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Full text of "The Note Books Of Samuel Butler"

136               A Painter's Views

The Jubilee Sixpence

We have spent hundreds of thousands, or more probably
of millions, on national art collections, schools of art, pre-
liminary training and academicism, without wanting anything
in particular, but when the nation did at last try all it knew
to design a sixpence, it failed.* The other coins are all very
well in their way, and so are the stamps—the letters get car-
ried, and the money passes ; but both stamps and coins would
have been just as good, and very likely better, if there had
not been an art-school in the country. [1888.]

Studying from Nature

When is a man studying from nature, and when is he only
flattering himself that he is doing so because he is painting
with a model or lay-figure before him ? A man may be work-
ing his eight or nine hours a day from the model and yet not
be studying from nature. He is painting but not studying.
He is like the man in the Bible who looks at himself in a glass
and goeth away forgetting what manner of man he was. He
will know no more about nature at the end of twenty years
than a priest who has been reading his breviary day after day
without committing it to memory will know of its contents.
Unless he gets what he has seen well into his memory, so as
to have it at his fingers' ends as familiarly as the characters
with which he writes a letter, he can be no more held to be
familiar with, and to have command over, nature than a man
who only copies his signature from a copy kept in his pocket,
as I have known French Canadians do, can be said to be able
to write. It is painting without nature that will give a man
this, and not painting directly from her. He must do both
the one and the other, and the one as much as the other.

The Model and the Lay-Figure

It may be doubted whether they have not done more harm
than good. They are an attempt to get a bit of stuffed nature

* If I remember right, the original Jubilee sixpence had to be
altered because it was so like a half-sovereign that, on being gilded, it
passed as one.