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  The research archive of Gary W. Ewer regarding the history of the daguerreotype

The following editorial appeared in the September 1849 issue of "Sartain's Union Magazine of Literature and Art" (Philadelphia; Vol. V, No. 3; pg 189): ----------------------------------------------------------------- E D I T O R I A L. "Arts and Artists." . . .Root's "Crayon Pictures."--We have seen from time to time, during the past few months, various daguerreotype portraits by Mr. Root, of this city, in a style different from the accustomed method, and which cannot fail to strike those educated in the principles of true art as a very decided improvement. He designates likenesses made in this manner as "Crayon Pictures," evidently because in general style they resemble the vignette drawings in crayon. The advantage obtained is, that the head becomes the conspicuous and principal object in the picture, and not a subordinate or obscured light, as is not unfrequently the case in daguerreotypes finished out to the full square of the frame. A more appropriate appellation would be vignette pictures, for that is what they really are, and it is chiefly because they are so that the superior excellence is obtained. Numerous difficulties present themselves, endangering success, when pictures are produced in the usual way, of gathering into the picture-plane as many objects as possible; and first, in the disproportion of the parts to each other, for whatever is nearest the lens of the camera is unduly enlarged, while the more remote parts are correspondingly decreased in size; hence unless the operator is judicious in placing his sitter, there is considerable likelihood that the hands, for instance, will be much too large or the forehead too small, and so on. But the main reason why these "Crayon Pictures" should be preferred is the unity of effect in them as pictures, the absence of everything that can lead away the eye from that which is principal. In a good daguerreotype there is wonderful beauty in the lace, silks, satin, damask patterns on various kinds of drapery, and so forth, and we may dwell on the examination of these objects in delighted admiration, but this beauty of parts will not make a good picture, which as a whole must have portions subdued and kept down in subordination to others, and these others require to be expressed with all the emphasis and brilliancy possible. A caustic critic was once asked for his applause on a new production of the pencil, (a three-quarter length portrait,) in which everything individually was certainly painted with consummate skill, but was wholly deficient in this essential principle of art--unity of effect and proper "keeping." He accorded the praise, but after this manner: the parts were admired singly and in succession, after the draperies, the hands, and last of all he exclaimed, "Why, bless me, here's a head too! and how beautifully painted!" With the utmost skill on the part of the operator such is not unfrequently the result in a daguerreotype, but Mr. Root's improvement has removed the difficulty. From whatever point he wills, whether about the neck or shoulders, the lines begin to grow gradually fainter until they disappear entirely in the half tint ground, on which the head seems to be delineated. That which ought of course to be principal is really so, and the head can in this way be made superior, because the time requisite for the perfecting it has not to be varied or changed for fear of spoiling some other portion of the work that would require a different amount of time. When these heads were first exhibited, and before the modus operandi was explained to us, it appeared most mysterious and surprising, but not more so than the effect was admirable. ----------------------------------------------------------------- 09-05-96

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