The Garden Guide

Book: Observations on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening, 1803
Chapter: Chapter XV. Conclusion

Isaac Milner's theory of colours and shadows 14

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So far this theory is perfectly satisfactory with respect to works of art, but, when carried to those of nature, I confess my inability to reconcile a conviction of its truth, with certain appearances which seem to contradict it. By the universal consent of all who have considered the harmony of colours, it is allowed that, in works of art, the juxta position of bright blues and greens is discordant to the eye, and the reason of this discordance has been shewn by the foregoing remarks. Yet these are the two prevailing colours in nature; and no person ever objected to the want of harmony in a natural landscape, because the sky was blue, and the surface of the earth covered with greens, except he viewed it with a painter's eye, and considered the difficulty, or even impossibility, of exciting the same pleasurable sensations by transferring these colours to his canvas; the only way in which I can solve this seeming paradox, is, by observing that the works of nature, and those of art, must ever be placed at an immeasurable distance from the different scale of their proportions; and whether we compare the greater efforts of man, with the system in which the world he inhabits forms but an inconsiderable speck; or the most exquisite miniature of mechanism with the organs of sense and motion in an insect, we must equally feel the deficiency of comparison, the incompetency of imitation, and the imperfection of all human system. Yet, while lost in wonder and amazement, the man of taste, and the true philosopher, will feel such agreement existing in the laws of nature as can only be the consequence of Infinite Wisdom and Design; while, to the sceptic, whether in moral or in natural philosophy, the best answer will be in the words of the poet:- "All nature is but art unknown to thee; All chance, direction which thou canst not see; All discord, harmony not understood; All partial evil, universal good."