from To Myself, Notes on Life, Art, and Artists
Journal of 1867-1915
What a mysterious adventure to come into the world constituted like this, unconscious of the way
one's potentialities would develop, and to provoke in some manner the awakening of his certitude,
the knowledge of his own source and strength, through the thousand risks of the influences coming
from an environment and time or from formulas of the surrounding pedagogy!
Few artists have had to suffer what I really suffered, softly, patiently without rebellion,
to take my place along with the others, in the common line. The consignments to the Salon
which followed this teaching, or rather the aberration of an atelier, have had, you can well imagine,
the same fate as my student works. I preserved in that blind alley much too long; the awareness
of a specific direction had not yet come to my mind. In this distance in which I was left apart
from the world I became different from the others and independent. I am, today, quite happy
about it. There is a whole production, a sap of art which circulates now out of the branches
of the official structures. I was brought to an isolation where I am in the absolute
impossibility of making art differently from the way I always made it. I understand nothing of
what are called "concessions"; you don't make the art you want. The artist is from day to day
the receptacle for his surroundings; he receives from outside sensations and he inevitably
transforms them, inexorably and tenaciously, according to himself alone. There can be true
production only when one has something to say by necessity of expansion. I would even say that
the seasons have an effect upon him; they accelerate or moderate his skill: such effort, such
endeavor attempted without the influences that groping and experience reveal to him are
fruitless for him if he ignores them.
How many others full of natural gifts will be lost and vanish in the same way as so many
ordinary men! We are each born with another man inside us whom our will maintains, cultivates
and saves - or does not save. One does not know, one will never know what makes this one become
an artist, that other a financier or an official, although they had set out together,
crowned with the same potentialities. It is an unfathomable, an irreducible point. Fortune or
poverty are not an obstacle in this case, the soul is everywhere; you have material at your
disposal everywhere. It is a matter of internal bearing, outside of the weakness of vanity
or the aberration of pride. There are artists of genius in poverty, there are others in opulence.
The end of destiny lies in onself; it follows hidden paths that world does not know; they are
filled with flowers or thorns.
How many disillusions in approaching more closely a many of genius! What eternal and
inexhaustible illusion the genius maintains in the eyes of other men!
Through the vision of the walls of our cathedrals, as through that of the marbles of Greece
or of Egypt, everywhere civilized or savage man has lived, we bring it to life again through art,
spontaneously, radiantly, and it is a prodigious resurrection.
I did not really love painting and my art until - habit formed - after endeavors in several
senses, I felt I wouldn't say virtuosity, but all the unexpected and surprising elements that my
own creations could give me, as if their result had surpassed my hopes. I have read somewhere
that the power of putting into a work greater significance than desired by oneself, and
surpassing, in some manner, one's own desire by the unexpectedness of the result, is given only
to human beings who carry in their soul something more than their art itself. I also believe,
that they must have concern for truth, perhaps the presence of pity or even to have suffered.
Would that art might be a stay, a support of expansive life, and would that it might assume that
we, who are narrow-minded and weak, need its help! Sublime communion with the entire soul of the
past. Grandiose patrimony of a defunct humanity.
The study which makes a picture does not provide resources as durable as the fragmentary
pieces established without concern for order or for placement on the canvas. It is not what one
consults when working in the studio, and looking for the support of a firm direction. Naive study,
on the contrary, made in the forgetfulness of what one knows, with the desire to approach,
as closely as possible, what one sees, remains, inversely, a firm document, rich, fruitful,
inexhaustible in resources and of which one will never tire. "Next to an unknown, place a known,"
Corot said to me. And he made me see pen and ink studies where the leaves were visible there in
abundant clumps, drawn and as if engraved. "Each year go and paint in the same place; copy the
same tree," he also said to me.
Thousands of confirmations of support for the one who knows how to discern - through the
imperceptible tendencies of the heart in this infinite world of aspirations, and desires which
animate it - the disastrous waste of lost goods, the remains of the feast and the sorrows that
There is something of the heart that withers upon reading pages written too close to human
nature. The bad part of certain writings is to have laid it open, cynical and abject; it would
have been better to have revealed to us what it has of grandeur and consolation.
But with God, as friend of nature, I prefer obstructed paths under the hindrances of a wild road
untouched by human work. I let my foot tread the damp earth and the touch of the limb which
grazes my face inspires me; stones, bushes, though filled with brambles, stop me only to converse
with me and speak to me; and even in a black, very dark wood, I love the storm, the plentiful
rain, the cold, the ice and snow; all the frost, the wintry weather of which people complain,
has for me an eloquent language that attracts me, charms me and has always profoundly
The end of a full day brings the mind infinite rewards. The supreme leisure of the elite souls
is entirely in those exquisite hours following painful and fertile effort. There is an age when
the balance of strengths assures us of sweet celestial joys, the most glorious of life, and the
only ones which give us the right to say that we have lived.
It is a fertile and necessary law that takes us to what we have not: we love what completes us.
Art, morality and justice lead to better ends. The error is in trying to discover the poet's formula.
Nature is too diverse in her infinite activity to make it possible for us to see through her action
and to understand her processes. The heart, love in its delicate gentleness, is still the best
and only guide. It is perhaps only through it that the truth is revealed. It has the touch,
the certainty, the affirmation.
Painters, go look at the sea. There you will see the marvels of color and light, the sparkling sky.
You will feel the poetry of the sands, the charms of the air, of the imperceptible hue. You will
return from there stronger and full of great accents.
Poets, go and see this beach. You will have to sing the mystery of infinity. On these shores you will
discover intense solitude.
Musicians go listen to its harmony. All of you, finally, who are tired of worldly life, all of you
you who are oppressed by the weight of days, all of you who work unceasingly in the womb of our
miseries, all you men of the fields and humble people - go and breathe in the strength and faith
of fertile nature, our mother and friend.
Each man should be the historian of his own heart. He would be reflected there, he would look at the
imprint left by those sweet testaments, instantaneous or slow, always involuntary, which have led us,
by dark, dim ways, toward other lights, ever and constantly renewed, toward the lightness of spirit
and of the greatest beauty; where the last steps of life, by divine election, reflect the echo of the
child's emotions. None of those tender emotions will be erased, and I praise them and consider them,
today, as the experienced history of an almost religious and blessed emancipation.
Merit and true talent are rare. One must appear to have them in order to inspire confidence that will
give us our authority and prestige. Such is the cause of the real lies that society imposes on the man
who wants to be able to move freely. This position is acquired only thanks to the sad necessity of
pretending we know a great deal even when we know very little.
We do not come together by having the same qualities. This one might possess genius and have, as friends,
those whose qualities of heart surpass their mediocre abilities. How charming are goodness, kindness,
One can eternally separate those who love, but the ideal will always reunite them.
Nobody will enter into your hopes: dreams, desires, projects are weak and solitary abstractions that
nobody will formulate with us. In his aspirations toward the future or beyond it, man is unhappy
because he is alone, all that he sees, all that he is, makes him suffer, except for what he loves.
If I had a son to direct, I would tell him: "Leave, go alone in the midst of men since you must become
one of them. The invidivual soars only in liberty."
Any documents of emotion and passion, of sensitivity or even of thought left on marble, on canvas or
in a book, are sacred. There is our true inheritence, our most precious one. And with what nobility
it clothes us, poor and precarious creatures that we are: the slightest chronicle, the most precious
date, a simple human fact, could they ever tell what the marvels of a cathedral reveal, the smallest
shred of stone from its walls! Touched by man, it is steeped in the spirit of the time. Thus every age
leaves behind its spiritual age. It is by art that the moral and thinking life of humanity can be felt
again and recovered.
What is called natural, grace, the full and sweet soaring of the human person is a sign of his
freedom. What is revealed by a true attitude, by harmony, by the beauty of free movement, comes
from the very depths of life. All exteriors reveal a soul; they explain it, they prove it.
But when I fix my eyes, even for an instant, on any being in real life who moves easily and
harmoniously by the laws of supreme balance, I cannot help, at the same instant, but feel myself
live highly and mightily. This elevates my spirit, and makes me think.
One could not write without the concern of maintaining one's thoughts every day, every hour,
in the presence of things and of life. The universe is a book which we read incessently; the
unique source, the means. It is not enough to train only our minds; it is also necessary to
polish one's constant reflection and follow with vigilance the austere discipline imposed on
every brain that strives to expand and produce; outside of that, there is no style that is one's
own and that reveals us to ourselves, like that of the great prose writers.
To watch your purest natural talents die, one by one; to watch them fall, forever, like the green
branches pruned from the tree that cannot support them; isn't there perhaps a law of necessity
which diminishes us in order to assume our life. Time carries us quickly; the days of man are
hardly sufficient for him to realize even one of his faculties! Who would ever be able to see in
this infinite world of love and active revelation, which raised the heart of the gods of art,
which knows their beginnings, before their generous hands had shaped the treasures they have left
to us! Oh you, divine ardor! How many things fall from you into this obscure and incomprehensible
nothingness, and what efforts, what labor later, to retain still virginal and fruitful a single
one of the gifts you left for us!
All that was told to me of the life and tastes of this great and passionate artist [Delacroix]
awakened my instincts, made me free and brought to my quest a fervor without torment.
He almost always worked standing up, alternately moving away from and approaching the easel,
whistling or singing an air by Rossini whose music he greatly liked.
From revelations which will not diminish him there is in Delacroix a very acute split between the
man and the artist. Whoever has studied his work easily sees in it that he was admirably
organized to produce it and to bring it to its achievement. His constancy, his obstinacy, his
method, his tenacity to produce, the daily care he took to remain on his guard concerning the
masters he loved, his secret and particular studies, in a word, which any creator,
whoever he is, pursues unceasingly, he had the law and the formula of it, and the present time
is not appropriate to recriminate the form or manner of expression he used. He was himself,
from the beginning to the end of his career; this is something that counts, the rest is
Moreover, is there not in all true artists a being who is misunderstood by those who are not
true artists? The instructive being, forsaken, who recreates himself in his own process,
sometimes seems concerned with incomprehensible views; these are not the keys to their genius
for those who watch them live; a contemporary, a friend even, can ignore you. Afterwards come
new generations, for they who see only the beauty of the result; the work already exists,
the process has disappeared, and it is of little importance to us. The life of man is, after all,
only the artist's process.
The work of art is the leavening of an emotion which the artist proposes. The public disposes;
but one must love.
The truth is that one can say nothing about oneself, as to what is born under one's hand, at the
thoughtful or passionate hour of gestation. It is often a surprise; you have gone beyond your
goal, that is all. What more is there to say! What is the use of analyzing this phenomenon,
it would be in vain. Better to renew it for your own joy.
Talent is, after all, the acquired power to bring to fruition natural gifts; the notions of
experience help us, love of the masters also; I mean those whome we love, not those whom we
choose. Certain artist of my time, whom I have seen start out with promise lost themselves
for having chosen masters whom they ought to love. Their intelligence led them astray
in seeking the good and the bad; they have touched the forbidden fruit.
You must love naturally, lazily, for joy, for the joy we will receive one day like a grace.
This reveals the necessity of leisure.
Leisure is not a privilege; it is not a favor; it is not a social injustice; it is the
beneficial necessity by which the spirit is fashioned as well as taste and the discovery of
The painter who has found his technique does not interest me. He gets up every morning without
passion; calm and peaceful, he continues the work he began the day before. I suspect he feels
a certain boredom peculiar to a virtuous worker who continues his task without the unforeseen
flash of the happy moment. He has not the sacred torment whose source is the unconscious and
the unknown; he expects nothing of what will come. I love what has never been.
Concern must be the habitual and constant host of the good studio. Concern is like an equation
between the palette and the dream. It is the ferment of the new; it renews the creative
faculty; it is the witness of sincere mistakes and of the inequality of talent. The man is
visible within the artist and the one who looks at his work is then closer to him.
I address those who surrender docilely, without the help of sterile explanations to the secret
and mysterious laws of sensitivity and of the heart.
From day to day, the artist submits to the fatal rhythm of the impulses of the universal world
which envelopes him. Continuous center of sensations, ever flexible, hypnotized by the marvels
of the nature the he loves, he scrutinizes; his eyes, like his soul, are in constant touch with
the most fortuitous phenomena. He leans toward that communion which is sweet to him when he is
a painter. How could he leave a state in which he delights and restrains himself to enter,
like the scholar or the esthete, into generalization? He cannot: this action outside of himself
is impossible to him. Do not ask him to be a prophet; he gives only his fruit, that is his function.
We are held to certain places by invisible attachments which are like organs for the creative man.
Perhaps it is in the submission to things by an act of will, of liberty, of tact, of docility,
to the necesseties of the unconscious, that we find originality. It is said that Beethoven needed
to return to a house that he had left; he needed it to complete a symphony.
I declare it often to young artists, to make clear to them what good they will find in old age,
if they have the wisdom and the honesty to remain always themselves; in other words, to cultivate
the flower of their own garden, a unique flower, humble or luxurious, but which will always
be the mark of their mastery.
You can learn only from yourself: it is difficult to teach. All the masters have advised studying
nature and agree on this subject, but they differed in the means given to do so, because they were
All is not vanity for one who accepts his gifts with grateful curiosity, with no envy toward
the gifts of others: he submits peacefully to the care of cultivating his faculties for the pleasure
of gathering their fruition and of sharing them with those who wait for them and love them.
What a good public is the one that has never seen anything! The dilettante, when without love,
maintains in himself a disastrous defect: the need for analysis and the accumulation in his
memory of all he has seen (a considerable accumulation, and always amplified in our time).
This mental impediment turns him away from fresh and fertile naivete; his sensitivity is no
longer free; he does not give in to it, at least in Paris, but in the acute tension of not being
the dupe of an impression, which he always wants to be lucid and then intellectual, of which he
will speak at once, as is fitting, usually with a light vivacity, and even a smile.
The seriousness of the character of art, on the contrary, acts on beings whose attention
and disposition are thoughtful. The same is true for the one who creates it: the artist knows
perfectly that among all of his works the one which reflects and reveals him the most was done
in solitude. All genesis retains a little shadow and mystery. It is in solitude that the artist
feels himself intensely alive, in secret depth, and nothing of the outside world solicits him
nor obliges him to disguise himself. It is there that he feels, discovers that he sees, finds,
desires, loves and saturates himself with the natural, at the primary sources of instinct,
it is there, more than in any other social place, that he is given the power to become exalted
with purity and to illuminate by his spirit the raw material he opens and spreads.
These reflections awaken the remembrance of Rodolphe Bresdin, who initiated me, with the greatest
concern for my independence, into the art of etching and lithography. He did not practice it on
paper; he did not use a crayon either. This visionary, whose eyes and heart were openly fixed on
the visible world, stippled with the pen alone the most minute elements proper to the
expression of his dream. He left, besides, some wonderful etchings, several stones where the
composition of the blacks is solid. He shaped them with the constant anxiety that this ink
gave him. He diluted it seriously, peacefully, preciously; and one felt, looking at him, how much
this initial procedure, so indifferent to others, was decisive for him, in a certain way. He took
great consideration and care with this liquid; he kept away all dust, whose disastrous presence
might become an obstacle to the final result of the work. He reminded me then, with his minute
cares, of that Dutch master who, with a precautionary sense similar to his, had placed his
working studio in a cellar where no one but he could go, where he descended slowly and softly
in order not to raise a single injurious atom which could disturb the purity of his oils and his
He gardened willingly, and with the minute precision of a Chinese. Subtle in everything and
meticulous, he brought to it his finesse, his delicacy, his curiosity of analysis and
observation. It was then more than at any other moment that his spirit was alert and that he
overflowed in spurts of sudden and impressive words whihc left me pensive. Once he told me with
gentle authority: "Look at this chimney flue. What does it say to you? To me it tell a legend.
If you have the strength to observe it well and to understand it, imagine the most strange,
the most bizarre subject; if it is based and remains within the limits of this simple section
of wall, your dream will be alive. Art is there." Bresdin told me this in 1864. I note the date
because it was not the manner of teaching at that time.
The artists of my generation for the most part have surely looked at the chimney flue.
And they saw nothing but it. They have not offered all that could be added to the wall panel
through the mirage of our very nature. All that surpasses, illuminates or amplifies the object
and elevates the mind into the realm of mystery, to the confusion of the irresolute and of its
delicious restlessness, has been totally closed to them. They kept away, they feared everything
pertaining to the symbolic, all that our art contains of the unexpected, the imprecise, the
undefinable, and that gives it an appearance bordering on enigma. True parasites of the object,
they cultivated art on a uniquely visual field, and in a certain way, closed it off from that
which goes beyond it, and which might bring the light of spirituality into the most modest
trials, even in the blacks. I mean an illumination that seizes upon our spirit and escapes all
Near Bresdin, nobody forgot either the veneration for nature or for the masters, particularly
for Rembrandt whome he adored. "Rembrandt," he used to say, "painted nothing but beggars,
crippled, gouty, and still what nobility, what loftiness, what poetry, what divinity: he has
something of God!"
I like to give this fervent disciple something of the master he venerated. Just like him,
he lived in a humble suburb where his bearing and his gait inspired some suspicion in the poor
who surrounded him: it was noticeable. He was mysterious himself. He was that way, not by
contempt, but by a natural superiority and so as to keep pure and more active the interior
resources of his own life. People do not understand this kind of relationship. They can only
admit them in a range of actions other than those of an artist whose pain they cannot even
imagine. They are unaware of the bruising which the refinement of culture encounters in
promiscuity. But the artist, nevertheless, without mixing with the people, will always be fond
of their spontaneity because it nourishes his vision of the natural, and, more than in worldy
places, he find their native generosity of gesture and passions.
One must love in order to believe, one must believe in order to act: the best teaching, then,
will be received from one who already has touched the apprentice through a sort of creative
revelation that issues from the beauty of his own works.
"Be a noble artist," Schumann said, "and all the rest will be given to you."
Such is modern work: the smallest scrawl by Delacroix, by Rembrandt, by Albrecht Durer,
makes us creative, makes us get back to work all the same: one could say it is life itself
that they communicate, that they transmit in us; and therein is the decisive result, the
supreme range. Whoever acts in this way upon others has genius, whatever may be the
nature of actions exercised by him, by word, by writing, even by his presence.
Two faces of the truth which always will be opposed and complementary: here substances,
visible reality, sensitive, concrete, without which all conception remains in a state of
abstraction and thus of creative palpitation; there the imagination itself, wide perspectives
open to the unforseen of our dreams, without which the work of art has neither aim nor scope.
... a verse of the Song of Solomon: "I was asleep, but my heart was on the watch, here is
the voice of my beloved, who knocked saying: 'Open the door to me, my sister, my great friend,
my dove, my perfect one, as my head is full of dew and my hair of drops of the night.'"
The characteristic trait of his good works and those that I have pointed out is that they are
beyond space and time. And yet they are deeply true; their author surely has not seen this path;
however, he gave to it a resemblance to those we see everywhere: here is true and lofty art and it
is to resolve an unusual problem, which is solved only by highly gifted artists.
Cazin is a painter-poet: he proceeds as much by sensitivity as by reason. The poetry he reveals
is so sure, so tender and so propitious in awakening in us distant and mysterious reminiscences
that it has the power to make us indifferent from now on to many works called "artistic" and which
are indeed skillful, extremely skillful, but do not have the supreme and decisive power of the
scope of the essential transmission. There will be much to say about the sudden apparition
at this hour of naturalism, of this sort of meaning in painting, so particularly spiritualistic,
although so modern, which profits so well and with so much discretion and moderation from recent
acquisitions in the art of painting: the open-air, this new manner of which so much has
been said; he feels it, penetrates it, and uses it marvelously....
Let us speak no more either of strictness or impressionism: one has even joked sometimes about
"luminism," "sensationism." There should be found a definite and lasting term for qualifying
the free artist who obeys his instinct and his reason only.
The artis must have heart that dominates his own heart, aims, his own manner of facing human
matters; without the seriousness of life, the work does not have it either.
It is also a poem because it awakens in us an incalculable world of reveries and reminiscenses,
like the feeling of a former time. The opposite of contemporary works, its effect is such that
the sensation it produces remains a long time alone in us, mistress and dominant, like the
favorite melody one hums when leaving a concert.
At the close of an era, we come back to the processes of its beginnings. There is a great power
of imitation and representation in this work. If the backgrounds and distances are formed and
achieved in the same way as the objects and persons of the foreground, it is because the author
has done nothing but obey a law of his nature, which brings him always to see nature in the most
minute detail and thus with the faithfulness of photography.
Prud'hon was indeed contested during his life; his spirit so tender and impassioned was
eclipsed during the First Empire by the scholastic and pedantic uproar of the school where David
excelled with all the brilliance and authority of a great celebrity. Who could read as we see it
now in those pages so sincerely animated, who could see then the loving and sweet grace contained
in those drawings, which appeared so simple, mostly lithographs at a moment when lithography
was only in its cradle? Indeed, the official painters of those times would have smiled oddly if
somebody came to tell them that a hundred years later their works would be ridiculously
old-fashioned, those flat nudes falsely imitating the antique, while the marbles newly discovered,
had not yet revealed their prime beauty. They would have smiled, and conscientiously, if the
helmets, the tunics, all the antique apparel had been despised, cast off, in favor of the simple
expression of a soul sincerely impassioned by love, grace, beauty, as revealed by antiquity
young and divine: eternal love.
Indeed, destiny unrolls thus for each thing, with a logic and assurance of which the artist is not
always aware; Prud'hon's contemporaries did not see there as clearly as he; he alone, by the
docility of his artist's conscience and by the law that soars over all things, probably felt
that his art was not on the wrong path.
We think the same of Chintreuil, that severe and pure artist, whose fate united him, for a moment,
with the artist we have just spoken about. As for Prud'hon, the hour had not come for this
tender and gentle genius who reveals himself simply in a fully reserved form, whose deep
and passionate modesty finds an echo only in a few chosen souls.
Chintreuil had actually a retiring and austere life. Success never had for him the great burst
which brought forth some talents more externalized and virile for whom the crowd seems not to
care. He is sheltered from those violent reactions which, in our day, have placed certain names
too low and certain others too high. His fame, like his work, appears slowly, feebly and seems
to fear the noise of full daylight. It makes its way thus, without emphasis to assert itself for
a longer time, and more strongly. It is thus for all who call him to join them in the austere
ways of a strict conscience and its rigid application.
... the fundamental gray which differentiates the masters, expresses them and is the
soul of all color.
Look at an object which is far away and see how the lines become simplified, how the planes
diminish, how the difference between values is hardly perceptible. Figures there have a shadow,
a light, and the shadow projected by the bodies is not visible. At the horizon the mountains
will be nothing more than an edge, which will stand out sharply against the sky line like a
A painter who was famous and who for a long time was president of official juries just made a
full apology in fron of Courbet's paintings exhibited at the Beaux-Arts, quite varied paintings
from different periods, which can give a definitive and complete idea of the master. Of course,
it will not be that reversal expressed by a person of late talent, which will weigh heavily on
the minds of those who judge, nor can it noticeably hasten the hour of justice; because
justice, like fame, comes at her hour. Great works transcend time, radiant, and peaceful;
around them the truth works out slowly through obstacles placed by the events of the moment
around their strength, and in spite of meager speeches about error and stillness, they remain,
they stay alive, they triumph and assert themselves.
The honest confession of the academician, while making us smile, also arouses sadness: all who
suffer, who think, who look to true art as it appears outside of the rules of a school, will
regret such reserve expressed about judgements of the past, will stay powerless to prevent
errors of the future; it is thus. It is difficult to judge one's contemporaries; perhaps it is
impossible to understand them. After all, we live in an artistic atmosphere, through which it
is difficult to see clearly what occurs in other areas; posterity, finally, is nothing by the sum
of opinions formulated during the continuance of time by isolated and disinterested men, who
compare and announce the truth to others, without any envy, without passion, and in defiance
of the present.
It is thus that today we can look without too many errors at the work of the great realist who
was simply a great painter. Every man who has eyes open on life and sees it palpitating under the
skin of things, every man who sees substances and loves them has in the depth of his being
a sleeping painter. The will could develop inconsistent faculties in him; circumstances could
lead them to atrophy; but the germs will always be alive in him.
Courbet was tall, powerful. Large and friendly eyes lit up his good-natured face where pride,
in flashes, evoked vivacity. "I will take up a gun in spite of my genius," he said, at the time
of war, at the very hour the enemy invaded. Compliments transformed him, dominated him; prizes
made him like a child being led by the hand.
We are sometimes forgetful of men of value whom we have the good fortune to meet: true talent
is not always surrounded by the consideration it deserves. Wherever thought asserts itself,
without the support of a militant fight, without the strong contradictions of the animated
consent of enthusiasm, one could say that the man of value receives in small measure the reward
for his generous endeavors. That is why in his own country, the genius often succumbs for want
of opponents, to fight him, or friends to exalt him. The talent which comes from far, already
crowned by prestige and established reputation, probably attains renown more easily; but what
obstacles, what difficulties he meets in our improvidence, in the inexperience of some judges
too eager to explain him prior to having understood him!
If knoweldge sometimes betrays us, if the most beautiful side of talent is overlooked by us,
often for what it has that is the most precious and powerful, it is above all when it appears
in a rather free and new way.
The love of masters is not a very great fault, and let us not blame archaism too much. When
well understood, "archaism" is a sanction. One work of art comes directly from another work
of art; if the study of nature gives us the necessary means to express our individuality, if the
observance and the patient analysis of reality are the very first elements of our language,
it is also true that the love of beauty and the search for beautiful patterns must always
maintain our faith.
We often believe that beings who devote themselves to art follow only a frivolous preference
or penchant but, if we look more carefully, if our attention becomes more enlightened, we shall
then see that it is sometimes the most pure and the most severe share of consciousness.
Therefore, if we really wish to adorn our public collections with works of art worthy of being
followed, if we look for these works among the artists of merit who bring influences to art,
we will always find them among those who add to the beauty of talent with laudable
disinterestedness that is always accompanied by sincerity.
Those rare natures ask that little should be spoken about them; their only misfortune will be
to stay a little too long in the meditation of a silent discretion. Let us go to them; let us
try to better understand them through a deeper analysis of their work. But if there is doubt,
if there is still hesitation about the exact evaluation of this artist, there are, however,
some true lovers of art who have not hesitated for a long time in recognizing the considerable
importance of this extraordinary personality; we strongly believe that their esteem prepares
for him in the future the true approval due him.
... he secretly has the consciousness that his muscles will no longer carry him on that path,
that he will not be strong enough for it, and very soon he will give himself up to his essentially
anxious nature, to pure expression, to the representation of the inner life only, and will no
longer attempt to struggle in highly modelled form with the ancient masters who surpass him, and
he understands finally that his time is the time of pure expression, that Romanticism is only the
triumph of feeling over form, and without returns or regrets, he finds his true way, which is
expressive color, a color one could call moral color.
Modulation of colors - The main colors come to us from the Orient. The shudder of the
colored surface by tone over tone is the resonant tone.
Here are the final words which explain and summarize me. The work of art is born from three
springs, three motives:
From tradition, which comes from the primordial source and constant acquisitions brought
by men of genius, who bequeath to us incessantly and throughout time the moral and reflective
life of all humanity, whose great book, written in vital letters because they are of their
blood, is constantly open before us; in our temples, on our walls, in every work of art truly
sincere and felt, and through which we recognize our own nobility, our grandeur. It is through
it that we establish the reverence always due to those who teach. And I mean by this all strict
friends of beauty, of the ideal, all those who admire and venerate it, from whom a single word
of admiration is able to reveal to us new fields of truth.
The whole mission of the teaching profession, Academy, Institute, is understood only in the
awareness, that it has to keep this deposit truly sacred, and in this I clearly recognize, in
opposition to all contemporary schools, the legitamacy and integrity of its duration, on
condition, of course, that the men representing it should themselves be its faithful and
From reality, or in other words, from nature, which is a pure means for expressing our
feelings and communicating them to others, out of which our own ambition to create remains in a
dream state, a state of abstraction, and, in a certain sense, of simple palpitation of life
which otherwise does not have its own medium through which to appear strongly, entirely, in all
the light and innocence of its supreme expression.
At last from our own personal invention, from original intuition, which combines,
summarizes everything, finds support in the past and in present life for giving to the
contemporary work a new structure; a temperament is forever renewing itself in the incessant
development of human life whose progress is incontestable and forever changing the means of
Those three forms of the word, the eternal word of beauty, appear constantly and fully in great
eras when a civilization in full bloom can then try to rise without any obstacle toward its
truth. Example: Phidias, Leonardo da Vinci, sacred models who raised art to inaccessible plastic
heights, perhaps lost forever and toward which the greatest spirits look for love, prayer and
An honest work of art will appear only at its hour. To be well understood it must have its
moment: one master made his work too early, another too late; it is rare that a happy glory
rises freely around the genius, especially in our time when every artist is searching for his
way alone, with no other initiator of his dream than himself.