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Full text of "The Note Books Of Samuel Butler"

148               A Painter's Views

Those who grow to the best work almost always begin by
laying great stress on details which are all they as yet have
strength for; they cannot do much, but the little they can
do they do and never tire of doing; they grow by getting
juster notions of proportion and subordination of parts to
the whole rather than by any greater amount of care and
patience bestowed upon details. Here there are no bits of
detail worked out as by one who was interested in them and
enjoyed them. Wherever a thing can be scamped it is scamped.
As the whole is, so are the details, and as the details are, so is
the whole ; all is tainted with eye-service and with a vulgarity
not the less profound for being veiled by a due observance of
conventionality.

I shall be told that Raffaelle did come to draw and paint
much better than he has done here. I demur to this. He
did a little better; he just took so much pains as to prevent
him from going down-hill headlong, and, with practice,
he gained facility, but he was never very good, either as a
draughtsman or as a painter. His reputation, indeed, rests
mainly on his supposed exquisitely pure and tender feeling.
His colour is admittedly inferior, his handling is not highly
praised by any one, his drawing has been much praised,
but it is of a penmanship freehand kind which is particularly
apt to take people in. Of course he could draw in some ways,
no one giving all his time to art and living in Raffaelle's
surroundings could, with even ordinary pains, help becoming
a facile draughtsman, but it is the expression and sentiment
of his pictures which are supposed to be so ineffable and to
make him the prince of painters.

I do not think this reputation will be maintained much
longer. I can see no ineffable expression in the Ansidei
Madonna's head, nor yet in that of the Garvagh Madonna
in our gallery, nor in the S. Catharine. He has the saint-
touch, as some painters have the tree-touch and others the
water-touch. I remember the time when I used to think
I saw religious feeling in these last two pictures, but each
time I see them I wonder more and more how I can have
been taken in by them. I hear people admire the head of
S. Nicholas in the Ansidei picture. I can see nothing in it
beyond the power of a very ordinary painter, and nothing
that a painter of more than very ordinary power would be