Ruskin on Color



"If the colour is wrong, everything is wrong: just as if you are singing, and sing false notes, it does not matter how true the words are. If you sing at all, you must sing sweetly; and if you colour at all, you must colour rightly. Give up all the form, rather than the slightest part of the colour: just as, if you felt yourself in danger of a false note, you would give up the word, and sing a meaningless sound, if you felt that you could save the note. "

"Whenever you lay on a mass of colour, be sure that however large it may be, or however small, it shall be gradated. No colour exists in Nature under ordinary circumstances without gradation…. This is very like laying down a formal law or recipe for you; but you will find it is merely the assertion of a natural fact. "

On the use of white and black:

"When white is well managed, it ought to be strangely delicious, – tender as well as bright, – like inlaid mother of pearl, or white roses washed in milk."

"All the ordinary shadows should be of some colour, – never black, nor approaching black, they should be evidently and always of a luminous nature, and the black should look strange among them; never occurring except in a black object, or in small points indicative of intense shade in the very centre of masses of shadow."


— John Ruskin, The Elements of Drawing (1857)
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