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another. His explanation was not at the level of what visual mechanisms lie behind the perception, but rather a systematicdescription of what the human perception of the colors is. Chevreul did not differentiate between what are now called ‘additive’ and ‘subtractive’ color mixtures, i.e. the different colors resulting from the mixture of beams of colored lights versus the mixture of paints or inks. The importance of this difference became evident later in studies leading to the development of color printing and the development of color photographic film. Since Chevreul did not deal with these facts, the artist’s primaries of red, yellow and blue formed the basis for his color wheel and complementary pairs are given as red and green, and orange and blue. Chevreul did not take the next organizing step beyond the color wheel to describe a three-dimensional arrangement of colors, which is necessary for a true color system. However, his theories on color harmonyare still those taught in art and design courses. In addition to giving general rules for achieving harmony, he reports on the attractiveness of specific groupsof colors seen together. It is interesting to see how his 1830 judgements compare with what is thought to be attractive today. The last section of the book is a facsimile of the writings of Chevreul as catalogued in the Bibliothtque Nationale in Paris. The book does not have an index, which would be helpful in a book that readers may want to refer to frequently, but Birren does have a helpful section defining Chevreul’s terms and explaining how the same concepts are spoken of today. As a nice old-fashioned touch, the book boasts a beautiful set of marblized end papers. THE PRINCIPLES OF HARMONY AND CONTRAST OF COLORS AND THEIR APPLICATIONSTOTHEARTS by M.E. Chevreul. Schiffer Publishing Ltd., West Chester, PA 19380, U.S.A., 1987. 191pp., illus. Trade, $49.50. ISBN: 87 60121. Reviewed by Roy Osborne, 26 Harwood Court, Upper Richmond Road, London SW5 6JD, U.K. This large and famous book by MichelEugtne Chevreul has reappeared in some two dozen editions and printings since its first publication in 1839. This 1987 edition, the third produced and edited by Faber Birren, is remarkable in three main respects: (1) The text of Charles Martel’s original English translation from the French has been entirelyand handsomely re-typeset, for the first time since 1854;(2) the 15colour plates of the original edition have been newly redrawn and reproduced with the vividness of colour that Chevreul would originally have intended (the original plates are also reproduced, together with additional colour illustrations ); (3) the inclusion of accurate and informative annotations to the text by Birren makes an important contribution to a fuller understanding of the contents, particularly by the general reader. ThePrinciples o f Harmony and Contrast of Colors (originally entitled De la Loi du contraste simultank des couleurs)is one of the three great colour books written for artists in the nineteenth century. The other two were Goethe’s Zur Farbenlehre of 1810 and Rood’s Modern Chromatics of 1879. Goethe’s acute observations (and often poetical responses) of optical colour phenomena appear to have been unknown to Chevreul; whereas Rood adopted many of Chevreul’s findings as a basis for his own book, which also incorporated newer research by Maxwell, Helmholtz, Ruskin and others, to create the most scientifically reliable colour book ever written forpainters. Chevreul’s great colour book lies chronologically between the two and itself catalogues the most extensive body of empirical research on optical colour effects ever undertaken by one single individual. Chevreul had already received international acclaim as a chemist when, in 1824, he was appointed director of the dyestuffs workshop at the Gobelins tapestry manufactory in Paris. Over the next few years he was to discover for himself how essentially optical is the nature of colour and colour relationship. The substantial value of this book, which prevents it from becoming a forgotten document of merely historical interest, is that the vast majority of the information it contains is equally valid and instructive for the artist and designer today. From Birren we learn that Chevreul spent many years (initially the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1530-9282
Print ISSN
0024-094X
Pages
pp. 96-97
Launched on MUSE
2017-01-04
Open Access
No
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