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Corot

The sun sinks more and more behind the horizon. Bam! he throws his
last ray, a streak of gold and purple which fringes the flying
clouds. There, now it has entirely disappeared. Bien! bien! twilight
commences. Heavens, how charming it is! There is now in the sky only
the soft vaporous color of pale citron--the last reflection of the
sun which plunges into the dark blue of the night, going from green
tones to a pale turquoise of an unheard-of fineness and a fluid
delicacy quite indescribable.... The fields lose their color, the
trees form but gray or brown masses.... the dark waters reflect the
bland tones of the sky. We are losing sight of things--but one still
feels that everything is there--everything is vague, confused, and
Nature grows drowsy. The fresh evening air sighs among the leaves--
the birds, these voices of the flowers, are saying their evening
prayer.
--Corot's Letter to Graham

Most young artists begin by working for microscopic effects, trying
to portray every detail, to see every leaf, stem and branch and
reveal them in the picture.

The ability to draw carefully and finish painstakingly is very
necessary, but the great artist must forget how to draw before he
paints a great picture; just as every strong writer must put the
grammar upon the shelf before he writes well. I once heard William
Dean Howells say that any good, bright High-School girl of sixteen
could pass a far better examination in rhetoric than he could--and
the admission did Mr. Howells no discredit.

"Would you advise me to take a course in elocution?" once asked a
young man with oratorical ambitions of Henry Ward Beecher.

"Yes, by all means. Study elocution very carefully, but you will
have to forget it all before you ever become an orator," was the
answer.

Corot began as a child by drawing very rude, crude, uncertain
pictures, just such pictures as any schoolboy can draw. Next he
began to "complete" his sketches, and work with infinite pains. If
he sketched a house he showed whether the roof was shingled or made
of straw or tile; his trees revealed the texture of the bark and
showed the shape of the leaf, and every flower contained its pistil
and stamens, and told the man knew his botany. Two of his pictures
done in Rome in his twenty-ninth year, "The Colosseum" and "The
Forum," now in the Louvre, are good pictures--complete in detail,
painstaking, accurate, hard and tight in technique. They are bomb-
proof--beyond criticism--absolutely safe. Have a care, Corot! Keep
where you are and you will become an irreproachable painter. That is
to say, you will paint just like a hundred other French painters.
There will be a market for your wares, the critics will approve, and
at the Salon your work will never be either enskyed nor consigned to
the catacombs. Society will court you, fair ladies will smile and
encourage. You will be a success; your name will be safely
pigeonholed among the unobjectionable ones, and before your wind-
combed shock of hair has turned to silver, you will be supplanted by
a new crop of fashion's favorites.


It is a fact worth noting that the two greatest landscape-painters
of all time were city-born and city-bred. Turner was born in London,
the son of a barber, and Fate held him so in leash that he never got
beyond the sound of Bow Bells until he was a man grown. Corot was
born in Paris, and his first outdoor sketch, made at twenty-two, was
done amidst the din and jostle of the quays of the Seine.

Five strong men made up the Barbizon School, and of these, three
were reared in Paris--Paris the frivolous, Paris the pleasure-
loving. Corot, Rousseau and Daubigny were children of the
Metropolis.

I state these facts in the interests of truth, and also to ease
conscience, for I am aware that I have glorified the country boy in
pages gone before, as if God were kind to him alone.

Turner made over a million dollars by the work of his hands
(reinforced by head and heart); and left a discard of nineteen
thousand sketches to the British Nation. Was ever such an example of
concentration, energy and industry known in the history of art?
Corot, six feet one, weight two hundred, ruddy, simple, guileless,
singing softly to himself as he walked, in peasant blouse, and
sabot-shod, used to come up to Paris, his birthplace, two or three
times a year, and the gamins would follow him on the streets, making
remarks irrelevant and comments uncomplimentary, just as they might
follow old Joshua Whitcomb on Broadway in New York.

British grandees often dress like farmers, for pride may manifest
itself in simplicity, but the disinterested pose of Camille Corot,
if pose it was, fitted him as the feathers fit a wild duck. If pose
is natural it surely is not pose: and Corot, the simplest man in the
world, was regarded by the many as a man of mannerisms. His work was
so quiet and modest that the art world refused to regard it
seriously. Corot was as unpretentious as Walt Whitman and just as
free from vanity.

During the War of the Rebellion, Whitman bankrupted himself in purse
and body by caring for the stricken soldiers. At the siege of Paris,
Corot could have kept outside the barriers, but safety for himself
he would not accept. He remained in the city, refused every comfort
that he could not divide with others, spent all the money he had in
caring for the wounded, nursed the sick by night and day, listened
to the confessions of the dying, and closed the eyes of the dead. To
everybody, especially the simple folk, the plain, the unpretentious,
the unknown, he was "Papa Corot," and everywhere did the stalwart
old man of seventy-five carry hope, good-cheer and a courage that
never faltered.

Corot, like Whitman, had the happiness to have no history.

Corot used paint just as if no one had ever painted before, and
Whitman wrote as if he were the first man who had ever expressed
himself in verse--precedent stood for naught. Each had all the time
there was; they were never in a hurry; they loafed and invited their
souls; they loved all women so well that they never could make
choice of one; both were ridiculed and hooted and misunderstood;
recognition came to neither until they were about to depart; and yet
in spite of the continual rejection of their work, and the stupidity
that would not see, and the ribaldry of those who could not
comprehend, they continued serenely on their way, unruffled, kind--
making no apologies nor explanations--unresentful, with malice
toward none, and charity for all.

The world is still divided as to whether Walt Whitman was simply a
coarse and careless writer, without either skill, style or insight;
or one with such a subtle, spiritual vision, such a penetration into
the heart of things, that few comparatively can follow him.

During forty years of Corot's career the critics said, when they
deigned to mention Corot at all, "There are two worlds, God's World
and Corot's World." He was regarded as a harmless lunatic, who saw
things differently from others, and so they indulged him, and at the
Salon hung his pictures in the "Catacombs" with many a sly joke at
his expense. The expression, "Corot Nature," is with us yet.

But now the idea has gradually gained ground that Camille Corot
looked for beauty and found it--that he painted what he saw, and
that he saw things that the average man, through incapacity, never
sees at all. Science has taught us that there are sounds so subtle
that our coarse senses can not recognize them, and there are
thousands of tints, combinations and variations in color that the
unaided or uneducated eye can not detect.

If Corot saw more than we, why denounce Corot? And so Corot has
gradually and very slowly come into recognition as one who had power
plus--it was we who were weak, we who were faulty, not he. The
stones that were cast at him have been gathered up and cemented into
a monument to his memory.


The father of Camille Corot was a peasant who drifted over to Paris
to make his fortune. He was active, acute, intelligent and
economical--and when a Frenchman is economical his economy is of a
kind that makes the Connecticut brand look like extravagance.

This young man became a clerk in a drygoods-store that had a
millinery attachment, as most French drygoods-stores have. He was
precise, accurate, had a fair education, and always wore a white
cravat. In the millinery department of this store was employed,
among many others, a Swiss girl who had come up to Paris on her own
account to get a knowledge of millinery and dressmaking. When this
was gained she intended to go back to Switzerland, the land of
liberty and Swiss cheese, and there live out her life in her native
village making finery for the villagers for a consideration.

She did not go back to Switzerland, because she very shortly married
the precise young drygoods-clerk who wore the white cravat.

The Swiss are the most competent people on this globe of ours, which
is round like an orange and slightly flattened at the poles. There
is less illiteracy, less pauperism, less drunkenness, more general
intelligence, more freedom in Switzerland than in any other country
on earth. This has been so for two hundred years: and the reason,
some say, is that she has no standing army and no navy. She is
surrounded by big nations that are so jealous of her that they will
not allow each other to molest her. She is not big enough to fight
them. Being too little to declare war, she makes a virtue of
necessity and so just minds her own business. That is the only way
an individual can succeed--mind your own business--and it is also
the best policy with a nation.

The way the Swiss think things out with their heads and materialize
them with their hands is very wonderful. In all the Swiss schools
the pupils draw, sew, carve wood and make things. Pestalozzi was
Swiss, and Froebel was more Swiss than German. Manual Training and
the Kindergarten are Swiss ideas. All of our progress in the line of
pedagogy that the years have brought has consisted in carrying
Kindergarten Ideas into the Little Red Schoolhouse, and elsewhere.
The world is debtor to the Swiss--the carmine of their ideas has
tinted the whole thought-fabric of civilization.

The Swiss know how.

Skilled workmen from Switzerland are in demand everywhere.

That Swiss girl in the Paris shop was a skilled needlewoman, and the
good taste and talent she showed in her work was a joy to her
employers. There are hints that they tried to discourage her
marriage with the clerk in the white cravat. What a loss to the art
world if they had succeeded! But love is stronger than business
ambition, and so the milliner married the young clerk, and they had
a very modest little nest to which they flew when the day's work was
done.

In a year a domestic emergency made it advisable for the young woman
to stay at home, but she kept right along with her sewing. Some of
the customers hunted her up and wanted her to do work for them.

When the stress of the little exigency was safely passed, the young
mother found she could make more by working at home for special
customers. A girl was hired to help her, then two--three.

The rooms downstairs were secured, and a show-window put in. This
was at the corner of the Rue du Bac and the Pont Royal, within sight
of the Louvre. It is an easy place to find, and you had better take
a look at the site the next time you are in Paris--it is sacred
soil.

Corot has told us much about his mother--a Frenchman is apt to
regard his father simply as a necessary though often inconvenient
appendage, possibly absorbing the idea from the maternal side of the
house--but his mother is his solace, comforter and friend. The
mother of Corot was intelligent, industrious, tactful; sturdy in
body and strong in mind.

In due course of time she built up a paying business, bought the
house in which they lived, and laid by a goodly dot for her son and
two daughters. And all the time Corot pere wore the white cravat, a
precise smile for customers and an austere look for his family. He
held his old position as floorwalker and gave respectability to his
good-wife's Millinery and Dressmaking Establishment.

The father's ambition for Camille was that he should become a model
floorwalker, treading in the father's footsteps; and so, while yet a
child, the boy was put to work in a drygoods-store, with the idea of
discipline strong in mind.

And for this discipline, in after-years Corot was grateful. It gave
him the habit of putting things away, keeping accurate accounts,
systematizing his work; and throughout his forty years or more of
artistic life, it was his proud boast that he reached his studio
every morning at three minutes before eight.

Young Corot's mother had quite a little skill as a draftsman. In her
business she drew designs for patterns, and if the prospective
customer lacked imagination, she could draw a sketch of the garment
as it would look when completed.

Savage tribes make pictures long before they acquire an alphabet; so
do all children make pictures before they learn to read. The
evolution of the child mirrors the evolution of the race. Camille
made pictures just as all boys do, and his mother encouraged him in
this, and supplied him copies.

When he was set to work in the drygoods-store he made sketches under
the counter and often ornamented bundles with needless hieroglyphics.
But these things did not necessarily mean that he was to be a great
artist--thousands of drygoods-clerks have sketched and been drygoods-
clerks to the end of their days. But good drygoods-clerks should not
sketch too much or too well, else they will not rise in their career
and some day have charge of a Department.

Camille Corot did not get along at haberdashery--his heart was not
in it. He was not quite so bad as a certain budding, artistic genius
I once knew, who clerked in a grocery-store, and when a woman came
in and ordered a dozen eggs and a half-bushel of potatoes, the
genius counted out a dozen potatoes, and sent the customer a half-
bushel of eggs.

Then there was that absent-minded young drug-clerk who, when a
stranger entered and inquired for the proprietor, answered, "He's
out just at present, but we have something that is just as good."

Corot hadn't the ability to make folks think they needed something
they did not want--they only got what they wanted, after much
careful diplomacy and insistence. These things were a great cross to
Corot pere, and the dulness of the boy made the good father grow old
before his time--so the father alleged. Were the woes of parents
written in books, the world would not be big enough to contain the
books. Camille Corot was a failure--he was big, fat, lazy, and
tantalizingly good-natured. He haunted the Louvre, and stood open-
mouthed before the pictures of Claude Lorraine until the attendants
requested him to move on. His mother knew something of art, and they
used to discuss all the new pictures together. The father protested:
he declared that the mother was encouraging the boy in his
vacillation and dreaminess.

Camille lost his position. His father got him another place, and
after a month they laid him off for two weeks, and then sent him a
note not to come back. He hung around home, played the violin, and
sang for his mother's sewing-girls while they worked. The girls all
loved him--if the mother went out and left him in charge of the
shop, he gave all hands a play-spell until it was time for Madame to
return. His good nature was invincible. He laughed at the bonnets in
the windows, slyly sketched the customers who came to try on the
frivolities, and even made irrelevant remarks to his mother about
the petite fortune she was deriving from catering to dead-serious
nabobs who discussed flounces, bows, stays, and beribboned gewgaws
as though they were Eternal Verities.

"Mamma is a sculptor who improves upon Nature," one day Camille said
to the girls." If a woman hasn't a good form Madame Corot can supply
her such amorous proportions that lovers will straightway fall at
her feet." But such jocular remarks were never made to the father--
in his presence Camille was subdued and suspiciously respectful. The
father had "disciplined" him--but had done nothing else.

Camille had a companion in Achille Michallon, son of the sculptor,
Claude Michallon. Young Michallon modeled in clay and painted fairly
well, and it was he who, no doubt, fired the mind of young Corot to
follow an artistic career, to which Corot the elder was very much
opposed.

So matters drifted and Camille Corot, aged twenty-six, was a flat
failure, just as he had been for ten years. He hadn't self-reliance
enough to push out for himself, nor enough will to swing his parents
into his way of thinking. He was as submissive as a child; and would
not and could not do anything until he had gotten permission--thus
much for discipline.

Finally, in desperation, his father said: "Camille, you are of an
age when you should be at the head of a business; but since you
refuse to avail yourself of your opportunities and become a
merchant, why, then, I'll settle upon you the sum of three hundred
dollars a year for life and you can follow your own inclinations.
But depend upon it, you shall have no more than I have named. I am
done--now go and do what you want."

The words are authentic, being taken down from Corot's own lips; and
they sound singularly like that remark made to Alfred Tennyson by
his grandfather, "Here is a guinea for your poem, and depend upon
it, this is the first and last money you will ever receive for
poetry."

Camille was so delighted to hear his father's decision that he burst
into tears and embraced the austere and stern-faced parent in the
white cravat.

Straightway he would begin his artistic career, and having so
announced his intention to the sewing-girls in an impromptu operatic
aria, he took easel and paints and went down on the towpath to paint
his first outdoor picture.

Soon the girls came trooping after, in order to see Monsieur Camille
at his work. One girl, Mademoiselle Rose, stayed longer than the
rest. Corot told of the incident in Eighteen Hundred Fifty-eight--a
lapse of thirty years--and added: "I have not married--Mademoiselle
Rose has not married--she is alive yet, and only last week was here
to see me. Ah! what changes have taken place--I have that first
picture I painted yet--it is the same picture and still shows the
hour and the season, but Mademoiselle Rose and I, where are we?"


Turner and Corot trace back to the same artistic ancestor. It was
Claude who first fired the heart of the barber's boy, and it was
Claude who diluted the zeal of Camille Corot for ribbons and
haberdashery.

Turner stipulated in his will that a certain picture of his should
hang on the walls of the National Gallery by the side of a "Claude
Lorraine"; and today in the Louvre you can see, side by side, a
"Corot" and a "Claude." These men are strangely akin; yet, so far as
I know, Corot never heard of Turner. However, he was powerfully
influenced by Constable, the English painter, who was of the same
age as Turner, and for a time, his one bitter rival.

Claude had been dead a hundred years before Constable, Turner or
Corot was born. But time is an illusion; all souls are of one age,
and in spirit these men were contemporaries and brothers. Claude,
Corot and Turner never married--they were wedded to art. Constable
ripened fast; he got his reward of golden guineas, and society
caught him in its silken mesh. Success came faster than he was able
to endure it, and he fell a victim to fatty degeneration of the
cerebrum, and died of an acute attack of self-complacency.

It was about the year Eighteen Hundred Thirty-two that Constable
gave an exhibition of his work in Paris--a somewhat daring thing for
an Englishman to do. Paris had then, and has yet, about the same
estimate of English art that the English have now of ours--although
it is quite in order to explain in parentheses that three Americans,
Whistler, Sargent and Abbey, have recently called a halt on English
ribaldry as applied to American artists.

But John Constable's exhibit in Paris met with favor--the work was
singularly like the work of Claude Lorraine, the critics said. And
it was, for Constable had copied Claude conscientiously. Corot saw
the Englishman's pictures, realized that they were just such
pictures as he would like to paint, and so fell down and worshiped
them. For a year he dropped Claude and painted just like Constable.

There was a time when Turner and Constable painted just alike, for
they had the same master; but there came a day when Turner shoved
out from shore, and no man since has been able to follow him.

And no one can copy Corot. The work that he did after he attained
freedom and swung away from Claude and Constable has an illusive,
intangible, subtle and spiritual quality that no imitator can ever
catch on his canvas. Corot could not even copy his own pictures--his
work is born of the spirit. His effects are something beyond skill
of hand, something beyond mere knowledge of technique. You can copy
a Claude and you can copy a Constable, for the pictures have well-
defined outline and the forms are tangible. Claude was the first
painter who showed the shimmering sunlight on the leaves, the
upturned foliage of the silver poplar, the yellow willows bending
beneath the breeze, the sweep of the clouds across the sky, the play
of the waves across the seashore, the glistening dewdrops on the
grass, the soft stealing mists of twilight.

Constable did all this, too, and he did it as well as Claude, but no
better. He never got beyond the stage of microscopic portrayal; if
he painted a dewdrop he painted it, and his blades of grass, swaying
lily-stems, and spider-webs are the genuine articles.

Corot painted in this minute way for many years, but gradually he
evolved a daring quality and gave us the effect of dewdrops, the
spider-threads, the foliage, the tall lilies, without painting them
at all--he gives you the feeling, that is all, stirs the imagination
until the beholder, if his heart be in tune, sees things that only
the spiritual eye beholds.

The pale, silvery tones of Corot, the shadowy boundaries that
separate the visible from the invisible, can never be imitated
without the Master's penetration into the heart of Nature. He knew
things he could never explain, and he held secrets he could not
impart. Before his pictures we can only stand silent--he disarms
criticism and strikes the quibbler dumb. Before a Corot you had
better give way, and let its beauty caress your soul. His colors are
thin and very simple--there is no challenge in his work, as there is
in the work of Turner. Greens and grays predominate, and the plain
drab tones are blithe, airy, gracious, graceful and piquant as a
beautiful young Quaker woman clothed in the garb of simplicity and
humility--but a woman still. Corot coquettes with color--with pale
lilac, silver gray, and diaphanous green. He poetizes everything he
touches--quiet ponds, clumps of bushes, whitewashed cottages, simple
swards, yellow cows, blowsy peasants, woodland openings, stretching
meadows and winding streams--they are all full of divine suggestion
and joyous expectancy. Something is just going to happen--somebody
is coming, some one we love--you can almost detect a faint perfume,
long remembered, never to be forgotten. A Corot is a tryst with all
that you most admire and love best--it speaks of youth, joyous,
hopeful, expectant youth. The flavor is Grecian, and if the Greeks
had left us any paintings they would all have been just like
Corot's.


The bubbling, boyish good-cheer that Corot possessed is well shown
in a letter he once wrote to Stevens Graham. This letter was
written, without doubt, in that fine intoxication which comes after
work well done; and no greater joy ever comes to a mortal in life
than this.

George Moore tells somewhere of catching Corot in one of these moods
of rapture: the Master was standing alone on a log in the woods,
like a dancing faun, leading an imaginary orchestra with silent but
tremendous gusto. At other times, when Corot captured certain
effects in a picture, he would rush across the fields to where there
was a peasant plowing, and seizing the astonished man, would lead
him over and stand him before the canvas crying: "Look at that! Ah,
now, look at that! What did I tell you! You thought I never could
catch it--Oho, aha, ohe, tralala, la, la, la, loo!"

This willingness to let the unrestrained spirit romp was strong in
Corot--and it is to be recommended. How much finer it is to go out
into the woods and lift up your voice in song, and be a child, than
to fight inclination and waste good God-given energy endeavoring to
be proper--whatever that may be!

Corot never wrote anything finer than that letter to his friend
Graham, and, like all really good things, it was written with no
weather-eye on futurity. The thought that it might be published
never came to him, for if it had, he would probably have produced
something not worth publishing. It was scribbled off with a pencil,
hot from the heart, out of doors, immediately after having done a
particularly choice bit of work. Every one who writes of Corot
quotes this letter, and there are various translations of it. It can
not be translated literally, because the language in which it was
written is effervescent, flashing, in motion like a cascade. It
defies all grammar, forgets rhetoric, and simply makes you feel. I
have just as good a right to translate this letter as anybody, and
while I will add nothing that the spirit of the text does not
justify, I will omit a few things, and follow my own taste in the
matter of paragraphing.

So here is the letter:

A landscapist's day is divine. You are jealous of the moments, and
so are up at three o'clock--long before the sun sets you the
example.

You go out into the silence and sit under a tree, and watch and
watch and wait and wait.

It is very dark--the nightingales have gone to bed, all the
mysterious noises of night's forenoon have ceased--the crickets are
asleep, the tree-toad has found a nest--even the stars have slunk
away.

You wait.

There is scarcely anything to be seen at first--only dark, spectral
shapes that stand out against the blue-black of the sky.

Nature is behind a veil, upon which some masses of form are vaguely
sketched. The damp, sweet smell of the incense of Spring is in the
air--you breathe deeply--a sense of religious emotion sweeps over
you--you close your eyes an instant in a prayer of thankfulness that
you are alive.

You do not keep your eyes closed long, though--something is about to
happen--you grow expectant, you wait, you listen, you hold your
breath--everything trembles with a delight that is half-pain, under
the invigorating caress of the coming day.

You breathe fast, and then you hold your breath and listen.

You wait.

You peer.

You listen.

Bing! A ray of pale yellow light shoots from horizon to zenith. The
dawn does not come all at once: it steals upon you by leaps and
subtle strides like deploying pickets.

Bing! Another ray, and the first one is suffusing itself across an
arc of the purple sky.

Bing, Bing! The east is all aglow.

The little flowers at your feet are waking in joyful mood.

The chirrup of birds is heard. How they do sing! When did they
begin? You forgot them in watching the rays of light.

The flowers are each one drinking its drop of quivering dew.

The leaves feel the cool breath of the morning, and are moving to
and fro in the invigorating air.

The flowers are saying their morning prayers, accompanied by the
matin-song of the birds.

Amoretti, with gauzy wings, are perching on the tall blades of grass
that spring from the meadows, and the tall stems of the poppies and
field-lilies are swaying, swaying, swaying a minuet motion fanned by
the kiss of the gentle breeze.

Oh, how beautiful it all is! How good God is to send it! How
beautiful! how beautiful!

But merciful easel! I am forgetting to paint--this exhibition is for
me, and I'm failing to improve it. My palette--the brushes--there!
there!

We can see nothing--but you feel the landscape is there--quick now,
a cottage away over yonder is pushing out of the white mist. To
thine easel--go!

Oh! it's all there behind the translucent gauze--I know it--I know
it--I know it!

Now the white mist lifts like a curtain--it rises and rises and
rises.

Bam! the sun is risen.

I see the river, like a stretch of silver ribbon; it weaves in and
out and stretches away, away, away.

The masses of the trees, of the meads, the meadows--the poplars, the
leaning willows, are all revealed by the mist that is reeling and
rolling up the hillside.

I paint and I paint and I paint, and I sing and I sing and I paint!

We can see now all we guessed before.

Bam, Bam! The sun is just above the horizon--a great golden ball
held in place by spider-threads.

I can see the lace made by the spiders--it sparkles with the drops
of dew.

I paint and I paint and I sing and I paint.

Oh, would I were Joshua--I would command the sun to stand still.

And if it should, I would be sorry, for nothing ever did stand
still, except a bad picture. A good picture is full of motion.
Clouds that stand still are not clouds--motion, activity, life, yes,
life is what we want--life!

Bam! A peasant comes out of the cottage and is coming to the meadow.

Ding, ding, ding! There comes a flock of sheep led by a bellwether.
Wait there a minute, please, sheepy-sheepy, and a great man will
paint you.

All right then, don't wait. I didn't want to paint you anyway

Bam! All things break into glistening--ten thousand diamonds strew
the grasses, the lilies and the tall stalks of swaying poppies.
Diamonds on the cobwebs--diamonds everywhere. Glistening, dancing,
glittering light--floods of light--pale, wistful, loving light:
caressing, blushing, touching, beseeching, grateful light. Oh,
adorable light! The light of morning that comes to show you things--
and I paint and I paint and I paint.

Oh, the beautiful red cow that plunges into the wet grass up to her
dewlaps! I will paint her. There she is--there!

Here is Simon, my peasant friend, looking over my shoulder.

"Oho, Simon, what do you think of that?"

"Very fine," says Simon, "very fine!"

"You see what it is meant for, Simon?"

"Me? Yes, I should say I do--it is a big red rock."

"No, no, Simon, that is a cow."

"Well, how should I know unless you tell me," answers Simon.

I paint and I paint and I paint.

Boom! Boom! The sun is getting clear above the treetops.

It is growing hot.

The flowers droop.

The birds are silent.

We can see too much now--there is nothing in it. Art is a matter of
soul. Things you see and know all about are not worth painting--only
the intangible is splendid.

Let's go home. We will dine, and sleep, and dream. That's it--I'll
dream of the morning that would not tarry--I'll dream my picture
out, and then I'll get up and smoke, and complete it, possibly--who
knows!

Let's go home.

* * * * *

Bam! Bam! It is evening now--the sun is setting. I didn't know the
close of the day could be so beautiful--I thought the morning was
the time.

But it is not just right--the sun is setting in an explosion of
yellow, of orange, of rouge-feu, of cherry, of purple.

Ah! it is pretentious, vulgar. Nature wants me to admire her--I will
not. I'll wait--the sylphs of the evening will soon come and
sprinkle the thirsty flowers with their vapors of dew.

I like sylphs--I'll wait.

Boom! The sun sinks out of sight, and leaves behind a tinge of
purple, of modest gray touched with topaz--ah! that is better. I
paint and I paint and I paint.

Oh, Good Lord, how beautiful it is--how beautiful! The sun has
disappeared and left behind a soft, luminous, gauzy tint of lemon--
lemons half-ripe. The light melts and blends into the blue of the
night.

How beautiful! I must catch that--even now it fades--but I have it:
tones of deepening green, pallid turquoise, infinitely fine,
delicate, fluid and ethereal.

Night draws on. The dark waters reflect the mysteries of the sky--
the landscape fades, vanishes, disappears--we can not see it now, we
only feel it is there.

But that is enough for one day--Nature is going to sleep, and so
will we, soon. Let us just sit silent a space and enjoy the
stillness.

The rising breezes are sighing through the foliage, and the birds,
choristers of the flowers, are singing their vesper-songs--calling,
some of them, plaintively for their lost mates.

Bing! A star pricks its portrait in the pond.

All around now is darkness and gloom--the crickets have taken up the
song where the birds left off.

The little lake is sparkling, a regular ant-heap of twinkling stars.

Reflected things are best--the waters are only to reflect the sky--
Nature's looking-glass.

The sun has gone to rest; the day is done. But the Sun of Art has
arisen, and my picture is complete.


Let us go home.


The Barbizon School--which, by the way, was never a school, and if
it exists now is not at Barbizon--was made up of five men: Corot,
Millet, Rousseau, Diaz and Daubigny.

Corot saw it first--this straggling little village of Barbizon,
nestling there at the foot of the Forest of Fontainebleau, thirty-
five miles southeast of Paris. This was about the year Eighteen
Hundred Thirty. There was no market then for Corot's wares, and the
artist would have doubted the sanity of any one who might have
wanted to buy. His income was one dollar a day--and this was enough.
If he wanted to go anywhere, he walked; and so he walked into
Barbizon one day, his pack on his back, and found there a little
inn, so quaint and simple that he stayed two days.

The landlord quite liked the big, jolly stranger. Hanging upon his
painting outfit was a mandolin, a harmonica, a guitar and two or
three other small musical instruments of nondescript pedigree. The
painter made music for the village, and on invitation painted a
sketch on the tavern-wall to pay for his board. And this sketch is
there even to this day, and is as plain to be seen as the splash of
ink on the wall at Eisenach where Martin Luther threw the ink-bottle
at the devil.

When Corot went back to Paris he showed sketches of Barbizon and
told of the little snuggery, where life was so simple and cheap.

Soon Rousseau and Diaz went down to Barbizon for a week's stay--
later came Daubigny.

In the course of a few years Barbizon grew to be a kind of excursion
point for artistic and ragged Bohemians, most of whom have done
their work, and their little life is now rounded with a sleep.

Rousseau, Diaz and Daubigny, all younger men than Corot, made
comfortable fortunes long before Corot got the speaker's eye; and
when at last recognition came to him, not the least of their claim
to greatness was that they had worked with him.

It was not until Eighteen Hundred Forty-nine that Jean Francois
Millet with his goodly brood was let down from the stage at
Barbizon, to work there for twenty-six years, and give himself and
the place immortality. For when we talk of the Barbizon School, we
have the low tones of "The Fagot-Gatherer" in mind--the browns, the
russets and the deep, dark yellows fading off into the gloom of
dying day.

And only a few miles away, clinging to the hillside, is By, where
lived Rosa Bonheur--too busy to care for Barbizon, or if she thought
of the "Barbizon School" it was with a fine contempt, which the
"School" returned with usurious interest.

At the Barbizon Inn the Bohemians used to sing songs about the
Bonheur breeches, and "the Lady who keeps a Zoo." The offense of
Rosa Bonheur was that she minded her own business, and sold the
"Horse Fair" for more money than the entire Barbizon School had ever
earned in its lifetime.

Only two names loom large out of Barbizon. Daubigny, Diaz and
Rousseau are great painters, and they each have disciples and
imitators who paint as well as they; but Corot and Millet stand out
separate and alone, incomprehensible and unrivaled.

And yet were ever two artists more unlike! Just compare "The Dancing
Sylphs" and "The Gleaners." The theme of all Millet's work is, "Man
goeth forth to his labors unto the evening." Toil, hardship, heroic
endurance, plodding monotony, burdens grievous to be borne--these
things cover the canvases of Millet. All of his deep sincerity, his
abiding melancholy, his rugged nobility are there; for every man who
works in freedom simply reproduces himself. That is what true work
is--self-expression, self-revelation. The style of Millet is so
strongly marked, so deeply etched, that no man dare imitate it. It
is covered by a perpetual copyright, signed and sealed with the
life's blood of the artist. Then comes Corot the joyous, Corot the
careless, Corot who had no troubles, no sorrows, no grievances, and
not an enemy that he recognized as such. He even loved Rosa Bonheur,
or would, he once said, "If she would only chain up her dog, and
wear woman's clothes!" Corot, singing at his work, unless he was
smoking, and if he was smoking, removing his pipe only to lift up
his voice in song: Corot, painting and singing--"Ah ha--tra la la.
Now I 'll paint a little boy--oho, oho, tra lala la loo--lal loo--
oho--what a nice little boy--and here comes a cow; hold that, bossy
--in you go for art's dear sake--tra la la la, la loo!"

Look at a Corot closely and listen, and you can always hear the echo
of the pipes o' Pan. Lovers sit on the grassy banks, children roll
among the leaves, sylphs dance in every open, and out from between
the branches lightly steps Orpheus, harp in hand, to greet the morn.
Never is there a shadow of care in a Corot--all is mellow with love,
ripe with the rich gift of life, full of prayer and praise just for
the rapture of drinking in the day--grateful for calm, sweet rest
and eventide.

Corot, eighteen years the senior of Millet, was the first to welcome
the whipped-out artist to Barbizon. With him Corot divided his
scanty store; he sang and played his guitar at the Millet
hearthstone when he had nothing but himself to give; and when, in
Eighteen Hundred Seventy-five, Millet felt the chill night of death
settling down upon him, and the fear that want would come to his
loved ones haunted his dreams, Corot assured him by settling upon
the family the sum of one thousand francs a year, until the youngest
child should become of age, and during Madame Millet's life.

So died Jean Francois Millet.

In Eighteen Hundred Eighty-nine "The Angelus" was bought by an
American Syndicate for five hundred eighty thousand francs. In
Eighteen Hundred Ninety it was bought back by agents of the French
Government for seven hundred fifty thousand francs, and now has
found a final resting-place in the Louvre.

Within a few months after the death of Millet, Corot, too, passed
away.


Corot is a remarkable example of a soul ripening slowly. His skill
was not at its highest until he was seventy-one years of age. He
then had eight years of life and work left, and he continued even to
the end. In his art there was no decline.

It can not be said that he received due recognition until he was
approaching his seventy-fifth year, for it was then, for the first
time, that the world of buyers besieged his door. The few who had
bought before were usually friends who had purchased with the
amiable idea of helping a worthy man.

During the last few years of Corot's life, his income was over fifty
thousand francs a year--"more than I received for pictures during my
whole career," he once said. And then he shed tears at parting with
the treasures that had been for so long his close companions.

"You see, I am a collector," he used to say, "but being poor, I have
to paint all my pictures myself--they are not for sale."

And probably he would have kept his collection unbroken were it not
that he wanted the money so much to give away.

Of the painters classed in the Barbizon School, it is probable that
Corot will live longest, and will continue to occupy the highest
position. His art is more individual than Rousseau's, more poetic
than that of Daubigny, and in every sense more beautiful than that
of Millet. When Camille Corot passed out, on the Twenty-second of
February, Eighteen Hundred Seventy-five, he was the best-loved man
in Paris. Five thousand art-students wore crape on their arms for a
year in memory of "Papa Corot," a man who did his work joyously,
lived long, and to the end carried in his heart the perfume of the
morning, and the beneficent beauty of the sunrise.

Elbert Hubbard

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