Short Stories
All Titles

In Association with Amazon.com

Home > Authors Index > Browse all available works of John Brown > Text of Notes On Art

An essay by John Brown

Notes On Art

Title:     Notes On Art
Author: John Brown [More Titles by Brown]


[1] Originally prefixed to a Criticism on some paintings in the Scottish Academy.

"_The use of this feigned history" (the Ideal Arts of Poesy, Painting, Music, &c.;) "hath been to give_ SOME SHADOW OF SATISFACTION TO THE MIND OF MAN IN THESE POINTS WHEREIN THE NATURE OF THINGS DOTH DENY IT, _the world being in proportion inferior to the soul; by reason whereof, there is, agreeable to the spirit of man_, A MORE AMPLE GREATNESS, A MORE EXACT GOODNESS AND A MORE ABSOLUTE VARIETY, _than can be found in the nature of things. So it appeareth that Poesy" (and the others) "serveth and conferreth to magnanimity, morality, and to delectation. And therefore it was even thought to have some participation of divineness because_ IT DOTH RAISE AND DIRECT THE MIND, BY SUBMITTING THE SHEWS OF THINGS TO THE DESIRES OF THE MIND; _whereas reason" (science, philosophy) "doth buckle and bow the mind to the nature of things._"--OF THE PROFICIENCE AND ADVANCEMENT OF LEARNING.

"_To look on noble forms
Makes noble through the sensuous organism
That which is higher._"--THE PRINCESS.

One evening in the spring of 1846, as my wife and I were sitting at tea, _Parvula_ in bed, and the Sputchard reposing, as was her wont, with her rugged little brown forepaws over the edge of the fender, her eyes shut, toasting, and all but roasting herself at the fire,--a note was brought in, which from its fat, soft look, by a hopeful and not unskilled _palpation_ I diagnosed as that form of lucre which in Scotland may well be called filthy. I gave it across to Madam, who, opening it, discovered four five-pound notes, and a letter addressed to me. She gave _it_ me. It was from Hugh Miller, editor of the _Witness_ newspaper, asking me to give him a notice of the Exhibition of the Scottish Academy then open, in words I now forget, but which were those of a thorough gentleman, and enclosing the aforesaid fee. I can still remember, or indeed feel the kind of shiver, half of fear and pleasure, on encountering this temptation; but I soon said, "You know I can't take this; I can't write; I never wrote a word for the press." She, with "wifelike government," kept the money, and heartened me to write, and write I did but with awful sufferings and difficulty, and much destruction of sleep. I think the only person who suffered still more must have been the compositor. Had this packet not come in, and come in when it did, and had the _Sine Qua Non_ not been peremptory and retentive, there are many chances to one I might never have plagued any printer with my bad hand and my endless corrections, and general incoherency in all transactions as to proofs.

I tell this small story, partly for my own pleasure, and as a tribute to that remarkable man, who stands alongside of Burns, and Scott, Chalmers, and Carlyle, the foremost Scotsmen of their time,--a rough, almost rugged nature, shaggy with strength, clad with zeal as with a cloak, in some things sensitive and shamefaced as a girl; moody and self-involved, but never selfish, full of courage, and of keen insight into nature and men, and the principles of both, but simple as a child in the ways of the world; self-taught and self-directed, argumentative and scientific, as few men of culture have ever been, and yet with more imagination than either logic or knowledge; to the last as shy and _blate_ as when working in the quarries at Cromarty. In his life a noble example of what our breed can produce, of what energy, honesty, intensity, and genius can achieve; and in his death a terrible example of that revenge which the body takes upon the soul when brought to bay by its inexorable taskmaster. I need say no more. His story is more tragic than any tragedy. Would to God it may warn those who come after to be wise in time, to take the same--I ask no more--care of their body, which is their servant, their beast of burden, as they would of their horse.

Few men are endowed with such a brain as Hugh Miller--huge, active, concentrated, keen to fierceness; and therefore few men need fear, even if they misuse and overtask theirs as he did, that it will turn, as it did with him, and rend its master. But as assuredly as there is a certain weight, which a bar of iron will bear and no more, so is there a certain weight of work which the organ by which we act, by which we think, and feel, and will--cannot sustain, blazing up into brief and ruinous madness, or sinking into idiocy. At the time he wrote to me, Mr. Miller and I were strangers, and I don't think I ever spoke to him: but his manner of doing the above act made me feel, that in that formidable and unkempt nature there lay the delicacy, the generosity, the noble trustfulness of a gentleman born--not made.

Most men have, and almost every man should have a hobby: it is exercise in a mild way, and does not take him away from home; it diverts him; and by having a double line of rails, he can manage to keep the permanent way in good condition. A man who has only one object in life, only one line of rails, who exercises only one set of faculties, and these only in one way, will wear himself out much sooner than a man who shunts himself every now and then, and who has trains coming as well as going; who takes in as well as gives out.

My hobby has always been pictures, and all we call Art. I have fortunately never been a practitioner, though I think I could have made a tolerable hand; but unless a man is a thoroughly good artist, he injures his enjoyment, generally speaking, of the art of others. I am convinced, however, that to enjoy art thoroughly, every man must have in him the possibility of doing it as well as liking it. He must feel it in his fingers, as well as in his head and at his eyes; and it must find its way from all the three to his heart, and be emotive.

Much has been said of the power of Art to refine men, to soften their manners, and make them less of wild beasts. Some have thought it omnipotent for this; others have given it as a sign of the decline and fall of the nobler part of us. Neither is, and both are true. Art does, as our Laureate says, make nobler in us what is higher than the senses through which it passes; but it can only make nobler what is already noble; it cannot regenerate, neither can it of itself debase and emasculate and bedevil mankind; but it is a symptom, and a fatal one, when Art ministers to a nation's vice, and glorifies its naughtiness--as in old Rome, as in Oude--as also too much in places nearer in time and place than the one and the other. The truth is, Art, unless quickened from above and from within, has in it nothing beyond itself, which is visible beauty--the ministration to the lust, the desire of the eye. But apart from direct spiritual worship, and self-dedication to the Supreme, I do not know any form of ideal thought and feeling which may be made more truly to subserve, not only magnanimity, but the purest devotion and godly fear; by fear meaning that mixture of love and awe, which is specific of the realization of our relation to God. I am not so silly as to seek painters to paint religious pictures in the usual sense; for the most part, I know nothing so profoundly profane and godless as our sacred pictures; and I can't say I like our religious beliefs to be symbolized, even as Mr. Hunt has so grandly done in his picture of the Light of the World. But if a painter is himself religious; if he feels God in what he is looking at, and in what he is rendering back on his canvas; if he is impressed with the truly divine beauty, infinity, perfection, and meaning of unspoiled material nature--the earth and the fulness thereof, the heaven and all its hosts, the strength of the hills, the sea and all that is therein; if he is himself impressed with the divine origin and divine end of all visible things,--then will he paint religious pictures and impress men religiously, and thus make good men listen, and possibly make bad men good. Take the landscapes of our own Harvey. He is my dear old friend of thirty years, and his power as a painter is only less than his fidelity and ardor as a friend, and that than his simple, deep-hearted piety; I never see one of his transcripts of nature, be they solemn and full of gloom, with a look "that threatens the profane;" or laughing all over with sunshine and gladness, but I feel something beyond, something greater and more beautiful than their greatness and their beauty--the idea of God, of the beginning and the ending, the first and the last, the living One; of whom, and through whom, and to whom are all things; who is indeed God over all, blessed forever; and whom I would desire, in all humbleness of mind, to sanctify in my heart, and to make my fear and my dread. This is the true moral use of Art, to quicken and deepen and enlarge our sense of God. I don't mean so much our belief in certain articulate doctrines, though I am old-fashioned enough to think that we must know what as well as in whom we believe--that our religion, like everything else, must "have its seat in reason, and be judicious;" I refer rather to that temper of the soul, that mood of the mind in which we feel the unseen and eternal, and bend under the power of the world to come.

In my views as to the office of the State I hold with John Locke and Coventry Dick,[2] that its primary, and probably its only function is to protect us from our enemies and from ourselves; that to it is intrusted by the people "the regulation of physical force;" and that it is indeed little more than a transcendental policeman. This is its true sphere, and here lies its true honor and glory. When it intermeddles with other things,--from your Religion, Education, and Art, down to the number, and size, and metal of your buttons, it goes out of its line and fails; and I am convinced that with some benefits, specious and partial, our Government interference has, in the main and in the long run, done harm to the real interests of Art. Spontaneity, the law of free choice, is as much the life of Art as it is of marriage, and it is not less beyond the power of the State to choose the nation's pictures, than to choose its wives. Indeed there is a great deal on the physiological side to be said for law interfering in the matter of matrimony. I would certainly make it against law, as it plainly is against nature, for cousins-german to marry; and if we could pair ourselves as we pair our live stock, and give ear to the teaching of an enlightened zooenomy, we might soon drive many of our fellest diseases out of our breed; but the law of personality, of ultroneousness, of free will, that which in a great measure makes us what we are, steps in and forbids anything but the convincement and force of reason. Much in the same way, though it be a more trivial matter, pleasure, in order to please, must be that which you yourself choose. You cannot make an Esquimaux forswear train oil, and take to tea and toast like ourselves, still less to boiled rice like a Hindoo; neither can you all at once make a Gilmerton carter prefer Raphael and claret to a glass of raw whiskey and the _Terrific Register_. Leviathan is not so tamed or taught. And our Chadwicks and Kaye Shuttleworths and Coles--kings though they may be--enlightened, energetic, earnest, and as full of will as an egg is full of meat, cannot in a generation make the people of England as intelligent as themselves, or as fond and appreciative of the best Art as Mr. Ruskin. Hence all their plans are failing and must fail; and I cannot help thinking that in the case of Art, the continuance of the Cole dynasty is not to be prayed for very much. As far as I can judge, it has done infinitely more harm than good. These men think they are doing a great work, and, worse still, the country thinks so too, and helps them, whereas I believe they are retarding the only wholesome, though slow growth of knowledge and taste.

[2] In the thin octavo, _The Office of the State_, and in its twin volume on _Church Polity_, there will be found in clear, strong, and singularly candid language, the first lines of the sciences of Church and State politics. It does not say much for the sense and perspicuity of the public mind, if two such books are allowed to fall aside, and such a _farrago_ of energetic nonsense and error as Mr. Buckle's first, and we trust last, volume on Civilization, is read and admired, and bought, with its bad logic, its bad facts, and its had conclusions. In bulk and in value his volume stands in the same relation to Mr. Dick's, as a handful, I may say a _gowpen_ of chaff does to a grain of wheat, or a bushel of sawdust to an ounce of meal.

Take the Kensington Museum: the only thing there (I speak in all seriousness) worth any man spending an hour or a shilling upon, are the Sheepshank and Turner galleries; all those costly, tawdry, prodigious, and petty displays of arts and manufactures, I look upon as mere delusions and child's play. Take any one of them, say the series illustrating the cotton fabrics; you see the whole course of cotton from its _Alpha_ to its _Omega_, in the neatest and prettiest way. What does that teach? what impression does that make upon any young mind? Little beyond mere vapid wonder. The eye is opened, but not filled; it is a stare, not a look.

If you want to move, and permanently rivet, a young mind with what is worth the knowing, with what is to deepen his sense of the powers of the human mind, and the resources of nature, and the grandeur of his country, take him to a cotton-mill. Let him hear and come under the power of that wonderful sound pervading the whole vast house, and filling the air with that diapason of regulated, harmonious energy. Let him enter it, and go round with a skilled workman, and then follow the _Alpha_ through all its marvellous transformations to the _Omega_; do this, and you bring him out into the fresh air not only more knowing, but more wise. He has got a lesson. He has been impressed. The same with calico-printing, and pottery, and iron-founding, and, indeed, the whole round of that industry which is our glory. Do you think a boy will get half the good from the fine series of ores and specimens of pig-iron, and all the steels he may see in cold blood, and with his grandmother or his sweetheart beside him at Kensington, that he will from going into Dixon's foundry at Govan, and seeing the half-naked men toiling in that place of flame and energy and din--watching the mighty shears and the Nasmyth-hammers, and the molten iron kneaded like dough, and planed and shaved like wood; he gets the dead and dissected body in the one case; he sees and feels the living spirit and body working as one, in the other. And upon all this child's-play, this mere make-believe, our good-natured nation is proud of spending some half-million of money. Then there is that impertinent, useless, and unjust system of establishing Government Schools of Design in so many of our towns, avowedly, and, I believe (though it is amazing that clever men should do such a foolish thing), honestly, for the good of the working-classes, but actually and lamentably, and in every way harmfully, for the amusement and benefit of the wealthy classes, and to the ruin of the hard-working and legitimate local teachers.

I have not time or space, but if I had I could prove this, and show the curiously deep injuries this system is inflicting on true Art, and upon the freedom of industry.

In the same line, and to the same effect, are our Art-Unions and Associations for "the encouragement" of Art; some less bad than others, but all bad, because founded upon a wrong principle, and working to a wrong end. No man can choose a picture for another, any more than a wife or a waistcoat. It is part of our essential nature to choose these things for ourselves, and paradoxical as it may seem, the wife and the waistcoat and the work of Art our departmental wiseacres may least approve of, if chosen _sua sponte_ by Giles or Roger, will not only give them more delectation, but do them more good, than one chosen by somebody else for him upon the finest of all possible principles. Besides this radical vice, these Art-Unions have the effect of encouraging, and actually bringing into professional existence, men who had much better be left to die out, or never be born; and it, as I well know, discourages, depreciates, and dishonors the best men, besides keeping the public, which is the only true and worthy patron, from doing its duty, and getting its due. Just take our Edinburgh Association, in many respects one of the best, having admirable and devoted men, as its managers, what is the chance that any of the thousand members, when he draws a prize, gets a picture he cares one straw for, or which will do his nature one particle of good? Why should we be treated in this matter, as we are treated in no way else? Who thinks of telling us, or founding a Royal Association with all its officers, to tell us what novels or what poetry to read, or what music to listen to? Think of a Union for the encouragement of Poetry, where Mr. Tennyson would be obliged to put in his _In Memoriam_ or his _Idylls of the King_, along with the Lyrics and the Sonnets of we don't say who, into a common lottery, and be drawn for at an annual speechifying? All such associations go to encourage quantity rather than quality. Now, in the ideal and pleasurable arts _quality_ is nearly everything. Our Turner not only transcends ten thousand Claudes and Vanderveldes; he is in another sphere. You could not thus sum up his worth.

One of the most flagrant infractions of the primary laws of political economy, and one of the most curious illustrations of the fashionable fallacies as to Government encouragement to Art, is to be found in the revelations in the Report of the Select Committee on the South Kensington Museum. Mr. Lowe, and the majority of the Committee, gave it as their opinion, that Government should deal in photographs, and _undersell_ them (thereby ruining the regular trade), and all for the encouragement of Art, and the enlightenment of the public! Can there be anything more absurd than this, and at this time of day? and not only absurd and expensive, but mischievous. All this, you see, would be avoided, and society left to provide its own Art, as it provides its own beef and trousers for itself; if men would hold with John Locke, and Coventry Dick, and _Egomet_, that the Government, the State, has simply nothing to do with these things, that they are _ultra vires_ not less than religion, and, I am bold to add, education.

One other drawback to Art taking its place alongside its sisters--Poetry and Music--is the annual exhibitions. Nothing more thoroughly barbarous and childish could be devised than this concentrating the mental activity of the nation in regard to the Art of the year upon one month. Fancy our being obliged to read all our novels, and all our poetry, and hear all our music in a segment of our year. Then there is the mixing up of all sorts of pictures--sacred and profane, gay and sombre, etc.--all huddled together, and the eye flitting from one to the other.[3] Hence the temptation to paint down to the gaudiest pictures, instead of up or into the pure intensity of nature. Why should there not be some large public hall to which artists may send their pictures at any time when they are perfected; but better still, let purchasers frequent the studios, as they did of old, full of love and knowledge. Why will we insist in pressing our Art and our taste, as we did long ago our religion and our God, upon our neighbors! Why not trust to time, and to cultivating our own tastes earnestly, thoroughly, humbly, and for ourselves, filling our houses with the best of everything, and making all welcome to see them, and believing that the grandchildren of those who come to see our Turners and Wilkies and Hogarths will be wiser and more refined than we? It is most lamentable to witness the loss of money, of energy, and in a measure of skill, and, above all, of time, on those engravings, which no one but a lodging-keeper frames, and those Parian statuettes and Etruscan pitchers and tazzas of all sorts, which no one thinks half so much of, or gets half so much real pleasure and good from, as from one of John Leech's woodcuts. One true way to encourage Art is to buy and enjoy _Punch_. There is more fun, more good drawing, more good sense, more beauty in John Leech's _Punch_ pictures, than in all the Art-Union illustrations, engravings, statuettes, etc. etc., put together. Could that mighty Potentate have been got up, think you, by a committee of gentlemen, and those drawings educed by proffered prizes? No; they came out, and have flourished according to a law as natural and as effective as the law of seed-time and harvest; and Art, as a power to do good, will never reach its full perfection till it is allowed to walk at liberty, and follow the course of all other productions, that of supply and demand, individual demand, and voluntary supply. It is not easy to tell how far back these well-meaning, zealous, deluded men who have managed these "encouragements," have put the progress of the nation in its power of knowing and feeling true Art.

[3] In our excellent National Gallery (Edinburgh), a copy of Titian's Ariadne in Naxos is hung immediately above Wilkie's sacred sketch of John Knox administering the Sacrament in Calder House!

One other heresy I must vent, and that is to protest against the doctrine that scientific knowledge is of much direct avail to the artist; it may enlarge his mind as a man, and sharpen and strengthen his nature, but the knowledge of anatomy is, I believe, more a snare than anything else to an artist as such. Art is the _tertium quid_ resulting from observation and imagination, with skill and love and downrightness as their executors; anything that interferes with the action of any of these, is killing to the soul of Art. Now, painting has to do simply and absolutely with the surfaces, with the appearances of things; it knows and cares nothing for what is beneath and beyond, though if it does its own part aright it indicates them. Phidias and the early Greeks, there is no reason to believe, ever dissected even a monkey, much less a man, and yet where is there such skin, and muscle, and substance, and breath of life? When Art became scientific, as among the Romans, and lost its heart in filling its head, see what became of it: anatomy offensively thrust in your face, and often bad anatomy; men skinned and galvanized, not men alive and in action. In the same way in landscape, do you think Turner would have painted the strata in an old quarry, or done Ben Cruachan more to the quick, had he known all about geology, gneiss, and graywacke, and the Silurian system? Turner might have been what is called a better-informed man, but we question if he would have been so good, not to say a better representer of the wonderful works of God, which were painted on his retina, and in his inner chamber--the true _Camera lucida_, the chamber of imagery leading from the other,--and felt to his finger-tips. No; science and poetry are to a nicety diametrically opposed, and he must be a Shakspeare and a Newton, a Turner and a Faraday all in one, who can consort much with both without injury to each. It is not what a man has learned from others, not even what he thinks, but what he sees and feels, which makes him a painter.

The moral from all this is, love Art, and if you choose, practise Art. Purchase Art for itself alone, and in the main for yourself alone. If you so do, you will encourage Art to more purpose than if you spent thousands a year in Art-Unions, and in presenting the public with what pleased you; just as a man does most good by being good. Goldsmith puts it in his inimitable way--"I was ever of opinion that the honest man, who married and brought up a large family, did more service than he who continued single, and only talked of population."

I have said those things strongly, abruptly, and perhaps rudely; but my heart is in the matter. Art is part of my daily food, like the laughter of children, and the common air, the earth, the sky; it is an affection, not a passion to come and go like the gusty wind, nor a principle cold and dead; it penetrates my entire life, it is one of the surest and deepest pleasures, one of the refuges from "the nature of things," as Bacon would say, into that enchanted region, that "ampler aether," that "diviner air," where we get a glimpse not only of a Paradise that is past, but of a Paradise that is to come.

There is one man amongst us who has done more to breathe the breath of life into the literature and the philosophy of Art, who has "encouraged" it ten thousand times more effectually than all our industrious Coles and anxious Art-Unions, and that is the author of _Modern Painters_. I do not know that there is anything in our literature, or in any literature, to compare with the effect of this one man's writings. He has by his sheer force of mind, and fervor of nature, the depth and exactness of his knowledge, and his amazing beauty and power of language, raised the subject of Art from being subordinate and technical, to the same level with Poetry and Philosophy. He has lived to see an entire change in the public mind and eye, and, what is better, in the public heart, on all that pertains to the literature and philosophy of representative genius. He combines its body and its soul. Many before him wrote about its body, and some well; a few, as Charles Lamb and our own "Titmarsh," touched its soul: it was left to John Ruskin to do both.[4]

[4] This great writer was first acknowledged as such by our big quarterlies, in the _North British Review_, fourteen years ago, as follows:--

"This is a very extraordinary and a very delightful book, full of truth and goodness, of power and beauty. If genius may be considered (and it is as serviceable a definition as is current) that power by which one man produces for the use or the pleasure of his fellow-men, something at once new and true, then have we here its unmistakable and inestimable handiwork. Let our readers take our word for it, and read these volumes thoroughly, giving themselves up to the guidance of this most original thinker, and most attractive writer, and they will find not only that they are richer in true knowledge, and quickened in pure and heavenly affections, but they will open their eyes upon a now world--walk under an ampler heaven, and breathe a diviner air. There are few things more delightful or more rare, than to feel such a kindling up of the whole faculties as is produced by such a work as this; it adds a 'precious seeing to the eye,'--makes the ear more quick of apprehension, and, opening our whole inner-man to a new discipline, it fills us with gratitude as well as admiration towards him to whom we owe so much enjoyment. And what is more, and better than all this, everywhere throughout this work, we trace evidences of a deep reverence and godly fear--a perpetual, though subdued acknowledgment of the Almighty, as the sum and substance, the beginning and the ending of all truth, of all power, of all goodness, and of all beauty.

"This book (_Modern Painters_) contains more true philosophy, more information of a strictly scientific kind, more original thought and exact observation of nature, more enlightened and serious enthusiasm, and more eloquent writing, than it would be easy to match, not merely in works of its own class, but in those of any class whatever. It gives us a new, and we think, the only true theory of beauty and sublimity; it asserts and proves the existence of a new element in landscape-painting, placing its prince upon his rightful throne; it unfolds and illustrates, with singular force, variety, and beauty, the laws of art; it explains and enforces the true nature and specific function of the imagination, with the precision and fulness of one having authority,--and all this delivered in language which, for purity and strength and native richness, would not have dishonored the early manhood of Jeremy Taylor, of Edmund Burke, or of the author's own favorite Richard Hooker."--J.B.


We are not now going to try our 'prentice hand upon a new theory of Beauty, after so many masters have failed; but we cannot help thinking that the dispute would be at an end if it were but allowed at once, that there are two kinds of beauty, that there is a material and necessary element of beauty, and another which is contingent and relative--a natural and a spiritual delightfulness to and through the eye; and that sometimes we see both together, as in the face and eyes of a beautiful and beloved woman; and moreover, that there is no more reason for denying either the sense or the emotion of beauty, because everybody does not agree about the kind or measure of either of these qualities in all objects, than there is for affirming that there is no such thing as veracity or natural affection, because the Spartans commended lying, and the Cretians practised it, or the New Zealanders the eating of one's grandmother. Why should the eye, the noblest, the amplest, the most informing of all our senses, be deprived of its own special delight? The light is sweet, and it is a pleasant thing for the eye to behold the sun; and why, when the ear has sound for informing, and music for delight--when there is smell and odor, taste and flavor, and even the touch has its sense of pleasant smoothness and softness--why should there not be in the eye a pleasure born and dying with the sights it sees? it is like the infinite loving-kindness of Him who made the trees of the garden pleasant to the eye as well as good for food. We say nothing here of Relative or Associative Beauty,--this has never been doubted either in its essence or its value. It is as much larger in its range, as much nobler in its meaning and uses, as the heavens are higher than the earth, or as the soul transcends the body. This, too, gives back to material beauty more than it received: it was after man was made, that God saw, and, behold, everything was very good.

Our readers may perhaps think we make too much of imagination as an essential element--as _the_ essential element--in Art. With our views of its function and its pervading influence in all the ideal arts, we can give it no other place. A man can no more be a poet or painter in the spiritual and only true sense without imagination, than an animal can be a bird without wings; and as, other things being equal, that bird can be longest on the wing and has the greatest range of flight which has the strongest pinions, so that painter is likely to have the farthest and keenest vision of all that is within the scope of his art, and the surest and most ample faculty of making known to others what he himself has seen, whose imagination is at once the most strong and quick. At the same time, if it be true that the body without the spirit is dead, so it is equally true that the spirit without the body is vain, ineffectual, fruitless. Imagination alone can no more make a painter or a poet than wings can constitute a bird. Each must have a body. Unfortunately, in painting we have more than enough of body without spirit. Correct drawing, wonderful imitative powers, cleverness, adaptiveness, great facility and dexterity of hand, much largeness of _quotation_, and many material and mechanical qualities, all go to form an amusing, and, it may be, useful spectacle, but not a true picture. We have also, but not so often, the reverse of all this,--the vision without the faculty, the soul without the body, great thoughts without the power to embody them in intelligible forms. He, and he alone, is a great painter, and an heir of time, who combines both. He must have observation,--humble, loving, unerring, unwearied; this is the material out of which a painter, like a poet, feeds his genius, and "makes grow his wings." There must be perception and conception, both vigorous, quick and _true_; you must have these two primary qualities, the one first, the other last, in every great painter. Give him good sense and a good memory, it will be all the better for him and for us. As for principles of drawing and perspective, they are not essential. A man who paints according to a principle is sure to paint ill; he may apply his principles after his work is done, if he has a philosophic as well as an ideal turn.

John Brown's Essay: Notes On Art