2 December 2010
CHEVREUL, Michel Eugène. De la loi du contraste simultan des couleurs, et de l'assortiment des objets colors. Paris: Pitois Levrault, 1889.
4o (320 x 242 mm). 40 plates, most in color and folding and 9 inserted paper specimens on different colored papers. (Some foxing.) Original printed boards (rebacked in cloth preserving original spine).
Second edition of Chevreul's influential treatise on colors, issued on the 100th anniversary of Chevreul's birth and edited by his son. In this monumental study Chevreul "formulated for the first time the general principles and effects of simultaneous contrast, the modification in hue and tone that occurs when juxtaposed colors are seen simultaneously" (DSB). Chevreul was Director of Dyeing at the Manufactures Royales des Gobelins and professor of chemistry and later director of the Museum d'Histoire Naturelle, and he based his color treatise on empirical observation, intending it for the use of painters, textile designers, decorators, gardeners, etc., rather than scientists. All of his detailed observations grew out of one simple principle, the "law of contrasting colors": that colors seen side by side will appear to the eye "as dissimilar as possible, both in their optical composition and in the height of their tone". With his recommendation that painters decompose colors and imitate nature through the juxtaposition of pure colors, Chevreul exerted an enormous influence on the development of European painting: his precepts were followed by the impressionists and were later systematically developed by the neo-impressionist school led by Georges Seurat and Paul Signac, who "found the scientific basis for the division of tones in Chevreul's principles of simultaneous contrast" and who "limited their palettes to Chevreul's circle of fundamental colors and intermediate tones and applied colors scientifically to their canvases as opposed spots" (DSB). For the first edition: En français dans le texte 237; Norman 468.
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