Sir Alfred East con The art of landscape painting in oil colour (English Edition)
IT will be found that I have not attempted in these pages to write at any length on the art of landscape painting in
its elementary stages. I have taken it for granted that the reader has, at least, a practical knowledge of the rudiments of drawing, such as may be acquired at any school of art. It is, of course, an absolute necessity that such should be the case before any attempt is made to paint from Nature. My aim, therefore, has been to place before the student certain considerations which do not find a place in the curriculum of our art schools, and which should be of assistance to him in the progress of his development.
I am of opinion that the cause of a great many of the failures, amongst those who know something of the technique of painting, is their false attitude towards Nature: no matter how closely they may seek to imitate her, their work lacks the vitality which is always associated with that of a master. Therefore, while I shall not neglect the necessary hints on the technicalities of art, my chief endeavour will be to point out the best method of employing one's knowledge. However well grounded the student may be in technical ability, he may yet be a complete failure as an artist. Beyond the methods of painting there lies the wider problem of the real expression of art.
A boy learns at school the conventional rules of arithmetic, and in after life he probably discovers for himself a system of reckoning which is better suited to his purpose; but had he
not first learned the fundamental rules, his own system could not have been so easily evolved. So it is with painting. Technique is of the highest importance. The artist should be able to draw with his brush as easily as a writer uses his pen.
Assuming then that the student is adequately equipped with technical knowledge, my desire is to present to him ideas and suggestions which will lead him to search for the why and wherefore of things which may have hitherto escaped his attention. Such thoughts and suggestions will, I trust, gradually widen his outlook, give a larger interest to his work, and endow it with qualities which will mark it as a result of honest personal conviction—an expression of his individuality and character. The striving after such an end as this will increase his enthusiasm for his work, quicken his powers of observation, and help him to look beyond mere superficialities. All these qualities are necessary to the landscape painter, and in their possession he will find a sure reward. If the student can be induced to study Nature in her broader aspects, and to grasp her higher attributes, which must be present in all art, he will, probably before long, discover the methods by which he can best express what he finds in the world about him. There is a curious belief abroad that art is a trick, a species of cleverness, to which anyone may attain by mere practice and perseverance; that success would be assured if one could only secure the confidence of some eminent painter and learn his secret—his peculiar " trick of the trade."
So considerable an amount of unsatisfactory matter has been printed on the subject of landscape painting that it is probable that the student, if he forms any opinion at all, may decide upon a very erroneous one. The fact that landscape painting is such a personal expression, and receives such varied treatment at the hands of its exponents, is partly responsible for this error of judgment.
The student, puzzled by so many different methods of expressing Nature, finds considerable difficulty in tracing the underlying principles by which all are governed. For instance, he may look at a Claude or a Poussin, and then at a Turner or a Corot, and find certain principles in the one which appear to be ignored in the other. " I have it on the highest authority," he may reason with himself, "that all these artists are great; but how can that be?" In his ignorance he cannot understand that while Claude and ...