COLOR.

61. The distinctions between schools of art which I have so often asked you to observe are, you must be aware, founded only on the excess of certain qualities in one group of painters over another, or the difference in their tendencies; and not in the absolute possession by one group, and absence in the rest, of any given skill. But this impossibility of drawing trenchant lines of parting need never interfere with the distinctness of our conception of the opponent principles which balance each other in great minds, or paralyze each other in weak ones; and I cannot too often urge you to keep clearly separate in your thoughts the school which I have called[11] "of Crystal," because its distinctive virtue is seen unaided in the sharp separations and prismatic harmonies of painted glass, and the other, the "School of Clay," because its distinctive virtue is seen in the qualities of any fine work in uncolored terra cotta, and in every drawing which represents them.

62. You know I sometimes speak of these generally as the Gothic and Greek schools, sometimes as the colorist and chiaroscurist. All these oppositions are liable to infinite qualification and gradation, as between species of animals; and you must not be troubled, therefore, if sometimes momentary contradictions seem to arise in examining special points. Nay, the modes of opposition in the greatest men are inlaid and complex; difficult to explain, though in themselves clear. Thus you know in your study of sculpture we saw that the essential aim of the Greek art was tranquil action; the chief aim of Gothic art was passionate rest, a peace, an eternity of intense sentiment. As I go into detail, I shall continually therefore have to oppose Gothic passion to Greek temperance; yet Gothic rigidity, στασις of εκστασις, to Greek action and ελευθερια. You see how doubly, how intimately, opposed the ideas are; yet how difficult to explain without apparent contradiction.

63. Now, to-day, I must guard you carefully against a misapprehension of this kind. I have told you that the Greeks as Greeks made real and material what was before indefinite; they turned the clouds and the lightning of Mount Ithome into the human flesh and eagle upon the extended arm of the Messenian Zeus. And yet, being in all things set upon absolute veracity and realization, they perceive as they work and think forward that to see in all things truly is to see in all things dimly and through hiding of cloud and fire.

So that the schools of Crystal, visionary, passionate, and fantastic in purpose, are, in method, trenchantly formal and clear; and the schools of Clay, absolutely realistic, temperate, and simple in purpose, are, in method, mysterious and soft; sometimes licentious, sometimes terrific, and always obscure.

Madonna and Child

MADONNA AND CHILD. From the painting by Filippo Lippi.

64. Look once more at this Greek dancing-girl, which is from a terra cotta, and therefore intensely of the school of Clay; look at her beside this Madonna of Filippo Lippi's: Greek motion against Gothic absolute quietness; Greek indifference—dancing careless—against Gothic passion, the mother's—what word can I use except frenzy of love; Greek fleshliness against hungry wasting of the self-forgetful body; Greek softness of diffused shadow and ductile curve, against Gothic lucidity of color and acuteness of angle; and Greek simplicity and cold veracity against Gothic rapture of trusted vision.

65. And now I may safely, I think, go into our work of to-day without confusing you, except only in this. You will find me continually speaking of four men—Titian, Holbein, Turner, and Tintoret—in almost the same terms. They unite every quality; and sometimes you will find me referring to them as colorists, sometimes as chiaroscurists. Only remember this, that Holbein and Turner are Greek chiaroscurists, nearly perfect by adopted color; Titian and Tintoret are essentially Gothic colorists, quite perfect by adopted chiaroscuro.

66. I used the word "prismatic" just now of the schools of Crystal, as being iridescent. By being studious of color they are studious of division; and while the chiaroscurist devotes himself to the representation of degrees of force in one thing—unseparated light, the colorists have for their function the attainment of beauty by arrangement of the divisions of light. And therefore, primarily, they must be able to divide; so that elementary exercises in color must be directed, like first exercises in music, to the clear separation of notes; and the final perfections of color are those in which, of innumerable notes or hues, every one has a distinct office, and can be fastened on by the eye, and approved, as fulfilling it.