LECTURE TO ART STUDENTS
1. LECTURE TO ART STUDENTS (continued)
Well, as regards the religious feeling of the close of the passage,
I do not think I need speak about that. Religion springs from
religious feeling, art from artistic feeling: you never get one
from the other; unless you have the right root you will not get the
right flower; and, if a man sees in a cloud the chariot of an
angel, he will probably paint it very unlike a cloud.
But, as regards the general idea of the early part of that lovely
bit of prose, is it really true that beautiful surroundings are
necessary for the artist? I think not; I am sure not. Indeed, to
me the most inartistic thing in this age of ours is not the
indifference of the public to beautiful things, but the
indifference of the artist to the things that are called ugly.
For, to the real artist, nothing is beautiful or ugly in itself at
all. With the facts of the object he has nothing to do, but with
its appearance only, and appearance is a matter of light and shade,
of masses, of position, and of value.
Appearance is, in fact, a matter of effect merely, and it is with
the effects of nature that you have to deal, not with the real
condition of the object. What you, as painters, have to paint is
not things as they are but things as they seem to be, not things as
they are but things as they are not.
No object is so ugly that, under certain conditions of light and
shade, or proximity to other things, it will not look beautiful; no
object is so beautiful that, under certain conditions, it will not
look ugly. I believe that in every twenty-four hours what is
beautiful looks ugly, and what is ugly looks beautiful, once.
And, the commonplace character of so much of our English painting
seems to me due to the fact that so many of our young artists look
merely at what we may call 'ready-made beauty,' whereas you exist
as artists not to copy beauty but to create it in your art, to wait
and watch for it in nature.
What would you say of a dramatist who would take nobody but
virtuous people as characters in his play? Would you not say he
was missing half of life? Well, of the young artist who paints
nothing but beautiful things, I say he misses one half of the