Skip to main content

Full text of "The Note Books Of Samuel Butler"

See other formats

on Painting                    143

It may be said that the preservation of all the little episodes
of colour which can be discovered in an object whose general
effect is dingy and the suppression of nothing but the un-
interesting colourless details amount to what is really a
forcing and exaggeration of nature, differing but little from
downright fraud, so far as its effect goes, since it gives an
undue preference to the colour side of the matter. In equity,
if the exigencies of the convention under which we are working
require a sacrifice of a hundred details, the majority of which
are uncoloured, while in the minority colour can be found
if looked for, the sacrifice should be made pro rata from
coloured and uncoloured alike. If the facts of nature are
a hundred, of which ninety are dull in colour and ten interest-
ing, and the painter can only give ten, he must not give the
ten interesting bits of colour and neglect the ninety soberly
coloured details. Strictly, he should sacrifice eighty-one
sober details and nine coloured ones; he will thus at any
rate preserve the balance and relation which obtain in nature
between coloured and uncoloured.

This, no doubt, is what he ought to do if he leaves the
creative, poetic and more properly artistic aspect of his
own function out of the question; if he is making himself
a mere transcriber, holding the mirror up to nature with
such entire forgetfulness of self as to be rather looking-glass
than man, this is what he must do. But the moment he
approaches nature in this spirit he ceases to be an artist,
and the better he succeeds as painter of something that might
pass for a coloured photograph, the more inevitably must
he fail to satisfy, or indeed to appeal to us at all as poetó
as one whose sympathies with nature extend beyond her
superficial aspect, or as one who is so much at home with
her as to be able readily to dissociate the permanent and
essential from the accidental which may be here to-day and
gone to-morrow. If he is to come before us as an artist,
he must do so as a poet or creator of that which is not, as
well as a mirror of that which is. True, experience in all
kinds of poetical work shows that the less a man creates the
better, that the more, in fact, he makes, the less is he of a
maker; but experience also shows that the course of true
nature, like that of true love, never does run smooth, and
that occasional, judicious, slight departures from the actual