I will return to my little tricks series, but first a for an interesting artifact from art history.
I was allowed to reprint this nearly 100 year old letter courtesy of Tom Dunlay, a well known New England impressionist painter. I suppose I should explain the players here, they are;
William Paxton (1869–1941) the author of the letter, I have decorated the page with a few of his paintings. A major American impressionist painter. He was a student first of Dennis Miller Bunker and then in the Parisian atelier of Leon Gerome, a member of the Boston School group of painters and a founding member of the Guild of Boston Artists. He was a National Academician and successful portrait painter commissioned to paint both Grover Cleveland and Calvin Coolidge. Below is his painting Tea leaves from the American wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Henry Brooks (1898-1981), a student of Paxton who was touring Europe with,
R.H.Ives Gammell , painter, teacher and writer, author of "Twilight of Painting". Incidentally, my teacher as well. Also the teacher of Tom Dunlay who provided the letter for us to read.
19 Montvale Road
Your good letter made me quite envious of your luck.
The Ingres exhibition must be intensely interesting— at least
it would be to me. Of course you'll have to swallow hard to take in
some of his color, but if you consider it as a means of emphasizing
his drawing it becomes very interesting, and I think you'll get to
The Vermeer head that you speak of and the Mona Lisa are, to my
mind, the two top notch performances in modelling in the world. The
Da Vinci charms me more, but the Vermeer is surely more truthful in
Here I am writing like "dear teacher" and probably boring you
stiff, but even at the rist (sic)of that I'll ask you to examine the way
in which every picture which interests you is made.
The beauty, greatness, style, or whatever the salient quality
of a picture is, you'll get anyway, but, if you don't look sharp, the
way it's done, will escape you.
It's fine to sit open mouthed while the conjurer takes the rabbit
from the hat, but if you want to be a conjurer it's up to you.to find
out how he does it-
That fact is a rather grubby comparison but I want to make it
clear that the artists task is to create the emotion rather than to
No doubt one who has never felt emotion is incapable of
communicating it to others, but most of us have felt it, and
few can pass it on. Don't let the old master over awe you, and don't
get cheeky with them either. Most of them had something or they
wouldn't be Old Masters.
Look at them as you would look at your friends work: find the faults
and praise the qualities. There is no reason • for a different standard
of criticism than the one you use for your contemporaries.
You may lose some pleasure by finding how the wiser are pulled but
think of the pleasure you can give others if you \ learn how it's done.
As I look over this that I have written I'm tempted to throw
it away as it seems neither original or new, but as I want you to
know that I'm keenly interested in your work, and this will perhapes (sic)
show it, I'll let it go.
The pulchritudinous Edna is still on the job and occasionally
expresses her yearning for your return and also that of Gammell. It seems
only fair to state that her affections seem divided.
By the way: when you get to Venice be sure to see the
Museo Civico (spelling doubtful). There are samples of drawings
by Tielapolo(sic) and delightful things by Guardir (sic,Gaurdi) and Longhi. There
is no news to write. . . .
"The purple days of drouth expand like a scroll opended out
again.1* Well—I "drink to you only with minor eager" for obvious
With best regards to everyone interested and particularly
to yourself and Gammell, I am,
July 7, 1921.
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