27 April 2020

The Bedrock of Nations

Henry Clay Dawson, The Hog Book (Chicago: The Breeder's Gazette, 1911), p. 18:
No nation can long remain powerful that does not produce its own food. All wealth by the personal use of its symbols, gold and silver, gives neither life, health nor comfort, but agriculture gives all these to man and secures to his arm the powers of might and possession. Agriculture is the bedrock of nations, and their prosperity largely is measured by the intelligence and industry of tillers of the soil. In ancient Rome and Greece agriculture became a lost art, and decadence was the result.
Hat tip: The Farmer's Bookshelf


Jean-François Millet, Potato Planters (1861)

Related posts:

21 April 2020

Wild Unintelligibility

John Canaday, Embattled Critic (New York: Noonday Press, 1962), p. 33:
We suffer, actually, from a kind of mass guilt complex. Because Delacroix was spurned by the Academy until he was old and sick, because Courbet had to build his own exhibition hall in 1855 to get a showing for pictures that are now in the Louvre, because Manet was laughed at, because Cézanne worked in obscurity, because Van Gogh sold only one picture during his lifetime, because Gauguin died in poverty and alone, because nineteenth-century critics and teachers and art officials seemed determined to annihilate every painter of genius — because of all this we have tried to atone to a current generation of pretenders to martyrdom. Somewhere at the basis of their thinking, and the thinking of several generations of college students who have taken the art appreciation course, is the premise that wild unintelligibility alone places a contemporary artist in line with great men who were misunderstood by their contemporaries.

What a load of crap.

A related post: The Contract Between Artist and Public

15 April 2020

Bravery in Bedclothes

Seneca, "Letter LXXVIII," Epistulae Morales ad Lucilium, tr. Richard M. Gummere, Vol. II (Loeb Classical Library; London: Heinemann, 1917), pp. 195:
It is your body that is hampered by ill-health, and not your soul as well. It is for this reason that it clogs the feet of the runner and will hinder the handiwork of the cobbler or the artisan; but if your soul be habitually in practice, you will plead and teach, listen and learn, investigate and meditate. What more is necessary? Do you think that you are doing nothing if you possess self-control in your illness? You will be showing that a disease can be overcome, or at any rate endured. There is, I assure you, a place for virtue even upon a bed of sickness. It is not only the sword and the battle-line that prove the soul alert and unconquered of fear; a man can display bravery even when wrapped in his bedclothes. You have something to do: wrestle bravely with disease. If it shall compel you to nothing, beguile you to nothing, it is an example that you display. O what ample matter were there for renown, if we could have spectators of our sickness! Be your own spectator; seek your own applause.

J. M. W. Turner, A Bedroom: The Empty Bed (1827)

14 April 2020

Let the Waters Flow on in Their Course

François Fénelon, "Letter XXI: On Calmly Enduring the Irregularities of Others," Selections From the Writings of Fenelon, tr. Eliza Lee Follen (Boston: Hilliard, Gray, Little, and Wilkins, 1829), p. 188:
Let the waters flow on in their course. Let men be men, that is to say, be vain, inconstant, unjust, false, and presumptuous. Let the world be the world; you cannot help it. Let each one follow his own bent, and his own ways; you cannot form him over again! It is wiser to leave men to themselves, and to endure them. Accustom yourself to unreasonableness and injustice. Remain at peace in the presence of God, who knows all your trials and permits them. Be satisfied with doing with calmness, what depends upon yourself, and let the rest be as if it were not.
The original (Lettre Spirituelle No. 79) from Oeuvres de Fénelon, Vol. 1 (Paris: Didot Frères, Fils & Cie., 1857), p. 503:
Laissez couler l'eau sous les ponts, laissez les hommes être hommes, c'est-à-dire faibles, vains, inconstants, injustes, faux et présomptueux. Laissez le monde être toujours monde; c'est tout dire: aussi bien ne l'empêcheriez-vous pas. Laissez chacun suivre son naturel et ses habitudes: vous ne sauriez les refondre; le plus court est de les laisser, et de les souffrir. Accoutumez-vous à la déraison et à l'injustice. Demeurez en paix dans le sein de Dieu, qui voit mieux que vous tous ces maux, et qui les permet. Contentez-vous de faire sans ardeur le peu qui dépend de vous; que tout le reste soit pour vous comme s'il n'était pas.

Frits Thaulow (1847–1906), French River Landscape with a Stone Bridge

8 April 2020

Biographical Details

Herbert Furst, Chardin (London: Methuen & Co., 1911), pp. 26-27:
Show me a man's House, and I will tell you his character; show me a man's Work, and I will do the same. From this point of view there is not only deceit and candour, method or slovenliness, industry or sloth, but also morality and immorality — goodness and badness in Art. Those who maintain that Morals have no place in Art, or, on the contrary, that good morals and the best art do go, or should go together, are simply bringing certain ideas into an impossible relationship. A beautiful tree, say an aged gnarled oak, may be very bad timber, and in looking at it we may be conscious of both facts. In the same manner we may express our preference for a poodle over a bull-dog, but it would surely be senseless to demand the good points of a bull-dog to be repeated in the poodle. Some may therefore very properly prefer moral art to immoral art, only, whether moral or immoral, it may be equally fine art, just as both poodle and bull-dog may be equally fine animals.

This seeming digression was, I am afraid, necessary, because one meets the confusion of these ideas continually, in which the one camp seems to be often as hopelessly wrong as the other.

If personal qualities were not intimately connected with the expression of Art, biographical details would be altogether superfluous in a book such as this; but such details are, as a matter of fact, of very great interest, because they help us to estimate a man's work more truly, telling us why it had to take just that form in which it actually appears. And the investigation of the events of a painter's life and traits of character are as instructive and fascinating as the examination of his sketches and studies — it is the Man that makes the Artist — the driving power behind the brush.

Jean-Siméon Chardin, Still Life with a White Mug (c. 1764)

Not unrelated: Life Is Short and Hard

2 April 2020

Patience

Vincent Van Gogh, The Letters of a Post-Impressionist, tr. Anthony Ludovici (London: Constable and Company, 1912), p. 51:
The symbol of St. Luke, the patron saint of painters, is as you know an ox. Thus one must be as patient as an ox if one would wish to cultivate the field of art. But how lucky oxen are to have nothing to do with this confounded business of painting! 
Id., p. 76:
Art is long and life is fleeting, and one must try with patience to sell one's life as dearly as possible.

Vincent Van Gogh, Cart with Red and White Ox (1884)

Aside: I thought At Eternity's Gate  was quite well done. It is on Amazon Prime Video.