In the post Civil War turn of the century industrial era it seems that Birge Harrison’s book LANDSCAPE PAINTING was widely popular among alchemists, and referred to as a bible in some artistic circles for years. At first I didn’t recognize the pedigree, but then, it’s only been since 1828 that chemical ultramarine replaced lapis-lazuli (sar-i-sang afghani rock mine purest). It cost me a quarter at the old man’s garage sale. He eyed me carefully when I told him to keep the whole dollar, and then asked me if I was going to use the book myself. Of course I was, I said. Just now I looked online, and somebody is asking $646 for this early edition (although this once-rare, possibly-suppressed book returned to print in 2008).
First thing when I opened the book I was put off by an outburst of modern learned-man eugenic and racial profile musings. Later I came to accept this in the fuller context of the particular historical lunacy, but it was many months before I got around again to flipping though, whereupon I discovered several concise lectures on the subtle features of classic oil-painting wizardry, workmanship, and technique, in fundamentally pragmatic detail.
I was amazed at the carefully detailed descriptions of the execution of noted styles and techniques, the broad knowledge of the related special history, and the unique perspective of one who was witnessing firsthand the effect of the modern marketplace’s chemicalization of the human condition. Harrison was no scientist, he was an artist, but he was well aware of the implications of the world’s technological advancements as they related to his time.
Harrison witnessed the first photographs (doubtless unaware that the Shroud of Turin was Leonardo’s own first photograph), and had the master’s eye for employing the first action-sequenced photos (precursors of film) as a draftsman’s tool. He was thinking of the very big picture, like Tesla. Concerned with the spectrum of visible and invisible light, vibrations and waves, hoping to live to see the colors of sound. The power of it.
Here are, in my opinion, the key lessons from Birge Harrison, in his own words. The accompanying headlines are my own.
Birge Harrison’s Lapis-Lazuli Necronomicon
Art Is A Golden Ratio
If it is held that a wise providence, at the beginning of things, limited our sensory nerves to the record of such impressions as were essential to the physical existence of the primal creature, thereby confining our later aesthetic activities to the exploitation of a given range of sensations, a certain regret is nevertheless permissible when one thinks of the bewildering color-feast that might await us in a Wagner overture or a Beethoven sonata. What a fascinating problem it would be, for instance, to work out the color probabilities of some great masterpiece of music, and fling them glowing upon the translucent page of a vast cathedral window.
How The Old Masters Did It Without Vibration
First we may mention the method used by the old masters, which consisted in a solid underpainting in black and white with a slight mixture of red. In this method the whole scheme of the pictures was built up with these three pigments, and all of the drawing and modeling was accomplished without any attempt at color. Then, after a very thorough drying, the work was completed and the color obtained by a series of very thin glazes drawn over the dried and hardened surface. This method, although wonderfully sound in itself and lasting in its results, must of course be discarded by the modern painter for the reason that it precludes all possibility of vibration.
Industrial Age Heralds First New Pigments Since 16th Century
The manufacturers of print goods all over the world are insisting upon pigments which will remain permanent under the strong rays of the tropical sun, and which will at the same time resist the action of the various alkalis and acids they are sure to encounter in the wash tub. To meet this demand one great firm of colormakers has a hundred expert chemists employed upon the problem. Already they have yielded one definite and splendid result–a synthetic red, which is absolutely neutral, chemically considered, and ten times more powerful than the best vermillion. As an artist’s color, it replaces almost all the other red pigments which we have inherited from the past. The same chemists have an equally powerful yellow and blue under careful observation.
The Perfect Palette Begins With Eight Globs Of Paint
It is evident that if painters can secure Red, Yellow, Blue primary colors in two values, a light and a dark shade, they will, with the addition of white and black, have a perfect palette; as all of the secondary and tertiary colors, such as orange, green, violet, and their various derivatives can be compounded by an admixture of these original pigments.
You Don’t Have Any Idea What It Takes To Be An Artist
Conditions of artistic creation often demand that a painter shall frequently work far beyond the limits of his strength during a long period–shall draw heavy drafts upon the future; and these must either be paid by a shortened life, or made up later by prolonged periods of rest. As it is not possible for the artist to work as other men work, a given number of hours each day, this hardest of all workers frequently gains the reputation of being an idler.