Repetition of Color
The repetition of color is absolutely essential. Each important hue must be recalled, once at least and often many times, in small masses and in more or less widely varying tones throughout the room. Because of the direct appeal of color the mind finds a peculiar pleasure in the progressive recognition of color likenesses, and will accept no excuse for their absence. Thus when the hue dominant in the hangings is found to be echoed in many parts of the rug, in the table runner, furniture coverings, screens, the trimming of lamp shades, in cushions, potteries, pictures, book bindings and flowers, the mind, successively perceiving the likenesses as the eye turns from one view of the room to another, is filled with an increasing delight.
In all good work the decorator will of course repeat both form and color, extending the process to include both material likenesses, as in the repetition of shapes, colors, textures and ornamental motives, and likenesses in significance, as in the employment of shapes and colors which affect the mind in the same way. Likenesses in emotional value or significance confirm and vitalize the purely physical resemblances, and make powerfully yet subtly for artistic unity. Thus we cannot say that an overstuffed davenport and a big, low-toned rug look alike, except as they reveal likenesses in hue or tone; but it is certainly true that they similarly affect the mind, and are accordingly unifying when used together in composition. The creation of these convergences of expression is an urgently important part of the decorator's work, and the artistic aims and processes involved will be discussed in several of the later chapters.
While the mere presence of recurring elements, of whatever sort, tends to unify any decorative composition, it is clear that this tendency will be the more marked in the degree (a) that the like elements approach identity; (b) that like elements in both form and color are repeated convergently; and (c) that these like elements are so placed as to make their likenesses immediately apparent to the eye.
Order is the basic esthetic quality, and orderly arrangements are most pleasing and convincing. Effects of parallelism, in which analogous lines or forms, or varying tones of a given hue are arranged in series, whether vertically, horizontally or obliquely, are as essential to good work in decoration as they are in architecture or painting.
The unity of a decorative treatment will be at once most strongly and most subtly emphasized by so combining the methods of principality and repetition that the dominant element in the room is made the focus or point of departure for the important or characteristic lines and colors used throughout the room, as the dominant member of each subordinate group of related objects is made the focus for the important lines and colors of the other members of the group.
As illustrating this principle, let us consider that a drawing room is to have as its dominant element a Georgian fireplace, and that the over-mantel of this fireplace is to be embellished with a mirror and a pair of vases. Assuming that a rectangular mirror would resemble the space it was to adorn so closely as to be obvious and inartistic, while an elliptical mirror would be so strikingly unlike the space in outline as not to seem an organic part of the fireplace group, we might compromise upon a triptych mirror in antique gold, having a rectangular base and a half elliptical top, and place near either end of it an elliptical vase in corn-flower blue. To set up an effect of parallelism we could use a firescreen having a similar rectangular base supported by half-elliptical feet, and a top line which repeated the top curve of the mirror; while the method could be extended by the use of a rug having a running vine border or an elliptical medallion center, or both. The parallelism would of course be repeated in color by using in both rug and screen more or less blue of the same hue but different in tone and purity-say, navy blue in the rug and gentian blue in the screen.
FIGURE 15.- the same type of curve is repeated in many situations, thus adding unity through repetition to unity through principality in the composition of the dominant element.
In the case of a subordinate group in the same room, to be formed, for example, by a console table between two windows, we might use full length hangings caught back by a collar in such a way as to describe with their inner lines quarter-elliptical curves, and a lambrequin or valance in the design of which curved lines adapted from the arc of an ellipse were freely employed. The table, too, would be half-elliptical. The wall space might be adorned by an elliptical mirror, by a painting having the middle of the frame at the top carved into a half-elliptical ornamental motive, or by an old brocade or damask with a large elliptical vase on the table in front of it. The same processes would be applied to the selection and arrangement of subordinate members of the group, and to the coloring; provided, of course, that the processes of repetition stopped short of the point where the effect ceased to be subtle and interesting and became monotonous and tiresome.
Inasmuch as we are here concerned with the general principle only and not with its application, it is un-necessary to carry this idea further, or to point out the many ways in which the two methods of insuring unity are interwoven in practice, so that principality in color is affirmed by repetition both of form and color, and principality in form is affirmed by repetition both of color and form, until the mind is conscious of a multitude of resemblances, and only the elements required for contrast are unrelated to the rest. The thing is obviously simple. And yet, simple as it is, it lies at the basis of all decorative art and of all art, and within a hand's breadth of the secret of beauty.