Atlantic Monthly, Vol. 7, No. 40, February, 1861

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Atlantic Monthly, Vol. 7, No. 40, February, 1861

The Project Gutenberg eBook, Atlantic Monthly Volume 7, No. 40, February,
1861, by Various
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Title: Atlantic Monthly Volume 7, No. 40, February, 1861
Author: Various
Release Date: February 16, 2004 [eBook #11117]
Language: English
Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1
E-text prepared by Joshua Hutchinson, Tonya Allen, and Project Gutenberg Distributed Proofreaders


Among artists, William Page is a painter.
This proposition may seem, to the great public which has so long and so well known him and his works, somewhat unnecessary. There are few who are not familiar with his paintings. Whether these seem great or otherwise, whether the Venus be pure or gross, we may not here discuss; the public has, and will have, many estimates; yet on one point there is no difference of opinion, apparently. The world willingly calls him whose hand wrought these pictures a painter. It has done so as a matter of course; and we accept the title.
But perhaps the title comes to us from this man's studio, charged with a significance elevating it above the simply self-evident, and rendering it worthy of the place we have given it as a germ proposition.
Not every one who uses pigments can say, "I also am a painter." To him who would make visible the ideal, there are presented the marble, the pencil, and the colors; and should he employ either of these, just in proportion to his obedience to the laws of each will he be a sculptor, a designer, or a painter; and the revelations in stone, in light and shade, or on canvas, shall be his witnesses forevermore,--witnesses of him not only as an artist, in view of his relation to the ideal world, but as possessing a right to the especial title conferred by the means which he has chosen to be his interpreter.
The world has too much neglected these means of interpretation. It has condemned the science which would perfect the art, as if the false could ever become the medium of the true. The art of painting has suffered especially from the influence of mistaken views.
Nor could it be otherwise. Color-manifestation, of all art-utterance, is the least simple. It requires the fulfilment of a greater number of conditions than are involved in any other art. He who has selected colors as his medium cannot with impunity neglect form; light and shade must be to him as important as they are to the designer in _chiaro-scuro;_ while above all are the mystery and power of color.
There is perplexity in this. The science of form seems to be vast enough for any man's genius. No more than he accomplishes is demanded of the genuine sculptor. His life has been grand with noble fulfilments. We, and all generations, hold his name in the sacred simplicity which has ever been the sign of the consummate. Men say, Phidias, Praxiteles, and know that they did greatly and sufficiently.
Yet with the science which these men had we combine elements equally great, and still truth demands the consummate. Hence success in painting has been the rarest success which the world has known. If we search its history page by page, the great canvas-leaves written over with innumerable names yield us less than a score of those who have overcome the difficulties of its science, through that, achieving art, and becoming painters.
Yes, many men have painted, many great artists have painted, without earning the title which excellence gives. Overbeck, the apostle artist, whose rooms are sacred with the presence of the divine, never earned that name. Nor did thousands who before him wrought patiently and earnestly.
We think that we have among us a man who has earned it.
What does this involve? Somewhat more than the ability critically to distinguish colors and to use them skilfully.
Although practice may discipline and develop this power, there must exist an underlying physiological fitness, or all study and experience will be unavailing. In many persons, the organization of the eye is such that there can be no correct perception of the value, relation, and harmony of hues. There exists often an utter inability to perceive differences between even the primary colors.
The late sculptor Bartholomew declared himself unable to decide which of two pieces of drapery, the one crimson and the other green, was the crimson. Nor was this the result of inexperience. He had been for years familiar not only with Nature's coloring, but with the works
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