Pictorial beauty on the screen (1923)

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20 BEAUTY ON THE SCREEN is good composition, providing the rest of the environ- ment is in harmony. The vase must, of course, stand on something, perhaps a table or a mantel-piece. This support must have shape, lines, color and texture, all visual elements which must be skillfully wrought into our design if the composition is to be successful. We see, therefore, that the artistic arrangement of simple things which do not move, which stay where you put them, is by no means a simple matter. What we have just described may be called compo- sition in a general sense, but it represents only the initial process in pictorial composition. The picture maker's work only begins with the arranging of the subject. It does not end until he has recorded that subject in some permanent form, such as a painting, a drawing, or a celluloid negative. In the recording, or treatment, the painter tries to improve the compo- sition of his subject. He changes the curves of the vase and the flower somewhat in order to obtain a more definite unity. He softens the emphasis in one place and heightens it in another. He balances shape against shape. He swings into the picture a rhythm of line and tone which he hopes may express to some be- holder the harmony which he, the artist, feels. In other words, the painter begins by arranging things, he continues by altering the aspects of those things until they fit his conception of the perfect picture of the subject before him, and he finishes the composition only when he leaves a permanent record of what he has seen and felt. Now it is evident that the painter might begin, without an actual flower or vase or panel or table, by merely arranging his mental images of those things.