The Daguerreian Society

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.

Posted for your enjoyment.      Gary W. Ewer       

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