Methods Of The Masters 1

THERE is no study more stimulating, more steadying, or more profitable to the practising student than a close and intelligent examination of the works of the masters, of the expanding of their individual powers, and the influence of each school of artistic thought on those that follow it.
Many learned and exhaustive treatises have been written, dealing mainly with art in its historic and philosophic aspects, and a few by craftsmen for craftsmen, with some of which all serious painters should be acquainted ; but they are so encyclopaedic, and often so diffuse, that the average student cannot find the necessary leisure to do more than consult them as books of reference.
There are, however, works of the nature of Mr. Hamerton's " Graphic Arts," Eastlake's "Materials," and Mrs. Merrifield's " Ancient Practice of Painting," to which I have reason to refer, and which are indispensable to a knowledge of the developments of the Arts ; for they contain much trustworthy information on all questions relating to the materials and the methods of men whose works it shall be, I hope, our pleasant duty in the course of these few pages to discuss.
I propose that my reader, with this manual in hand, accompany me in imagination on a visit to the National Gallery.
Technical remarks and criticisms, to have any practical value, must be made "warm" with the picture or fragment of a work under one's eye. So I may be pardoned for choosing a gallery to which repeated visits are possible to me, thus placing me in a position to select just those intimate passages of the particular works which are best calculated to illustrate the technical points to which attention is here called.
The ingenious student to whom this metropolis is but a name should have little difficulty in applying the observations made before works of any given artist to the examples of such masters accessible to him—observations which I trust will be sufficiently characteristic and representative as to be so applicable.
There are some pictures in the galleries which I should advise my students to copy, and the instructions given as to the method to be pursued embody some of the traditions which are preserved to us, and the result of a minute examina- tion of the pictures themselves and the processes that appear, at least to me, to have been followed in their execution. One cannot, of course, dogmatise about methods of which the painter himself might not always in the heat of production have been conscious ; but I shall give my reasons for the conclusions at which I arrive, which I trust may aid you in researches that should always be made before you attempt to copy any works of the kind.
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