PIERRE AUGUSTE RENOIR TO GEORGES CHARPENTIER
My dear friend,
May I ask you if it is within possibility nevertheless, the sum of three hundred francs before the end of the month. If it is possible, I am truly grieved that it may be the last time and that I shall have nothing to write to you any more except commonplace, quite stupid letters, without asking you for anything because you will owe me nothing any longer except respect, that I am older than you, I do not send you my account because I have none.
Now, my dear friend, have the amiability to thank Madame Charpentier warmly on behalf of her most devoted artist and that I shall never forget that if one day I cross the tape that it is to her that I shall owe, for by myself I am certainly not capable of it. I would like to get there, so as to be able the sooner to procure her all my gratitude.
Pierre Auguste Renoir (1841-1919) spent four years of his youth painting pretty rococo pictures on porcelain, then studied under Gleyre, and achieved some success as a fashionable portrait painter. In 1868 he worked with Monet out of doors and his technique became more Impressionist. Charpentier, the recipient of Monet’s rather similar letter, was a publisher and to a certain extent a patron of art. Renoir’s portrait of Madame Charpentier and her children, painted in 1878, is now in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, which paid 50,000 francs for it in his own lifetime. When asked how much he had been paid for it, he replied, ‘Me! Three hundred francs and lunch!’
Then why should Dali use drugs when he has discovered that our world is a world of people with hallucinations, where theories, like that of relativity, add to the three dimensions of space a fourth, which is time, the most surrealist and the most hallucinatory of spatial dimensions.
I have never taken drugs, since I am the drug.
I don’t talk about my hallucinations, I evoke them.
Take me, I am the drug; take me, I am hallucinogenic!
HENRY MATISSE TO HENRY CLIFFORD
Vence, 14 February 1948
. . . The few exhibitions that I have had the opportunity of seeing during these last years make me fear that the young painters are avoiding the slow and painful preparation which is necessary for the education of any contemporary painter who claims to construct by colour alone.
The slow and painful work is indispensable. Indeed, if gardens were not dug over at the proper time, they would soon be good for nothing. Do we not first have to clear, and then cultivate, the ground at each season of the year?
When an artist does not know how to prepare his flowering period, by work which bears little resemblance to the final result, he has a short future before him; or when an artist has ‘arrived’ no longer feels the necessity of getting back to earth from time to time, he begins to go round in circles repeating himself, until by this very repetition, his curiosity is extinguished.
An artist must possess Nature. He must identify himself with her rhythm, by efforts that will prepare the mastery which will later enable him to express himself in his own language.
The future painter must feel what is useful for his development – drawing or even sculpture – everything that will let him become one with Nature, identify himself with her, by entering into the things – which is what I call Nature – that arouse his feelings. I believe study by means of drawing is most essential. If drawing is of the Spirit and colour of the Senses, you must draw first, to cultivate the spirit and to be able to lead colour into spiritual paths. That is what I want to cry aloud, when I see the work of the young men for whom painting is no longer an adventure, and whose only goal is the impending first one-man show which will first start them on the road to fame.
It is only after years of preparation that the young artist should touch colour – not colour as description, that is, but as a means of intimate expression. Then he can hope that all the images, even all the symbols, which he uses, will be the reflection of his love for things, a reflection in which he can have confidence if he has been able to carry out his education, with purity, and without lying to himself. Then he will employ colour with discernment. He will place it in accordance with a natural design, unformulated and completely concealed, that will spring directly from his feelings; this is what allowed Toulouse-Lautrec, at the end of his life, to exclaim, ‘At last, I do not know how to draw any more.’
The painter who is just beginning thinks that he paints from his heart. The artist who has completed his development also thinks that he paints from his heart. Only the latter is right, because his training and discipline allow him to accept impulses that he can, at least partially, conceal. . . .
Seated Odalisque, Left Knee Bent, Ornamental Background and Checkerboard, 1928
VINCENT VAN GOGH TO HIS SISTER WILLEMIEN
Arles, about 8 September 1888
My house here is painted the yellow colour of fresh butter on the outside with glaringly green shutters; it stands in the full sunlight in a square which has a green garden with plane trees, oleanders and acacias. And it is completely whitewashed inside, and the floor is made of red bricks. And over it is the intensely blue sky. In this I can live and breathe, meditate and paint. And it seems to me that I might go still farther into the South, rather than go up to the North again, seeing that I am greatly in need of a strong heat, so that my blood can circulate normally. Here I feel much better than I did in Paris.
You see, I can hardly doubt that you on your part would also like the South enormously. The fact is that the sun has never penetrated us people of the North. It is already a few days since I started writing this letter, and now I will continue it. In point of fact I was interrupted these days by my toiling on a new picture representing the outside of a night café. On the terrace there are the tiny figures of people drinking. An enormous yellow lantern sheds its light on the terrace, the house front and the sidewalk, and even casts a certain brightness on the pavement of the street, which takes a pinkish violet tone. The gable-topped fronts of the houses in a street stretching away under a blue sky spangled with stars are dark blue or violet and there is a green tree. Here you have a night picture without any black in it, done with nothing but beautiful blue and violet and green, and in these surroundings the lighted square acquires a pale sulphur and greenish citron-yellow colour. It amuses me enormously to paint the night right on the spot. They used to draw and paint the picture in the daytime after the rough sketch. But I find satisfaction in painting things immediately.
Café Terrace At Night
CAMILLE COROT DESCRIBES THE BEGINNING OF A LANDSCAPE PAINTER’S DAY
You know, a landscape painter’s day is delightful. You get up early, at three o’clock in the morning, before sunrise; you go and sit under a tree; you watch and wait. At first there is nothing much to be seen. Nature looks like a whitish canvas with a few broad outlines faintly sketched in; all is misty, everything quivers in the cool dawn breeze. The sky lights up. The sun has not yet burst through the gauze veil that hides the meadow, the little valley, the hills on the horizon. The nocturnal vapours are still creeping in silvery flakes over the frozen green of the grass. Ah! a first ray of sunshine! The tiny flowers seem to wake up happily. Each has its tremulous dewdrop. The leaves shiver with cold in the morning breeze. Invisible birds are singing beneath the leaves. It seems as though the flowers were saying their prayers. Little butterfly-winged cupids frolic over the meadow, making the tall grass ripple. One sees nothing. Everything is there! The whole landscape lies behind the transparent gauze of the fog that now rises, reveals the silver-spangled river, the fields, the trees, the cottages, the further scene. At last one can discern all that one could only guess at before.
The sun is up! There is a peasant at the end of the field, with his waggon drawn by a yoke of oxen. You can hear the little bell round the neck of the ram, the leader of the flock. Everything is bursting into life, sparkling in the full light – light which as yet is still soft and golden. The background, simple in line and harmonious in colour, melts into the infinite expanse of sky, through the bluish, misty atmosphere. The flowers raise their heads, the birds flutter hither and thither. A countryman on a white horse rides away down the steep-banked lane. The little rounded willows on the bank of the stream look like birds spreading their tails. It’s adorable! and one paints! and paints! . . .
This little piece was jotted down while Corot was staying in Switzerland with his friend Daniel Bovy at the Château de Gruyères in 1857. Corot was sixty years old. Beginning as a traditional landscape painter, he had evolved by the 1850’s a purely personal landscape style, poetic but at the same time based on close observation of nature. Simple and generous by nature, he painted for the sheer joy of it.
Une Matinée. La danse des nymphes