Chapman, J.G. (John Gadsby), 1808-1889. / The American drawing-book: a manual for the amateur, and basis of study for the professional artist: especially adapted to the use of public and private schools, as well as home instruction.
(1870 [1873 printing])
Chapter XI. Of composition.--Hints of methods of original productions, etc. Conclusion., pp. -304 ff.
288 C 0 M P 0 S I T I ON. 3. However it Illay be that emulation of the broad and general impressions of Nature, as they most forcibly affect the mind or excite the imagination, rather than the abstract and material elements which combine to produce such effects, form the higher purposes of art-as the means of its expression are, as in Nature, by combinations of subordinates, a thorough comprehension of and command over all such subordinates becomes absolutely necessary to the artist; this compre- hension and command extending, not only to theoretical knowledge of their natures, and power of service to the purposes of art, but likewise to a masterly control over them in their practical application. 4. In the composition of a work of design, is understood to comprise its entire arrangement; and involves, according to the extent of its intention, whether in reference to desired effect, or method, or materials employed, its general outline -grouping-effect of light and shadow- expression - color, etc., all harmoniously agreeing together, all directly bea ring upon its motive or subject, and combining to convey an effective and agreeable as well as obvious impression thereof. 5. The first requisite, therefore, of a composition is that it should tell its.~story. it matters not how exalted or how insignificant its motive may be, on this point there should be no grounds for doubt or question. The humblest bit of still-life that may be selected-a book upon the table -a fruit, or flower-a weed, or tree-a rock, or mountain-a glass of water, or a lake or river- a rippling brook, or a foaming cataract-a head, a limb, or a figure-anything-singly or com- bined, whether in their natural arrangement, or artistically con~iposed as principals or subordinates in ideal creations-may be motives or subjects of a composition, so long as they preserve primary importance therein, and form by the scale of their significance and value that of the art which may attempt their representation. The feeblest effort of a child to imitate upon his slate an object which he sees, remembers, or imagines, and the most sublime and successful achievements of cultivated genius, differ only in ambition of attempt and amount of capacity exercised. 6. What story, it may be asked, has a bit of still-life, a portrait, or a landscape-view, to tell beyond that which it brings with its presence to the artist? What composition or further arrange- ment is required? Do not the subjects themselves afford all the composition ready to his hand? What else is there for him to do than faithfully to imitate that which is before him? Let us take the table before us, in its confusion of books and drawings, papers, pens, and com- monplace conveniences, of an artist's studio. Not a very promising or interesting subject for a picture, it must be admitted; but for a tempting basket of freshly-gathered boughs of fruit, which
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