Picture Composition – Values

Another important consideration in an estimate of a picture is its truth of values. The color may be correct and harmonious but the degree of its light and shade be faulty. This is a consideration more important to the student than the connoisseur as but few pictures see the light of an exhibition which carry this fault. It is the one most dwelt upon in the academies after the form in outline has been mastered. On it depends the correctness of surface presentation. If, for instance, the values of a face are false, the character will be disturbed. This point has been made evident to all in the retouching, which many photographs receive. Likeness is so dependent on those surfaces connecting the features or upon the light and shade of the features, that any tampering with them in a sensitive part is ruinous.

Values represent the degree of light and shade which the picture demands, the relations of one part to another on the scale assumed. Thus with the same light affecting various objects in a room, if one be represented as though illumined by a different degree of light it is out of value ; or, in a landscape, if an object in the distance is too strong in either color or degree of light and shade for its particular place in perspective, it is out of value. There are therefore values of color and of chiaroscuro, which may be illustrated in a piece of drapery. A light pink silk will be out of value in its shadow if these are too dark for the degree of light represented, and out of color value, if, in-stead of a salmon tone in the crease which a reflection from the opposing surface of the fold creates, there be a purplish hue which properly belongs to the outer edge of the fold in shadow, where, from the sky or a cool reflecting surface near by, it obtains this change of color by reflection.

The most objectionable form of false values is the isolated sort, whereby the over accentuation of a part is made to impress itself unduly ; ” to jump” in the technical phraseology of the school.

The least objectionable and often permitted form is that where a large section is put out of its value with the intent of accenting the light of a contiguous part.

In landscape the whole foreground is frequently lowered in tone beyond the possibility of any cloud shadow, for the sake of the light beyond, which may be the color motif of the picture and which thereby is glorified.