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a helping hand full of money, a helping tongue bête I must write, the French word means so full of cheer and wise advice.
much more — to kill people and destroy the Of book-learning he had little, and his in- face of nature and the works of man. “Comterest in the world outside his art was never very pare the savage hate of war with art, which at great. He often bought books from the stalls the bottom means simply love !" Yet with the along the quays, but merely for the sake of their instinct of a patriot he came back to Paris
shape and color. He had an odd superstition when the siege seemed certain, and gave largely that he ought to read “ Polyeucte " through, from his slender purse not only to relieve the and began it perhaps a score of times; but he sick but “to drive the Prussians out of the never got to the end, and we find no record woods of Ville d'Avray." His brush and his of attempts with other works. Music, how- summer memories filled part of his time, and ever, he loved with passion and rare intelli- the rest was spent among the poor and suffergence. Nature he adored, understood, and ing. During the whole siege he ministered and explained with singular felicity of speech. In worked, and some of his loveliest pictures date his walks abroad he wore a long black coat from these dreary weeks. and a high satin stock; in his studio, a blouse, When they were shown in 1874 he nara gay striped cotton night-cap, and invariably rowly missed, for the second time, the grand smoked a long clay pipe; and with his shock medal of honor. But a better reward came to of white hair and smooth-shaven face — where him in a letter from a group of artists saying the very wrinkles did but define a smile around that after all “ the greatest honor is to be the vigorous mouth — we can well believe called Corot.” And soon after the same imthat he looked at first sight less like a poetical pulse found still more emphatic expression. A painter than a roi d'Yvetot or a jolly Norman gold medal was subscribed for by a long list carter. We smile back with pleasure even at of artists and amateurs and presented to the his printed portrait, and wish ourselves among venerable master. The state never had a the students of Paris as they clustered, charmed, chance to retrieve its error. This was the year about the clever, wise, benevolent, and brave when Corot's sister died, and when her death old man.
proved the beginning of his own. The day when There seems to have been no serious cloud the medal was given him at a big banquet in upon his life until the fatal year when France the Grand Hotel, when he read its inscription, was slaughtered. Then he said he should have “To Corot, his brethren and admirers,” and gone mad had he not had the refuge of his could only whisper through deep emotion, “ It easel. It was not only wrong but stupid — makes one very happy to be loved like this”
(loved, let me emphasize the characteristic word) in wood or field; more often classic nymphs
this was the last day he was seen in public, or dancers in surroundings that reveal his and even then he was nervous, weak, and memories of southern scenes; and occasionally broken.
the characters of some antique fable. Twice, Dropsy was the final stage of his disease, and for instance, Corot painted Orpheus and once he foresaw the fatal end.“ I am almost re- Silenus, Diana at the bath, Homer with a group signed,” he said to his pupil Français, watch- of shepherds, Democritus, Daphne and Chloe, ing by his bed, “ but it is not easy, and I have Biblis, and Virgil serving as a guide to Dante. been a long time getting to the point. Yet I Sacred history likewise attracted him. Nothing have no reason to complain of my fate — far he produced is more remarkable than the “St. otherwise. I have had good health for seventy- Sebastian ” now in Baltimore; and he often eight years, and have been able to do nothing drew upon the life of Christ and the stories of but paint for fifty. My family were honest the Old Testament. He also painted flowers, folk. I have had good friends, and think I and still-life subjects and interiors; many street never did harm to any one. My lot in life has and distant city views; animals; large draped been excellent.. Far from reproaching fate, I figures and studies of the nude, and no less can only be grateful. I must go - I know it; than forty portraits. Mural decoration he esbut don't want to believe it. In spite of my- sayed whenever he got the chance which self there is a little bit of hope left in me.” The was by no means so often as he wished. In his next day he asked for a priest, saying his father later years he etched some delightfully charhad done so, and he wished to die like his father. acteristic plates. And whoever glanced through But his last thought was for his art. His feeble his sketch-book or his letters saw that nothing fingers believed they held a brush, and he ex- which had met his eye had appealed to his hand claimed,“ See how beautiful it is ! I have never in vain. seen such beautiful landscapes.” And then he But the grossest misconception with regard died.
to Corot is not the one which ignores his width At his funeral the great church was more of range. It is a much more serious mistake than full, and the crowd spread through the to believe that because he “idealized " nature streets outside. Faure sang his requiem to an he did not represent her faithfully, because he air Corot had himself selected—the slow move- suppressed details he did not see or could not ment from Beethoven's seventh symphony. And render them, because his maturer work looks by the open grave M. de Chennevières, Director“ very free” he had not studied conscientiously. of the Beaux Arts, spoke about him in touch- Nothing so afflicts a real student of Corot as ing words: “All the youth of Paris loved him, to hear him called an exponent of superficiality for he loved youth, and his talent was youth or “dash." eternally new. And in his immortal works If ever a man worked hard at his art it was he praised God in his skies and birds and Corot. The number of his preparatory studies trees."
was immense, and they were made in his latest As the last phrase was spoken, we are told, as well as his earliest years. “ Conscience” was a linnet perched on a branch near by and his watch-word, the nickname his scholars gave burst into a gush of song; and when in 1880 a him, the one recipe he gave them when they monument to the beloved great painter who asked him how to learn to paint. The first talked so often of “mes feuilles et mes petits thing to produce, he said, were “ studies in oiseaux” was set up by his brethren on the submission”; later came the time for studies in border of the little lake at Ville d'Avray, the picture-making. He did not approve of acadsculptor carved on it the branch and the emies and schools, and deemed it enough to singing bird.
study the old masters with the eye, without much attempt at actual copying. He thought
the great school of nature might suffice to form Every one knows that Corot was a land- soul and sight and hand; but this school one scape painter with an especial love for the should never desert and could not frequent too neighborhoods of Ville d'Avray and for effects diligently. It is true, as a friend once said, that of springtime foliage and early morning or what Corot wanted to paint was “not so much evening light. But it is a great mistake to nature as his love for her.” But to love her think of him as confined to such effects, or meant to peruse her with patient care, to know even as narrowly devoted to landscape paint- her well and fully; and to paint his love meant ing. He painted all hours of the day and now not to alter her charm, but to bring into clear and then moonlight too, and all seasons of relief those elements therein which most apthe year save those when snow lies on the pealed to him. Individuality in art no man ground. Figures enliven nearly all his land- prized more highly. But he defined it as "the scapes. Sometimes they are peasants laboring individual expression of a truth”; and said