Some years ago a literary friend who was about to write a story, the hero of which was to be a painter, proposed such a visit with me to the galleries.
It was no easy matter to discuss technical excellences with a writer who had but a layman's knowledge of the pictorial ; for the essential virtues of a work of art with a big "A" are just those which have no counterpart in any other medium of thought. Line, colour, technique, chiaroscuro have neither their exact literary nor musical parallels, and though in describing them we seek the aid of terms that more properly appertain to these other arts, the specific significance of such terms is adequately followed only by those conversant with the painter's craft. The cultivated observer may be moved to admiration by a well balanced composition, a fine flow of lines, without possessing the power to probe the secret of their appeal. A happy colour scheme is enjoyed by many, but the why and the wherefore are perceived by him alone who has attempted such harmonies ; and so it is with the subtleties of tone, colour-modelling, freedom of handling, learned draughtsmanship, and with all the aesthetic accomplishments, in which the conceptions of the masters are clothed. You, my reader, will have some idea of these purely aesthetic qualities, gained by the practice of your craft ; and by seeking models in which are revealed the highest expressions of which the simple materials are capable, in the hands of your great predecessors, you will increase your resources and augment the critical faculty inseparable from serious achievement.
The earliest and Gothic pictures are so far removed from modern practice that it will be advisable to concentrate our attention on the more developed forms ; for, with the exception of a few obvious differences, the practice of the earlier oil-painters in Italy and elsewhere is borrowed from Flemish crafts, to the main principles of which allusion is made.
VENUS, CUPID, FOLLY, AND TIME