Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Twice Told Tuesday - The Colors of 1863

Twice Told Tuesday features a photography related article reprinted from
my collection of old photography books, magazines, and newspapers.

In last week's Twice Told Tuesday we discussed a photographer's instructions regarding the wearing of color for the person whose portrait is being taken and how that color appears in the finished photograph. This week we take a poem from a book of instruction for photographic painting. A book for geeks of the time. Photographer, know thy colors. I love it!


Blue Yellow Red — pure simple colours all

(By mixture unobtained) we Primaries call;

From these in various combinations blent,

All other colours trace their one descent.
Each mixed with each—their powers combin'd diffuse

New colours—forming Secondary hues :

Yellow with red makes Orange, with blue—Green,

In blue, with red admix'd, is Purple seen.

Each of these hues, in Harmony we find,

When with its complementary combined;

Orange with blue, and green with red, agrees,

And purple tints, near yellows, always please.

These secondaries Tertiaries produce,

And CitrineOliveRusset introduce ;

Thus green with orange blended forms citrine,

And olive comes from purple mixed with green;

Orange, with purple mix'd, will russet prove;

And, being subject to the rule above,

Harmonious with each tertiary we view

The complemental secondary hue:

Thus citrine—olive—russet harmonise

"With purple—orange—green, their true allies.

These hues, by white diluted, Tints are made,

By black, are deepen'd into darkest Shade.

Pure or combin'd, the primaries all three,

To satisfy the eye, must present be ;

If the support is wanting but of one,

In that proportion harmony is gone :

Should red be unsupported by due share

Of blue and yellow pure—combin'd they are

In green—which secondary, thus we see,

The harmonising medium of all three.

Yellow for light contrasts dark purple's hue,

Its complemental, form'd of red and blue.

Red most exciting is—let Nature tell

How grateful is, and soothing, green's soft spell.

So blue retires—beyond all colours cold,

While orange warm—advancing you behold.

The union of two primaries forms a hue,

As perfect and decided as 'tis new;

But all the mixtures which all three befall

Tend to destroy and neutralise them all;

Nay, mix them—three parts yellow—five of red —

And eight of blue—then colours all are fled.

"When primaries are not pure—you!ll surely see,

Their complementals change in due degree;

If red (with yellow) to a scarlet tend,

Some blue its complemental green will blend;

So if your red be crimson (blue with red),

Your green with yellow would be varied;

If yellow tends to orange, then you find

Purple (its complement) to blue inclin'd;

But if to blue it leans, then mark the change,

Nearer to red you see the purple range.

If blue partakes of red—the orange then

To yellow tends; if yellowish—you ken

The secondary orange glows with red.

Reader, farewell! my lesson now is said.*

*The lines are by Henry Hopley White, Esq., to whose courtesy we are indebted for permission to publish them. They were written to accompany the beautiful diagram illustrating the relations of colours, which, by Mr. White's permission, appeared as frontispiece to the first edition of this work. The lines and coloured diagram are now published on a separate sheet, by Mr. Newman, Soho Square, and will be found valuable for use in schools, and by all students of colour.


Newman, James. Harmonious Colouring: Specially As Applied To Photographs. London: Newman. 1863.


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