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On Vision

( Originally Published Early 1900's )



VISION! the key to the door of art; the power to see with the eyes of the soul! It is as necessary to the artist as faith to the true believer. We have been talking of color, vibration, refraction, drawing, and so on—all so much useless lumber if a painter have not the one divine gift. I once knew an artist who had all these technical things at his finger tips; he was an able draughtsman, a strong colorist, and the difficulties of refraction and vibration were to him a mere bagatelle. Yet one of his pictures was like a man without a soul—a veritable Frankenstein Monster of art for he lacked the artist vision.

Fortunately, the true vision is not a rare endowment. By the grace of God many of us are born with the sense of beauty; and even if we are gifted with but a tiny spark, this spark can be fostered until it grows into a clear and luminous flame whose light will trans-form the most commonplace scene or object into a vision of infinite loveliness. If we look always for beauty we shall come at last to find it in the most unexpected places and under many strange garbs. But the true vision means not only the power to see and to recognize beauty, but the power to see it stripped of all vulgarities and inessentials ; the power to see the soul of the thing and to grasp its essential beauty. For any landscape has a soul as well as a body. Its body is our great rock-ribbed mother-earth with her endless expanse of fields and hills, of rivers and surging seas. Its soul is the spirit of light—of sunlight, of moonlight, of starlight—which plays ceaselessly across the face of the landscape, veiling it at night in mystery and shadow, painting it at dawn with the colors of the pearl-shell, and bathing it at midday in a luminous glory. To this and to the ambient and all-enveloping atmosphere, with its clouds and its mists, its rain and its veiling haze, are due the infinite and ever-shifting moods of nature. He who paints the body alone may be an excel-lent craftsman, but the true artist is he who paints the beautiful body in-formed and irradiated by the still more lovely and fascinating spirit--he who renders the mood.

The painter who lacks this greatest of all gifts, or who, having it, failh to use it, might just as well scrape his palette and close his color-box, for his message to humanity will not be worth the telling.



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