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The Laws of Contrast of Colour
1859. CHEVREUL, M.E. The Laws of Contrast of Colour: and Their Application to the Arts of Painting, Decoration of Buildings, Mosaic Work, Tapestry and Carpet Weaving, Calico Painting, Dress, Paper Staining, Printing, Illumination, Landscape and Flower Gardening, etc. Translated from the French by John Spanton. xvi, 243, [1] pp. Illustrated with 18 plates, mostly coloured. Small 8vo., 163 x 103 mm, bound in original publisher's green pebbled cloth, gilt and red stamped decorations. London: George Routledge & Sons, 1859. |~||~||~||~| Third Edition in this English translation of the most influential treatise on colours of the nineteenth century. A professional chemist, Chevreul became Director of Dyeing at the Gobelins royal tapestry manufactory in 1824, in which position he perfected a number of new dyes and was led to a close study of the properties of colour. It was this foundation of empirical observation that permitted him to discern one very simple principle, so widely known today that it is difficult to imagine a time when it was not the fundamental guideline for artists and every kind of graphic designer in their use of colour. Chevreul's "law of simultaneous contrast of colours" states that colours seen side by side will always appear to the eye "as dissimilar as possible, both in their optical composition and in the height of their tone." On this basis Chevreul proceeded to analyze the consequences and applications of colour contrast, i.e., the modifications of hue and tone occurring when juxtaposed colours are viewed at the same time. He established "a precise nomenclature for colour relationships: tons for tonal value on a scale from black to white; gamme for the tonal scale itself; nuances for the modifications of one hue by the admixture of another; couleurs franches for pure, saturated pigments; couleurs rabattues (or rompues) for colours broken with black (or grey). These qualities were demonstrated in a colour wheel to which was attached a quadrant…" (Kemp, The Science of Art pp. 306-7). Chevreul intended his treatise for the use of painters, textile designers, gardeners and other graphic artists rather than for scientists, and the influence of his discoveries on the development of European painting was enormous. The Impressionists followed his precepts for the decomposition of colour tones and the juxtaposition of colours, building up their paintings using separate touches of pure colours on the canvas, and allowing the observer's eye to combine them; and the Neo-impressionist school, led by Seurat and Signac, went further, seeking to provide a scientific basis for Impressionism by deliberately limiting "their palettes to Chevreul's circle of fundamental colors and intermediate tones and [applying] colors scientifically to their canvases as opposed spots" (Dictionary of Scientific Biography). The influence of Chevreul's theories continued into the twentieth century: several modern colour-field painters, especially Ellsworth Kelly, are known to have experimented with Chevreul's colour theory. A fine bright copy, complete with the delicate volvelle intact on plate 7.
      [Bookseller: Ursus Rare Books]
Last Found On: 2015-02-22           Check availability:      Biblio    


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