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dependence on your practice or memory, however strong those impressions may have been which are there deposited. They are for ever wearing out, and will be at last obliterated, unless they are continually refreshed and repaired.
It is not uncommon to meet with artists who, from a long neglect of cultivating this necessary intimacy with Nature, do not even know her when they see her ; she appearing a stranger to them, from their being so long habituated to their own representation of her. have heard Painters acknowledge, though in that acknowledgment no degradation of themselves was intended, that they could do better without Nature than with her; or, as they expressed it themselves, that it only put them out. A painter with such ideas and such habits, is indeed in a most hopeless state. The art of seeing Nature, or, in other words, the art of using Models, is in reality the great object, the point to which all our studies are directed.
As for the power of being able to do tolerably well, from practice alone, let it be valued according to its worth. But I do not see in what manner it can be sufficient for the production of correct, excellent, and finished Pictures. Works deserving this character never were produced, nor ever will arise, from memory alone; and I will venture to say, that an artist who brings to his work a mind tolerably furnished with the general principles of Art, and a taste formed upon the works of good Artists, in short, who knows in what excellence consists, will, with the assistance of Models, which we will likewise suppose he has learnt the art of using, be an over-match for the greatest painter that ever lived who should be debarred such advantages.
Our neighbours, the French, are much in this practice of extempore invention, and their dexterity is such
even to excite admiration, if not envy; but how rarely can this praise be given to their finished pictures !
The late Director of their Academy, Boucher, was eminent in this way.
When I visited him some years since in France, I found him at work on a very large Picture, without drawings or models of any kind.
kind. On my remarking this particular circumstance, he said, when he was young, studying his art, he found it necessary to use models; but he had left them off for many years.
Such Pictures as this was, and such as I fear always will be produced by those who work solely from practice or memory, may be a convincing proof of the necessity of the conduct which I have recommended. However, in justice I cannot quit this Painter without adding, that in the former part of his life, when he was in the habit of having recourse to nature, he was not without a considerable degree of merit, -enough to make half the Painters of his country his imitators ; he had often grace and beauty, and good skill in composition; but I think all under the influence of a bad taste : his imitators are indeed abominable.
Those Artists who have quitted the service of nature, (whose service, when well understood, is perfect freedom,) and have put themselves under the direction of I know not what capricious fantastical mistress, who fascinates and overpowers their whole mind, and from whose dominion there are no hopes of their being ever reclaimed, ( since they appear perfectly satisfied, and not at all conscious of their forlorn situation,) like the transformed followers of Comus,
Not once perceive their foul disfigurement;
Methinks, such men, who have found out so short a path, have no reason to complain of the shortness of life, and the extent of art ; since life is so much longer than is wanted for their improvement, or indeed is necessary for the accomplishment of their idea of perfection. On the contrary, he who recurs to nature, at every recurrence renews his strength. The rules of art he is never likely to forget; they are few and simple ; but nature is refined, subtle, and infinitely various, beyond the power and retention of
memory; it is
necessary, therefore, to have continual recourse to her. In this intercourse, there is no end of his improvement; the longer he lives, the nearer he approaches to the true and perfect idea of art.
Delivered to the Students of the Royal Academy, on the Distribu
tion of the Prizes, December 11. 1786.
ART NOT MERELY IMITATION, BUT UNDER THE DIRECTION OF THE
IMAGINATION.-IN WHAT MANNER POETRY, PAINTING, ACTING, GARDENING, AND ARCHITECTURE, DEPART FROM NATURE.
To discover beauties, or to point out faults, in the works of celebrated Masters, and to compare the conduct of one Artist with another, is certainly no mean or inconsiderable part of criticism; but this is still no more than to know the art through the Artist. This test of investigation must have two capital defects ; it must be narrow, and it must be uncertain. To enlarge the boundaries of the Art of Painting, as well as to fix its principles, it will be necessary, that, that art, and those principles, should be considered in their correspondence with the principles of the other arts, which, like this, address themselves primarily and principally to the imagination. When those connected and kindred principles are brought together to be compared, another comparison will grow out of this ; that is, the comparison of them all with those of human nature, from whence arts derive the materials upon which they are to produce their effects.
When this comparison of art with art, and of all arts with the nature of man, is once made with success, our guiding lines are as well ascertained and established as they can be in matters of this description.
This, as it is the highest style of criticism, is at the same time the soundest ; for it refers to the eternal and immutable nature of things.
You are not to imagine that I mean to open to you at large, or to recommend to your research, the whole of this vast field of science. It is certainly much above my faculties to reach it; and though it may not be above yours to comprehend it fully, if it were fully and properly brought before you, yet perhaps the most perfect criticism requires habits of speculation and abstraction, not very consistent with the employment which ought to occupy, and the habits of mind which ought to prevail in a practical Artist. I only point out to you these things, that when you do criticise, (as all who work on a plan will criticise more or less,) your criticism
be built on the fonndation of true principles; and that though you may not always travel a great way,
be the right road.
I observe, as a fundamental ground, common to all the Arts with which we have any concern in this discourse, that they address themselves only to two faculties of the mind, its imagination and its sensibility.
All theories which attempt to director to control the Art, upon any principles falsely called rational, which we form to ourselves upon a supposition of what ought in reason to be the end or means of Art, independent of the known first effect produced by objects on the imagination, must be false and delusive. For though it may appear bold to say it, the imagination is here the residence of truth. If the imagination be affected, the conclusion is fairly drawn; if it be not affected, the reasoning is erroneous, because the end is not obtained; the effect itself being the test,