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LAKE NEMI. (OWNED BY THOMAS NEWCOMB.
that to develop it one must work "with an ardor that knows no concessions." His whole life was given up to work, and his whole work was an effort to see nature with more and more distinctness and to render her with more and more fidelity. A gray-haired man, a master among his fellows, a poet before the world, he was to the end a child at the great mother's knee; and to the end a conscientious, often a despairing, aspirant when he had a brush in hand.
No one can doubt Corot's accurate vision and patient labor who has seen his earlier pictures. Certain of his noblest qualities appear in them all his care for harmony in composition and for dignity and grace of line, his belief that the whole is of more importance than any one part, and his desire to speak from a personal point of view. But there is none of the breadth, freedom, synthesis, which characterize his later works. Conscientiousness is apparent as well as real; details are carefully expressed, and the touch is dry, slow, and not a little heavy. Even the splendid "Forest of Fontainebleau" here reproduced, which was painted in 1846 and won the cross of the Legion of Honor, might not be recognized as a Corot by superficial students of those later pictures with which in this country we are more familiar. But a wiser critic would feel sure that an "early
PHOTOGRAPHED IN THE AMERICAN ART GALLERY.)
Corot" must be pretty much what we find it : he would know that truth cannot be based on ignorance, and that knowledge cannot be acquired except through patient labor.
Corot's aim was always to simplify expression, to disengage the thing he wished to say the main idea and meaning, the picture he had in mind - from the thousand minor pictures and ideas that had been wound up with it in nature. As he lived and labored his power to do this increased. When he retouched an early canvas he never added anything; improvement always meant suppression-some broadening, simplifying touch. But the fact is a proof of growing knowledge, not of waning interest in truth. What he wanted to repeat were not nature's statistics, but their sum total; not her minutiæ, but the result she had wrought with them; not the elements with which she had built up a landscape, but the landscape itself as his eye had embraced and his soul had felt it. This he wanted to paint, and this he did paint with extraordinary truth as well as charm and individuality. But can any superficial brush do this? Can any one know the things to say without knowing the things to omit, build up broad truths in ignorance of the minor truths which compose them, reproduce an impression without remembering what elements
had worked together to create it and which had been of preponderant, controlling value?
No: the real lesson taught by Corot's pictures and Corot's life is that breadth in painting (if it is not meaningless and empty) must repose on accurate knowledge; that freedom (if it is not mere idle license) must have its basis in fidelity to facts; that feeling must be guided by reason and self-restraint. Corot's knowledge of natural facts-within the cycle of such scenes as he preferred to paint was greater probably than that of any painter who has ever lived, except Théodore Rousseau; and the loving patience of his efforts to express it has never been surpassed. These are the reasons why he could permit himself to be the most free and personal and poetic of all landscape painters.
analytically and learned all he could about solid facts; but he painted syntheticallyomitting many things that he knew about, and even many that he saw at the moment, in order to portray more clearly the general result. And this general result he found in the main lines of the scene before him and its dominant tone; in the broad relationships of one mass of color with all others; in the aspect of the sky, the character of the atmosphere, and the play of light; and in the palpitating incessant movement of sky and air and leaf.
Look at one of Corot's foregrounds and you will see whether it is soft or hard, wet with dew or dry in the sun: you will see its color, its mobility. Look at his trees, and you will see their mass, their diversities in denseness, their pliability and vital freshness. Look at his sky, and you will see its shimmering, pulsating quality it has the softness of a blue which "TRUTH," said Corot, "is the first thing in means vast depths of distance, or of a gray art and the second and the third." But the which means layer upon layer of imponderwhole truth cannot be told at once. A selec- able mist, and the whiteness of clouds which tion from the mass of nature's truths is what shine as bright as pearls but would dissipate at the artist shows-a few things at a time, and a touch. And everywhere, over all, behind all, with sufficient emphasis to make them clearly in all, you will see the enveloping air and the felt. You cannot paint summer and winter on light which infiltrates this thing and transfigures a single canvas. No two successive hours of a that- the air and the light which make all summer's day are just alike, and you cannot things what they are, which create the landpaint them both. Nor, as certainly, can you scape by creating its color, its expression, its paint everything you see at the chosen moment. effect; the air and the light which are the Crowd in too much and you spoil the picture, movement, the spirit, the very essence of nature. weaken the impression, conceal your meaning, No man had ever perfectly painted the atmosfalsify everything in the attempt to be too true. phere till Corot did it, or the diffused, pervad-This was Corot's creed. What now were the ing quality of light; and for this reason no one truths that he interpreted at the necessary sac- had painted such delicate, infinite distances, rifice of others which were less important in such deep, luminous, palpitating skies. his eyes? They are implied, I think, in the words I have already written.
Corot prized effects rather than what the non-artistic world calls solid facts. But effects are as truly facts as are the individual features and details which make them. Indeed, they are the most essential as well as interesting of all facts. It is effects that we see first when we are in nature's presence, that impress us most, and dwell the longest in our minds. Outlines, modeling, local colors, minor details these shift, appear, and disappear, or alter vastly as light and shadow change; and most of them we never really see at all until we take time to analyze. Look at the same scene on a sunny morning or by cloudy sunset light. It is not the same scene. The features are the same, but their effect has changed, and this means a new landscape, a novel picture. The mistake of too many modern painters, especially in England, is that they paint from analysis, not from sight. They paint the things they know are there, not the things they perceive just as they perceive them. This Corot never did. He studied VOL. XXXVIII.—35.
See now how Corot managed to paint like this to interpret the life, mood, and meaning of the scene he drew. It was just through that process of omission and suppression which the superficial misread as proof that he did not really "render" nature at all. the smallest, simplest natural fact cannot be "rendered" in the sense of being literally reproduced; and to attempt the literal imitation of large features is merely to sacrifice the whole in favor of what must remain but a partial rendering of a part. A leaf can be painted, but not a myriad leaves at once; we are soon forced to generalize, condense, suppress. And to try to paint too many leaves is to lose the tree; for the tree is not a congregation of countless individual leaves distinctly seen it is a mass of leaves which are shot through and through with light and air, and always more or less merged together and moving. It is an entity, and a live one; and which is the more important—that we should see the living thing, or the items that compose it? What we ask the painter is, not just how his tree was
constructed, but just how it looked as a feature in the beauty and aliveness of the scene. What we want is its general effect and the way it harmonized with the effect of its surroundings.
Does it matter, then, if he omits many things, or even if he alters some things, to get this right result? Such altering is not falsifying. It is merely emphasis a stress laid here and a blank left there that (since all facts cannot possibly be given) the accented fact shall at least be plain. The generalized structure of Corot's trees, their blurred contours and flying, feathery spray- these are not untruths. They are merely compromises with the stern necessities of paint-devices he employed, not because he was unable to draw trees with precision, but because, had he done this, his foliage would have been too solid and inert for truth. A twig is never long in one position. It cannot be painted in two positions at once. But a twig that is blurred to the eye because it is passing from one position to another this can be painted, and this Corot preferred to paint rather than ramifications with exactness or leaf-outlines with a narrow care. So his trees are alive, and, as he loved to say, the light can reach their inmost leaves and the little birds can fly among their branches.
It is the same thing with color. The color schemes to which Corot kept were never as strong and vivid as those we find with some of his contemporaries and many of his successors. Browns and grays and pale greens predominate on his canvas with rarely an acuter accent, a louder note. But he fitted his themes to his brush, so that we feel no lack; or, in other words, he chose his color schemes in accordance with the character of the natural effects that he loved best. And within the scale he chose his coloring is perfect. His tone (the harmony, or, as used to be said, the "keeping" of his result) is admirable beyond praise. But it is gained at no sacrifice of truth in local color. There are cheap processes for securing tone which are indeed falsifications of nature-ways of carrying over into one object the color of another, throwing things out of their right relationships, harmonizing with some universal gauze of brown or gray. But Corot's was not a process like any of these. His power to harmonize and unify his colors sprung from the fact that he studied colors with a more careful and penetrating eye than ever before had been brought to bear, and never forgot their mutual relationships. Look at one of his pictures where the general effect, perhaps, is of soft delicious
1 A conspicuous example of what is meant by the falsification of values may be seen in photographs taken by any of the usual processes. Chemical action deals differently with different colors, so that a light yellow, for instance, comes out darker than a dark blue. The
greens. Everything in it is not greenish. The sky is pure blue and the clouds are purest white. The water is rightly related to the sky, and where things were gray in nature, or brown, or even black, they are so on canvas. Harmony does not mean monotony. Tone does not mean untruth. And this Corot could accomplish because he studied "values" as no painter before him had studied them.
This word new in our language but indispensable - has been a little hard of comprehension to those who know nothing of the painter's problems and devices. But it means, as simply as I can say it, the difference between given colors as severally compared with the highest note in the scale (white) and the lowest (black); the difference between them as containing, so to speak, more light or more dark. This does not mean the same thing as the relative degrees of illumination and shadow which may fall upon them. The one quality may be involved in or dependent upon the other, but the two are distinct to the painter's eye.
It is not easy even to perceive differences in value. Given two shades of the same tint, as of a blue-green or a yellow-green, it is easy enough to say which is the darker; but it is more difficult when a yellow-green is compared with a blue-green, and still more when we set a brown beside a green or a blue beside a yellow. Yet the painter must not only learn to see values in nature but to transpose them correctly on canvas-for color can never be exactly copied on canvas; from the nature of paint there must always be transposition, adaptation, compromise. Corot mastered the difficulty as no one else had done; and this mastery has made him the guide and teacher of all the landscape painters who have since been born.1
"THERE are four things for a painter," Corot was wont to say. "These are: form, which he gets through drawing; color, which results from truth to values; sentiment, which is born of the received impression; and finally the execution, the rendering of the whole. Ás to myself, I think I have sentiment; that is, a little poetry in the soul which leads me to see, or to complete what I see, in a certain way. But I have not always color, and I possess only imperfect elements of the power to draw. In execution I also fail sometimes—which is the reason why I labor harder than ever, little though some people may imagine it."
trouble has been obviated in some of the newer methods. But it is easy to see that this question is of vast importance in all translations into black and white. In nothing has the success of American wood-engravers been more remarkable than in this.
In accepting these words about himself we must make allowance for that spirit of aspiration which always leads a true artist to remember his ideal as better than the best possible rendering. It is natural that Corot should have thought he often failed to get his values right, although the world gradually saw that he had at least come nearer right than any one before him; and of course he knew that he had not even attempted many schemes and scales of color which he perceived in the actual world. As regards his power to draw he spoke with stricter verity. A lifetime of study in the woods and fields had enabled him to draw landscapes fully and exactly when he chose, and some of his portrait-heads are wonderfully true. But in our modern world schools alone can give scientific knowledge of the figure; and for the lack of this Corot's figures are weak in anatomy and loose in modeling, though often most delightful in color and sentiment.
It is the same with his execution. Born at a time when few painters painted really well, and trained almost wholly by his own efforts, he is not one of the supreme masters of the brush one of those whose every line and touch delights the connoisseur in handling. But he painted well enough to express with charm as well as clearness the impressions he received; and as these were the impressions of a very great and individual artist, the verdict is still a high one. Had his growth been assisted by stronger outside influences he would doubtless have reached technical skill more quickly, and perhaps have conquered it more completely; but something of the personality of his manner might have perished. So we are content with his technical shortcomings, and after all they are far from serious. Although a few men have painted landscapes still more beautifully, Corot's surely satisfy the eye while delighting and moving the soul.
If but a single phrase of Corot's had been recorded I should wish it the one which says that sentiment in art is a poetic power to see things or to complete them in some personal way. Here the whole import of idealism in art lies crystallized in a word. Not to depart from nature, but to complete her, is the true idealization; not to conceive an ideal foreign to her own, but to perceive her own with so much sympathy that it can be more perfectly revealed than, on this imperfect earth, she herself is often able to reveal it; not to be untrue to fact, but to choose and arrange particular facts so that the type, the ideal, towards which they tend shall be most clearly shown.
The whole world prizes such work as this when it is the poet's or even the figure-painter's. Why is it so often disallowed when the landscape painter brings it? A drama of Shak
spere's never happened, yet we feel it is truer than any literally reported scene of the policecourt, or "realistic" stage-play or novel. The character of a man, we know, is a higher fact than any of his daily deeds; why, then, is not the aspect of a landscape a higher fact than any of its details? More significant than any individual character, again, is the essence of human nature; why, then, does not the essence of some kind or type of natural beauty mean more and purer truth than the aspect of any one actual spot? Must not an artist see broadly, synthetically, if he is to show us general aspects? And must he not see imaginatively, poetically,― must he not "complete" what he sees,-if he is to search out and render the ideal therein suggested? All his interpretations must be based on facts which he has observed in this place or that; but to make a good picture and a true one he need not confine himself to facts which he has chanced to see together. Very likely Corot never painted a scene without omitting some features and adding others; and in more than one of his works there are elements both of French and of Italian origin. But there is never disharmony in the result, for his knowledge was too great and his imagination too artistic which means too logical and too sympathetic. He made no mere patchwork pictures. He created landscapes of his own out of the elements with which, in nature's presence, he had stored his sketch-books and his memory. He might alter a scene he did not alter nature. He but completed the beautiful message she had been suggesting here and half revealing there.
It is easy to prove that Corot's painted poetry was true-much truer than the realist's painted prose. We have only to consult our own experience with him as an interpreter of nature. Here and there, at home or abroad, we may recognize some scene which some realist has faithfully portrayed; but Corot's scenes are everywhere-by the little lakes and brooks of France, in the forest glens of Italy, in the misty glades of England, and along the river borders of our own far western world. What he painted were not items from nature, but certain broad beauties and moods of nature; and though we may rarely be able to put a finger on documentary proof of his veracity, we carry it about with us in a new sensitiveness of eye, a new receptiveness of mood. Everywhere, I say, we see from time to time some beautiful living Corot; but should we see it so quickly or would it seem so beautiful had he not taught us how to value it? The commonplace painter shows us things that we had seen and felt in the same way ourselves. The true artist selects more delicate yet more general facts, explains
them with poetic stress, shows us things which probably we had not remarked before, and makes them forever ours. We may never possess a picture by Corot, but how immeasurably poorer we should be had he painted none! His message is our own if his canvases are not; and who shall say this of a painter unless he is as true as truth, yet personal, poetical, in that creative way which alone means the highest art?
The special character of Corot's idealism shows first of all in his choice of subject-matter. He was most attracted by the most idyllic scenes and moods of nature. Grandeur, force, terror, sadness, did not appeal to him. He had no taste for storms and rugged wildness; he loved high noon less than the glinting tender prophecies of morn or the mysterious grace of twilight; and if it was high noon he painted, still it was not prosaic clearness, but noon in a day of soft veiling mists and passing gleams and shadows. The peculiar broad softness of his touch-a softness which lacks neither delicacy nor nerve- fits well with the sentiment of these favorite themes. But to keep feeling and execution of this sort above mere sentimentality and vagueness, a painter needs the great gift of style. This gift Corot had in a very high degree - the power to give his pictures a quality which every one will understand when I call it classic. No one could be more thoroughly modern, more thoroughly Gallic, than Corot; but no one in modern art has been more classic in the fundamental meaning of the word. It was not because he often painted classic subjects - how many have done this and given us a breath from English firesides, a blast from the Parisian boulevard, in pictures which have perhaps all other virtues, but are conspicuously devoid of style! It was because he felt things with Greek simplicity, joy, and freshness, and saw them in a way which meant Greek dignity, harmony, and repose, and a real yet ideal grace. If his figures are often dreams of Hellas it was simply because he saw the landscape he was painting in such a way that it could be most fittingly peopled thus. The idyllic, classic note was in the voice of the man and would have rung out in his work whatever the themes he chose. It must have been his by birth, though it was happily fostered by the course of his student years. From Bertin and Aligny he imbibed sobriety in taste and that love for harmonious composition which more than any other single element means style in painting; and his long Italian months had enforced the lesson, showing him broad reposeful tones as well as lines. Yet had he not already dreamed of nymphs and fountains in his boyhood by the window at Ville d'Avray ?
If we can fix upon any one of Corot's pictures as the most famous it must be, I think, the "St. Sebastian" owned by Mr. Walters in Baltimore. Painted in 1851, it admirably represents Corot's art in that middle period which French critics have held to be his very best. His individuality had then fully developed — both his poetry in conception and his freedom in treatment; the difference from the "Forest of Fontainebleau," which he had painted only five years earlier, is immense. Yet a little of his early reserve of manner still clings about the "St. Sebastian," giving it more massiveness and grandeur than we find in pictures of a much later date. It seems to have been Corot's favorite work. He would never sell it, but in 1871 gave it to the lottery held for the benefit of the wounded defenders of France. Delacroix called it the most truly religious picture of modern times; and, indeed, to great external charm and purest poetry it adds a marvelous depth and solemnity of mood. It is the least idyllic, the most epic in sentiment, of all Corot's great works, yet instinct with a pathetic tenderness. The dying saint lies on the ground, cared for by two holy women, in a shadowy forest glen. On each side rise enormous trees, and between them, in far perspective, a little hill with horsemen silhouetted against the sky. Two baby angels float high above the saint, bearing the palms of martyrdom. The hour is twilight, and the shadows are dense beneath the trees; but there is a soft radiance still in the wonderful sky and the very breath of living nature in the atmosphere.
Not so grand, not so impressive, but still more beautiful, perhaps, is another work of this middle period, the "Orpheus Greeting the Morn," owned by Mr. Cottier in New Yorkanother famous Corot and another that well deserves its fame. The upright shape of the large canvas (seen likewise in the "St. Sebastian") is characteristic of Corot, who loved a composition in which the dignity of vertical lines might be emphasized. In no picture is the very essence of morning more truthfully, exquisitely, portrayed: we are bathed in its air, steeped in its light; our ears are filled with the soft rustle of its wakening leaves; our souls are thrilled with its fresh and tender promise; and the infinite lovely distance draws us till we share the passionate poetic yearning of Orpheus himself. And in the execution what breadth combined with delicacy, what soft yet radiant color, what a sense of freedom, sincerity, inspiration! And what a delicious golden tone to compare with the darker yet silvery tone of the "St. Sebastian"! This, indeed, is the poetry of art nature's poetry truthfully reported, yet