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Full text of "The Note Books Of Samuel Butler"

Pictures and Books              97

subject. The great thing is that all shall be new, and yet
nothing new, at the same time ; the details must minister to
the main effect and not obscure it; in other words, you must
have a subject, develop it and not wander from it very far.
This holds just as true for literature and painting and for art
of all kinds.

No man should try even to allude to the greater part of
what he sees -in his subject, and there is hardly a limit to
what he may omit. What is required is that he shall say
what he elects to say discreetly ; that he shall be quick to
see the gist of a matter, and give it pithily without either
prolixity or stint of words.

Relative Importances

It is the painter's business to help memory and imagination,
not to supersede them. He cannot put the whole before the
spectator, nothing can do this short of the thing itself; he
should, therefore, not try to realise, and the less he looks as
if he were trying to do so the more signs of judgment he will
show. His business is to supply those details which will most
readily bring the whole before the mind along with them.
He must not give too few, but it is still more imperative on
him not to give too many.

Seeing, thought and expression are rendered possible only
by the fact that our minds are always ready to compromise
and to take the part for the whole. We associate a number
of ideas with any given object, and if a few of the most
characteristic of these are put before us we take the rest as
read, jump to a conclusion and realise the whole. If we did
not conduct our thought on this principle—simplifying by
suppression of detail and breadth of treatment—it would
take us a twelvemonth to say that it was a fine morning and
another for the hearer to apprehend our statement. Any
other principle reduces thought to an absurdity.

All painting depends upon simplification. All simplifica-
tion depends upon a perception of relative importances. All
perception of relative importances depends upon a just
appreciation of which letters in association's bond associa-
tion will most readily dispense with. This depends upon the
sympathy of the painter both with his subject and with him