It is not what we can distinctly see or exactly define that gives us our deepest impressions of nature. It is rather something that we savor of it, an essence, penetrating, volatile and unreducible to any rigid terms of art. Yet art has found a way to fix this indefinable thing, and we have landscape paintings that produce the same kind of effect upon us that a scene does when our sense of its definite forms is lost in the pure charm of it. In these days the painter’s sense of form is exigent. It follows that even in landscape painting, where ideas of form should never be first, they are most prominent, as a rule. We are thus unready, seeing so few of them, for pictures that concern themselves less with the forms of their subject than with what these forms mediate.
It is the treatment that troubles us in these pictures. It seems to take so little account of what we had thought most important, and not only do we fail to understand it when it is inept, as most often it is, but even when it is fit. We must first understand that a picture is never true but at the expense of truth. The question, then, is this: Is its own the truest, the essential truth, or has it sacrificed this for the sake of truth less essential ? What is it that moves us in a scene? What is this spirit ” that knows the way I came,” that holds mine, emptying it of thought and filling it with pure delight.? What is it in sunlight that makes me so unreasonably glad? What in evening that stills my spirit’s sea and leaves no ripple upon it from its unquiet day ? What in the storm that sweeps me from my calm and bears me resistless on its crest ? What is this spirit of earth and air that, when it breathes upon mine, dissipates from it all that makes the sum of my intellectual self-consciousness, and emotion, pulsating, consonant to that which is passing not what this spirit is, but I know that it gives to mine ences of nature, and that the art that seeks to fix such of all the fittest in its aim. A picture by Claude Monet, which now gladdens Art Institute, makes us feel this gladness that sunlight doubtful if any treatment more definitive in a formal here could yield so much of what would chiefly impress In the composite impression that we would receive from would enter least, and while so loose a treatment of quite unsatisfying in a picture treating any other kind we find that it serves well here. And now, having suggested the larger reasonableness for such a theme, I will indicate briefly those technical painter’s art (conditions not to be escaped from) that There is this about paint, as one using it soon learns: effects depend upon three things, namely, purity complement in tints, and looseness of touch.
A picture grayest subject will not look like out of doors unless ment all of these qualities. They are the sine qua impression of light must depend. In scenes, then, flash and gleam and glow, it will be necessary for the most of the treatment upon which such effects hand, he must subordinate all ideas of form in the same would be lost in the sensations of light and color chief impression of the scene. But when we look into the matter we find that formless as we had thought, for while not definitive is yet wonderfully true in its suggestion of much that badly told, and we find in it a master’s knowledge it leaves out as well as of those things which it gives. If you stand, say, twenty feet from the canvas, and open mind and not too curiously, you will find that a waking impression. You will know with sufficient all about, and see that the artist did. In most of the that I have seen the meaning has been less clear to rather an impression of the painter’s having lost his goals be so cheaply won as those who try the short then landscape art would be a trifling matter and not painter of this picture has found it. It is to be added that this picture, while exceptional in its class, is not offered as the complete embodiment of all that is most balanced and best in landscape art. Though it gives a rarely vivid impression of what is most distinctive in its scene, yet neither the layman nor the artist who is’ not pursuing its special technical aim will find its treatment on the formal side quite satisfying, even when he has made its point of view his own so far as he can reasonably be expected to. He may, however, without closing his eyes or standing on his head or taking any other disconcerting attitude, have a delightful experience before this canvas, so delightful as to suggest that when the supreme expression in this direction shall be found, landscape art will have reached the goal to which by its very nature it tends.