The artist - his need for appreciation.
All art is quite useless. Oscar Wilde.
Art was accepted more gratefully in ancient days than now. Cimabue's picture of the Virgin, which may still be seen in the church of Santa Maria Novella, in the City of Flowers, was the object of so much admiration, we are told, that it was carried in solemn procession, with the sound of trumpets, and other festal demonstrations, from the shouse of the artist to the church, he himself being highly rewarded and honoured for it. Allowing for the changes time has made in our habits of life and thought, it is hardly possible to imagine such enthusiasm now. A fine new picture is regarded with indifference, with admiration only by a few. The town band, the applause, the rewards and honours, are reserved for politicians and professional athletes.
Appreciation is the breath of life to the creative artist, and in spite of modern conditions, there is enough abroad to sustain him. But his name is now legion; he competes with the dead as well as the living; and the rewards and honours seem attenuated by division. He must have appreciation, if only to adumbration of his own conceit. No painter can toil through the years and keep the graphic fruits of his fancy hidden. There was a retired teacher in a cathedral town in England, who devoted his freedom to landscape painting in water-colour. he was a recluse; he never exhibited his work, yet he was satisfied and industrious. His water-colours, he told me, had been refused by the exhibitions, and it was not from choice that he kept them locked away. he was convinced of their excellence, and afraid of criticism, but he made use of posthumous glory for himself by leaving his entire collection to the city, with the ususal stipulation that a gallery should be built to house it adequately. He purred when I praised stray passages of good colour, or skilful bits of drawing, and I fear vanity was the driving force. Take away a painter's vanity, said a famous landscape painter, and he will never touch a pencil again.
It the artist impelled by spiritual forces, by the divine afflatus, by conscious or unconscious emulation of others? Do angles whisper in the ears of the chosen few, and create for them visions of aethereal beauty? Do landscape painters of genius walk the plains of Heaven? Or is it only vanity that urges him to paint? I know of no book more revealing on the psychology of the matter than Benjamin Robert Hayden's Autobiography. he was abnormal; he had no genius as a painter; but if he had been anything but what he was the book never would have been written. yet he wrote glibly of divine help; of working long hours 9in a semi-trance, oblivious of the passage of time, or the demands of his body. He was vanity personified. In his youth he said, "I will be a great artist", not "I will be an artist", forgetting that it is the humble that shall be exalted. Cellini another egoist, insisted the he wore a halo.
Humility counts for much, but it may be that
vanity doesn not dispossess that admirable quality.