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Full text of "The Note Books Of Samuel Butler"

144                A Painter's Views

facts, by one who knows the value of a lie too well to waste
it, bring nature more vividly and admirably before us than
any amount of adherence to the letter of strict accuracy.
It is the old story, the letter killeth but the spirit giveth
life.

With colour, then, he who does not look for it will begin
by not seeing it unless it is so obtrusive that there is no
escaping it; he will therefore, in his rendering of the hundred
facts of nature above referred to, not see the ten coloured
bits at all, supposing them to be, even at their brightest,
somewhat sober, and his work will be colourless or disagreeable
in colour. The faithful copyist, who is still a mere copyist,
will give nine details of dull uninteresting colour and one of
interesting. The artist or poet will find some reason for
slightly emphasising the coloured details and will scatter here
and there a few slight, hardly perceptible, allusions to more
coloured details than come within the letter of his bond, but
will be careful not to overdo it. The vulgar sensational
painter will force in his colour everywhere, and of all colourists
he must be pronounced the worst.

Briefly then, to see colour is simply to have got into a
habit of not overlooking the patches of colour which are
seldom far to seek or hard to see by those who look for them.
It is not the making one's self believe that one sees all
manner of colours which are not there, it is only the getting
oneself into a mental habit of looking out for episodes of
colour, and of giving them a somewhat undue preference
in the struggle for rendering, wherever anything like a reason-
able pretext can be found for doing so. For if a picture is to
be pleasing in colour, pleasing colours must be put upon the
canvas, and reasons have got to be found for putting them
there. [1886.]

P.S.—The foregoing note wants a great deal of reconsidera-
tion for which I cannot find time just now. Jan. 31,1898.

Words and Colour

A man cannot be a great colourist unless he is a great
deal more. A great colourist is no better than a great wordist
unless the colour is well applied to a subject which at any
rate is not repellent.