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Full text of "The Note Books Of Samuel Butler"

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on Painting                  141

more true to nature's general practice not to have it so than
to have it.

Certainly as regards colour, I never remember to have
seen a piece of one colour without finding a bit of a very
similar colour not far off, but having no connection with it.
This holds good in such an extraordinary way that if it
happens to fail the matter should be passed over in silence.


The expression " seeing colour " used to puzzle me. I
was aware that some painters made their pictures more
pleasing in colour than others and more like the colour of
the actual thing as a whole, still there were any number
of bits of brilliant colour in their work which for the life
of me I could not see in nature. I used to hear people say
of a man who got pleasing and natural colour, " Does he
not see colour well ? " and I used to say he did, but, as far
as I was concerned, it would have been more true to say that
he put down colour which he did not see well, or at any
rate that he put down colour which I could not see myself.

In course of time I got to understand that seeing colour
does not mean inventing colour, or exaggerating it, but being
on the look out for it, thus seeing it where another will not
see it, and giving it the preference as among things to be
preserved and rendered amid the wholesale slaughter of
innocents which is inevitable in any painting. Painting is
only possible as a quasi-hieroglyphic epitomising of nature;
this means that the half goes for the whole, whereon the
question arises which half is to be taken and which made to
go ? The colourist will insist by preference on the coloured
half, the man who has no liking for colour, however much
else he may sacrifice, will not be careful to preserve this
and, as a natural consequence, he will not preserve it.

Good, that is to say, pleasing, beautiful, or even pretty
colour cannot be got by putting patches of pleasing, beautiful
or pretty colour upon one's canvas and, which is a harder
matter, leaving them when they have been put. It is said of
money that it is more easily made than kept and this is true
of many things, such as friendship; and even life itself is
more easily got than kept. The same holds good of colour.