Here's that nice Mrs. Hamilton again with her dog. I am going to deconstruct this picture a little more. Tonight I will talk about values. Values are the relationships of the light and darks in a painting. They are not it's color, they operate independently of color. Values show up in a black and white photo of a painting, color does not. Below is a version of the painting with the shadows darkened in Photoshop. This exaggerates the contrast in the values. Squinting at a painting does about the same thing. I squint at paintings a lot.
As you can see, the figure is set against a big dark shape which serves as a foil. Everything behind Lady Ham is in darkness, other than her hair which is simplified. There is no reason for the viewer to go back there, so all detail is suppressed. In the lower left hand corner is a little spiky yew tree. The lower left hand corner is darkened and the yew tree shape points you back up into the picture again. There's no reason for the viewer to hang out there either. However there is a light passage behind that tree. so there is a value contrast down in that area that helps the painting's balance. The eye is captured by contrasting areas, and moves unstopped through blank, dark or undetailed areas. Romney is always thinking about the emphasis created by contrast between his areas of light and shadow.
Here is another version dropped in value and presented in black and white (only values). I have numbered and drawn arrows to each of the lights. I came up with four although you could count five if you wanted by including the hair ribbon. Each of these light shapes is as different as can be from each of the other light shapes. This is important. Each one covers a different amount of area, has a different geometric shape. The great difference in shapes was carefully designed into the painting to make it interesting. A painting full of repeated shapes is visually uninteresting., The most interesting painting has the most varied shapes. Noticed how Romney made the dogs head an extension of the light shape of her breast tissue area. This makes an even more interesting shape here, and adding the mutt to the bottom of the larger shape reduces the number of shapes he has made in the light. These few shapes are arranged into a pattern with one another. It is a mistake to scatter little tiny repetitive shapes all over the canvas. It looks busy and chopped up, jerky.
Notice that the painting is not evenly divided between dark areas and light areas. Doing that makes a painting static. Either the darks or the lights should predominate. An unequal distribution is more artistic. If you look for this in paintings you will see this a lot. The lights are more commanding but the darks are larger. hence there is a balance of sorts. An artful balance of unequal parts. This can be done the opposite way to, A painting might be designed to have a large area(or areas) of light covering a larger portion of the canvas and a smaller grouping of darks that cover a smaller area of the canvas.
I believe I will return tomorrow and deconstruct our patient temptress a little more.