« ForrigeFortsett »
to idleness, that there is nothing in our art which enforces such continual exertion and circumspection, as an attention to the general effect of the whole. It requires much study and much practice; it requires the painter's entire mind; whereas the parts may be finishing by nice touches, while his mind is engaged on other matters; he may even hear a play or a novel read without much disturbance. The artist who flatters his own indolence, will continually find himself evading this active exertion, and applying his thoughts to the ease and laziness of highly finishing the parts; producing at last what Cowley calls “ laborious effects of idleness."
No work can be too much finished, provided the diligence employed be directed to its proper object; but I have observed that an excessive labour in the detail has, nine times in ten, been pernicious to the general effect, even when it has been the labour of great masters. It indicates a bad choice, which is an ill setting out in any undertaking.
To give a right direction to your industry, has been my principal purpose in this discourse. It is this, which I am confident often makes the difference between two students of equal capacities, and of equal industry. While the one is employing his labour on minute objects of little consequence, the other is acquiring the art, and perfecting the habit, of seeing nature in an extensive view, in its proper proportions, and its due subordination of parts. ,
Before I conclude, I must make one observation sufficiently connected with the present subject.
The same extension of mind which gives the excellence of genius to the theory and mechanical practice of the art, will direct him likewise in the method of study, and give him the superiority over those who narrowly follow a more confined track of partial imitation. Whoever, in order to finish his education, should travel to Italy, and spend his whole time there only in copying pictures, and measuring statues or buildings (though these things are not to be neglected), would return with little improvement. He that imitates the Iliad, says Dr. Young, is not imitating Homer. It is not by laying up in the memory the particular details of any of the great works of art that any man becomes a great artist, if he stops without making himself master of the general principles on which these works are conducted. If he ever hopes to rival those whom ke admires, he must consider their works as the means of teaching him the true art of seeing nature. When this is acquired, he then may be said to have appropriated their powers, or at least the foundation of their powers, to himself; the rest must depend upon his own industry and application. The great business of study is, to form a mind, adapted and adequate to all times and all occasions; to which all nature is then laid open, and which may be said to possess the key of her inexhaustible riches.
DELIVERED TO THE STUDENTS OF
THE ROYAL ACADEMY,
ON THE .
DISTRIBUTION OF THE PRIZES,
DECEMBER 10, 1784.
Particular methods of Study of little consequence.
Little of the Art can be taught.-Love of method often a love of idleness.-Pittori Improvvisatori apt to be careless and incorrect; seldom original and striking. This proceeds from their not study: ing the works of other Masters.
IN consequence of the situation in which I have the honour to be placed in this Academy, it has often happened, that I have been consulted by the young students who intend to spend some years in Italy, concerning the method of regulating their studies. I am, as I ought to be, solicitously desirous to communicate the entire result of my experience and observation; and though my openness and facility in giving my opinions might make some amends for whatever was defective in them, yet I fear my answers have not often given satisfaction. Indeed, I have never been sure, that I