the columns on the outside of a Greek pediment being nearer
together and leaning slightly inwards, and the repeated forms of
windows, columns, and mouldings being infinitely varied in themselves.
But although you often find repetitions of the same forms equidistant in
architecture, it is seldom that equality of proportion is observable in
the main distribution of the large masses.

Let us take our simple type of composition, and in Diagram XXVIII, A,
put the horizon across the centre and an upright post cutting it in the
middle of the picture. And let us introduce two spots that may indicate
the position of birds in the upper spaces on either side of this.

Here we have a maximum of equality and the deadest and most static of

To see these diagrams properly it is necessary to cover over with some
pieces of notepaper all but the one being considered, as they affect
each other when seen together, and the quality of their proportion is
not so readily observed.

[Illustration: Plate XLVIII.


A typical example of static balance in composition.

_Photo Hanfstaengl_]

In many pictures of the Madonna, when a hush and reverence are desired
rather than exuberant life, the figure is put in the centre of the
canvas, equality of proportion existing between the spaces on either
side of her. But having got the repose this centralisation gives,
everything is done to conceal this equality, and variety in the contours
on either side, and in any figures there may be, is carefully sought.
Raphael's "Ansidei Madonna," in the National Gallery, is an instance of
this (p. 230). You have first the centralisation of the figure of the
Madonna with the throne on which she sits, exactly in the middle of the
picture. Not only is the throne in the centre of the picture, but its
width is exactly that of the spaces on either side of it, giving us
three equal proportions across the picture. Then you have the circular
lines of the arches behind, curves possessed of the least possible
amount of variety and therefore the calmest and most reposeful; while
the horizontal lines of the steps and the vertical lines of the throne
and architecture, and also the rows of hanging beads give further
emphasis to this infinity of calm. But when we come to the figures this
symmetry has been varied everywhere. All the heads swing towards the
right, while the lines of the draperies swing freely in many directions.
The swing of the heads towards the right is balanced and the eye brought
back to equilibrium by the strongly-insisted-upon staff of St. Nicholas
on the right. The staff of St. John necessary to balance this line
somewhat, is very slightly insisted on, being represented transparent
as if made of glass, so as not to increase the swing to the right
occasioned by the heads. It is interesting to note the fruit introduced
at the last moment in the right-hand lower corner, dragged in, as it
were, to restore the balance occasioned by the figure of the Christ
being on the left. In the writer's humble opinion the extremely obvious
artifice with which the lines have been balanced, and the severity of
the convention of this composition generally, are out of harmony with
the amount of naturalistic detail and particularly of solidity allowed
in the treatment of the figures and accessories. The small amount of
truth to visual nature in the work of earlier men went better with the
formality of such compositions. With so little of the variety of life in
their treatment of natural appearances, one was not led to demand so
much of the variety of life in the arrangement. It is the simplicity and
remoteness from the full effect of natural appearances in the work of
the early Italian schools that made their painting such a ready medium
for the expression of religious subjects. This atmosphere of
other-worldliness where the music of line and colour was uninterrupted
by any aggressive look of real things is a better convention for the
expression of such ideas and emotions.

[Illustration: Diagram XXVIII(1).

A, D, G]

[Illustration: Diagram XXVIII(2).

B, E, H]

[Illustration: Diagram XXVIII(3).

C, F, I]

In B and C the proportions of the third and the quarter are shown,
producing the same static effect as the half, although not so

At D, E, F the same number of lines and spots as we have at A, B, C have
been used, but varied as to size and position, so that they have no
obvious mechanical relationship. The result is an expression of much
more life and character.

At G, H, I more lines and spots have been added. At G they are
equidistant and dead from lack of variety, while at H and I they are
varied to a degree that prevents the eye grasping any obvious
relationship between them. They have consequently a look of liveliness
and life very different from A, B, C, or G. It will be observed that as
the amount of variety increases so does the life and liveliness of the

In these diagrams a certain static effect is kept up throughout, on
account of our lines being vertical and horizontal only, which lines, as
we saw in an earlier chapter, are the calmest we have. But despite this,
I think the added life due to the variety in the proportions is
sufficiently apparent in the diagrams to prove the point we wish to

As a contrast to the infinite calm of Raphael's "Madonna," we have
reproduced Tintoretto's "Finding of the Body of St. Mark," in the Brera
Gallery, Milan. Here all is life and movement. The proportions are
infinitely varied, nowhere does the eye grasp any obvious mathematical
relationship. We have the same semi-circular arches as in the Raphael,
but not symmetrically placed, and their lines everywhere varied, and
their calm effect destroyed by the flickering lights playing about them.
Note the great emphasis given to the outstretched hand of the powerful
figure of the Apostle on the left by the lines of the architecture and
the line of arm of the kneeling figure in the centre of the picture
converging on this hand and leading the eye immediately to it. There is
here no static symmetry, all is energy and force. Starting with this
arresting arm, the eye is led down the majestic figure of St. Mark, past
the recumbent figure, and across the picture by means of the band of
light on the ground, to the important group of frightened figures on
the right. And from them on to the figures engaged in lowering a corpse
from its tomb. Or, following the direction of the outstretched arm of
St. Mark, we are led by the lines of the architecture to this group
straight away, and back again by means of the group on the right and the
band of light on the ground. The quantities are not placed in reposeful
symmetry about the canvas, as was the case in the Raphael, but are
thrown off apparently haphazard from lines leading the eye round the
picture. Note also the dramatic intensity given by the strongly
contrasted light and shade, and how Tintoretto has enjoyed the weird
effect of the two figures looking into a tomb with a light, their
shadows being thrown on the lid they hold open, at the far end of the
room. This must have been an amazingly new piece of realism at the time,
and is wonderfully used, to give an eerie effect to the darkened end of
the room. With his boundless energy and full enjoyment of life,
Tintoretto's work naturally shows a strong leaning towards variety, and
his amazing compositions are a liberal education in the innumerable and
unexpected ways in which a panel can be filled, and should be carefully
studied by students.

[Illustration: Plate XLIX.


Compare with Raphael's Ansidei Madonna, and note how energy and movement
take the place of static calm in the balance of this composition.

_Photo Anderson_]

A pleasing proportion that often occurs in nature and art is one that
may be roughly stated in figures as that between 5 and 8. In such a
proportion the eye sees no mathematical relationship. Were it less than
5, it would be too near the proportion of 4 to 8 (or one-third the total
length), a dull proportion; or were it more, it would be approaching too
near equality of proportion to be quite satisfactory.

I have seen a proportional compass, imported from Germany, giving a
relationship similar to this and said to contain the secret of good
proportion. There is certainly something remarkable about it, and in the
Appendix, page 289 [Transcribers Note: APPENDIX], you will find some
further interesting facts about this.

The variety of proportions in a building, a picture, or a piece of
sculpture should always be under the control of a few simple, dominant
quantities that simplify the appearance and give it a unity which is
readily grasped except where violence and lack of repose are wanted. The
simpler the proportion is, the more sublime will be the impression, and
the more complicated, the livelier and more vivacious the effect. From a
few well-chosen large proportions the eye may be led on to enjoy the
smaller varieties. But in good proportion the lesser parts are not
allowed to obtrude, but are kept in subordination to the main
dispositions on which the unity of the effect depends.



There is something in every individual that is likely for a long time to
defy the analysis of science. When you have summed up the total of atoms
or electrons or whatever it is that goes to the making of the tissues
and also the innumerable complex functions performed by the different
parts, you have not yet got on the track of the individual that governs
the whole performance. The effect of this personality on the outward
form, and the influence it has in modifying the aspect of body and
features, are the things that concern the portrait draughtsman: the
seizing on and expressing forcefully the individual character of the
sitter, as expressed by his outward appearance.

This character expression in form has been thought to be somewhat
antagonistic to beauty, and many sitters are shy of the particular
characteristics of their own features. The fashionable photographer,
knowing this, carefully stipples out of his negative any #striking#
characteristics in the form of his sitter the negative may show. But
judging by the result, it is doubtful whether any beauty has been
gained, and certain that interest and vitality have been lost in the
process. Whatever may be the nature of beauty, it is obvious that what
makes one object more beautiful than another is something that is
characteristic of the appearance of the one and not of the other: so
that some close study of individual characteristics must be the aim of
the artist who would seek to express beauty, as well as the artist who
seeks the expression of character and professes no interest in beauty.

Catching the likeness, as it is called, is simply seizing on the
essential things that belong only to a particular individual and
differentiate that individual from others, and expressing them in a
forceful manner. There are certain things that are common to the whole
species, likeness to a common type; the individual likeness is not in
this direction but at the opposite pole to it.

It is one of the most remarkable things connected with the amazing
subtlety of appreciation possessed by the human eye, that of the
millions of heads in the world, and probably of all that have ever
existed in the world, no two look exactly alike. When one considers how
alike they are, and how very restricted is the range of difference
between them, is it not remarkable how quickly the eye recognises one
person from another? It is more remarkable still how one sometimes
recognises a friend not seen for many years, and whose appearance has
changed considerably in the meantime. And this likeness that we
recognise is not so much as is generally thought a matter of the
individual features. If one sees the eye alone, the remainder of the
face being covered, it is almost impossible to recognise even a
well-known friend, or tell whether the expression is that of laughing or
crying. And again, how difficult it is to recognise anybody when the
eyes are masked and only the lower part of the face visible.

[Illustration: Plate L.


Note how every bit of variety is sought for, the difference in the eyes
and on either side of the mouth, etc.]

If you try and recall a well-known head it will not be the shape of
the features that will be recollected so much as an impression, the
result of all these combined, a sort of chord of which the features will
be but the component elements. It is the relation of the different parts
to this chord, this impression of the personality of a head, that is the
all-important thing in what is popularly called "catching the likeness."
In drawing a portrait the mind must be centred on this, and all the
individual parts drawn in relation to it. The moment the eye gets
interested solely in some individual part and forgets the consideration
of its relationship to this whole impression, the likeness suffers.

Where there is so much that is similar in heads, it is obvious that what
differences there are must be searched out and seized upon forcefully,
if the individuality of the head is to be made telling. The drawing of
portraits should therefore be approached from the direction of these
differences; that is to say, the things in general disposition and
proportion in which your subject differs from a common type, should be
first sought for, the things common to all heads being left to take care
of themselves for a bit. The reason for this is that the eye, when
fresh, sees these differences much more readily than after it has been
working for some time. The tendency of a tired eye is to see less
differentiation, and to hark back to a dull uniformity; so get in touch
at once with the vital differences while your eye is fresh and your
vision keen.

Look out first for the character of the disposition of the features,
note the proportions down an imagined centre line, of the brows, the
base of the nose, the mouth and chin, and get the character of the
shape of the enclosing line of the face blocked out in square lines. The
great importance of getting these proportions right early cannot be
over-emphasised, as any mistake may later on necessitate completely
shifting a carefully drawn feature. And the importance of this may be
judged from the fact that you recognise a head a long way off, before
anything but the general disposition of the masses surrounding the
features can be seen. The shape of the skull, too, is another thing of
which to get an early idea, and its relation to the face should be
carefully noted. But it is impossible to lay down hard and fast rules
for these things.

Some artists begin in point drawing with the eyes, and some leave the
eyes until the very last. Some draughtsmen are never happy until they
have an eye to adjust the head round, treating it as the centre of
interest and drawing the parts relatively to it. While others say, with
some truth, that there is a mesmeric effect produced when the eye is
drawn that blinds one to the cold-blooded technical consideration of a
head as line and tone in certain relationships; that it is as well to
postpone until the last that moment when the shapes and tones that
represent form in your drawing shall be lit up by the introduction of
the eye to the look of a live person. One is freer to consider the
accuracy of one's form before this disturbing influence is introduced.
And there is a good deal to be said for this.

Although in point drawing you can, without serious effect, begin at any
part that interests you, in setting out a painting I think there can be
no two opinions as to the right way to go about it. The character of the
general disposition of the masses must be first constructed. And if
this general blocking in has been well done, the character of the sitter
will be apparent from the first even in this early stage; and you will
be able to judge of the accuracy of your blocking out by whether or not
it does suggest the original. If it does not, correct it before going
any further, working, as it were, from the general impression of the
masses of the head as seen a long way off, adding more and more detail,
and gradually bringing the impression nearer, until the completed head
is arrived at, thus getting in touch from the very first with the
likeness which should dominate the work all along.

[Illustration: Plate LI.


From the drawing in the collection of Sir Robert Essex, M.P., in red
conté chalk rubbed, the high lights being picked out with rubber.]

There are many points of view from which a portrait can be drawn--I
mean, mental points of view. And, as in a biography, the value of the
work will depend on the insight and distinction of the author or artist.
The valet of a great man might write a biography of his master that
could be quite true to his point of view; but, assuming him to be an
average valet, it would not be a great work. I believe the gardener of
Darwin when asked how his master was, said, "Not at all well. You see,
he moons about all day. I've seen him staring at a flower for five or
ten minutes at a time. Now, if he had some work to do, he would be much
better." A really great biography cannot be written except by a man who
can comprehend his subject and take a wide view of his position among
men, sorting what is trivial from what is essential, what is common to
all men from what is particular to the subject of his work. And it is
very much the same in portraiture. It is only the painter who possesses
the intuitive faculty for seizing on the significant things in the form
expression of his subject, of disentangling what is trivial from what
is important; and who can convey this forcibly to the beholder on his
canvas, more forcibly than a casual sight of the real person could
do--it is only this painter who can hope to paint a really fine

It is true, the honest and sincere expression of any painter will be of
some interest, just as the biography written by Darwin's gardener might
be; but there is a vast difference between this point of view and that
of the man who thoroughly comprehends his subject.

Not that it is necessary for the artist to grasp the mind of his sitter,
although that is no disadvantage. But this is not his point of view, his
business is with the effect of this inner man on his outward appearance.
And it is necessary for him to have that intuitive power that seizes
instinctively on those variations of form that are expressive of this
inner man. The habitual cast of thought in any individual affects the
shape and moulds the form of the features, and, to the discerning, the
head is expressive of the person; both the bigger and the smaller
person, both the larger and the petty characteristics everybody
possesses. And the fine portrait will express the larger and subordinate
the petty individualities, will give you what is of value, and
subordinate what is trivial in a person's appearance.

The pose of the head is a characteristic feature about people that is
not always given enough attention in portraits. The habitual cast of
thought affects its carriage to a very large degree. The two extreme
types of what we mean are the strongly emotional man who carries his
head high, drinking in impressions as he goes through the world; and
the man of deep thought who carries his head bent forward, his back bent
in sympathy with it. Everybody has some characteristic action in the way
that should be looked out for and that is usually absent when a sitter
first appears before a painter on the studio throne. A little diplomacy
and conversational humouring is necessary to produce that
unconsciousness that will betray the man in his appearance.

How the power to discover these things can be acquired, it is, of
course, impossible to teach. All the student can do is to familiarise
himself with the best examples of portraiture, in the hope that he may
be stimulated by this means to observe finer qualities in nature and
develop the best that is in him. But he must never be insincere in his
work. If he does not appreciate fine things in the work of recognised
masters, let him stick to the honest portrayal of what he does see in
nature. The only distinction of which he is capable lies in this
direction. It is not until he awakens to the sight in nature of
qualities he may have admired in others' work that he is in a position
honestly to introduce them into his own performances.

       *       *       *       *       *

Probably the most popular point of view in portraiture at present is the
one that can be described as a "striking presentment of the live
person." This is the portrait that arrests the crowd in an exhibition.
You cannot ignore it, vitality bursts from it, and everything seems
sacrificed to this quality of striking lifelikeness. And some very
wonderful modern portraits have been painted from this point of view.
But have we not sacrificed too much to this quality of vitality? Here is
a lady hurriedly getting up from a couch, there a gentleman stepping
out of the frame to greet you, violence and vitality everywhere. But
what of repose, harmony of colour and form, and the wise ordering and
selecting of the materials of vision that one has been used to in the
great portraiture of the past? While the craftsman in one is staggered
and amazed at the brilliant virtuosity of the thing, the artist in one
resents the sacrifice of so much for what is, after all, but a
short-lived excitement. Age may, no doubt, improve some of the portraits
of this class by quieting them in colour and tone. And those that are
good in design and arrangement will stand this without loss of
distinction, but those in which everything has been sacrificed to this
striking lifelike quality will suffer considerably. This particular
quality depends so much on the freshness of the paint that when this is
mellowed and its vividness is lost, nothing will remain of value, if the
quieter qualities of design and arrangement have been sacrificed for it.

Frans Hals is the only old master I can think of with whom this form of
portrait can be compared. But it will be noticed that besides designing
his canvases carefully, he usually balanced the vigour and vitality of
his form with a great sobriety of colour. In fact, in some of his later
work, where this restless vitality is most in evidence, the colour is
little more than black and white, with a little yellow ochre and
Venetian red. It is this extreme reposefulness of colour that opposes
the unrest in the form and helps to restore the balance and necessary
repose in the picture. It is interesting to note the restless variety of
the edges in Frans Hal's work, how he never, if he can help it, lets an
edge run smoothly, but keeps it constantly on the move, often leaving
it quite jagged, and to compare this with what was said about vitality
depending on variety.

[Illustration: Plate LII.


From the drawing in the collection of Sir Robert Essex, M.P., in red
conté chalk rubbed, the high lights being picked out with rubber.]

       *       *       *       *       *

Another point of view is that of the artist who seeks to give a
significant and calm view of the exterior forms of the sitter, an
expressive map of the individuality of those forms, leaving you to form
your own intellectual judgments. A simple, rather formal, attitude is
usually chosen, and the sitter is drawn with searching honesty. There is
a great deal to be said for this point of view in the hands of a painter
with a large appreciation of form and design. But without these more
inspiring qualities it is apt to have the dulness that attends most
literal transcriptions. There are many instances of this point of view
among early portrait painters, one of the best of which is the work of
Holbein. But then, to a very distinguished appreciation of the
subtleties of form characterisation he added a fine sense of design and
colour arrangement, qualities by no means always at the command of some
of the lesser men of this school.

Every portrait draughtsman should make a pilgrimage to Windsor, armed
with the necessary permission to view the wonderful series of portrait
drawings by this master in the library of the castle. They are a liberal
education in portrait drawing. It is necessary to see the originals, for
it is only after having seen them that one can properly understand the
numerous and well-known reproductions. A study of these drawings will, I
think, reveal the fact that they are not so literal as is usually
thought. Unflinchingly and unaffectedly honest they are, but honest not
to a cold, mechanically accurate record of the sitter's appearance, but
honest and accurate to the vital impression of the live sitter made on
the mind of the live artist. This is the difference we were trying to
explain that exists between the academic and the vital drawing, and it
is a very subtle and elusive quality, like all artistic qualities, to
talk about. The record of a vital impression done with unflinching
accuracy, but under the guidance of intense mental activity, is a very
different thing from a drawing done with the cold, mechanical accuracy
of a machine. The one will instantly grip the attention and give one a
vivid sensation in a way that no mechanically accurate drawing could do,
and in a way that possibly the sight of the real person would not always
do. We see numbers of faces during a day, but only a few with the
vividness of which I am speaking. How many faces in a crowd are passed
indifferently--there is no vitality in the impression they make on our
mind; but suddenly a face will rivet our attention, and although it is
gone in a flash, the memory of the impression will remain for some time.

The best of Holbein's portrait drawings give one the impression of
having been seen in one of these flashes and rivet the attention in
consequence. Drawings done under this mental stimulus present subtle
differences from drawings done with cold accuracy. The drawing of the
Lady Audley, here reproduced, bears evidence of some of this subtle
variation on what are called the facts, in the left eye of the sitter.
It will be noticed that the pupil of this eye is larger than the other.
Now I do not suppose that as a matter of mechanical accuracy this was
so, but the impression of the eyes seen as part of a vivid impression
of the head is seldom that they are the same size. Holbein had in the
first instance in this very carefully wrought drawing made them so, but
when at the last he was vitalising the impression, "pulling it together"
as artists say, he has deliberately put a line outside the original one,
making this pupil larger. This is not at all clearly seen in the
reproduction, but #is distinctly visible in the original#. And to my
thinking it was done at the dictates of the vivid mental impression he
wished his drawing to convey. Few can fail to be struck in turning over
this wonderful series of drawings by the vividness of their portraiture,
and the vividness is due to their being severely accurate to the vital
impression on the mind of Holbein, not merely to the facts coldly

[Illustration: Plate LIII.


Note the different sizes of pupils in the eyes, and see letterpress on
the opposite page.

_Copyright photo Braun & Co._]

       *       *       *       *       *

Another point of view is that of seeking in the face a symbol of the
person within, and selecting those things about a head that express
this. As has already been said, the habitual attitude of mind has in the
course of time a marked influence on the form of the face, and in fact
of the whole body, so that--to those who can see--the man or woman is a
visible symbol of themselves. But this is by no means apparent to all.

The striking example of this class is the splendid series of portraits
by the late G.F. Watts. Looking at these heads one is made conscious of
the people in a fuller, deeper sense than if they were before one in the
flesh. For Watts sought to discover the person in their appearance and
to paint a picture that should be a living symbol of them. He took pains
to find out all he could about the mind of his sitters before he
painted them, and sought in the appearance the expression of this inner
man. So that whereas with Holbein it was the vivid presentation of the
impression as one might see a head that struck one in a crowd, with
Watts it is the spirit one is first conscious of. The thunders of war
appear in the powerful head of Lord Lawrence, the music of poetry in the
head of Swinburne, and the dry atmosphere of the higher regions of
thought in the John Stuart Mill, &c.

In the National Portrait Gallery there are two paintings of the poet
Robert Browning, one by Rudolph Lehmann and one by Watts. Now the former
portrait is probably much more "like" the poet as the people who met him
casually saw him. But Watts's portrait is like the man who wrote the
poetry, and Lehmann's is not. Browning was a particularly difficult
subject in this respect, in that to a casual observer there was much
more about his external appearance to suggest a prosperous man of
business, than the fiery zeal of the poet.

These portraits by Watts will repay the closest study by the student of
portraiture. They are full of that wise selection by a great mind that
lifts such work above the triviality of the commonplace to the level of
great imaginative painting.

       *       *       *       *       *

Another point of view is that of treating the sitter as part of a
symphony of form and colour, and subordinating everything to this
artistic consideration. This is very fashionable at the present time,
and much beautiful work is being done with this motive. And with many
ladies who would not, I hope, object to one's saying that their
principal characteristic was the charm of their appearance, this point
of view offers, perhaps, one of the best opportunities of a successful
painting. A pose is selected that makes a good design of line and
colour--a good pattern--and the character of the sitter is not allowed
to obtrude or mar the symmetry of the whole considered as a beautiful
panel. The portraits of J. McNeill Whistler are examples of this
treatment, a point of view that has very largely influenced modern
portrait painting in England.

       *       *       *       *       *

Then there is the official portrait in which the dignity of an office
held by the sitter, of which occasion the portrait is a memorial, has to
be considered. The more intimate interest in the personal character of
the sitter is here subordinated to the interest of his public character
and attitude of mind towards his office. Thus it happens that much more
decorative pageantry symbolic of these things is permissible in this
kind of portraiture than in that of plain Mr. Smith; a greater
stateliness of design as befitting official occasions.

It is not contended that this forms anything like a complete list of the
numerous aspects from which a portrait can be considered, but they are
some of the more extreme of those prevalent at the present time. Neither
is it contended that they are incompatible with each other: the
qualities of two or more of these points of view are often found in the
same work. And it is not inconceivable that a single portrait might
contain all and be a striking lifelike presentment, a faithful catalogue
of all the features, a symbol of the person and a symphony of form and
colour. But the chances are against such a composite affair being a
success. One or other quality will dominate in a successful work; and
it is not advisable to try and combine too many different points of view
as, in the confusion of ideas, directness of expression is lost. But no
good portrait is without some of the qualities of all these points of
view, whichever may dominate the artist's intention.

[Sidenote: Expression.]

The camera, and more particularly the instantaneous camera, has
habituated people to expect in a portrait a momentary expression, and of
these momentary expressions the faint smile, as we all know, is an easy
first in the matter of popularity. It is no uncommon thing for the
painter to be asked in the early stages of his work when he is going to
put in the smile, it never being questioned that this is the artist's
aim in the matter of expression.

The giving of lifelike expression to a painting is not so simple a
matter as it might appear to be. Could one set the real person behind
the frame and suddenly fix them for ever with one of those passing
expressions on their faces, however natural it might have been at the
moment, fixed for ever it is terrible, and most unlifelike. As we have
already said, a few lines scribbled on a piece of paper by a consummate
artist would give a greater sense of life than this fixed actuality. It
is not ultimately by the pursuit of the actual realisation that
expression and life are conveyed in a portrait. Every face has
expression of a far more interesting and enduring kind than these
momentary disturbances of its form occasioned by laughter or some
passing thought, &c. And it must never be forgotten that a portrait is a
panel painted to remain for centuries without movement. So that a large
amount of the quality of repose must enter into its composition.
Portraits in which this has not been borne in mind, however entertaining
at a picture exhibition, when they are seen for a few moments only, pall
on one if constantly seen, and are finally very irritating.

But the real expression in a head is something more enduring than these
passing movements: one that belongs to the forms of a head, and the
marks left on that form by the life and character of the person. This is
of far more interest than those passing expressions, the results of the
contraction of certain muscles under the skin, the effect of which is
very similar in most people. It is for the portrait painter to find this
more enduring expression and give it noble expression in his work.

[Sidenote: Treatment of Clothes.]

It is a common idea among sitters that if they are painted in modern
clothes the picture will look old-fashioned in a few years. If the
sitter's appearance were fixed upon the canvas exactly as they stood
before the artist in his studio, without any selection on the part of
the painter, this might be the result, and _is_ the result in the case
of painters who have no higher aim than this.

But there are qualities in dress that do not belong exclusively to the
particular period of their fashion. Qualities that are the same in all
ages. And when these are insisted upon, and the frivolities of the
moment in dress not troubled about so much, the portrait has a permanent
quality, and will never in consequence look old-fashioned in the
offensive way that is usually meant. In the first place, the drapery and
stuffs of which clothes are made follow laws in the manner in which they
fold and drape over the figure, that are the same in all times. If the
expression of the figure through the draperies is sought by the painter,
a permanent quality will be given in his work, whatever fantastic shapes
the cut of the garments may assume.

And further, the artist does not take whatever comes to hand in the
appearance of his sitter, but works to a thought-out arrangement of
colour and form, to a design. This he selects from the moving and varied
appearance of his sitter, trying one thing after another, until he sees
a suggestive arrangement, from the impression of which he makes his
design. It is true that the extremes of fashion do not always lend
themselves so readily as more reasonable modes to the making of a good
pictorial pattern. But this is not always so, some extreme fashions
giving opportunities of very piquant and interesting portrait designs.
So that, however extreme the fashion, if the artist is able to select
some aspect of it that will result in a good arrangement for his
portrait, the work will never have the offensive old-fashioned look. The
principles governing good designs are the same in all times; and if
material for such arrangement has been discovered in the most modish of
fashions, it has been lifted into a sphere where nothing is ever out of

It is only when the painter is concerned with the trivial details of
fashion for their own sake, for the making his picture look like the
real thing, and has not been concerned with transmuting the appearance
of fashionable clothes by selection into the permanent realms of form
and colour design, that his work will justify one in saying that it will
look stale in a few years.

The fashion of dressing sitters in meaningless, so-called classical
draperies is a feeble one, and usually argues a lack of capacity for
selecting a good arrangement from the clothes of the period in the
artist who adopts it. Modern women's clothes are full of suggestions for
new arrangements and designs quite as good as anything that has been
done in the past. The range of subtle colours and varieties of texture
in materials is amazing, and the subtlety of invention displayed in some
of the designs for costumes leads one to wonder whether there is not
something in the remark attributed to an eminent sculptor that
"designing ladies' fashions is one of the few arts that is thoroughly
vital to-day."



The memory is the great storehouse of artistic material, the treasures
of which the artist may know little about until a chance association
lights up some of its dark recesses. From early years the mind of the
young artist has been storing up impressions in these mysterious
chambers, collected from nature's aspects, works of art, and anything
that comes within the field of vision. It is from this store that the
imagination draws its material, however fantastic and remote from
natural appearances the forms it may assume.

How much our memory of pictures colours the impressions of nature we
receive is probably not suspected by us, but who could say how a scene
would appear to him, had he never looked at a picture? So sensitive is
the vision to the influence of memory that, after seeing the pictures of
some painter whose work has deeply impressed us, we are apt, while the
memory of it is still fresh in our minds, to see things as he would
paint them. On different occasions after leaving the National Gallery I
can remember having seen Trafalgar Square as Paolo Veronese, Turner, or
whatever painter may have impressed me in the Gallery, would have
painted it, the memory of their work colouring the impression the scene

But, putting aside the memory of pictures, let us consider the place of
direct visual memory from nature in our work, pictures being indirect or
second-hand impressions.

We have seen in an earlier chapter how certain painters in the
nineteenth century, feeling how very second-hand and far removed from
nature painting had become, started a movement to discard studio
traditions and study nature with a single eye, taking their pictures out
of doors, and endeavouring to wrest nature's secrets from her on the
spot. The Pre-Raphaelite movement in England and the Impressionist
movement in France were the results of this impulse. And it is
interesting, by the way, to contrast the different manner in which this
desire for more truth to nature affected the French and English
temperaments. The intense individualism of the English sought out every
detail, every leaf and flower for itself, painting them with a passion
and intensity that made their painting a vivid medium for the expression
of poetic ideas; while the more synthetic mind of the Frenchman
approached this search for visual truth from the opposite point of view
of the whole effect, finding in the large, generalised impression a new
world of beauty. And his more logical mind led him to inquire into the
nature of light, and so to invent a technique founded on scientific

But now the first blush of freshness has worn off the new movement,
painters have begun to see that if anything but very ordinary effects
are to be attempted, this painting on the spot must give place to more
reliance on the memory.

Memory has this great advantage over direct vision: it retains more
vividly the essential things, and has a habit of losing what is
unessential to the pictorial impression.

But what is the essential in a painting? What is it makes one want to
paint at all? Ah! Here we approach very debatable and shadowy ground,
and we can do little but ask questions, the answer to which will vary
with each individual temperament. What is it that these rays of light
striking our retina convey to our brain, and from our brain to whatever
is ourselves, in the seat of consciousness above this? What is this
mysterious correspondence set up between something within and something
without, that at times sends such a clamour of harmony through our whole
being? Why do certain combinations of sound in music and of form and
colour in art affect us so profoundly? What are the laws governing
harmony in the universe, and whence do they come? It is hardly trees and
sky, earth, or flesh and blood, #as such#, that interest the artist; but
rather that through these things in memorable moments he is permitted a
consciousness of deeper things, and impelled to seek utterance for what
is moving him. It is the record of these rare moments in which one
apprehends truth in things seen that the artist wishes to convey to
others. But these moments, these flashes of inspiration which are at the
inception of every vital picture, occur but seldom. What the painter has
to do is to fix them vividly in his memory, to snapshot them, as it
were, so that they may stand by him during the toilsome procedure of the
painting, and guide the work.

This initial inspiration, this initial flash in the mind, need not be
the result of a scene in nature, but may of course be purely the work
of the imagination; a composition, the sense of which flashes across the
mind. But in either case the difficulty is to preserve vividly the
sensation of this original artistic impulse. And in the case of its
having been derived from nature direct, as is so often the case in
modern art, the system of painting continually on the spot is apt to
lose touch with it very soon. For in the continual observation of
anything you have set your easel before day after day, comes a series of
impressions, more and more commonplace, as the eye becomes more and more
familiar with the details of the subject. And ere long the original
emotion that was the reason of the whole work is lost sight of, and one
of those pictures or drawings giving a catalogue of tired objects more
or less ingeniously arranged (that we all know so well) is the
result--work utterly lacking in the freshness and charm of true
inspiration. For however commonplace the subject seen by the artist in
one of his "flashes," it is clothed in a newness and surprise that charm
us, be it only an orange on a plate.

Now a picture is a thing of paint upon a flat surface, and a drawing is
a matter of certain marks upon a paper, and how to translate the
intricacies of a visual or imagined impression to the prosaic terms of
masses of coloured pigment or lines and tones is the business with which
our technique is concerned. The ease, therefore, with which a painter
will be able to remember an impression in a form from which he can work,
will depend upon his power to analyse vision in this technical sense.
The more one knows about what may be called the anatomy of
picture-making--how certain forms produce certain effects, certain
colours or arrangements other effects, &c.--the easier will it be for
him to carry away a visual memory of his subject that will stand by him
during the long hours of his labours at the picture. The more he knows
of the expressive powers of lines and tones, the more easily will he be
able to observe the vital things in nature that convey the impression he
wishes to memorise.

It is not enough to drink in and remember the emotional side of the
matter, although this must be done fully, but if a memory of the subject
is to be carried away that will be of service technically, the scene
must be committed to memory in terms of whatever medium you intend to
employ for reproducing it--in the case of a drawing, lines and tones.
And the impression will have to be analysed into these terms as if you
were actually drawing the scene on some imagined piece of paper in your
mind. The faculty of doing this is not to be acquired all at once, but
it is amazing of how much development it is capable. Just as the faculty
of committing to memory long poems or plays can be developed, so can the
faculty of remembering visual things. This subject has received little
attention in art schools until just recently. But it is not yet so
systematically done as it might be. Monsieur Lecoq de Boisbaudran in
France experimented with pupils in this memory training, beginning with
very simple things like the outline of a nose, and going on to more
complex subjects by easy stages, with the most surprising results. And
there is no doubt that a great deal more can and should be done in this
direction than is at present attempted. What students should do is to
form a habit of making every day in their sketch-book a drawing of
something they have seen that has interested them, and that they have
made some attempt at memorising. Don't be discouraged if the results are
poor and disappointing at first--you will find that by persevering your
power of memory will develop and be of the greatest service to you in
your after work. Try particularly to remember the spirit of the subject,
and in this memory-drawing some scribbling and fumbling will necessarily
have to be done. You cannot expect to be able to draw definitely and
clearly from memory, at least at first, although your aim should always
be to draw as frankly and clearly as you can.

[Illustration: Plate LIV.


Illustrating a simple method of studying drapery forms.]

Let us assume that you have found a subject that moves you and that,
being too fleeting to draw on the spot, you wish to commit to memory.
Drink a full enjoyment of it, let it soak in, for the recollection of
this will be of the utmost use to you afterwards in guiding your
memory-drawing. This mental impression is not difficult to recall; it is
the visual impression in terms of line and tone that is difficult to
remember. Having experienced your full enjoyment of the artistic matter
in the subject, you must next consider it from the material side, as a
flat, visual impression, as this is the only form in which it can be
expressed on a flat sheet of paper. Note the proportions of the main
lines, their shapes and disposition, as if you were drawing it, in fact
do the whole drawing in your mind, memorising the forms and proportions
of the different parts, and fix it in your memory to the smallest

If only the emotional side of the matter has been remembered, when you
come to draw it you will be hopelessly at sea, as it is remarkable how
little the memory retains of the appearance of things constantly seen,
if no attempt has been made to memorise their visual appearance.

The true artist, even when working from nature, works from memory very
largely. That is to say, he works to a scheme in tune to some emotional
enthusiasm with which the subject has inspired him in the first
instance. Nature is always changing, but he does not change the
intention of his picture. He always keeps before him the initial
impression he sets out to paint, and only selects from nature those
things that play up to it. He is a feeble artist, who copies
individually the parts of a scene with whatever effect they may have at
the moment he is doing them, and then expects the sum total to make a
picture. If circumstances permit, it is always as well to make in the
first instance a rapid sketch that shall, whatever it may lack, at least
contain the main disposition of the masses and lines of your composition
seen under the influence of the enthusiasm that has inspired the work.
This will be of great value afterwards in freshening your memory when in
the labour of the work the original impulse gets dulled. It is seldom
that the vitality of this first sketch is surpassed by the completed
work, and often, alas! it is far from equalled.

In portrait painting and drawing the memory must be used also. A sitter
varies very much in the impression he gives on different days, and the
artist must in the early sittings, when his mind is fresh, select the
aspect he means to paint and afterwards work largely to the memory of

Always work to a scheme on which you have decided, and do not flounder
on in the hope of something turning up as you go along. Your faculties
are never so active and prone to see something interesting and fine as
when the subject is first presented to them. This is the time to decide
your scheme; this is the time to take your fill of the impression you
mean to convey. This is the time to learn your subject thoroughly and
decide on what you wish the picture to be. And having decided this, work
straight on, using nature to support your original impression, but don't
be led off by a fresh scheme because others strike you as you go along.
New schemes will do so, of course, and every new one has a knack of
looking better than your original one. But it is not often that this is
so; the fact that they are new makes them appear to greater advantage
than the original scheme to which you have got accustomed. So that it is
not only in working away from nature that the memory is of use, but
actually when working directly in front of nature.

To sum up, there are two aspects of a subject, the one luxuriating in
the sensuous pleasure of it, with all of spiritual significance it may
consciously or unconsciously convey, and the other concerned with the
lines, tones, shapes, &c., and their rhythmic ordering, by means of
which it is to be expressed--the matter and manner, as they may be
called. And, if the artist's memory is to be of use to him in his work,
both these aspects must be memorised, and of the two the second will
need the most attention. But although there are these two aspects of the
subject, and each must receive separate attention when memorising it,
they are in reality only two aspects of the same thing, which in the act
of painting or drawing must be united if a work of art is to result.
When a subject first flashes upon an artist he delights in it as a
painted or drawn thing, and feels instinctively the treatment it will
require. In good draughtsmanship the thing felt will guide and govern
everything, every touch will be instinct with the thrill of that first
impression. The craftsman mind, so laboriously built up, should by now
have become an instinct, a second nature, at the direction of a higher
consciousness. At such times the right strokes, the right tones come
naturally and go on the right place, the artist being only conscious of
a fierce joy and a feeling that things are in tune and going well for
once. It is the thirst for this glorious enthusiasm, this fusing of
matter and manner, this act of giving the spirit within outward form,
that spurs the artist on at all times, and it is this that is the
wonderful thing about art.



In commencing a drawing, don't, as so many students do, start carelessly
floundering about with your chalk or charcoal in the hope that something
will turn up. It is seldom if ever that an artist puts on paper anything
better than he has in his mind before he starts, and usually it is not
nearly so good.

Don't spoil the beauty of a clean sheet of paper by a lot of scribble.
Try and see in your mind's eye the drawing you mean to do, and then try
and make your hand realise it, making the paper more beautiful by every
touch you give instead of spoiling it by a slovenly manner of procedure.

To know what you want to do and then to do it is the secret of good
style and technique. This sounds very commonplace, but it is surprising
how few students make it their aim. You may often observe them come in,
pin a piece of paper on their board, draw a line down the middle, make a
few measurements, and start blocking in the drawing without having given
the subject to be drawn a thought, as if it were all there done before
them, and only needed copying, as a clerk would copy a letter already
drafted for him.

Now, nothing is being said against the practice of drawing guide lines
and taking measurements and blocking in your work. This is very
necessary in academic work, if rather fettering to expressive drawing;
but even in the most academic drawing the artistic intelligence must be
used, although that is not the kind of drawing this chapter is
particularly referring to.

Look well at the model first; try and be moved by something in the form
that you feel is fine or interesting, and try and see in your mind's eye
what sort of drawing you mean to do before touching your paper. In
school studies be always unflinchingly honest to the impression the
model gives you, but dismiss the camera idea of truth from your mind.
Instead of converting yourself into a mechanical instrument for the
copying of what is before you, let your drawing be an expression of
truth perceived intelligently.

Be extremely careful about the first few strokes you put on your paper:
the quality of your drawing is often decided in these early stages. If
they are vital and expressive, you have started along lines you can
develop, and have some hope of doing a good drawing. If they are feeble
and poor, the chances are greatly against your getting anything good
built upon them. If your start has been bad, pull yourself together,
turn your paper over and start afresh, trying to seize upon the big,
significant lines and swings in your subject at once. Remember it is
much easier to put down a statement correctly than to correct a wrong
one; so out with the whole part if you are convinced it is wrong. Train
yourself to make direct, accurate statements in your drawings, and don't
waste time trying to manoeuvre a bad drawing into a good one. Stop as
soon as you feel you have gone wrong and correct the work in its early
stages, instead of rushing on upon a wrong foundation in the vague hope
that it will all come right in the end. When out walking, if you find
you have taken a wrong road you do not, if you are wise, go on in the
hope that the wrong way will lead to the right one, but you turn round
and go back to the point at which you left the right road. It is very
much the same in drawing and painting. As soon as you become aware that
you have got upon the wrong track, stop and rub out your work until an
earlier stage that was right is reached, and start along again from this
point. As your eye gets trained you will more quickly perceive when you
have done a wrong stroke, and be able to correct it before having gone
very far along the wrong road.

Do not work too long without giving your eye a little rest; a few
moments will be quite sufficient. If things won't come, stop a minute;
the eye often gets fatigued very quickly and refuses to see truly, but
soon revives if rested a minute or two.

Do not go labouring at a drawing when your mind is not working; you are
not doing any good, and probably are spoiling any good you have already
done. Pull yourself together, and ask what it is you are trying to
express, and having got this idea firmly fixed in your mind, go for your
drawing with the determination that it shall express it.

All this will sound very trite to students of any mettle, but there are
large numbers who waste no end of time working in a purely mechanical,
lifeless way, and with their minds anywhere but concentrated upon the
work before them. And if the mind is not working, the work of the hand
will be of no account. My own experience is that one has constantly to
be making fresh effort during the procedure of the work. The mind is apt
to tire and needs rousing continually, otherwise the work will lack the
impulse that shall make it vital. Particularly is this so in the final
stages of a drawing or painting, when, in adding details and small
refinements, it is doubly necessary for the mind to be on fire with the
initial impulse, or the main qualities will be obscured and the result
enfeebled by these smaller matters.

Do not rub out, if you can possibly help it, in drawings that aim at
artistic expression. In academic work, where artistic feeling is less
important than the discipline of your faculties, you may, of course, do
so, but even here as little as possible. In beautiful drawing of any
facility it has a weakening effect, somewhat similar to that produced by
a person stopping in the middle of a witty or brilliant remark to
correct a word. If a wrong line is made, it is left in by the side of
the right one in the drawing of many of the masters. But the great aim
of the draughtsman should be to train himself to draw cleanly and
fearlessly, hand and eye going together. But this state of things cannot
be expected for some time.

Let painstaking accuracy be your aim for a long time. When your eye and
hand have acquired the power of seeing and expressing on paper with some
degree of accuracy what you see, you will find facility and quickness of
execution will come of their own accord. In drawing of any expressive
power this quickness and facility of execution are absolutely essential.
The waves of emotion, under the influence of which the eye really sees
in any artistic sense, do not last long enough to allow of a slow,
painstaking manner of execution. There must be no hitch in the machinery
of expression when the consciousness is alive to the realisation of
something fine. Fluency of hand and accuracy of eye are the things your
academic studies should have taught you, and these powers will be needed
if you are to catch the expression of any of the finer things in form
that constitute good drawing.

Try and express yourself in as simple, not as complicated a manner as
possible. Let every touch mean something, and if you don't see what to
do next, don't fill in the time by meaningless shading and scribbling
until you do. Wait awhile, rest your eye by looking away, and then see
if you cannot find something right that needs doing.

Before beginning a drawing, it is not a bad idea to study carefully the
work of some master draughtsman whom the subject to be drawn may
suggest. If you do this carefully and thoughtfully, and take in a full
enjoyment, your eye will unconsciously be led to see in nature some of
the qualities of the master's work. And you will see the subject to be
drawn as a much finer thing than would have been the case had you come
to it with your eye unprepared in any way. Reproductions are now so good
and cheap that the best drawings in the world can be had for a few
pence, and every student should begin collecting reproductions of the
things that interest him.

This is not the place to discuss questions of health, but perhaps it
will not be thought grandmotherly to mention the extreme importance of
nervous vitality in a fine draughtsman, and how his life should be
ordered on such healthy lines that he has at his command the maximum
instead of the minimum of this faculty. After a certain point, it is a
question of vitality how far an artist is likely to go in art. Given two
men of equal ability, the one leading a careless life and the other a
healthy one, as far as a healthy one is possible to such a
supersensitive creature as an artist, there can be no doubt as to the
result. It is because there is still a lingering idea in the minds of
many that an artist must lead a dissipated life or he is not really an
artist, that one feels it necessary to mention the subject. This idea
has evidently arisen from the inability of the average person to
associate an unconventional mode of life with anything but riotous
dissipation. A conventional life is not the only wholesome form of
existence, and is certainly a most unwholesome and deadening form to the
artist; and neither is a dissipated life the only unconventional one
open to him. It is as well that the young student should know this, and
be led early to take great care of that most valuable of studio
properties, vigorous health.



The materials in which the artist works are of the greatest importance
in determining what qualities in the infinite complexity of nature he
selects for expression. And the good draughtsman will find out the
particular ones that belong to whatever medium he selects for his
drawing, and be careful never to attempt more than it is capable of
doing. Every material he works with possesses certain vital qualities
peculiar to itself, and it is his business to find out what these are
and use them to the advantage of his drawing. When one is working with,
say, pen and ink, the necessity for selecting only certain things is
obvious enough. But when a medium with the vast capacity of oil paint is
being used, the principle of its governing the nature of the work is
more often lost sight of. So near can oil paint approach an actual
illusion of natural appearances, that much misdirected effort has been
wasted on this object, all enjoyment of the medium being subordinated to
a meretricious attempt to deceive the eye. And I believe a popular idea
of the art of painting is that it exists chiefly to produce this
deception. No vital expression of nature can be achieved without the aid
of the particular vitality possessed by the medium with which one is
working. If this is lost sight of and the eye is tricked into thinking
that it is looking at real nature, it is not a fine picture. Art is not
a substitute for nature, but an expression of feeling produced in the
consciousness of the artist, and intimately associated with the material
through which it is expressed in his work--inspired, it may be, in the
first instance, by something seen, and expressed by him in painted
symbols as true to nature as he can make them while keeping in tune to
the emotional idea that prompted the work; but never regarded by the
fine artist as anything but painted symbols nevertheless. Never for one
moment does he intend you to forget that it is a painted picture you are
looking at, however naturalistic the treatment his theme may demand.

In the earlier history of art it was not so necessary to insist on the
limitations imposed by different mediums. With their more limited
knowledge of the phenomena of vision, the early masters had not the same
opportunities of going astray in this respect. But now that the whole
field of vision has been discovered, and that the subtlest effects of
light and atmosphere are capable of being represented, it has become
necessary to decide how far complete accuracy of representation will
help the particular impression you may intend your picture or drawing to
create. The danger is that in producing a complete illusion of
representation, the particular vitality of your medium, with all the
expressive power it is capable of yielding, may be lost.

Perhaps the chief difference between the great masters of the past and
many modern painters is the neglect of this principle. #They represented
nature in terms of whatever medium they worked in, and never
overstepped this limitation#. Modern artists, particularly in the
nineteenth century, often attempted to #copy nature#, the medium being
subordinated to the attempt to make it look like the real thing. In the
same way, the drawings of the great masters were drawings. They did not
attempt anything with a point that a point was not capable of
expressing. The drawings of many modern artists are full of attempts to
express tone and colour effects, things entirely outside the true
province of drawing. The small but infinitely important part of nature
that pure drawing is capable of conveying has been neglected, and line
work, until recently, went out of fashion in our schools.

There is something that makes for power in the limitations your
materials impose. Many artists whose work in some of the more limited
mediums is fine, are utterly feeble when they attempt one with so few
restrictions as oil paint. If students could only be induced to impose
more restraint upon themselves when they attempt so difficult a medium
as paint, it would be greatly to the advantage of their work. Beginning
first with monochrome in three tones, as explained in a former chapter,
they might then take for figure work ivory black and Venetian red. It is
surprising what an amount of colour effect can be got with this simple
means, and how much can be learned about the relative positions of the
warm and cold colours. Do not attempt the full range of tone at first,
but keep the darks rather lighter and the lights darker than nature.
Attempt the full scale of tone only when you have acquired sufficient
experience with the simpler range, and gradually add more colours as you
learn to master a few. But restraints are not so fashionable just now
as unbridled licence. Art students start in with a palette full of the
most amazing colours, producing results that it were better not to
discuss. It is a wise man who can discover his limitations and select a
medium the capacities of which just tally with his own. To discover
this, it is advisable to try many, and below is a short description of
the chief ones used by the draughtsman. But very little can be said
about them, and very little idea of their capacities given in a written
description; they must be handled by the student, and are no doubt
capable of many more qualities than have yet been got out of them.

[Sidenote: Lead Pencil]

This well-known medium is one of the most beautiful for pure line work,
and its use is an excellent training to the eye and hand in precision of
observation. Perhaps this is why it has not been so popular in our art
schools lately, when the charms of severe discipline are not so much in
favour as they should be. It is the first medium we are given to draw
with, and as the handiest and most convenient is unrivalled for
sketch-book use.

It is made in a large variety of degrees, from the hardest and greyest
to the softest and blackest, and is too well known to need much
description. It does not need fixing.

For pure line drawing nothing equals it, except silver point, and great
draughtsmen, like Ingres, have always loved it. It does not lend itself
so readily to any form of mass drawing. Although it is sometimes used
for this purpose, the offensive shine that occurs if dark masses are
introduced is against its use in any but very lightly shaded work.

[Illustration: Plate LV.


Its charm is the extreme delicacy of its grey-black lines.

[Sidenote: Silver and Gold Point.]

Similar to lead pencil, and of even greater delicacy, is silver-point
drawing. A more ancient method, it consists in drawing with a silver
point on paper the surface of which has been treated with a faint wash
of Chinese white. Without this wash the point will not make a mark.

For extreme delicacy and purity of line no medium can surpass this
method. And for the expression of a beautiful line, such as a profile,
nothing could be more suitable than a silver point. As a training to the
eye and hand also, it is of great value, as no rubbing out of any sort
is possible, and eye and hand must work together with great exactness.
The discipline of silver-point drawing is to be recommended as a
corrective to the picturesque vagaries of charcoal work.

A gold point, giving a warmer line, can also be used in the same way as
a silver point, the paper first having been treated with Chinese white.

[Sidenote: Charcoal.]

Two extreme points of view from which the rendering of form can be
approached have been explained, and it has been suggested that students
should study them both separately in the first instance, as they each
have different things to teach. Of the mediums that are best suited to a
drawing combining both points of view, the first and most popular is

Charcoal is made in many different degrees of hardness and softness, the
harder varieties being capable of quite a fine point. A chisel-shaped
point is the most convenient, as it does not wear away so quickly. And
if the broad side of the chisel point is used when a dark mass is
wanted, the edge can constantly be kept sharp. With this edge a very
fine line can be drawn.

Charcoal works with great freedom, and answers readily when forceful
expression is wanted. It is much more like painting than any other form
of drawing, a wide piece of charcoal making a wide mark similar to a
brush. The delicacy and lightness with which it has to be handled is
also much more like the handling of a brush than any other point
drawing. When rubbed with the finger, it sheds a soft grey tone over the
whole work. With a piece of bread pressed by thumb and finger into a
pellet, high lights can be taken out with the precision of white chalk;
or rubber can be used. Bread is, perhaps, the best, as it does not
smudge the charcoal but lifts it readily off. When rubbed with the
finger, the darks, of course, are lightened in tone. It is therefore
useful to draw in the general proportions roughly and rub down in this
way. You then have a middle tone over the work, with the rough drawing
showing through. Now proceed carefully to draw your lights with bread or
rubber, and your shadows with charcoal, in much the same manner as you
did in the monochrome exercises already described.

All preliminary setting out of your work on canvas is usually done with
charcoal, which must of course be fixed with a spray diffuser. For large
work, such as a full-length portrait, sticks of charcoal nearly an inch
in diameter are made, and a long swinging line can be done without their

For drawings that are intended as things of beauty in themselves, and
are not merely done as a preparatory study for a painting, charcoal is
perhaps not so refined a medium as a great many others. It is too much
like painting to have the particular beauties of a drawing, and too much
like drawing to have the qualities of a painting. However, some
beautiful things have been done with it.

It is useful in doing studies where much finish is desired, to fix the
work slightly when drawn in and carried some way on. You can work over
this again without continually rubbing out with your hand what you have
already drawn. If necessary you can rub out with a hard piece of rubber
any parts that have already been fixed, or even scrape with a pen-knife.
But this is not advisable for anything but an academic study, or working
drawings, as it spoils the beauty and freshness of charcoal work.
Studies done in this medium can also be finished with Conté chalk.

There is also an artificial charcoal put up in sticks, that is very good
for refined work. It has some advantages over natural charcoal, in that
there are no knots and it works much more evenly. The best natural
charcoal I have used is the French make known as "Fusain Rouget." It is
made in three degrees, No. 3 being the softest, and, of course, the
blackest. But some of the ordinary Venetian and vine charcoals sold are
good. But don't get the cheaper varieties: a bad piece of charcoal is
worse than useless.

Charcoal is fixed by means of a solution of white shellac dissolved in
spirits of wine, blown on with a spray diffuser. This is sold by the
artists' colourmen, or can be easily made by the student. It lightly
deposits a thin film of shellac over the work, acting as a varnish and
preventing its rubbing off.

Charcoal is not on the whole the medium an artist with a pure love of
form selects, but rather that of the painter, who uses it when his
brushes and paints are not handy.

[Sidenote: Red Chalk (Sanguine).]

A delightful medium that can be used for either pure line work or a
mixed method of drawing, is red chalk. This natural red earth is one of
the most ancient materials for drawing. It is a lovely Venetian red in
colour, and works well in the natural state, if you get a good piece. It
is sold by the ounce, and it is advisable to try the pieces as they vary
very much, some being hard and gritty and some more soft and smooth. It
is also made by Messrs. Conté of Paris in sticks artificially prepared.
These work well and are never gritty, but are not so hard as the natural
chalk, and consequently wear away quickly and do not make fine lines as

Red chalk when rubbed with the finger or a rag spreads evenly on paper,
and produces a middle tone on which lights can be drawn with rubber or
bread. Sticks of hard, pointed rubber are everywhere sold, which, cut in
a chisel shape, work beautifully on red chalk drawings. Bread is also
excellent when a softer light is wanted. You can continually correct and
redraw in this medium by rubbing it with the finger or a rag, thus
destroying the lights and shadows to a large extent, and enabling you to
draw them again more carefully. For this reason red chalk is greatly to
be recommended for making drawings for a picture where much fumbling may
be necessary before you find what you want. Unlike charcoal, it hardly
needs fixing, and much more intimate study of the forms can be got into

Most of the drawings by the author reproduced in this book are done in
this medium. For drawings intended to have a separate existence it is
one of the prettiest mediums. In fact, this is the danger to the student
while studying: your drawing looks so much at its best that you are apt
to be satisfied too soon. But for portrait drawings there is no medium
to equal it.

Additional quality of dark is occasionally got by mixing a little of
this red chalk in a powdered state with water and a very little
gum-arabic. This can be applied with a sable brush as in water-colour
painting, and makes a rich velvety dark.

It is necessary to select your paper with some care. The ordinary paper
has too much size on it. This is picked up by the chalk, and will
prevent its marking. A paper with little size is best, or old paper
where the size has perished. I find an O.W. paper, made for printing
etchings, as good as any for ordinary work. It is not perfect, but works
very well. What one wants is the smoothest paper without a faced and
hot-pressed surface, and it is difficult to find.

Occasionally black chalk is used with the red to add strength to it. And
some draughtsmen use it with the red in such a manner as to produce
almost a full colour effect.

Holbein, who used this medium largely, tinted the paper in most of his
portrait drawings, varying the tint very much, and sometimes using zinc
white as a wash, which enabled him to supplement his work with a
silver-point line here and there, and also got over any difficulty the
size in the paper might cause. His aim seems to have been to select the
few essential things in a head and draw them with great finality and
exactness. In many of the drawings the earlier work has been done with
red or black chalk and then rubbed down and the drawing redone with
either a brush and some of the chalk rubbed up with water and gum or a
silver-point line of great purity, while in others he has tinted the
paper with water-colour and rubbed this away to the white paper where he
wanted a light, or Chinese white has been used for the same purpose.

[Sidenote: Black Conté and Carbon Pencil.]

Black Conté is a hard black chalk made in small sticks of different
degrees. It is also put up in cedar pencils. Rather more gritty than red
chalk or charcoal, it is a favourite medium with some, and can be used
with advantage to supplement charcoal when more precision and definition
are wanted. It has very much the same quality of line and so does not
show as a different medium. It can be rubbed like charcoal and red chalk
and will spread a tone over the paper in very much the same way.

Carbon pencils are similar to Conté, but smoother in working and do not

[Sidenote: White chalk.]

White chalk is sometimes used on toned paper to draw the lights, the
paper serving as a half tone while the shadows and outlines are drawn in
black or red. In this kind of drawing the chalk should never be allowed
to come in contact with the black or red chalk of the shadows, the half
tone of the paper should always be between them.

For rubbed work white pastel is better than the ordinary white chalk
sold for drawing, as it is not so hard. A drawing done in this method
with white pastel and red chalk is reproduced on page 46 [Transcribers
Note: Plate IV], and one with the hard white chalk, on page 260
[Transcribers Note: Plate LIV].

This is the method commonly used for making studies of drapery, the
extreme rapidity with which the position of the lights and shadows can
be expressed being of great importance when so unstable a subject as an
arrangement of drapery is being drawn.

[Sidenote: Lithography.]

Lithography as a means of artistic reproduction has suffered much in
public esteem by being put to all manner of inartistic trade uses. It is
really one of the most wonderful means of reproducing an artist's actual
work, the result being, in most cases, so identical with the original
that, seen together, if the original drawing has been done on paper, it
is almost impossible to distinguish any difference. And of course, as in
etching, it is the prints that are really the originals. The initial
work is only done as a means of producing these.

A drawing is made on a lithographic stone, that is, a piece of limestone
that has been prepared with an almost perfectly smooth surface. The
chalk used is a special kind of a greasy nature, and is made in several
degrees of hardness and softness. No rubbing out is possible, but lines
can be scratched out with a knife, or parts made lighter by white lines
being drawn by a knife over them. A great range of freedom and variety
is possible in these initial drawings on stone. The chalk can be rubbed
up with a little water, like a cake of water-colour, and applied with a
brush. And every variety of tone can be made with the side of the chalk.

Some care should be taken not to let the warm finger touch the stone, or
it may make a greasy mark that will print.

When this initial drawing is done to the artist's satisfaction, the
most usual method is to treat the stone with a solution of gum-arabic
and a little nitric acid. After this is dry, the gum is washed off as
far as may be with water; some of the gum is left in the porous stone,
but it is rejected where the greasy lines and tones of the drawing come.
Prints may now be obtained by rolling up the stone with an inked roller.
The ink is composed of a varnish of boiled linseed oil and any of the
lithographic colours to be commercially obtained.

The ink does not take on the damp gummed stone, but only where the
lithographic chalk has made a greasy mark, so that a perfect facsimile
of the drawing on stone is obtained, when a sheet of paper is placed on
the stone and the whole put through the press.

The medium deserves to be much more popular with draughtsmen than it is,
as no more perfect means of reproduction could be devised.

The lithographic stone is rather a cumbersome thing to handle, but the
initial drawing can be done on paper and afterwards transferred to the
stone. In the case of line work the result is practically identical, but
where much tone and playing about with the chalk is indulged in, the
stone is much better. Lithographic papers of different textures are made
for this purpose, but almost any paper will do, provided the drawing is
done with the special lithographic chalk.

[Sidenote: Pen and Ink.]

Pen and ink was a favourite means of making studies with many old
masters, notably Rembrandt. Often heightening the effect with a wash, he
conveyed marvellous suggestions with the simplest scribbles. But it is a
difficult medium for the young student to hope to do much with in his
studies, although for training the eye and hand to quick definite
statement of impressions, there is much to be said for it. No hugging of
half tones is possible, things must be reduced to a statement of clear
darks--which would be a useful corrective to the tendency so many
students have of seeing chiefly the half tones in their work.

[Illustration: Plate LVI.


_Photo Giraudon_]

The kind of pen used will depend on the kind of drawing you wish to
make. In steel pens there are innumerable varieties, from the fine
crow-quills to the thick "J" nibs. The natural crow-quill is a much more
sympathetic tool than a steel pen, although not quite so certain in its
line. But more play and variety is to be got out of it, and when a free
pen drawing is wanted it is preferable.

Reed pens are also made, and are useful when thick lines are wanted.
They sometimes have a steel spring underneath to hold the ink somewhat
in the same manner as some fountain pens.

There is even a glass pen, consisting of a sharp-pointed cone of glass
with grooves running down to the point. The ink is held in these
grooves, and runs down and is deposited freely as the pen is used. A
line of only one thickness can be drawn with it, but this can be drawn
in any direction, an advantage over most other shapes.

[Sidenote: Etching.]

Etching is a process of reproduction that consists in drawing with a
steel point on a waxed plate of copper or zinc, and then putting it in a
bath of diluted nitric acid to bite in the lines. The longer the plate
remains in the bath the deeper and darker the lines become, so that
variety in thickness is got by stopping out with a varnish the light
lines when they are sufficiently strong, and letting the darker ones
have a longer exposure to the acid.

Many wonderful and beautiful things have been done with this simple
means. The printing consists in inking the plate all over and wiping off
until only the lines retain any ink, when the plate is put in a press
and an impression taken. Or some slight amount of ink may be left on the
plate in certain places where a tint is wanted, and a little may be
smudged out of the lines themselves to give them a softer quality. In
fact there are no end of tricks a clever etching printer will adopt to
give quality to his print.

[Sidenote: Paper.]

The varieties of paper on the market at the service of the artist are
innumerable, and nothing need be said here except that the texture of
your paper will have a considerable influence on your drawing. But try
every sort of paper so as to find what suits the particular things you
want to express. I make a point of buying every new paper I see, and a
new paper is often a stimulant to some new quality in drawing. Avoid the
wood-pulp papers, as they turn dark after a time. Linen rag is the only
safe substance for good papers, and artists now have in the O.W. papers
a large series that they can rely on being made of linen only.

It is sometimes advisable, when you are not drawing a subject that
demands a clear hard line, but where more sympathetic qualities are
wanted, to have a wad of several sheets of paper under the one you are
working on, pinned on the drawing-board. This gives you a more
sympathetic surface to work upon and improves the quality of your work.
In redrawing a study with which you are not quite satisfied, it is a
good plan to use a thin paper, pinning it over the first study so that
it can be seen through. One can by this means start as it were from the
point where one left off. Good papers of this description are now on the
market. I fancy they are called "bank-note" papers.



Mechanical invention, mechanical knowledge, and even a mechanical theory
of the universe, have so influenced the average modern mind, that it has
been thought necessary in the foregoing pages to speak out strongly
against the idea of a mechanical standard of accuracy in artistic
drawing. If there were such a standard, the photographic camera would
serve our purpose well enough. And, considering how largely this idea is
held, one need not be surprised that some painters use the camera;
indeed, the wonder is that they do not use it more, as it gives in some
perfection the mechanical accuracy which is all they seem to aim at in
their work. There may be times when the camera can be of use to artists,
but only to those who are thoroughly competent to do without it--to
those who can look, as it were, through the photograph and draw from it
with the same freedom and spontaneity with which they would draw from
nature, thus avoiding its dead mechanical accuracy, which is a very
difficult thing to do. But the camera is a convenience to be avoided by
the student.

Now, although it has been necessary to insist strongly on the difference
between phenomena mechanically recorded and the records of a living
individual consciousness, I should be very sorry if anything said
should lead students to assume that a loose and careless manner of study
was in any way advocated. The training of his eye and hand to the most
painstaking accuracy of observation and record must be the student's aim
for many years. The variations on mechanical accuracy in the work of a
fine draughtsman need not be, and seldom are, conscious variations.
Mechanical accuracy is a much easier thing to accomplish than accuracy
to the subtle perceptions of the artist. And he who cannot draw with
great precision the ordinary cold aspect of things cannot hope to catch
the fleeting aspect of his finer vision.

Those artists who can only draw in some weird fashion remote from nature
may produce work of some interest; but they are too much at the mercy of
a natural trick of hand to hope to be more than interesting curiosities
in art.

The object of your training in drawing should be to develop to the
uttermost the observation of form and all that it signifies, and your
powers of accurately portraying this on paper.

#Unflinching honesty# must be observed in all your studies. It is only
then that the "you" in you will eventually find expression in your work.
And it is this personal quality, this recording of the impressions of
life as felt by a conscious individual that is the very essence of
distinction in art.

The "seeking after originality" so much advocated would be better put
"seeking for sincerity." Seeking for originality usually resolves itself
into running after any peculiarity in manner that the changing fashions
of a restless age may throw up. One of the most original men who ever
lived did not trouble to invent the plots of more than three or four of
his plays, but was content to take the hackneyed work of his time as the
vehicle through which to pour the rich treasures of his vision of life.
And wrote:

     "What custom wills in all things do you do it."

Individual style will come to you naturally as you become more conscious
of what it is you wish to express. There are two kinds of insincerity in
style, the employment of a ready-made conventional manner that is not
understood and that does not fit the matter; and the running after and
laboriously seeking an original manner when no original matter exists.
Good style depends on a clear idea of what it is you wish to do; it is
the shortest means to the end aimed at, the most apt manner of conveying
that personal "something" that is in all good work. "The style is the
man," as Flaubert says. The splendour and value of your style will
depend on the splendour and value of the mental vision inspired in you,
that you seek to convey; on the quality of the man, in other words. And
this is not a matter where direct teaching can help you, but rests
between your own consciousness and those higher powers that move it.


If you add a line of 5 inches to one of 8 inches you produce one 13
inches long, and if you proceed by always adding the last two you arrive
at a series of lengths, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55 inches, &c. Mr. William
Schooling tells me that any two of these lines adjoining one another are
practically in the same proportion to each other; that is to say, one 8
inches is 1.600 times the size of one 5 inches, and the 13-inch line is
1.625 the size of the 8-inch, and the 21-inch line being 1.615 times the
13-inch line, and so on. With the mathematician's love of accuracy, Mr.
Schooling has worked out the exact proportion that should exist between
a series of quantities for them to be in the same proportion to their
neighbours, and in which any two added together would produce the next.
There is only one proportion that will do this, and although very
formidable, stated exactly, for practical purposes, it is that between 5
and a fraction over 8. Stated accurately to eleven places of decimals it
is (1 + sqrt(5))/2 = 1.61803398875 (nearly).

We have evidently here a very unique proportion. Mr. Schooling has
called this the Phi proportion, and it will be convenient to refer to it
by this name.



EC is 1.618033, &c., times size of AB,
CD    "         "    "     "       BC,
DE    "         "    "     "       CD, &c.,

BD=DE, &c.]

Testing this proportion on the reproductions of pictures in this book
in the order of their appearing, we find the following remarkable

"Los Meninas," Velazquez, page 60 [Transcribers Note: Plate IX].--The
right-hand side of light opening of door at the end of the room is
exactly Phi proportion with the two sides of picture; and further, the
bottom of this opening is exactly Phi proportion with the top and bottom
of canvas.

It will be noticed that this is a very important point in the "placing"
of the composition.

"Fête Champêtre," Giorgione, page 151 [Transcribers Note: Plate
XXXIII].--Lower end of flute held by seated female figure exactly Phi
proportion with sides of picture, and lower side of hand holding it (a
point slightly above the end of flute) exactly Phi proportion with top
and bottom of canvas. This is also an important centre in the
construction of the composition.

"Bacchus and Ariadne," Titian, page 154 [Transcribers Note: Plate
XXXIV].--The proportion in this picture both with top and bottom and
sides of canvas comes in the shadow under chin of Bacchus; the most
important point in the composition being the placing of this head.

"Love and Death," by Watts, page 158 [Transcribers Note: Plate
XXXV].--Point from which drapery radiates on figure of Death exactly Phi
proportion with top and bottom of picture.

Point where right-hand side of right leg of Love cuts dark edge of steps
exactly Phi proportion with sides of picture.

"Surrender of Breda," by Velazquez, page 161 [Transcribers Note: Plate
XXXVI].--First spear in upright row on the right top of picture, exactly
Phi proportion with sides of canvas. Height of gun carried horizontally
by man in middle distance above central group, exactly Phi proportion
with top and bottom of picture. This line gives height of group of
figures on left, and is the most important horizontal line in the

"Birth of Venus," Botticelli, page 166 [Transcribers Note: Plate
XXXVII].--Height of horizon line Phi proportion with top and bottom of
picture. Height of shell on which Venus stands Phi proportion with top
and bottom of picture, the smaller quantity being below this time.
Laterally the extreme edge of dark drapery held by figure on right that
blows towards Venus is Phi proportion with sides of picture.

"The Rape of Europa," by Paolo Veronese, page 168 [Transcribers Note:
Plate XXXVIII].--Top of head of Europa exactly Phi proportion with top
and bottom of picture. Right-hand side of same head slightly to left of
Phi proportion with sides of picture (unless in the reproduction a part
of the picture on the left has been trimmed away, as is likely, in which
case it would be exactly Phi proportion).

I have taken the first seven pictures reproduced in this book that were
not selected with any idea of illustrating this point, and I think you
will admit that in each some very important quantity has been placed in
this proportion. One could go on through all the illustrations were it
not for the fear of becoming wearisome; and also, one could go on
through some of the minor relationships, and point out how often this
proportion turns up in compositions. But enough has been said to show
that the eye evidently takes some especial pleasure in it, whatever may
eventually be found to be the physiological reason underlying it.

       *       *       *       *       *


Absorbent canvas

Academic drawing

Academic and conventional

Academic students

Accuracy, scientific and artistic

Anatomy, study of, its importance

"Ansidei Madonna," Raphael's

Apelles and his colours

Architecture, proportion in

Art, some definitions of

Artist, the

Atmosphere indicated by shading

Atmospheric colours

Audley, Lady, Holbein's portrait of

"Bacchus and Ariadne," Titian's



Balance between straight lines and curves

Balance between flat and gradated tones

Balance between light and dark tones

Balance between warm and cold colours

Balance between interest and mass

Balance between variety and unity

"Bank-note" papers

Bastien Lepage

Bath for etching

Beauty, definition of

Beauty and prettiness

Beauty and truth

"Birth of Venus, the," Botticelli's

Black chalk

Black Conté

Black glass, the use of a

Blake, example of parallelism

Blake's designs

Blake's use of the vertical

Blocking in the drawing

Blocking out with square lines

"Blue Boy," Gainsborough's

Botany, the study of

Botticelli's work

Boucher's heads compared with Watteau's

Boundaries of forms

Boundaries of masses in Nature

Bread, use of, in charcoal drawing

Browning, R., portraits of

Brush, manipulation of the

Brush strokes

Brushes, various kinds of

Burke on "The Sublime and the Beautiful"


Camera, use of the

Carbon pencils


Circle, perfect curve of, to be avoided

Chalks, drawing in

Charcoal drawing;
  fixing solution

Chavannes, Peuvis de


Chinese art

China and Japan, the art of

Colour, contrasts of

Colours for figure work

Colours, a useful chart of

Classic architecture

Claude Monet

Clothes, the treatment of

Composition of a picture, the


Conté crayon

"Contrasts in Harmony"

Conventional art

Conventional life, deadness of the

Corners of the panel or canvas, the

Corot, his masses of foliage


Crow-quill pen, the

Curves, how to observe the shape of

Curves and straight lines

Darwin, anecdote of

Deadness, to avoid

Decorative work



Diagonal lines

Discord and harmony

Discordant lines

Draperies of Watteau, the

Drapery studies in chalks

Drapery in portrait-drawing

Draughtsmanship and impressionism

Drawing, academic

Drawing, definition of

East, arts of the

Edges, variety of

Edges, the importance of the subject of

Egg and dart moulding

Egyptian sculpture

Egyptian wall paintings

El Greco

Elgin Marbles, the

Ellipse, the

"Embarquement pour l'Île de Cythère," Watteau's

Emerson on the beautiful

Emotional power of the arts

Emotional significance of objects

Erechtheum, moulding from the


Exercises in mass drawing


Expression in portrait-drawing

Eye, anatomy of the

Eye, the, in portrait-drawing

Eyebrow, the

Eyelashes, the

Eyelids, the

"Fête Champêtre," Giorgioni's

Figure work, colours for

"Finding of the Body of St. Mark"

Fixing positions of salient points


Foliage, treatment of


Form and colour

Form, the influence of

Form, the study of

Frans Hals

_French Revolution_, Carlyle's

French schools

Fripp, Sir Alfred

Fromentin's definition of art

Fulness of form indicated by shading

Gainsborough, the charm of

Genius and talent

Geology, the study of


"Giorgioni, The School of," Walter Pater's


Glass pens


Gold point

Gold and silver paint for shading

Gothic architecture

Gradation, variety of

Greek architecture

Greek art in the Middle Ages

Greek art, variety in

Greek vivacity of moulding

Greek and Gothic sculpture

Greek type of profile


Hair, the treatment of

Hair, effect of style upon the face

Half tones

"Hannibal crossing the Alps," Turner's

Hardness indicated by shading

Harsh contrasts, effect of


Health, questions of

Henner, the work of

High lights

Hogarth's definition

Holbein's drawings

Holl, Frank

Horizontal, calm and repose of the

Horizontal and vertical, the

_Human Anatomy for Art Students_

Human figure, the outline of the


Impressionist vision

Ingres, studies of

Ink used in lithography

Intellect and feeling


Italian Renaissance, the

Italian work in the fifteenth century

Japanese art

Japanese method, a

Japanese and Chinese use of contrasts of colour

Keats' definition of beauty

Landscapes of Watteau, the

Lang, Andrew, his definition of art

Lawrence, Lord, portrait of

Lead pencil

Lecoq de Boisbaudran, M.

Lehmann, R., portraits by

Leonardo da Vinci


Light and shade, principles of

Lighting and light effects

Likeness, catching the

Line and the circle, the

Line drawing and mass drawing

Lines expressing repose or energy

Line, the power of the

Lines, value of, in portrait-painting

Lines of shading, different

Lithographic chalk


"Love and Death," Watts'


Mass drawing

Masters, past and modern


Mathematical proportions

Measuring comparative distances

Measurements, vertical and horizontal

Medium, the use of

Michael Angelo, the figures of

Michael Angelo and Degas


Mist, effect of a, on the tone of a picture

Model, the

Monet, Claude

Morris's definition of art

Nature, variety of forms in

Nature's tendency to pictorial unity of arrangement

Newspaper as a background

Norman architecture

Oil, surplus in paint


"Our Lady of the Rocks," L. da Vinci's

Outline drawing

Outline studies and models

Paint, the vitality of

Paint, the consistency of

Paint, effect of oil in thick

"Painted Poetry"

Painter's training, the object of the

Painting and drawing

Panel or canvas, the

Paolo Uccello

Paolo Veronese

Paper for drawing

Parallel shading

Parallelism of lines

Parthenon, the

Pater, Walter

Pen-and-ink drawing

Pens for pen-and-ink drawing

Perspective, the study of

Philip IV, Velazquez' portrait of

Photograph, failure of the

Picture galleries, the influence of

Pictures, small and large, treatment of

Planes of tone, painting in the

Pre-Raphaelite paintings

Pre-Raphaelite movement, the

Preparatory drawings, disadvantage of

Primitive art

Primitive emotions

Procedure, in commencing a drawing

Profiles, beauty of


Poppy oil and turpentine, the use of


"Portrait of the Artist's Daughter," Sir E. Burne-Jones's

Pose, the

Peuvis de Chavannes

Quality and texture, variety in

Radiating lines

"Rape of Europa, The," Paul Veronese's


Red rays

Reed pens

Rembrandt and his colours

Reproduction, advantages of up-to-date

Retina, effect of light on the

Reynolds' contrasts of colour

Rhythm, definition of

Right angle, power of the

Roman sculpture, lack of vitality in


Royal Academy Schools



Schools of Art

Scientific and artistic accuracy

Scientific study, necessity for



Shape, variety of

Silhouette, the


Silver-point work, shading in

Sitter, the

Softness indicated by shading

Solar spectrum, the

Solids as flat copy

Spanish school, the

Straight lines indicative of strength

Straight lines and flat tones, analogy between

Strong light in contrast with dark shadow

Study of drawing, the

Stump, the


"Sublime and the Beautiful, The," Burke's

"Surrender of Breda, The," Velazquez'

Sympathetic lines

Talent and genius

Teachers in Art Schools

Technical side of an art, the

Thickness and accent, variety of



Tolstoy's definition of art

Tone, meaning of the word

Tone values, variety of

Toned paper, drawing on

Tones, large flat, the effect of

Touch, the sense of

Trafalgar Square lions, the

Trees, the masses of


Types, lifelessness of

"Ulysses deriding Polyphemus," Turner's

Unity and variety

Unity of line

"Vale of Best," Millais'

Value, meaning of the word as applied to a picture

Values of tone drawing, the

Van Dyck, his use of the straight line

Variety in symmetry

"Variety in Unity"

"Varying well"


Venetian painters, and the music of edges

Venetians, the, their use of straight lines

Venetians, system and principles of design of the

"Venus, Mercury, and Cupid," Correggio's

Vertical, the, associated with the sublime

Vertical lines, feeling associated with


Visual blindness

Visual memory, the

Ward, the animal painter

Warm colours

Watteau, the charm of

Watts, G.F., portraits by

Watts' use of the right angle

Windsor, Holbein's portraits at

Whistler, a master of tone

White casts, drawing from

White chalk

White paint

White pastel

End of the Project Gutenberg EBook of The Practice and Science Of Drawing
by Harold Speed


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