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COROT'S METHOD OF WORK
Corot is a true artist. One must see a painter in his home to have an idea of his merit. I saw again there, and with a quite new appreciation of them, pictures which I had seen at the museum and only cared for moderately. His great "Baptism of Christ" is full of nave beauties; his trees are superb. I asked him about the tree I have to do in the "Orpheus." He told me to walk straight ahead, giving myself up to whatever might come in my way; usually this is what he does. He does not admit that taking infinite pains is lost labour. t.i.tian, Raphael, Rubens, &c., worked easily. They only attempted what they knew; only their range was wider than that of the man who, for instance, only paints landscapes or flowers. Notwithstanding this facility, labour too is indispensable. Corot broods much over things. Ideas come to him, and he adds as he works. It is the right way.
From the age of six, I had the pa.s.sion for drawing the forms of things.
By the age of fifty, I had published an infinity of designs; but all that I produced before the age of seventy is of no account. Only when I was seventy-three had I got some sort of insight into the real structure of nature--animals, plants, trees, birds, fish, and insects.
Consequently, at the age of eighty I shall have advanced still further; at ninety, I shall grasp the mystery of things; at a hundred, I shall be a marvel, and at a hundred and ten every blot, every line from my brush shall be alive!
It takes an artist fifty years to learn to do anything, and fifty years to learn what not to do--and fifty years to sift and find what he simply desires to do--and 300 years to do it, and when it is done neither heaven nor earth much needs it nor heeds it. Well, I'll peg away; I can do nothing else, and wouldn't if I could.
If the Lord lets me live two years longer, I think that I can paint something beautiful.
_Corot at 77._
If Heaven would give me ten years more ... if Heaven would give me only five years more ... I might become a really great painter.
I will have my Bed to be a Bed of Honour, and cannot die in a better Posture than with my Pencil in my Hand.
_Lucas of Leyden._
Adieu! I go above to see if friend Corot has found me new landscapes to paint.
_Daubigny_ (on his death-bed).
Leaving my brush in the city of the East, I go to gaze on the divine landscapes of the Paradise of the West.
_Hiroshige_ (on his death-bed).
Much will hereafter be written about subjects and refinements of painting. Sure am I that many notable men will arise, all of whom will write both well and better about this art and will teach it better than I. For I myself hold my art at a very mean value, for I know what my faults are. Let every man therefore strive to better these my errors according to his powers. Would to G.o.d it were possible for me to see the work and art of the mighty masters to come, who are yet unborn, for I know that I might be improved. Ah! how often in my sleep do I behold great works of art and beautiful things, the like whereof never appear to me awake, but so soon as I awake even the remembrance of them leaveth me. Let none be ashamed to learn, for a good work requireth good counsel. Nevertheless, whosoever taketh counsel in the arts let him take it from one thoroughly versed in those matters, who can prove what he saith with his hand. Howbeit any one _may_ give thee counsel; and when thou hast done a work pleasing to thyself, it is good for thee to show it to dull men of little judgment that they may give their opinion of it. As a rule, they pick out the most faulty points, whilst they entirely pa.s.s over the good. If thou findest something they say true, thou mayest thus better thy work.
I should be sorry if I had any earthly fame, for whatever natural glory a man has is so much detracted from his spiritual glory. I wish to do nothing for profit; I want nothing; I am quite happy.