Wednesday, May 5, 2010

visual weight effected by placement in design by distribution

Reginald Marsh, High Yaller

I was informed by an alert reader that the book Composition by Cyril Pearce is not in the public domain as I had thought. So I guess I am not going to be able to continue translating it for you. I can show a page or two from a book under fair use, but I can't do a lot more than that, because it might diminish the market for the book. In 2022 the book will pass into the public domain. Lay down with your arms at your sides and wait patiently, I will get back to you then. It is weird that a book out of print since before I was born is not in the public domain. But it is not. I rather doubt anyone would reprint it either as it is in such stilted language as to need translation. So If you can find it, and I am guessing you can't, read it. The ideas in the book are already part of my thought processes as are the contents of many others.

The painting above is by Reginald Marsh. I want to talk a little about the arrangement he has made. This painting is an example of composition by distribution.The attention grabbing yellow dress is placed over the center or balancing point of the rectangle. Another principle of distribution is illustrated here though. The further from the center a weight is placed, the greater is its weight. If you were to imagine a card balanced atop a needle, a heavier weight placed just off its center could be balanced by a smaller weight near its edge.

Marsh has used that in this painting. At a glance you might think that all of those steps and balusters would throw the picture out of balance with the lighter, open space at the bottom. But the ladies feet, particularly the forward one are placed so near the lower edge of the painting that they counterbalance all the elements of architecture above. The weight of her body's downward thrust is implied in them too, since she stands on them, they have an even greater downward thrust than they might otherwise.

The little guy over there on the left affects the balance of the piece too, by leaning outward against the edge he too counterbalances the heavy newel post in front of the statuesque heroine of the piece.

The painting is balanced, but in an artistic and asymmetrical way. At first glance distribution would seem to call for an overly formal and rigidly symmetrical design, but because of the ability of a small weight near the edge of the rectangle to balance a larger one close to its center, an infinite number of balanced yet seemingly asymmetrical arrangements can be made to have equilibrium of design.

17 comments:

Mary Byrom said...

The colors and color placement also caught my attention... With all the other things going on in weight, line, shape, and movement - the rest of the painting sits in "one" similar color zone" except for that woman in the yellow dress. With so many paintings today shouting "bright high chroma look at me! " on every single speck of their surface its refreshing to see some choices being made here. Its far more sophisticated than the big blanket over everything high chroma. Distinctive thought and choice was used while painting this....

Darren said...

Stape wrote: "I rather doubt anyone would reprint it either..."

Don't bet on it. As a publisher I was about to pounce a year ago but...

Nita said...

According to worldcat.org (which lists books in all the public libraries in the globe), there are only THREE copies in libraries, which I found astounding. And they're all branches of the British Library:

http://www.worldcat.org/title/composition-an-analysis-of-the-principles-of-pictorial-design/oclc/499151189&referer=brief_results

Jerry said...

Well, for the record, an online catalog for the North of Boston Library Exchange says there is a copy at the Salem State College library (Salem, Mass.).

Nita said...

Ooo, World Cat has slipped up!

And I should have said libraries of English language books. I meant no slight to all the non-English libraries.

Back to art discussion :-)

Darren said...

Minnesota's InterLibrary Loan program lists at least 3 copies within the state.

willek said...

I agree with Mary. The big picture here is the sepia background that melts away against the high chroma yellow dress and the voluptuosity. I did not even notice a figure leaning left til I read your comment. All kinds of things could be happening in that background and who would notice? maybe its is just because of my particular gender.

willek said...

I don't think anyone would notice if you said a few more things about that particular book or paraphrased its contents.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Mary:
I often compare my art to that in the museum and feel that I need to switch to earth colors. So much of our art today is so highly colored.
..........Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Darren:
Boy, I wish you could, that would be a handy thing for people to study.
............Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Nita:
Do they ship?
............Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Jerry;
There you go. I bet you can only visit it though, I wonder if it circulates?
..........Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Nita:
Could we get in in Pashtun or Urdu?
..................Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Darren:
There's Minnesota covered. I bet they are in the stacks somewhere. Can anybody read them?
.............Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Willek:
She does have a broad based appeal doesn't she. You can, incidentally claim any gender you choose. Mallard is however, not a gender.
..........Stape

Stapleton Kearns said...

Willek:
I don't need to. I can say plenty about design without the book. The ideas are found in other places.
..............Stape

Darren said...

Yes, anyone with a library card can check them out through interlibrary loan.