On CopyingThe Art Of Painting - On Copying - 1, a brief series of articles on the art of painting and drawing
Firstly, there are innumerable and able writers who have dealt with the historical and intellectual aspects of these and kindred works. The most elegant litterateurs of the last century have spent their lives, not without effect, in such analyses of the arts, and to quote them here would confuse the issues and force me to overstep' the necessary limits of a manual which, to be fully useful, should be portable.
Our visit to these galleries is but a sequel to the preceding lessons, in which an attempt has been made to explain without elaboration two separate ways of working with an oil-painter's materials. In the galleries we have an opportunity of learning how, with the given processes and with variants on them, great results have been produced, or, I should say, appear to me to have been produced, by men who have mastered most of their possibilities.
However imaginative or otherwise gifted the painter may be, he has first of all to be a painter, a sound craftsman. The knowledge of his medium of expression and its capacities are his first essential requirement ; without it he is dumb—dumb as a thinker who is incapable of properly reducing his thoughts to words.
To teach the alphabet of our art and a few useful expressions, is the primary object attempted.
Advice has been given you during our visit to make copies of certain works. These should be begun after about a year's painting from the life ; and the experience gained in the making of such copies should be applied to the painting of succeeding studies from nature.
The order in which they are done should be decided by your weaknesses, and works should be selected as correctives. If, for instance, you are able to deal with broad masses and fail in finish, copy such a work as Van Eyck's small head of a man with the red head-dress. If, on the other hand, you are too much tied down to your outline and are too timid to depart from it, or are inclined to over-model, try " The Age of Innocence," or the dark head in Reynolds's " Portraits of Two Gentlemen." They should certainly check any tendency to smallness. Later on you may attempt Van Dyck's " Van der Geest," and the small " Philip IIV." by Velazquez. While painting the nude, first make a study of the two arms in " The Abduction of the Sabine Women " by Rubens, later " The Good Samaritan " by Hassan, and last of all Rembrandt's " Woman Bathing."
In every case select the picture which in your opinion, or, better still, in the opinion of others competent to advise you, is best calculated to counteract any obvious weakness to which your work leans.
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