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    A Trivial Work of Art: “Rouen Cathedral” by Monet

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    This is a merely clever work of art because in spite of its extremely skilful and able technical painting it holds us bound down to the commonplace and does not lift the soul above that field of flowering oats which it represents with so much imitative power. The subject is not great, there is apparently no effort at imagination and it was evidently laboriously painted direct from nature. Though Quignon evidently did seek a rather charming natural design, one furnished him by nature. How much he modified it we will never know. But, while lacking in grandeur there is no denying its skill. It is almost photographic. But the artist is scarcely more than a reporter with the brush. The man seemingly was all reporter, all perception, all intellect. If the imitative copying of nature were the sine qua non of painting, it would be a great work of art. But, unlike Poussin, Quignon seems not to have had any imagination or poetic fire. The light in this picture is wonderfully rendered,, the oats marvelously painted so that the smell of’ the earth prevades the whole. It is a masterpiece: of material workmanship. But it remains ever in the class of merely clever works because of the? very absence of that sublime and lifting something which makes Poussin’s work so great. However, since all landscape painters cannot be great men and sublime poets, let us treasure this- work for what it is worth—its great cleverness and. a certain lowly charm and its wonderful truth to nature which is, after all, the first though not the highest thing in any work of art, and which, alas, is so boldly and contemptuously violated in these, days in many of the absurd and degenerate works- of art of the time! Quignon was a child of his epoch in which science and materiality were triumphant and affected most, artists, whose works will thus always be revelative of the age in which they were produced.


    Here we have an “impressionistic” trifle by Monet, the high priest of the Scientific Impressionism. Why is this work trivial? Because it is nothing more than a “color stunt.” Rouen Cathedral is a sublime subject, but Monet has trivialized it by his contempt for the forms and details of that masterpiece of Gothic architecture by slurring them almost to a “deformation of the form,” so that one can scarcely recognize the cathedral. The subject is badly conceived, is poorly com- posed, expresses nothing, is badly drawn and, as “technique,” is so offensively personal and peculiar to Monet that it is repellent to normal people. It is a prize exponent of the absurd theory of “modern- istic” artists—that a man should stamp his “temperament” upon his works so that even donkeys may recognize it by its peculiar brush- marks and manner of painting—or carving or rhyming. But even as regards its Color it is not a pleasing thing to normal people with normal nerve centers.

    It pleases only those who have become misguided partisans of a narrow circle, who have wasted their energy in a frantic battle to prove the scientific accuracy of the theories of light and color put for- ward by Chevreul and Rooo and to show the world certain mysteries of color-manipulation and that shadows are blue! What riots of blue of every shade and hue we had in the Salon of Paris from 1890 to 1900 and after! until the excess of the “blue mania” forced the common-sense public to* laugh it down, and then Impressionism died! There is absolutely nothing of importance or of endurance in this work of Monet. Twenty years- fronf now, far more than now, people will wonder why so much noise was made over this and similar works. Had Canaletto handled this same subject, we would have had a sublime thing and not merely a trivial color stunt. The public discovered long ago the fundamental fallacy of the tenets of impressionism, and the: works of its votaries are now being mostly bought by speculators who gamble on the chance of muse- ums in the future bidding very high for these creations because of the adoption, about the: middle of the last century, of the new museum principle: to show the historical evolution of art, and to show that certain cliques at certain epochs succeeded in boosting certain styles of art into such notoriety that the deceived public during those periods bought them at high prices and gave them a fictitious temporary vogue.

    Thus the National Museums unconsciously become victims of these speculators through the desire to show the history of art evolution. But who cares for such a history? It is absurd! A great museum should be concerned, not with the evolution of indifferent and bad art but with the evolution of beautiful and enduring art. Ugly andi corrupt art has no place in any National Museum, maintained at great public expense.


    Impressionism died about 1900; it was succeeded by Neo-Impressionism, by Post-Impressionism by Cubism, Triangleism and heaven knows how many more “isms,” before it degenerated into Vorticism. Monet himself even abandoned it in ideality and emotional life. Moreover the Vene tians already had discovered and demonstrated alL the fundamental things that Monet and his follow ers thought were new. It is sad to think that Monet should have aban


    ROUEN CATHEDRAL BY MIONET.A Trivial Work of Art.

    his “Thames Series” of pictures and in others. The impressionists achieved nothing of any real aesthetic value by all their efforts, battles and contortions. Scientific painting is nonsense. The human soul does not want scientific formulas demonstrated in art. It goes to art for poetry. doned the splendid artistry he manifested before he strayed off into impressionism. If he had been simply true ‘to himself and his wonderful gifts, what masterpieces he would have left, for which the world would have brought him its. laurels!

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