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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/405

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THE PRINCIPLES OF DECORATION.

to be divided harmonically when they have certain ratios to one another, and spaces may have similar proportions, and these as well as certain curves give more pleasure than others; the combination of some flat and sharp curves is also found to be beautiful; the contrast of certain forms and of certain colors also gives pleasure. It is the application by man of these observations properly worked out to things he wants that makes them ornamental, and their superposition on elegant forms is said to decorate them. That which is the most perfect in ornament is the work of people gifted with high artistic fiber, and faultless execution, to whom Nature appeals in her masterpieces, who assimilate some of the matchless grace they see in a flower, in the turn of a leaf, in the curves that mark the growth of a creeper, in the wing of a bird, the curve of a lizard, or the knots or spirals of a serpent, who can so arrange these forms as to perfectly satisfy the cultivated eye, and keep them subordinated to the containing lines; such things may be seen in examples of Greek and Tuscan, or rather north Italian, ornament. This sort of ornament by some mishap has got christened conventional, a term which has no meaning as applied to ornament; it should rather be called abstracted.

Color is another species of ornament that, like form, has doubtless its laws, though as yet neither have been discovered, and we call form and color, like medicine, empirical arts. We observe that the collocation of certain spaces, or masses of certain colors, give us more pleasure than others, and we try and recollect these collocations if we deal in color, and use them when we have occasion. It has been observed that the primaries that are complementary—i. e., whose mixture produces white—go well together, and that certain secondaries and tertiaries set off primary colors. Chevreul found that the saturation of the eye with a color caused it to see the complementary color if a white surface was looked on; and Chevreul also found out that, if we looked at another color, it was modified by the complementary color of the first.

In choosing color we should be careful to have such a tone as we can live with, for most people have their dislikes and preferences. The color of a lady's boudoir is mostly chosen because it sets off her complexion. In a room where we work we are soon conscious of an objectionable color which irritates instead of soothing us. Certain colors and certain tones are beneficial or prejudicial to health. Very dark rooms are prejudicial, and red or yellow will also have a prejudicial effect on our health if we have to remain in rooms of either color all day and every day. A manufacturer had a women's workshop painted yellow, and found much more than the usual sickness among his hands. His doctor recommended whitewash, and the normal