MASSING OR BREADTH
Connection between the methods next on our list and those already considered
Its object is to produce cumulative or general effects
In poetry, by an accumulation of the effects of sense and sound
Of sound alone
Connection between massing and central-point as illustrated in the climax
Massing in music
In painting: the meaning of breadth in this art as restricted to effects of light and shade
Means used by the artist in producing these
Not necessarily one mass of light in one composition: three masses
Breadth and massing analogous
The same principles applied to colors and outlines
Massing in sculpture
In architecture: by outlines and by light and shade.
AS was indicated in the list of the methods on page 131, massing is a further development in form of the same tendency that leads to comparison, principality, congruity, central-point, and repetition, and is usually connected with them; interspersion is similarly related to contrast, subordination, incongruity, setting, and alteration; complication is related to counteraction, complement, comprehensiveness, parallelism, and alternation, and continuity is related to grouping, organic-form, and symmetry.
Inasmuch as massing is the most important of the methods now to be considered, as well as because it must be treated at some length, what is to be said in this chapter will be confined to it. By the word itself, as also by consistency, which is used synonymously with it, artists mean the bringing together of repeated effects, so that in any given
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composition those that are alike in one regard are in one place, and those that are alike in another regard are in another place. Thus defined, it is evident that, while an aid both to principality and central-point, massing is distinctly different from either. It may involve, and usually necessitates, a number of exactly similar features which is not the case either when one of these has principality or when many are grouped in such a way as to be brought to a central-point. It is evident, too, that, as it has been defined, massing is a method that may be applied in art to the arrangements of other factors besides those of light and shade, to which it is sometimes limited. Whenever, for any reason, a large number of factors alike in one regardif of sounds, in time, pitch, loudness, or quality; if of sights, in size, outline, color or light,are separated from other factors, and crowded together by themselves, there we have massing.
Of course, its object, as thus explained, whether applied to a part or to a whole of the like factors of a composition, is to produce a cumulative or general effectan effect which could not be produced by any or all of the factors if not used conjointly. All the methods, too, of which we have been treating have more or less influence in securing this result. But all of them together would fail of efficiency without massing. In fact, we might define this by saying that it is such a method of presenting details as to cause others to judge of them en masse. In the main, however, it emphasizes the features and the concepts represented in them in the same way and for the same reason as repetition, of which it is an intensified phase.
Poetic massing involves characteristics with which we are all familiar. Notice, in the following. how both sense
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and sound contribute in a cumulative way to the general impression.
A plague upon them! wherefore should I curse them?
Would curses kill as doth the mandrake's groan,
I would invent as bitter-searching terms.
As curst, as harsh, and horrible to hear,
Delivered strongly through my fixed teeth,
With full as many signs of deadly hate,
As lean faced envy us her loathsome cave;
My tongue should stumble in mine earnest word;
Mine eyes should sparkle like the beaten flint;
My hair be fixed on end, as one distract
Ay, every joint should seem to curse and ban
And even now my burdened heart would break,
Should I not curse them. Poison be thy drink!
Gall, worse than gall the daintiest that they taste!
Their sweetest shade, a grove of cypress trees!
Their chiefest prospects, murdering basilisks!
Their softest touch, as smart as lizards stings!
Their music frightful as the serpents hiss!
And boding screech-owls make the concert full
H. w., Pt. II., iii., 2: Shakespeare.
In the following comical enumeration by Southey of the troubles assailing Napoleon on his return from Moscow, the same effect is produced almost exclusively by sounds.
The Russians they stuck close to him
All on the road from Moscow.
There was Tormazow and Jemalow,
And all the others that end in ow;
Milarodovitch and Jaladovitch.
And all the others that end in itch;
And all the others that end in eff;
Wasiltschikoff, Kostomaroff, And Tchoglokoff,
And all the others that end in off;
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Rajeffsky, and Novereffsky,
And all the others that end in effsky;
Osccharoffsky and Rostoffsky,
And all the others that end in offsky;
And Platoff he played them off,
And Shouvaloff he shovelled them off,
And Markoff he marked them off,
And Krossnoff he crossed them off,
And Tuchkoff he touched them off,
And Boraskoff he bored them off,
And Kutousoff he cut them off,
And Parenzoff he pared them off,
And Worronzoff he worried them off,
And Doctoroff he doctored them off
And Rodionoff he flogged them off;
And last, of all, an admiral came,
A terrible man with a terrible name,
A name which you all know by sight very well,
But which no one can speak, and no one can spell,
They stuck close to Nap with all their might;
They were on the left and on the right.
Behind and before, and by day and by night;
He would rather parlez vous than fight;
But he looked white, and he looked blue,
When parlez vous no more would do,
For they remembered Moscow.
The March to Moscow: Southey.
Sometimes, in fact usually, where there is massing, there is also a climax, in whichas indicated on page 163,everything is brought to a central-point, e. g.:
What a piece of work is man! How noble is reason! How infinite in faculties! In form and moving how express and admirable! In action how like an angel! In apprehension how like a god!
Hamlet, ii., 2: Shakespeare.
In such cases, the analogy is complete between the effect of the central expression about which other expres-
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sions are massed in poetry, and of the centre of interest about which color or light is massed in painting.
In music, massing fulfils functions equally important. It is this, as exemplified in the accumulations of the same notes, chords, or instruments, that enables us to recognize the peculiarities distinguishing passages that are loud or soft, forcible or light, gay or pathetic; while without it and its reiterated repetitions, the musical cadence or climax, as heard at the ends of compositions or of prominent movements, would produce little impression.
The terms massing and also breadth, which latter seems to indicate that which is the result of the former, are applied more commonly to effects in the arts that are seen than in those that are heard. But, as we said a moment ago, it sometimes seems to be supposed that both terms should be used to refer only to those effects of light and shade whereby bright features are put with bright, and dark with dark. As a result of such arrangements, a breadth of distance seems to separate the objects in light from those in shade, and a corresponding breadth of view seems to be afforded him who sees them; hence the term breadth sometimes applied to these effects. Light and shade cannot be discussed fully except in connection with color. But so far as their use illustrates massing, something needs to be said of them here; and that they do illustrate this, and are, therefore, in analogy with it as produced by other elements both of sight and sound, no better proof needs to be furnished than the statements that follow.
In securing the effects of breadth, the artist does not arbitrarily make objects bright or dim in order to have them correspond to the bright or dim parts of the picture in which he wishes to place them. He exercises in-
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genuity in arranging his materials so as to bring into the right relations objects that in nature are bright or dim, or that can be made so in nature by the presence or absence of an illuminating agent. Besides this, too, he arranges the light so as to fall where it will prove most effective. In Titians Entombment, it is made to illumine a figure in the foreground, notwithstanding the fact that the sun is represented as setting in the background. The painter produces the effect by supposing the suns rays to be reflected from a cloud in advance of the field of vision. Notice also what was said on page 72 of the way in which the light is massed by Rubens and Correggio, the one in the Descent from the Cross (Fig. 16, page 73, and the other in the Holy Night, Fig. 70, page 215.
It is not to be supposed, however, that in any given picture, there may not be more than one place where there is light and one place where there are shadows, although in the paintings of Correggio and Rembrandt, who developed most fully the possibilities of light and shade, or of chiaroscuro, as it is called, this plan was usually followed. According to Reynolds (Note xxxix on The Art of Painting), there may be three masses of light, one of which, however, he would make more prominent than the other two, thus causing all three together to fulfil the methods both of principality and balance. Titian, in order to impress the fact that every picture representing the effects of atmosphere must indicate not only the general influence of the light and shade on all the objects depicted considered together, but on each specific object considered by itself, is said to have pointed to a bunch of grapes; and shown how the bunch considered as a whole has a light and a dark side, and also how each grape considered by itself has a light and a dark side. The effects resulting from
[The Genesis of Art-Form by G.L. Raymond, chapter XIII, page 214]
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Fig. 70 The Holy Night, by Correggio.
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each of these conditions render the representation of both difficult. Nor can they be represented at all except in the degree in which the general effect, which is the one connected with massing, is treated as the more important of the two.
From what has been said, it is evident that the effect of breadth, as thus produced, is identical with that of the accumulation of repeated characteristics which results from massing in poetry and music. The artistic end in view, too, is the same. By it, the unity, comparison, principality, congruity, central-point, as well as repetitions of the product are all brought out more clearly. Pictures, says S. P. Long in his Art, Its Laws, and the Reasons for Them, Essay VI., Pictures possessing breadth of the general light and dark or shade are not only very effective, but they likewise give great repose to the eye; whereas, where the lights and darks are in small portions, and much divided, the eye is disturbed and the mind rendered uneasy, especially if one is anxious to understand every object in a composition, as it is painful to the ear, if we are anxious to hear what is said in company, where many are talking at the same time. Hence the reason why portraits make a more pleasing picture when but few objects are introduced into the composition than when the person is covered with frills and ruffles, and the background stuffed like a curiosity shop. Such an arrangement cuts up the lights and darks and destroys the breadtha statement applicable, as will be noticed, not only to massing but also to interspersion, its opposite, which is to be considered in the next chapter. Concerning the same subject Ruskin says in his Elements of Drawing, Letter III.: Such compositions possess higher sublimity than those which are more mingled in
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their elements. They tell a special tale and summon a definite state of feeling. We have not in each gray color set against sombre, and sharp forms against sharp, and low passages against low; but we have the bright picture with its single ray of relief; the stern picture with only one tender group of lines; the soft and calm picture with only one rock angle at its flank, and so on.
So much for the effects of massing as produced by arrangements of light and shade. Now in what do we find an analogy for this method as produced by colors or outlines? As applied to colors, the question hardly needs an answer. In any picture not delineated in white and black, light and shade are themselves represented by colors, and the light colors necessarily go with the one and the dark with the other. But how is it with outlines? Suppose that a picture is composed of human figures. If certain of these be grouped together, though only through the use of outlines, so as to emphasize their sizes, attitudes, and, because in the foreground, their relative influence as compared with the rest of the composition, will they not, irrespective of any effects of light or color, attract attention and, very likely, absorb it? And in recalling the picture, shall we not necessarily think chiefly of these figures and of the thoughts that they represent, rather than of anything else connected with it? But is not this effect produced by the massing of outlines identical with that produced by the massing of light in breadth? See the figures of the gladiator and his antagonist, in Geromes Pollice Verso, Fig. 26, page 81.
With such a conception of massing, as produced by means of outline, we can see how it may be used in sculpture; and how, when so used, it may concentrate attention upon, say, the human figures or parts of them that
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are represented, rather than upon the drapery or pedestal, or any architectural forms surrounding them. Certain kinds of sculpture, too, especially the bas-relief, afford the same possibilities for effects of light and shade, and therefore of breadth, as produced by these, that painting does. See an illustration of massing produced in both ways in the Mithras Stabbing the Bull, Fig. 54, page 179.
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Fig. 71 Gate of The Palace, Nancy.
In architecture, we have an exact analogy to the effects of massing in some of the older castles and even churches of Europe, where all the decoration connected with the forms is concentrated about a tower, or gateway, or door, or all of these together, on each side of which is merely a wall entirely blank or pierced with non-ornamental openings.
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Sec the Gateway of the Palace at Nancy, Fig. 71, page 218. What could more closely resemble the impression produced by some of Rembrandts pictures with their blaze of light in the centre and their gloom of shadow surrounding it? Besides this, in architecture as in sculpture, there is an opportunity for massing as produced by light and shade. I do not believe, says Ruskin, in his Seven Lamps of Architecture, chap. iii., that ever any building was truly great unless it had mighty masses, vigorous and deep, of shadow mingled with its surface. And among the first habits that a young architect should learn is that of thinking in shadow, not looking at a design in its miserable liney skeleton, but conceiving it as it will be when dawn lights on it and the dusk leaves it. . . All that he has to do must be done by spaces of light and darkness ; and his business is to see that the one is broad and bold enough not to be swallowed up by twilight, and the other deep enough not to be dried like a shallow pool by a noon-day sun.
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